Photography classes are an essential way of honing your skills and developing your ideas in an environment that fosters creativity and growth. There is no better way to learn your new hobby or career than diving headfirst into the shark tank of your peers and your professor. If you’re planning to take a class, it pays to take some steps to experience this opportunity to the fullest.
How do I make the most out of my photography class? Here are 9 ways to make sure you are maximizing the benefits of your photography class:
- Determine what kind of photography you want to explore
- Figure out the time and budget you can devote to a class
- Find a class and instructor
- Do a supply and equipment check
- Do your homework
- Arrive ready to learn
- Ask questions
- Have fun
Read on to see how to make the most of your new class and your experience. If you think you are ready to take your photography to the next step, you are! And remember, enjoying your hobby, passion, or career in photography is crucial to your success. Learn how to make your course the most enjoyable and rewarding experience possible.
1. What Type of Photography Do You Want to Explore?
Before you enroll in a class, and certainly before your first day of class, it’s important to decide where your interests lie. Do you want to take portraits or landscapes? Do you want to photograph weddings? Do you want to shoot film rather than digital?
Your interests are obvious to you, but they may not be in the curriculum of every photography class – especially at the entry-level. Before you sign up for classes, you must determine whether or not the instructor will even cover your area of interest. Check the website, call the school, or meet with the instructor in order to find out.
It’s probably best to learn everything you can, but you want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Always check that the class you’re signing up for is the class you want to take.
2. What Are Your Time And Budget Restraints?
Some classes meet once a week, whereas others will meet multiple times per week. Some classes meet for a few hours, and others meet for just an hour. The formats are varied, as are the costs.
If you’re taking a class at a community college, you will be paying for credits just like a student earning their degree. Time and budget are already on your mind, but it’s easy to overlook the factors that will contribute to them.
Community college photography classes are typically the most expensive at around $135 to $750 per three-unit class. Photography students looking for a degree should pursue this option, but students only looking for information and experience can find cheaper options. Try the continuing education department at the college – you’re bound to find some inexpensive, noncredit options.
Local park districts and community centers are a great resource for prospective students who don’t want to pay for a degree. Typically, these types of classes cost around the low end of the spectrum for community college classes (less than $150) and can often be taken online.
Every type of class will require outside work, and the school’s website should give an idea of how much time will need to be spent outside the classroom.
3. Find Your Class And Instructor
After you’ve decided where your interests lie and what you can devote to a class, you are ready to seek out your class and instructor. Always check the website of whichever school or community center you are considering. The course you are interested in taking should be listed, and the information provided about the course should line up with your criteria.
Seek out online reviews and teacher review websites (like ratemyprofessor.com) when applicable. Even instructors who have taught one or two classes will likely have some kind of online presence, whether it be in reviews from students or their own personal work. Find out everything you can about the class before you commit your valuable time and money.
Have a great photography shop nearby? Ask around; you might just find that they are affiliated with a great photography school. Who knows, the store proprietor may even teach a class.
4. What Supplies And Equipment Do You Need?
Digital camera owners might just need their camera. Film camera owners will need more equipment – like film stock and a light meter, etc. Some classes won’t even require you to bring your own equipment, but you can (and should) easily find out what your class will require on the school’s website.
The first day of class might not be as important as the proceeding classes, but it’s important to get off to a good start. Always be prepared and try and locate the class syllabus if it hasn’t already been sent to you before the first class.
5. Do Your Homework
In a photography class, your homework becomes your portfolio once the class ends. Not only is the homework where you will hone your skills, but it’s also where your instructor and fellow students will give you invaluable critiques. Skipping out on homework if a surefire way to halt the learning process and deprive yourself of a great portfolio once the class is over.
Looking at your assignments from the beginning of the class till the end will show you just how far you have come. After the class is complete, make a slideshow of your work. You will be amazed how far you have come, and how your voice, so to speak, has evolved over the weeks.
Practice whenever you can, and you will be rewarded. Your homework is for you and the class, but your practice is just for you. Shoot whatever you like when you have time so that your assignments won’t feel as daunting.
6. Arrive Ready to Learn
Always make sure to show up to class ready to be attentive and respectful. Not everyone has the same schedule, and a new parent taking the class will likely be more tired than a retiree taking the same class, but everyone shows up ready to listen and learn.
Always be prepared is the motto for any class or project. If you’re not able to listen and respect others, don’t go to class that day. It may sound silly, but photography classes are just as much about everyone else as they are about us. The instructor and your fellow students will help you learn more than you ever could on your own, and it’s crucial to be in the proper mindset to listen to constructive criticism.
7. Ask Questions
What separates a class from a YouTube video? You can actually ask your instructor a question in real-time. If you don’t understand a concept, ask away! Your instructor is there to help you, and you should take advantage of it. There is no such thing as a dumb question! If you’re thinking about asking something, we guarantee that someone else has the exact same question.
Being an engaged student is just as important as signing up for the class in the first place. You and your fellow students will all grow together, so don’t hold back. Take advantage of everything your instructor has to offer. And always remember, even your instructor is still a student at the end of the day. Ask questions and learn!
You will do plenty of great work both in and out of the classroom, but don’t forget to keep taking pictures. Even if you don’t have your camera with you, remembering to think like a photographer is key to improving. Take pictures with your phone if you have to or close one eye and picture the shot you would like to take if you had your camera.
Always try and utilize the skills you learned from your instructor and your fellow classmates, so that absorb the information for you – not just for the classroom. You want to take this class to become better at photography, not just to do well for the instructor. Learn and practice!
9. Remember to Have Fun
Even if you win the Pulitzer prize for your final class assignment, you won’t want to look back on weeks of nerves and fear of not doing the right thing in class. Please remember the reason why you sought out this article in the first place: you love photography.
We all want to get better at what we’re passionate about, but not at the expense of losing the passion. This class is for you and your fellow students. If you’re reading reviews about the class, they should mention having fun. Without fun, you might as well be taking Driver’s Ed.
I also suggest taking your photography class with a friend if you can. Even if you’re the biggest photography buff you know, you can always convert your friend into an expert like you. There is no better way to make the most out of a photography class than to take it with a good friend. You’ll provide each other with motivation and keep each other accountable. Most of all, you’ll have a blast!
As you have already discerned, this post was mostly about taking an in-person photography class, whether it's local or out of town. There may be some online elements, but the goal is to get into a class with an enthusiastic, helpful instructor that can teach you and your peers for the maximum amount of learning potential.
If you are interesting in online photography classes, I do have other articles on this subject. Namely, whether online photography classes are worth the money or not.