Ive been looking at Photographic courses recently, a lot of them seem to be aimed at the complete beginner, or they are a completely un-affordable (By anyone) £20k full time degree.

Im looking to study part time, maybe distance learning, im not a beginner, so my primary reason for looking is for getting a recognised qualification - leading on to a career change into photography.

Just for the record - im 29 and live near Derby in the UK.

  • Can you specify what type of photography you plan to specialize in?
    – dpollitt
    Jul 16 '12 at 20:26
  • Im fairly open to be honest - The things i ENJOY are architecture, stitched panoramas, a bit of studio, nature..... i dont want to be pigeon-holed into a sector really. Jul 16 '12 at 20:36
  • Shouldn't you mention what your goals are for these qualifications? Are you looking to have something to print on your business card, or simply to learn, or is there a requirement to get a qualification to work in an industry like photojournalist etc?
    – cmason
    Jul 26 '12 at 15:26

In the UK, I would look at certification by BIPP (the British Institute of Professional Photography). Like other major national professional associations (PPA in the USA, PPoC in Canada), full membership is juried and contingent on both photographic competence and viable/ethical business practices. Training is available if you want it. Individual certifications in a genre are based on a juried body of work in that genre, and are not automatic by any means.

BIPP membership and certification will mean more to publications and permit authorities than to the general public, but the plaque on the wall, the sticker in the window, or the logo on the web site can also be a great differentiator if you're aiming for a higher-end clientele. There is usually a wealth of other benefits to the photographer as a member of one of these national bodies, like legal and insurance resources, breaks on rental fees, easy access to "pro only" services, as well as great networking opportunities.

  • Thanks Stan! I'll look into that tomorrow - would something like that hold more weight than, for example, a "diploma" (which i hate the sound of to be honest!) Jul 16 '12 at 20:54
  • 1
    The only "diploma" worth having (for anything other than a technical position, like forensic photography, non-destructive testing, or something similar) is a Fine Arts degree, which can open some doors that would otherwise remain shut fast, but it's a huge commitment of time and money. It won't make you technically better, but it can add loads to your understanding of the language of art and photography. But in terms of return on investment, a Fine Arts degree has a relatively low value—you'd still need to develop a body of work and prove you can do what you say on the tin.
    – user2719
    Jul 16 '12 at 21:03
  • @DarkcatStudios — oops, forgot the "at you" part of the last comment.
    – user2719
    Jul 16 '12 at 21:11
  • sorry for the slow reply! - the problem there is that any degree (BA, MA etc) is now unjustifiably expensive. for example Derby University, part time BA in Fine art (Photography) - 18 modules, at a bargain price of £1000 per module... At that price i would expect to complete the course with a complimentary Hasselblad. I honestly think the days of having multiple degrees are dead. Jul 20 '12 at 7:17

Addressing the question from this point:

leading on to a career change into photography

A photography career is actually not really about photography, thats just what you produce. A career is either getting a job from someone else, in which case you need to have self marketing skills, networking, and get lucky, or it's about creating your own business in which case you need all the myriad skills, patience, fortitude, and good luck to succeed.

None of that is possible without good skills as a photographer but where you get those skills from is largely irrelevant and measuring the cost effectiveness of the learning proces is highly subjective.

Edit, wanted to add something about a degree: going to uni to do a degree gives you the opprtunity to meet and make friends with a group of people who will be your cohorts. Thats why the 'posh' universities are so expensive because you meet a more infuential class of people. Without that opportunity a degree is not worth as much on paper, particularly an arts degree, which used to be what kids did if they didn't have any other skills or interests (although I'm being a bit mean here I must admit)

Another edit: If you had 20K to invest in a photography business what would get you the most bang for your buck? Premises for six months/a year, a big pile of marketing, wages for up to a year, a load of kit, or a degree?

  • 1
    Which, really, is why peer certification and professional society membership can be important. If you actually participate in the society, you get the photographic networking equivalent of pols at Oxbridge, and the silly membership card and certs can sometimes be the equivalent of a Freemason's handshake. (And the focus is on the business of photography, not on picture-making.) They don't make you better, they just open doors.
    – user2719
    Aug 3 '12 at 2:20

I know you are in the UK but you mentioned the potential to learn via distance.

I personally have been looking into this course, as a few friends of mine have raved about it. The institute is located in Australia, but can do everything via online course.


It's pretty cheap (At least by Australian standards) so I wanted to pipe in and give it as some food for thought.

Good luck!

  • There's a UK site for them too. I was tempted as it seems geared toward earning money, but then it's also aimed toward anyone with any experience so I wasn't sure
    – Dreamager
    Jul 21 '12 at 13:57

I don't think anyone should hire or develop a liking because photographer has a degree/certificate, His work should do for him and the biggest certificate would be experience.

  • very true - HOWEVER its very hard to develop a good portfolio without going through a formal education. Jul 22 '12 at 21:37
  • I disagree, it might be harder without a formal education but not 'very hard'
    – user9817
    Jul 26 '12 at 14:29

You have at least 2 areas in which you need to become proficient. Running a small business, with all that that entails, and learning the craft of photography.

A good photography course will take you through the various areas you need to be familiar with but it will not make you a businessman. Also bear in mind that in business, 75% of your time will be spent in activities other than the one you are supposedly in business to perform.

I would look for courses in both areas, you are looking for breadth and quality of tuition not just a certificate.

  • Thanks for your input - I should say that I am a business owner so that side of things is not a problem. I know a few people in the photographic industry and the time they have spent either at university or at professional courses has been invaluable in opening doors that weren't open to outsiders - this is really what I am looking for, alongside growing my portfolio and skills. for example I do not have access to a studio or serious lighting on a walk0in basis as you would usually have on a course. Unfortunately the people that i speak of have drifted off over time, hence asking on here. Jul 26 '12 at 14:03
  • Ah, OK. I'll reiterate, breadth and quality of tuition trumps any piece of paper. Have you checked what the OU offers?
    – epo
    Jul 26 '12 at 20:07
  • agreed - however a bit of paper is often required... I have looked at the OU yes, and they still want £15k for a degree. also there is a slight lack of facilities! Jul 27 '12 at 6:50

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