Choosing what degree to study is a big decision. A lot of us (in the UK anyway) will only be able to get student loans to study one degree, so it’s important to know what you are getting into. Here’s a little bit of background of what led me to my photography degree, and how I made the decision.
Side note: Also accompanied by my old photography work at the time.
I always found academic things at school fairly easy. I enjoyed learning so I didn’t find it difficult to pass my GCSEs. At the time I was torn between going into some sort of academic work and pursuing my love of acting – therefore the A Levels I chose where Drama, Psychology, English Literature – I wanted a ‘softer’ subject to choose as my fourth option so I landed on photography because I knew photoshop and enjoyed making things. As it turned out – this was not how it all panned out. Due to some health reasons I had to drop drama and psychology, meaning I was left with two a levels in English Literature and Photography. I loved both of these subjects by the end of it, but the biggest surprise was Photography. Initially taken as a fun fill in, it soon became something I was so fascinated by and loved creating. I was good at it, and I only wanted to create more.
After A Levels I had a decision to make – what could I do with 2 good a levels? At one point I had decided to go back to college to study sciences (sometimes I wish I had) but the one subject I knew I could succeed was photography – and I suppose that’s how I ended up applying and getting accepted into the University for the Creative Arts.
Making the Decision
Looking back it was quite a snap decision. I thought I had to go to university straight away, I didn’t have any kind of plan for the future and I chose a subject that I thought I would enjoy and be okay at. I think nowadays a lot of university decisions are made in this kind of situation. If I could do it all again, I think I would have taken a year out working to think about what I really wanted to do rather than rush into a degree, but that’s how it worked out.
Okay, on to the things I wish I had known before studying a degree in photography.
What I Wish I Had Known
1- Photography is a lone subject and 100% means you need to put in the effort to make it something. In a lot of other subjects (eg. english, illustration) you can work all evening on your projects to perfect them. In photography you have to go out there and get the shots at the right time / place / moment. Therefore to get on well in photography, you need to be a proactive and self motivated kind of person. You can’t leave things until the night before it’s due apart from that one time.
2 – There are quite a lot of theory lectures. At the end of the day, it’s studying a degree and there are essays and a dissertation. A lot of universities have a department to help if you’re struggling, but be prepared to learn all about post modernism, psychoanalysis, image punctums and the social and cultural effects of photography. There is reading list like with any course.
3 – You get to use some pretty awesome state of the art equipment for free. Use it as much as you can! It’s amazing. I spent hours in the dark rooms, shot on a digital Hasselblad and huge old film cameras, rented a big studio whenever I wanted and had the run of a huge library full of the best books. All the computers there had the full Adobe Creative Suite too. Oh man, I did not take enough advantage of that and I MISS it now.
4 – You will probably leave doing a completely different form of photography than you started. I went in all photoshop heavy and over edited and came out wanting to make meaningful documentaries. It’s all part of the process. You learn a lot, and it changes how you work.
5 – They probably won’t teach you much about digital technical skills. I’m not sure if this was just the uni I went to, but we had next to no training on cameras, lighting and studios. These where the things we were expected to already know, or if we didn’t, to find a book about it.
6 – A lot of universities (definitely UCA) focus a lot on analogue film photography. It’s fun, but be prepared for that.
7 – Different lecturers will have different opinions and mark your work very differently. It’s frustrating and subjective but that’s just art. I once was doing a documentary project and my tutor told me to remove an image because it stood out as being too different. In the next tutorial, a different tutor told me I should 100% KEEP it. So, who knows. I also had a tutor once who would talk about Martin Parr forever. (PS: I really like Martin Parr’s work it just became a bit of an in joke)
8 – When you leave there are no jobs. Okay, so there might be the lucky few who fall into something salaried, but a lot of photography work is freelance or personal projects. A degree in photography is not a ‘fast track’ to earning a lot of money as a photographer. Afterwards, you’re on your own with how you choose to apply the skills to your life. Out of the people I’m still facebook friends with, only a very small handful are still pursuing photography. A few people have gone on to related skills like design or marketing, but I think most have left photography behind.
9 – It can be really expensive. The equipment side of things is sorted (and amazing) but like with any art subject, projects are self funded. If you want to photograph a series abroad then you need to fund that, or if you want to creative a2 framed prints you need to fund that too. There is a lot to be done to keep the costs down, but it can get expensive. When you study analogue film, which for me was compulsory, the cost of dark room paper and buying film is a lot.
Overall, I’m happy with the knowledge and experience I got out of studying a photography degree. There are some times that I wish I had studied something with a more linear career path in the sciences, but there are also some times that all I want to do is photography. It’s hard to know right now. I’m still finding my path.
I hope this has been useful to anyone who’s thinking of taking their study of photography further, please feel free to ask if you have any questions and I will help if I can.
Hi everyone! It’s getting so close to Christmas now isn’t it? It’s definitely time to throw on a festive jumper and dance around to some tunes on Spotify. As a photographer, something I often forget to do is photograph my own family. Part of this is because I want to be in the moment and chat and laugh and experience it all, part of it is because bringing a big camera everywhere can be cumbersome and part of it is just that I forget.
I run a business in family photography – I often instill in my clients the importance of having photos of your loved ones and lovely moments to look back on and how precious family photo sessions are. This often overtakes my own need for family photos, and from now on I want this to change. These are all moments that I want to remember too – I want my family printed on my wall, and it’s completely within my power to do so.
This weekend I was able to travel back to my hometown to see my parents and family, something that I only really manage to do a couple of times a year. It was such a lovely weekend and I’m so happy that I’ve now got the memories AND the photographs too. It was all very festive. We walked around the street fair on Friday night, full of people dressed up as elves, a santas grotto and lots of children singing carols. On Saturday we headed to Gunwharf Quays and there was also a rock choir there getting all Christmassy and festive. It was also my nan’s 80th birthday so I was so happy that I got to be there to celebrate it with her too.
Going forward I want to create my own photobooks of MY family and get some lovely portraits to print on my wall.
The run up to Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year, but last year, I started it way too early. I was looking for signs of Christmas in September, was thrilled by the odd bit of tinsel in October, decorated for Christmas early November and by the time Christmas actually came around… I was pretty bored of it. I was looking at the tree thinking ‘I am bored of you. Can I have my house back now?’ by early December.
THEREFORE, this year I am trying to wait just a little bit longer. It’s a bit like being a kid in a sweet shop really. When you move out and have your own house as an adult you’ve suddenly got no-one else to say to you ‘HEY, LET’S WAIT!’ and your mind is firmly on *f it, I am an adult and I will DECORATE FOR CHRISTMAS WHENEVER I WANT*. But it’s safe to say, I have learned my lesson now. Sometimes just waiting a teensy little bit can make it all the more magical when the time comes around. If you decorate early for Christmas I am not judging at all, in fact, I’m probably jealously looking at your festive house on social media and longing to decorate my own.
However – this year, there will be no Christmas decor or trees until 1st December, hopefully that will keep the magic alive for a little bit longer this year.
The only little sneaky bit of sneakyness that may have possibly snuck in is these fairy lights, but to be fair they’ve been around all year – I’ve just…moved them slightly. BUT it inspired me to set my camera up and photograph a little self portrait.
I have always felt a connection with nature and flowers, and as I get older I find myself wanting and needing to be around nature more. I love walking down to the river to feed the ducks, and days full of rain and walks outside have such a relaxing and meditative effect on me.
If only I put could down the computer and phone more often and do these things, instead of scrolling on instagram. Does anyone else feel the same? As soon as I’m living somewhere that allows pet’s I’m going to adopt a dog and we can explore the woods around here every day.
I want to start including nature, particularly flowers, in my work at lot more so this was my first little self portrait adventure. One small, single bloom to show the start of something more.
When was the last time you visited a theme park? I have to admit, I’ve been around two times in my life. Rollercoaster rides are really not my thing, but having fun with friends and seeing interesting animals are. I was also rather excited about all those little things too – the stalls where you win big fluffy toys, the decorations, the music and the atmosphere – the smell of candy floss and sugar. Sign me up. Therefore, when Jack and I were invited along with friends to Chessington World of Adventures, I was really looking forward to going.
The friends we went with live quite far away from us, so this was one of the rare occasions we were able to be in the same place at the same time and we wanted to make the most of it.
When you meet distant friends you have to go back to your 12 year old selves and all put your foot in the middle for a photo. The difference being that now I have a pretty awesome camera and actually this image can be a really cool character study and a way to see the uniqueness of all out friends.
It was a bit of a weird experience going back to Chessington as last time I was there I was taken out in an ambulance (a story for another day). The day hot and warm but thankfully cloudy too with a breeze running through to take the edge off too. We pulled up and parked in the field and a feeling of happy excitement was in the air as we headed towards the park entrance and the smell of freshly made sugared doughnuts wafted over to us.
As you walk around the park people are flying over head, screaming from swirling adrenaline. It’s a bit like you’ve walked into a magical land where things are wild and wonderful – like anything can happen. I can imagine Disneyland is something similar on a much bigger scale, I’d love to go there one day.
Walking around in a group gave me a feeling of belonging – these people where so lovely and welcoming to me that I immediately comfortable with all of them.
The first ride we visited was – Tiger’s Rock. It’s a log flume water ride and I have to say, it looked pretty awesome. A few of us stayed with the bags while the other’s queued to go on and we watched the other boats crashing into the water, the air smelling of swimming pools and the odd stray splash that might come your way. I ended up getting wet just sitting on the side lines from a stray water cannon.
While we where waiting, we happened to be just in time for the talk about – the tigers. My view on animals in captivity and zoos is very mixed. I don’t like animals in cages, and I would much prefer them to be out in the the wild and not just here for our entertainment. However, If the animal is kept in a great enclosure, is being rehabilitated, happy and healthy, and used for the purposes of education and not just as entertainment then I’m okay with the animal in a cage. I do not know on the status of the tigers in this park, but I will say that the tigers had a large enclosure and seemed to be happy and relaxed.
It was amazing to be so close to these amazing creatures. At some points they were maybe only a metre away from me. I thought I would find them beautiful and a bit overwhelming – and I did, but I also was quite scared of them too. At the time I thought I was being a bit silly, but thinking about it – was I really?! Tiger’s are amazing predators and carnivores so actually, it’s quite normal to have a bit of fear around them. They are huge and muscular and powerful creatures.
As our friends went on the ride we hired out a water cannon to give them an extra blast as they came down the water slide. This little girl got a little bit too happy with it and soaked me by aiming it at the pillar behind me.
The rest of the day was mostly spent walking around the park and soaking in all that it had to offer. We visited a few rides, got some food, played on some stalls. Having not been to one of the parks for at least ten or more years, I can totally understand now why some people come down for a couple of days or the weekend because there is just so much to experience – much more that we could in the few hours we where there that day.
While most of the guys went on a ride, Arthur took me to see the sea lions and oh man they are so sweet. They where playing up to the people looking at them through the glass, I think they really liked the attention and played up to it.
When I was younger, I used to tell people I wanted to be a marine biologist when I grew up. Mostly this was because I really loved dolphins and thought this meant I could swim with them all the time, but also because I thought everything under the sea was really interesting. The Sea Life centre on London south bank is a fascinating place, and in Chessington they have a sort mini version from the same people. It’s got the same moody blue lighting and a sense of being part of the another world. *sings*
There was one part of the Sea Life part that made me stop in my tracks. The whole aquarium was full of life and colour and movement but there was this one tank in the section of the Amazon rainforest where there was this one particular tank. In this tank, there where some pretty intimidating looking and fairly large fish that where just completely still. They where not moving at all, hanging in the clear water and where so unnerving to watch. Jack then pointed out that these where in fact Piranhas and so I casually walked away from them because they were freaking me out just a tad. They are amazing creatures, but I’d rather not be that close to them.
There were parts of the aquarium that where just absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been wanting to photograph in the London Sea Life centre for quite a while now, and some of these photos have made me want to do that even more than before. I hope that at some point this year I will be able to go down and create a proper photo series there.
Under the sea is like an amazing alien planet. It’s so different, but it seems like time flows differently somehow. It’s intense but calming and fantastic all at the same time.
Standing somewhere where the whole point of the park is to inspire and smile and have a brilliant time is a great mood lifter. I may not like rides. I may be scared when I see a lion. I may get anxious when I am away from people I know for a while. But it’s great to feel loved, included and part of something bigger.
Thank you guys, for making my day so happy!
On this blog I am now going to post something every Sunday – perhaps something during the week too, but a Sunday morning at 9:00am is now going to be my regular posting time and I’d love to connect with anyone reading or perhaps some other people that blog too.
If you would like to know more about Chessington World of Adventures, here is their website.
Please feel invited to follow me on twitter or instagram too, and I will see you soon.
Hey guys! It’s great to be back blogging again. How are you?
Last week I turned 25 years old, and it seems like a nice round number to have a look back at the things I’ve done in the past. It’s so easy to get caught up in life and forget all the things you have accomplished in the past – so I invite you to do the same and take a while to think about your positive achievements from the small to the large.
1. Leaving school with good GCSE’s and A Levels
2. Finishing my BA Honours degree at University for the Creative Arts
3. Moving out of home
4. Discovering gratitude and being thankful.
5. Learning how to do laundry, and look after a home.
6. Meeting Jack, getting engaged and working on us.
7. Learning about Anxiety, myself, and going to therapy.
8. Going to MCM Comic Con!
9. Finding kindness in small things and the big.
10. Becoming a professional photographer and being a freelancer.
11. Leaving a job I hated
12. Friendships – both recent and lifelong
13. Working on a film set – I can’t wait to do more!
14. Published in Photography Magazines – Starburst Magazine, Dear Photographer, Practical Photography etc.
15. Living alone in my first year of uni
16. Holidaying with Friends at Center Parcs
17. Seeing lots of theatre – my personal favourites have been Wicked and The Addam’s Family Musical
18. Made Good friends Online
19. Completed A Pokemon Game
20. Going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour
21. Learning and creating photography – both analogue and digital
22. Dying my hair blue.
23. Loving nature and animals
24. Helping in my old primary school
25. Creating Jasmine Aurora
Comment below something you have accomplished, no matter how big or small.