20 February 2010

Advice For Studying Photography at uni..

Recently I've had a lot of emails from people seeing my work on my Litebook interview (www.bowens.co.uk/litebook) and asking my advice on photography degrees at uni, so I thought I would answer a few of them on here.

Please note though, that I am no expert - these are just answers based on my personal experience of combining uni with my fashion/beauty work.

Q: What is a uni interview like? Have you got any tips?
A: I think it totally depends on what uni you are studying at, But when I had mine it was a group interview. This just involved the lecturer speaking to us for a while, telling us about the course & showing us past students work. And then we each had a few minutes to show our portfolio and talk about our work.
The best thing to do is just talk confidently about your work: show a series of photos and explain why you took them, what your idea was and how you made this into a shoot.
If you've studied at college or sixth form, take along a couple of your sketchbooks, these show all your research and development work - sketchbooks are a huge part of uni work so its good to show you're working like that already.

Q: Is it all fashion/portrait based, or is there a lot of freedom?
A: This depends on what course you choose, there are some that specialise in certain things, but I chose a Photography BA, which covers everything.
With my course, we do absolutely no fashion photography, We have a lot of modules that are very open and you could combine fashion/portraiture into this, but in general I find the lecturers prefer more conceptual/documentary work.
In my first year everything was film based, so we had to do darkroom prints. Now I'm in my second year it is more open, I am using digital rather than film but you still have to do a series of photos to fit in with a theme.

Q: How good is the tuition?
A: At my uni we've got a good range of lecturers, We see them for our lectures and they are available for tutorials (one on one sessions) but apart from that we're expected to get on with it really. They do teach us quite a bit and are open for us to suggest anything specific we'd like to be taught.

Q: How stiff is the competition? And how big are the classes?
A: On my course it started out with 30-40+ but now thats more like 20-30 as quite a few people dropped out in the first year.
I think there is some competition at uni, but it isn't a big deal because everyone is so different, and its great to be in classes with people that do completely different photography, because this can inspire you to try something different.

Q: Are there/what are the minimum camera specs?
A: All unis have equipment that you can borrow, so theres no definite need to buy an expensive camera. If you want to buy a new camera for uni I would recommend waiting until after you've started so then you'll have a clearer idea of what you want to get.

Q: Is all your work on your website uni work?
A: I think none of whats on my website is uni work actually!
I do all my Beauty & Fashion photography for personal work and clients. Though I can definitely say that some of the fashion shoots I have done have developed from ideas/inspiration from uni work.

Q: Do you recommend going to uni or just going freelance?
A: I think this totally depends on who you are and what you want to achieve. I know quite a few people that have been to uni and it isn't for them, and also people that have done well out of going to uni.
This may end up being the biggest waste of 3 years for me, But it also gives me 3 years to experiment & make use of the facilities and learning stuff I wouldn't have done out of uni. Also meeting some great people.
I'll be able to answer this properly when I'm finished uni and see what I'm doing!

Q: Do you worry about all the money you will owe after uni?
A: I know this is an issue with a lot of people which is the main aspect of their decision not to go to uni, but with me I didn't want it to be a reason not to go. I've got good loans, which mean I can afford to live while going to uni, And you don't have to pay back loans until you are earning over 15k a year.

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