I recently enrolled on the New York Institute of Photography Professional Photographer Course. While I was researching the course I found it quite difficult to find up-to-date reviews, so I thought I'd document my own journey through the programme in the hope that other people might find it useful. First of all, why take a course? The cost is close to $1,000 and there are thousands of sites and forums that will provide advice and input on your photography at no cost. What's the point of paying?
Well, it may not work for everyone but I wanted to get some more structure to my learning. I am completely self taught, ever since I got my first SLR - a Chinon CE4 - almost thirty years ago. I have participated in forums and read books, magazines and sites. What I've noticed on many forums is that some of the most vocal critics either post none of their own work or post images of at best middling quality. I value feedback on my photography but I want to know that the critic has the technical knowledge to offer useful insight. So to me having a professional tutor and a structured course that would make me think about my photography all over again was worth the money.
Enrolling is simple - register online and you're good to go. You have two payment options - monthly or lump sum. If you go with the monthly plan you can only progress if your payment is up to date. I went with the upfront plan and got stuck in. The course format comprises short written articles with illustrative photos, videos and slideshows to reinforce the lessons, comprehension questions and, at the end of each unit, a submission to show that you have understood the unit.
Unit One covers essentially how a camera works and how to achieve effects using depth of field and shutter speed. To an experienced amateur it can seem pretty basic and there is a temptation to rush through. It's worth taking the time to review the lessons, though, as there are all sorts of little details that are valuable even to an experienced photographer.
One thing to note - the course specifies that you can follow the materials using any kind of camera. However, I would suggest that a camera that gives you at least the option to control shutter speed and aperture would be preferable to a fully automatic.
The first assessment requires you to submit three photographs, one showing movement, one showing a use of shallow depth of field and one outdoor landscape showing a wide depth of field. You can use existing photographs for the assignments if you want to, but it seems to be missing the point. I shot my submission (above) specifically for the course.
When you're working through the course, the student forums are a useful place to sense check your submissions. I rejected a number of images for my submission based on the feedback I got from the forums. The images I rejected are below.
Once your first submission is in you will be assigned a tutor who will review your work and send you an audio file critique. My tutor is Deborah Matlack, a New York-based photographer. Despite being told it would 7-10 days to get an assessment back, Deborah responded within 48 hours of my submission, which was a very pleasant surprise.
It may just be Deborah's style, but the first critique was very supportive - mostly a 'get-to-know- the-tutor' post with complimentary commentary on the work. Obviously an experienced tutor will not be too harsh on a new student for fear of undermining their confidence, but I hope that future critiques will be more forthright. So far, then I'm enjoying the course. It does what I want it to do and the pacing is good. Too soon for a ringing endorsement, but the first unit was enjoyable and I'm finding I'm starting to look at photography in a new light already.
On to Unit 2.