Photography is an artistic field that looks more at your portfolio than the courses you took. This means you have many options when it comes to learning the craft. You can learn by yourself through online tutorials, books and by just playing around with a camera and lighting; another option is to learn from another photographer or through some coursework; and, of course, you can get a full college degree in photography; usually this will be a Bachelor of Fine Arts with lots of studio work involved.
What is more important to consider is what type of skills you will need to study in order to become successful. For celebrity photography specifically, you need to have a good eye for portraiture, as well as an understanding of how to take pictures that flatter the person. You may be taking photos at events, which means you need a quick eye for things that are going on and an idea of what the public wants to see in the pictures of a celebrity. For portraits of famous people, besides photography skills, you’ll have to know how to transmit someone’s personality through a photograph, and that requires people skills, as well as talent.
In technical terms, you will, of course, need to know how to use your camera, especially the different functions and switches that it offers. Lighting, framing, processing, maybe Photoshop, should all be on your list of technical skills. But remember that you will also need to learn the business side of things. Most photographers, especially those focusing on celebrities, are self-employed freelancers or even run their own photography business. This means finance, marketing, sales and client relationships are all needed. Your task then, is to choose the education that will prepare you for all of these.
WHAT IF I DO WANT A DEGREE TO BECOME A CELEBRITY PHOTOGRAPHER?
- Rhode Island School of Design
One of the top design schools in the US, RISD offers BFA and MFA degrees in Photography. These have a strong focus on in-studio and hands-on learning, as well as internships and co-op opportunities. Tuition here is quite steep at $44,284 per year.
- California Institute of the Arts
California is a great place for spotting celebrities and also has good photography programs on offer. You can get a Photography and Media BFA at the California Institute of the Arts – the School of the Arts located in Valencia, CA. The program has a few branches, including publishing, video, digital media, and others. Tuition per academic year is $41,700.
- University of New Mexico
UNM offers a unique approach, where students can take a BA or a BFA focused on photography that includes inter-disciplinary studies, thus providing a well-rounded education. This also allows students to explore various career choices at once. Tuition is $2,503 for in-state students and $9,732 for out-of-state, not including any extra fees.
- Rochester Institute of Technology
Instead of solely a generic Photography Bachelor of Arts, RIT offers more specialized programs, such as photojournalism, fine arts photography, visual media, and photographic and imaging technologies. The college has state-of-the-art technology for students’ use. Annual tuition is $35,256.
- Arizona State University
ASU offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography through its Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. The program includes theory and practical components. In-state tuition is an average of $5,078 and out-of-state is $12,251.
GETTING MY FOOT IN THE DOOR
While in some other photography fields you might be able to get in and start developing your portfolio, this is unlikely to happen with celebrity photography. The people you will be taking pictures of have little time and busy schedules, so they are going to want someone who comes with a guarantee. So how do you get that? Start with smaller celebrities, maybe smaller bands, up and coming TV personalities or film actors. Do a couple of pro-bono photoshoots to get your portfolio going, and have them mention you as their photographer among their networks.
Another great way to get started is to work as an assistant photographer for someone who already has your dream photography job. This could be an apprenticeship, an internship or just an assistant job, but it can open a lot of doors and be a great learning experience.
However you choose to start, you will need to network extensively and meet people within and outside of the industry. Have your portfolio always ready to show, your website updated, and business cards on hand, wherever you go and whatever you do. Join photography clubs, and go to events in your area to get to know more people. This will help you always have paid work, whether it is in your focus area or not.