You have probably seen the work of excellent photographers who worked their way through a university-level course in photography. There are also many great photographers who didn't have formal education in photography. There are photographers producing fine work with a combination of education and practical experience behind them.
The bottom line here is to find the path that suits you best, so that you reach the goals you set for yourself in the challenging world of photography.
I love the simplicity in this photograph (I made this photo in Sri Lanka)
As you consider photography school, in-the-field experience and combinations of the two, you should also think about some of the sub-categories under the general banner of photography.
There are so many avenues to choose from!
Take this brief introduction into your discussions with family members and friends as you look closely at the various schools for photography. Many of the schools you consider will have the word "art" in their names.
For the most part, these schools will offer photography degrees at the bachelor and master level in several areas of art and design.
Photography is one field of study in the world of art!
As you consider various photography schools, give some thought to the changes that have taken place in photography over the past 20 years. In the past, many art schools put equal focus on working in the field and on darkroom technique.
This was necessary because of the film/chemical developing process. But in recent years photography has made the move into the digital world. After the photos are taken, processing is done at the computer.
If you are interested in the "old" technology you will need to find a school that provides a full course in this area. In a similar vein, if you are going to pursue photography using digital equipment you will need to find a school that can provide the best training in computer processing.
Apart from these obvious areas of study you will also need to find a school in which teachers can teach you about the history of photography, history of art, the science of color and son.
Look at this career as a perfect combination of technical skill, creative talent and a good "feel" for images that must be preserved for future reference.
One of the primary factors drawing students to schools for photography is the concentrated field of study that provides all of the equipment, ideas and guidance you need.
Sure, you can learn this on your own, but it will probably take much longer to reach the same level of expertise.
There is another argument to be made in favor of photography school: This may be the best way to combine your natural talent with focused training so that you have a chance in the competitive world of professional photography.
Many of the challenging and high-paying careers in the field are created as joint ventures between schools and private businesses.
Photography school professors and other staff members may provide you with valuable connections in the "real" world. Your school curriculum should definitely include camera use, photo composition, light and exposure training etc.
But you should also get some guidance in career options and competitions that help you develop your skills.
Developing a portfolio and having businesses to show it to are two of the most important pieces in the professional-photography puzzle!
You might start your search by talking with your high-school art/photography teacher or to a local professional. In addition, you can use such online services as College Search and others, narrowing your hunt to photography schools and art schools that offer a degree in photography.
As you make this search, use such terms as "photography degree," "photography technical training" and "colleges for photography." These are only a few of the terms that can help you cut your choices to a manageable level.
If you are interested in a particular area of your home country you can search by name and geographical area. Don't hesitate to look at schools away from your home region, though the cost may be a bit higher.
Do some research on college funding and on assistance for photography school tuition costs. As you consider the "money" question, put some of your specifics in writing:
Once you have a working list of schools for photography that meet your training, size and location requirements, start making plans to visit them in person, if that is financially possible.
make every effort to see the campus and the facilities!
You may have to narrow the in-person list to three or four. But make every effort to see the campus and the facilities!
To give you some perspective on the range of schools available, consider the 100-year-old New York Institute of Photography, with as many as 20,000 students taking some level of training.
There are small schools that have a dozen students as well. These might offer single courses for $400, $500 or more per session. Full-time costs vary widely, though a school in the United States might have tuition costs in the $10,000 range.
It's difficult to provide anything close to a complete list of schools for photography. There are literally thousands of sources of information and hundreds of schools that can provide both creative and technical training.
The best advice might be to write down your goals and expectations then use them as a guideline for finding the gem among schools for photography.