Q. What kind of prior experience do I need to be accepted into your programs?
A. Programs begin at the beginning, presuming no prior photographic experience, while many of our students do enter with a background in photography. We make sure there are no gaps in your understanding even as we move quickly beyond the basics. All you need is a love for photography and a willingness to dedicate yourself 100% to participating in your program.
Q. Will I be able to work while I'm attending the program?
A. Our students have found from experience that trying to work while attending our programs is counter-productive. Ultimately, you will only get out of this experience what you’re able to put into it. NYFA programs are intensive, and require total focus and commitment in order to maximize their benefit. Any income you might make is going to be undermined by the time it takes away from attending classes, shooting assignments, studying, editing your work in the digital darkroom, hanging out with your classmates for all-important informal discussions and critiques, field trips, networking with an incredible roster of professional photographers, curators, editor, publishers and teachers, and resting!
Q. What is the difference between the one-year certificate and two-year MFA program?
A. The one-year program is an intensive focused on giving you the minimum practical, technical, aesthetic and business skills to begin working as professional photographers. As in all fields, true mastery is a journey, not a destination. Since our intent is to give you practical skills, we focus primarily on the latest tools that you are most likely to use, the modern digital SLR camera, as well as electronic flash, and high definition video. We also touch on medium format film and digital cameras. You leave the program with a certificate of completion. No prior undergraduate education is necessary to attend the program.
The MFA program is a graduate level conservatory course of study resulting in a Master of Fine Arts degree, which currently is only conferred in our Los Angeles location. (You have the option to attend the one-year program in New York, and then apply to the Los Angeles campus to complete the second year, or you can do both years in California.)
The second year of the MFA program delves more broadly into topics that couldn't be covered in the one-year intensive, including alternative photochemical processes, large and medium format photography, specialized optics and printing processes, advanced digital imaging techniques, all in the context of finishing a final cohesive thesis project. It is a time to apply the fundamentals learned in the first year, to refine your personal style, to focus on what will ultimately become your main area of practice, to design exit strategies in preparation for entering the business world, to broaden your professional network, and to explore the furthest boundaries of what is possible in today's photography.
A bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for acceptance into the MFA program (although it does not need to be a degree in photography). In terms of courses, the first year of the MFA program is the same as the one-year intensive. Thus, if you attended the one-year program and wanted to continue for another year and get your MFA, you could request to have your credits applied to the MFA program—provided that you already had a bachelor's degree beforehand.
The decision to attend the one-year or MFA program is ultimately a personal one. It is our experience that those in a position to hire you as a photographer care far less about your formal education than the quality of your work and your personality. The one area where an MFA is a nearly absolute requirement and your resume will definitely play a key role is if you want to teach at a university level.
Q. What is the difference between the 4- and 8-week programs?
A. The 4-week program covers core photographic craft, including a brief taste of lighting using both portable and studio strobes. The 8-week program delves quite a bit more deeply into lighting techniques, especially studio lighting, expands beyond Lightroom and a very light exploration of Photoshop into more advanced compositing, color correction, and inkjet printing not covered in 4 weeks, and has a broader range of assignments that challenge you to practice the principles of good composition and staging that were introduced in the 4-week program.
In both, you create a body of work that spans commercial, fine art and documentary disciplines, but with more extensive assignments in the longer course. Essentially the 8-week course covers twice as much ground as the 4-week course.
Q. I love photography, but I’m not sure if I want to do it for a living. What do you suggest?
A. The short-term programs have proven to be a very popular way for students to explore their level of interest in photography without a long-term commitment; many have decided that this is their true calling, and transferred from 4 or 8 weeks or returned to attend longer programs. Short-term students can simply continue or return at a later date to attend the full one-year or two-year program simply by paying the difference in tuition. They do not have to pay again for weeks they’ve already completed. A short course is a chance to immerse yourself in the world of photography, practice being a full time photographer, and get a lot of informal but invaluable advice from teachers who have been in the business about where you might best fit.
Q. I'm not sure I'll be ready to start next semester. Do I have to wait a year for another opportunity?
A. You can start either of our long-term or short-term programs three times per year: in September, January, or July. Short-term programs have an additional start date in March.
Q. Will I be able to get professional work after I finish the program?
A. For those of you who hope to pursue a career as professional photographers, this is probably uppermost in your mind as you search for the right decision about how to arm yourself with the education you'll need.
If anyone tells you that developing a business as a professional photographer is easy, then I'm sure you know instinctively that they're not giving you an honest answer, whether they know it or not. There are innumerable markets and jobs for photographers. You can shoot images for stock sales, ads, weddings, portraits, editorial assignments, fine art, photojournalism, travel assignments, studio product work, and many other assignments. Photographers almost all run their own business as independent contractors, and the single biggest oversight that we see aspiring professionals make is not being realistic about how much of your time will be spent running your business and not actually shooting photos. If that’s not an appealing bargain, you might ultimately be happier doing photography mostly as a means of creative expression or applying to another field rather than as a way of making a living.
What I can promise is that we will make sure that you leave this program not only saturated with solid craft and exposed to an incredible range of inspiring work, but also having practiced every aspect of the business of being a photographer, including bidding, pricing, licensing agreements, budgets, invoicing, editing, printing, and marketing. We can't get a job for you, but we can give you everything you need to succeed. The rest is up to you.
Q. But will you get me a job after school?
A. We do not have a formal job placement service; it would be pointless. A photographer is an entrepreneur; you do not get hired as a photographer by sending out resumes and doing interviews as with traditional jobs. It is a referral-driven, word-of-mouth business of the self-employed.
What does end up happening is that our staff has a vast network of colleagues—editors, curators, publishers, etc. —and they are alerted to a constant stream of opportunities at every level. Many choose to pass those on to their best students, those who demonstrated a great attitude and consistent professionalism by showing up on time to class and doing the work to the best of their ability week after week. No professional would risk his or her reputation recommending someone who did otherwise. Many of our graduates have landed professional assignments through this informal but very effective route, which is a microcosm of the business itself.
Q. Do you only teach digital photography? What about film?
A. The current reality of the professional photography business is that digital dominates. While the arguments for and against film and digital will go on, and some may argue that digital dominates primarily for economic reasons without adding any aesthetic benefit to photographers, the business is driven by digital technology.
What clients care about is the quality of your ideas, the excellence of your execution, and whether working with you is going to be fun and rewarding. Other photographers may be interested in whether you shot on 4x5” transparency film or an iPhone; clients just need to love the results and get them when they need them—which these days may be too fast for film.
Tools are ultimately just tools. The better you know them, and the broader your palette is, the more options are available to you. Our one-year program focuses primarily on digital photography, while also teaching how to properly expose, develop and scan film. The second year of the MFA program gives students the chance to broaden their skills by immersing them more deeply in film photography and photochemical processes, including darkroom time. We do offer separate one-week workshops in film as well as digital photography.
We hope that film will never die. No digital technology can duplicate what it can do, but neither does film look like digital. Whether you choose to use film or digital capture, or mix the best of both worlds, we encourage you to continuously broaden your skills by exploring every aspect of the craft.