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The best artists are always evolving, and more importantly, learning to push their creative pursuits to the next level. It’s true – even the most famous and successful artists benefit from continuing their education. Creativity and education go hand-in-hand – the more you expand your knowledge by soaking up wisdom from fellow experts in the field, the more dynamic your work can become. But do you need a formal university-level degree when pursuing a career in the arts? When it comes to photography, UK-based fashion photographer Natalie Dybisz (aka Miss Aniela) says not necessarily.

Natalie has several convincing reasons as to why she doesn’t think aspiring photographers should invest in degree-based education, the least of which is the high price tag. It’s no secret that College can set a student back hundreds of thousands in debt, and considering that most institutions encourage students to explore independent on their own time anyway, photographers might be better off nixing the lofty tuition that comes with a fine arts degree.

“I find the work of ‘higher education’ is spread out so thinly over a wide scale of time that you might realize that everything you read or learned at university could fit into your bedtime reading over the duration of 2 more useful years doing photography in the ‘real world,’” Natalie says. “Study is good, but go find a library, do your own research and reading of your own accord. Independent study is what you’ll be doing at uni[versity] anyway, you just won’t have to pay thousands to do it!”

As long as you have the drive to learn, Natalie believes that even some of the more complicated elements of photography such as photo theory can be mastered through self-learning. Of course, there are certain hands-on lessons that only a mentor can teach you, but a mentor doesn’t need to be an instructor at a school that costs $40k a year.

Not only can aspiring photographers enroll in the occasional community college course to brush on up their technical skills, they can take advantage of online workshops like those found on CreativeLive, where hands-on instruction from top photographers is available 24/7. “If you’re contemplating whether to start a degree or not, I truly think your money is better spent on short snappy, practical courses, with direct hands-on action guided by real working pros,” Natalie says.

At the end of the day, any educational tool –– be it formal university or independent education –– is only as good as you make it. If you’re willing to dive head-first into learning and devote time to soaking up as much information as you can, the educational possibilities are endless no matter what platform you’re using. The key is finding a balance between hands-on experience and time in the “classroom” (online or in person) so that you have all the tools needed to embark on a successful career. “One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is that you make it happen,” Natalie says. “You make your own work, and in turn, your own life path.”

Source: Miss Aniela