A photography study will make you a better photographer, sort of

It might seem like an obvious answer and not really something worthy to write about in such lengths. Still, you would be amazed how often I get asked this question. I still get surprised reactions when I tell them how I became the photographer I am today.

Mitchel Lensink
Apr 7, 2020
4 min read
Mitchel Lensink photography study

I have told this story a lot but I really like to write it down one last time. This also gives me the ability to just link people to this article whenever I get this question again. That question being:

did you study to become a photographer?”.

It’s a valid question and I understand why people would ask me that. At the same time, it’s also a pretty double-barrelled question. Simply because I can answer it just as well with; “nope” as with; “yes I did study to become a photographer!”. Let me explain my reasoning behind both possible answers.

No, I did not study photography

To start with my first answer, I have not followed any official studies or courses to learn photography. That is partly because I only developed an interest in photography when I was already doing a different study. For a long time, photography was a hobby next to the thing I was actually studying (Social Psychology, if anybody wants to know). That means that when I had to make the choice of what school I wanted to go to, a photography school wasn’t even something I considered.

While I do realize I could still simply do a photography course whenever I wanted to, I never really felt like this would make me a better photographer necessarily. Don’t get me wrong, I think somebody teaching you photography can be very efficient. I am not trying to say you shouldn’t follow a study.

To be frank, if I was into photography when I started studying, I might’ve chosen a photography school as well. I just believe that you don’t really need to follow a photography study to become a good photographer. I mean, despite that I didn’t receive any training, people are still willing to pay for my work. That must mean something about my level of expertise. Right?

A student of the craft

That brings me to my second possible answer on the question if I studied to become a photographer which was: yes I did study photography. You might wonder, how can I answer in such a way when I just elaborated so thoroughly on why I never followed such a study? The answer is simple and perhaps a bit cheesy but hear me out.

The reason I can still say I studied photography despite never going to school for it, is because I’ve taught myself. I learned everything from the internet (, what’s up!) while then putting everything I learned to practice in real life.

It might seem like an obvious answer and not really something worthy to write about in such lengths. Still, you would be amazed how often I get asked this question. I still get surprised reactions when I tell them how I became the photographer I am today. So no, I did not follow any photography studies but I have always been a student of the craft.

It’s almost as if there is some general tendency among some people that don’t believe they can become good at anything. They just have to set their mind to it. Is that a cliché? Maybe, but it could not apply better to this subject. I think to them it seems like too much work, too much time you need to invest and simply not knowing where to start. While I can understand that sentiment, I actually never felt like that when I was finding my way through all the knowledge I was acquiring.

Keeping it simple

The whole point for me was that I just thought photography was fun. I didn’t even own a camera, all I had was an iPhone 5. I was intrigued when I learned how easy it is to take good photos if you know a few tricks. To keep things simple for myself, I focussed solely on perfecting my use of those few trick. Only then I moved on to new things I could learn to master. I had so much fun taking reflection photos and looking for symmetry in my first year of photography. I didn’t even felt the need to upgrade from my iPhone. All this kept the practice of making photos as simple as it could be. That laid the foundations for everything I did after that.

This is the first photo I took for my 365 project in 2015 and you can see how I am leaning on symmetry and leading lines a lot. Something I only recently learned to do.

Knowledge will come for those worthy

The reason I believe I studied photography, is because I believe that studying something does not have to be institutionalized. I think that when learning something you are intrinsically interested in, you will put in the time and effort automatically. I never made a conscious decision to devote my media intake to mainly photography related things. It’s just that I happen to be drawn to that kind of content and information because that is what I like to read and watch. Skipping an article about anything related to the topic is hard for me, even when I believe there is nothing for me to take from it.

For example, I still watch beginner tutorials on Youtube, just because I believe there might be one tiny little thing that sparks an idea. Just as I still click on links to articles that appear in my Twitter feed when I already know there is a good chance there is no new information for me there. I believe that a so called ‘rookie technique’, explained only a little different from how I first read it, can still lead me to develop a different vision on something I thought I already knew.

All the above is why I believe that I am good at what I do. That is why I think that I still study photography every single day. Even though I never studied to become a photographer.

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