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  • Writer's pictureAmy Demidow

Photography At University: I Lost All Creativity

Updated: May 13, 2022

In the last year of sixth form I would think about studying photography at university and what it would be like. I conjured up a number of different images in my head of what I thought it would be like. I always came back to this one narrative. It went like this: I imagined it bustling with people sharing ideas, helping out each other and encouraging one another to better. I imagined it to be a haven for all things creative, where everyone knew everyone and a friendly atmosphere lingered in the air along with the smell of freshly roasted black coffee from a grubby canteen.

Learning To Be A Photographer At University: What It's Really Like

That image quickly faded as soon as I got to uni- it was far from anything I had imagined. Even up to second year, it felt as though nobody knew anybody and that was because nobody really made the effort. People were still too shy to put their hands up to answer questions or share their ideas with the class- or just weren't bothered. This is not what I had in my head.

University felt like nothing but a pool of students in competition with each other and it was because of all of these things that university has ended up killing any shred of confidence and creativity I had.

Saying that, there is another massive reason for why my confidence and creativity were destroyed. Mark schemes. Lecturers. Two things which determine your grades. If you photograph in a style your lecturer doesn't like then you're screwed. If you photograph in a way that doesn't conform to the 'rules' of photography, you are also screwed. Basically, what I'm saying is that my degree is screwed and if I end up getting a good grade by the end of the third year it will be a miracle.

This is because at university we are STILL made to conform to the rules of photography because that's what's in the mark schemes. "No, I don't want to shoot a portrait at eye level" I say under my breath as I wade through useless information to get to the mark schemes and assessment objectives in class. "No I don't want to use an 85mm for my portraits either". I want to create my own style because if everyone follows the mark schemes guidelines... our work will look the same. Boring.

Playing By The Rules To Earn A Photographic Qualification: Creativity Killer

Not to mention, mark schemes take away any opportunity for experimentation; I wasn't encouraged to do that throughout my course which killed off any ideas I had... if I managed to have any at all. I was encouraged to follow the rules militantly thus leaving me to learn most of the things I know now on online. It was Youtubers who taught me to experiment with different lenses, angles and editing techniques. It was them who taught me how to retouch and colour grade. The only thing I can recall learning from university is that I've been holding my camera "wrong" all along... oops.

My Photography Now

Now, as we approach the summer time, I am learning to be creative again. I'm learning how to create ideas that aren't standardised but are actually things I want to go out and shoot. Finally having ideas which inspire you is so refreshing; wanting to get out bed to do these things is even more so.

I'm finding ideas for photoshoots in places I never knew possible: songs, colours, places, films and so on. I'm learning to note down ideas whenever they spring Into my mind because no idea is a bad idea when all your brain has been drier than the sahara for the past semester.

I've done so many shoots in the past couple of months already and have so many more ideas cooking and festering on my Pinterest. I'm also planning on trying new things too, like videography, so it will be super interesting to see how well that goes.. or doesn't. Boy, does it feel good to not have to conform to mark schemes any more...


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