Faith and Photography

Kiplinger just “…analyzed the jobless rates and salaries for graduates with the 100 most popular majors to come up with our list of the ten worst values in college majors.”

The research they did was on undergraduate degrees.  Number three on their list was “Film and Photography.”

I posted this to my FaceBook page and got a lot a responses. One from my friends Clark Hill said:

 Lots of times I’ve been out shooting video and a younger person will say “I’d like to get into video, what do you recommend?” I always tell them college prices are a complete waste to learn a craft. My suggestion is to read books on the subject, learn lighting and PRACTICE. Get a reasonably priced liberal arts degree and READ NOVELS, good ones. Learn to tell stories with words and pictures, the skills work together in your brain. Learn about people first and practice the craft.

Sadly the liberal arts degree was number seven on the list.

People of faith believe that God calls one to a line of work. The word vocation is actually rooted in the church. It means to be called and when first used was referring to being called to the priesthood.
The Jesuits outline the 7 stages of discerning a call to the priesthood, which I believe is advisable for whatever career you choose, especially photography.

Seven Stages of Vocation Discernment

  1. Attraction or Interest… to serving God
  2. Inquiry… taking the initiative
  3. Information Gathering… being proactive
  4. Discernment… understanding the experience
  5. Confirmation… moving toward a decision
  6. Application Process… submitting the application
  7. Entrance… if accepted, becoming a Jesuit Novice
There are two parts to a call for the ministry: 1) the personal call and 2) the corporate call. While one may feel they are called, the place they will serve must also feel the call to offer them a job.
It makes no logical sense to pursue the call to ministry. For most churches they require a M. Div. and this takes three to five years to earn after a four year undergraduate degree. For many people this is a second career and often they are taking a pay cut even with a higher degree.


What is important for a photographer is a strong portfolio of work to get jobs. A degree is not necessary to do this as a profession. However, depending on the type of photography you plan to do a college degree maybe highly advisable.

When Tom Kennedy was the director of photography at National Geographic I wrote to him and met with him. He had a form letter that would go to most inquirers about his recommendations.

He pointed out that most of the photographers working for National Geographic had college degrees in the areas of which they specialized. It was quite common for someone to have a marine biology degree if they were working on stories in this genre.  While the degrees varied, most all were in the subject they covered and not in photography.

You need to become an expert in the subject because you will be covering the subject with experts and the more you know the better your coverage would be for the magazine.

You do need to know how to make and take photos. How you learn these skills can be done many ways. Going to photographic workshops is one of the best ways to learn in my opinion. These are taught usually by professional photographers who are doing what they are teaching.

Working as an apprentice to a photographer is another great way to learn. I am sure there are people who would pay to spend time with Warren Buffett.  Imagine being there when he decides to buy stock in a company. I think I would be rushing out to follow suit.  Why not learn about the stock market from the expert rather than a classroom if you could get the chance.

Leap of Faith

Søren Kierkegaard, theologian and the first existentialist philosopher is credited with the concept of the Leap of Faith.  Kierkegaard believed that the paradoxes within Christianity required a leap to accept the faith.

In Indiana Jones the Last Crusade is a great clip showing the concept of the leap of faith.

To pursue photography as a “vocation” I believe is a major leap. Even if you feel this is your calling and those around you affirm your gifts to make it a career is still a major jump.

Learn from the ministry

While those who respond to a call to ministry will earn a degree, they never stop studying the scriptures. They spend incredible amounts of time each week preparing for the sermon.

Besides committing their lives to study they also commit themselves to obedience. This applies to the photographer as well. The ministers practice their faith and we too must practice our craft daily to remain sharp and competitive.

Keep the bar high for quality. Ministers focus on God to do his will. They are not looking around them to other ministers to compare and measure their success. We too need to look to pursuing creativity at the highest standard we can achieve.


Kiplinger reports “The new-grad unemployment rate for film and photography majors is only narrowly better than the rate for high school dropouts.”

This is a very tough field to remain competitive in. If you are pursuing this because it seems fun to take pictures then the odds of you working in retail are really high. If this is a calling, then the fire within will help you stand up to the tests that will come your way.

Use some discernment to see if this really is the vocation for you.