Pro Tips: Turning Pro
How a course in photography inspired big changes
A mid-career switch from electrical engineering to photography wasn't exactly what Paul Kline had in mind when he began taking pictures again. But photography is how he makes his living now, with corporate and editorial clients demanding his services, including Random House, The New York Times and Ketchum.
Kline's father, a photographer, made certain that his son knew how to use a camera, but the former engineer's busy career kept him from shooting for a long time. When he picked up the hobby again, digital was starting to take off and he decided to go back to school, albeit in the comfort of his own home. He enrolled in a class with the New York Institute of Photography (NYIP), which ultimately led to a new career.
NYIP offers home-study courses in photography, instructing 20,000 students in the U.S. and abroad at any given time. With a staff of working pros doing the training, students learn techniques and get advice from experts while completing the course at their own pace, ideal for people who work full-time.
"It's less academic, yet very comprehensive," Kline says. "The course touched on every aspect of photography, every style from macro to advertising, wedding, portraiture. They gave a good wide view with enough detail to at least get you started."
Another major bonus for Kline was that the faculty reviews student work and provides constructive feedback. That kind of one-on-one attention sets the school apart from others like it, says NYIP Dean Chuck DeLaney. The same instructor follows a student throughout the course.
This makes the criticism more valuable because the instructor knows what areas need improving as the student advances.
Kline completed NYIP's Complete Course in Professional Photography in nine months and transitioned completely to a full-time photographer within a few years. He still gets advice from his mentor at the school, and both have remained valuable resources for Kline in his career.
To keep its value in the fast-changing age of digital photography, NYIP is constantly recalibrating its courses. New concepts, such as high dynamic range, are quickly integrated into the course along with software updates. "In order to keep everyone up-to-date, we revise lessons constantly," says DeLaney. But he adds that, ultimately, understanding how to take a great photo is what matters most—the tools are secondary. And, indeed, when Kline recalls the most valuable tips he learned, he says paying attention to the background and sketching a concept before a shoot have served him well in his blossoming career.
Along with his commercial and editorial assignments, Kline has embarked on a special project with his wife, documenting at-risk children around the world. The project has taken them to Egypt, Ukraine, Israel, Vietnam and India, with Tanzania and Uganda to come. Kline says the project is generating a lot of editorial interest, and he hopes the work results in a book.
For more information about the New York Institute of Photography, visit www.nyip.com. See more photography by Paul Kline at www.paulkline.com.