What does it really mean to be self-taught? Being your own teacher does not necessarily mean going without the assistance of others. It’s about doing independent research, driven by self-interest. How is that even possible? Thanks to the internet, an infinite wealth of knowledge is readily available at our fingertips. Because of the vastness that it offers, it’s important to use extreme discernment when choosing to educate ourselves on any topic matter. Be sure to use reliable resources or you run the risk of being misinformed. Isn’t a formal education necessary? Only if you feel you can benefit from it. If it’s a requirement for the type of career you’re pursuing, then yes, it’s necessary. However, if it’s not a requirement or not career-specific, then don’t feel pressured to go merely because it’s what you’re “supposed to do”.
I went to school for photography for almost a year. By the end of that year I had only gotten through general education classes. Due to a combination of less than ethical financial practices on the part of the school and my inability to afford all of the equipment that was required to take the courses, I dropped out. I started studying online and found that photography happened to be one of the subjects that didn’t need to a formal education in order to be successful. There is no wrong way to take a photograph, because it’s an art form. All of art is an experiment, regardless of whether or not it follows a composition or breaks all of the ‘rules’. Learn and play with the modes and functions of your camera and other types of image recording devices. Experience comes with use, and experience is the best teacher.
When I was around 13 years old, I became obsessed with the idea of building websites and creating computer graphics. At the time, for those in my age range, ‘online collectives’ were really popular. Online collectives are personal websites that contain a network of interest-based sub-sites. For example, some collectives contained links to that person’s blog, a site dedicated to one of their favorite television shows or video game characters, and even a site to offer their services as a graphics artist. I was creative, had a lot of interests, and loved to write. So I wanted to learn HTML (HyperText Markup Language), and found the best way to do that was not to read tutorials, but to check out the source codes of the sites I admired. Through trial and error, I learned what the actions were of each piece of coding and began to create a hybrid of my own — using the coding I’d learned from various sites. But I knew that wouldn’t be enough. I knew that I needed to learn how to create stunning graphics to draw visitors in to my content. So I found a trial version of Adobe Photoshop 4.0 (ancient, right?!) and spent hours messing around with it.
With these examples, I’ve shown that photography, website building, and graphic art can all be easily self-taught. This proves that schooling is not absolutely essential unless the goal is to get a degree. Because of the competitive nature of these fields, having a degree does not always translate into finding a job. My Mom went to school almost a decade ago and obtained a degree in graphic design but has never found employment in that area of profession.
Unlike my experience learning how to code HTML, I have come to find that online tutorials are the most useful resources for teaching oneself how to do pretty much anything. Tutorials can come in written form, often aided by photographs, but they can also come in the form of a video. Video tutorials leave little room for mistakes, because they show how to take each action step-by-step. I’ve used video tutorials to learn a number of things — like how to make wigs, mimic makeup looks, install computer programs, and put together no-sew tutus.
Here on Yahoo!, many guides to do-it-yourself projects can be found. All one needs to do is dream it up and search for it. Before you know it, you’ll be teaching someone else how to do it.