Photography School FAIL


I flunked out of Photography School.

It’s sad to admit, but I was the worst student. Even more damning, I was the ONLY student! Can you be at the bottom in a class of one?

I found an online photography course with BPSOP. It’s a great school with a long list of classes and professional instructors. I was hoping to break free of bad habits and learn to make truly beautiful pictures.

I looked over the catalog and selected a month-long program taught by … and here I’m actually going to name names … Joe Baraban. He’s a master photographer from the old-school world of advertising. His photographs look like magazine ads because, well, they were. It’s called Hyperrealism in the world of visual arts, and he likes when his students copy his style. Of course, Joe B. had props, professional models and stage lighting when he did his photo shoots, and I do not. Nor am I likely to anytime soon.

The format for the class is ambitious. You submit a couple of photos each day for critique and Joe B. posts an analysis via video link the next morning. You get to see your photo with a voice-over of him explaining what you did wrong. And the other thing you did wrong. Oh, and this thing over here…wrong!

While Joe has a calm voice on the videos and is detailed with his critique, he nonetheless rips your photograph apart inch by inch. You might as well park your ego at the door, cos it’s going to be shredded one way or another. Most of my submissions were deemed so inferior that Joe struggled each day to find new and inventive ways to civilly say You Suck.

It was a brutal month of failures. Try as I may, I just couldn’t please him. 

Working through this class reminded me of “The Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei” from the Kill Bill movies.

But under a harsh master the strongest lessons are learned. The basics have been drilled into me after repeated beatings. I’ve learned to take my time composing the shot, check the margins, bracket the exposure, incorporate color, texture, tension, and vary the perspective and depth. If all this sounds hard, you’re right. But my photos do show some improvement. And my ego has been well roasted by the experience.

So here, presented for your amusement, are some of my class assignments and what Joe B. found despicable about them. Oh, and by the way, You Suck!

“Crappy sky”


“Too much ice”

“Just a guy at a grinder.”


“Okay for an Abstract.”

My Photo School Experience


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