Chase Jarvis On How The Internet Is Changing The Way We Learn Photography

The creator of Creative Live talks about how we're changing the way we learn

If you frequent photography websites, then you've probably heard of Creative Live by now. For the uninitiated, it's a project started by photographer, Chase Jarvis that taps professionals to give live online seminars about specific topics that range from things like wedding and portrait photography to fitness. This week, Creative Live is doing a six-day course of Photoshop learning classes they're calling Photoshop Week. it's an interesting opportunity to get some free instruction, but it's also a fascinating segue into a conversation about the how the way we learn is constantly changing.

From the start, Creative Live needed to be interactive, "It started as a social project," says Jarvis. "You have these world-class professionals in front of you teaching you and you need to be able to interact with them." Viewers use things like Twitter and e-mail to submit questions. But, even outside of this video lesson platform, social media is becoming a more useful educational tool.

Now, as more photographers try to foster a growing online following, they're actually interacting with fans via their social channels. It's not a foolproof way to getting an answer to your question, but being able to reach out and ping a photographer you admire has never been easier. Or cheaper.

Creative Live offers their seminars for free when streamed live. If you miss them, you can buy them and watch them later. Prices vary, but they're almost always cheaper than the price of even a live seminar. And unlike live seminars, there's no shortage of chairs, so enormous numbers of people can tune in.

But what does that mean for the traditional methods of learning photography? When Jarvis dropped out of medical school and then left his pursuit of a PHD in the arts, he decided to go into photography. "I found the environment to be really closed. No one wanted to share information. There wasn't much out there for public consumption."

Since then, that has certainly changed. Now the abundance of photographic knowledge available online is almost staggering. A large portion of it is free, but for a tiny fraction of the price of a traditional photographic education, you can learn the craft using books, websites, social media, and services like Creative Live.

That's not to say that the traditional methods of learning photography are totally dead. "People learn in different ways," says Jarvis. "For some people that super-structured environment is the best way for them to absorb information. But I truly believe that the future of learning is self-directed and skill-based."

This idea isn't just being implemented online for enthusiasts either. Slowly but surely more schools are starting to embrace techniques like inquiry based learning, which eschews much of the rote memorization once fundamental in an elementary education and replace it with a focus on research and information evaluation.

The simple truth is that there's more great photography information out there than ever before. From the how-to section of this site, to books, to seminars and everything in between, it's a really exciting time to be learning a craft.

Then there's the potential for instant feedback, though, that one can be a double edged sword. "It's important to misinterpret getting a lot of "likes" in your own little groups," say Jarvis. "It's important to take criticism, but it's also important to realize where it's coming from and determine its value."

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