When I first got started in photography I was in high school. I don't know if you can relate to that at all, but I was actually learning around the time when film was a big thing. (I still love film photography by the way.) But, I learned in the dark room. I did a lot of projects for high school, and I absolutely fell in love with photography.
What's crazy is that I could've already gone after high school and become a photographer. Everyone around me was like, “No, you have to go to college.” My parents told me I had to go to college. My high school guidance counselor actually told me to go join the Army (an entirely different can of worms). Watching all my friends who were going to college made me feel really pressured to go to college.
I'm not sure if you've felt (or feel) that way now. What’s crazy is that people actually ask me, “Do you have to go to college to become a successful photographer?” I think that there are a lot of things that you do need to go to college for. If you want to become a doctor or a psychologist, yes please go to college. But I think when it comes to the arts and to business, I actually think it's better for you to get experience in the real world than through college.
Now, I don't know about the college you went to (or are going to), but most of my professors did not have businesses themselves. They went to school, and they studied art, and then they became a professor. I actually learned the most when I was able to actually see how businesses were run, how to learn from interning with other successful photographers, and things like that. So the short answer is no. You absolutely do not need to go to college to become a successful photographer.
However, if you decide not to go to college, I really want you to really think hard about if you are a self-starter. Are you someone who can self motivate? Are you a hard worker? Because, those are the things that you need to be a successful business owner. Let’s put photography aside for one second. If you're debating between going to college, or interning with a photographer, or getting some real world experience, I would really highly recommend that you forgo college, forgo tens of thousands of dollars in crushing debt, and go learn and see from other photographers how they did it.
If you’re already a photographer who’s been through this, then I'm sure you could not agree more. Right?