Jim Edds used to work in a lab as a chemist making base resins for paint. He saved his underwater photography passion for weekends. Now, he travels across the country chasing and shooting storms. He takes stills, captures video and sells the footage to news outlets like CNN, NBC and The Weather Channel.
Edds went from hobbyist to working pro after enrolling in the New York Institute of Photography (NYIP), a move that he says was key to his success. Established in 1910, NYIP provides home-study courses in photography, educating more than 20,000 students in the U.S. and abroad at any given time. The staff is made up of working pros who offer their knowledge and expertise as students complete the training at their own pace.
Edds’ goal was to make a living as a photographer. To do that, he needed some formal training that covered all aspects of how to shoot in various styles. Edds tried the traditional route of sitting in a classroom with 30 other people, but it didn’t suit his learning style. So he turned to NYIP’s Complete Course in Professional Photography.
“I needed to fill in the gaps,” Edds says. “NYIP teaches you all types—studio to landscape to commercial to portraits. One of the best things about the program is they assign you a working pro who helps you throughout the course.”
Chuck DeLaney, dean of NYIP, says there are a few factors that help distinguish the school from others. From the time students enroll, they’re given the direct phone number and e-mail of a student adviser so they have access to as much or as little help as desired. Second, students submit photographs for careful evaluation by one of the experienced pros on staff six times during the training. That teacher follows the student throughout all of the units and offers useful advice on what areas need improving as the student progresses.
NYIP is making some improvements of its own to keep up with the fast-changing world of digital photography. Key lessons in the early and latter parts of the course have been updated, with more revisions to come throughout the year. New concepts, such as high dynamic range photography, are quickly integrated into the course along with software updates.
“In order to keep everyone up to date, we have to constantly revise, but 60 percent of photography hasn’t changed in the last 50 years,” says DeLaney. “Lighting is still lighting. Shutter speed is still shutter speed.”
Although DeLaney has started to see students coming in who are totally based in digital, the school offers complete training in both film and digital techniques. There are no plans to lose the film lessons. Ultimately, says DeLaney, the school is trying to teach the process, and the tools are ancillary.
“Students still need to understand how a silver-halide image is developed both in color and black-and-white because it helps them conceptualize better, even if they shoot digital,” adds DeLaney. “Levels and curves in Photoshop make more sense if you’ve studied the concept of dodging and burning in a traditional darkroom.”
Edds built up a stock library of extreme underwater sports images that helped land him various jobs, such as shooting for the U.S. Freediving Team. From there, he turned his attention to the weather. Edds now mainly works with video, recording hurricanes and waterspouts. His work is picked up regularly by various news organizations, and he’s a contracted stringer for The Weather Channel.
“The better video shooters have photography backgrounds. I use a lot of the composition techniques I learned at NYIP to shoot good video,” Edds says. “A lot of videographers don’t know how to use a tripod or even just compose a picture, and it shows.”