Photography
Education in the
Nordic Countries

This is What the Future Looks Like

Photo: Lars Rebers

Project: Photography Education in the Nordic Countries

In the project “The Photography Education of the Future”, which took place from 2017 to 2020, a group of photography teachers from the Nordic countries examined the challenges and opportunities likely to be faced in the photography education of the future. Which competencies does a photographer need in order to be fully engaged? What will the market look like in the long term? How can higher education create the best possible conditions for a successful career in photography?

The final report of the project, including all of the results, can be found in the white paper “The Photography Education of the Future”. Here you can download the book in pdf form. On this site you will also find inspiration and information about photography education in the Nordic countries.

The project group consisted of:

Mikael Cronwall and Stefan Ohlsson (1952-2018), Fotoskolan STHLM, Sweden

Lars Rebers and Emma Westerlund, Novia University of Applied Sciences, Finland

Gunner Byskov and Bertel Stockholm, Media College, Denmark

What will happen to the photographer?

The professional role of the photographer has been radically changed during the last ten to 15 years – and it’s safe to assume that this process is going to continue. Professional photography will remain, but maybe not in the form we’re used to today. The professional photographer’s role will probably be changed, and we will have a profession that uses robots and artificial photography in its everyday work. Robots are already used to take pictures more effectively, and there are apps that do advanced retouching that only a few years ago would have required hours of manual labour.

Routine tasks that are geared more towards mass production will slowly be replaced by new technology. At the same time, the developments within for example e-commerce are leading to new jobs. Commercial photographers have already seen an increase in demand in some areas, thanks to the new demand for 3D images.

Professional photographers won’t necessarily be working with the same tasks as today, but they will still be required to use their creativity and their aesthetic judgement in order to produce attractive images that the market demands.

In this way, e-commerce, AI and robotics is creating unprecedented opportunities, but this also means there will be new expectations facing the photographers of the future, and this is something that photography educators need to be prepared for. Photography education will need to offer students an increased competence in robotic photography, automatic image editing, and photography for e-commerce. A constant and lifelong process of learning is going to become more and more important within the field.

Photo: Lars Rebers

What will the role of photography be in the future?

Press play to hear us talk to six people with a very good overall view of photography as well as photography education. What will the role of photography be in the future? What is needed if you want a career in the field? The film is produced by Fotoskolan STHLM.

How do we deal with the assumption that “everybody’s a photographer”?

Everybody’s a photographer is a phrase that’s become common knowledge during the last decade, as professional photographers have faced stiff competition from amateur and hobby photographers who can produce images at low cost or no cost at all. This trend means that the photographer can no longer expect that delivering good work and demonstrating a professional skill level will lead to more work in the future, because now everybody’s a photographer.

The progress of digital photography, with better phone cameras and the ability to quickly share images online, has revolutionised the quality level of the images that are available for everyone. Smartphones and image editing apps are getting better, but it’s still as difficult as ever to create a truly professional image. The common knowledge, however, is that “anyone can do it”.

This means that photography education needs to put a stronger focus on:

Entrepreneurship, which means that competencies in dealing with future change, sales and marketing becomes a more important component of education programmes.

Technology, which means student will increase their competence in quick and effective workflows.

Visual communication, which means increased skills in visual solutions and better communication with customers and clients.

Storytelling, which means that the student’s ability to tell a visual story get better.

Which competencies will a photographer need in 2030?

Many of the tasks that have traditionally been done by photographers will either become fully automated or disappear altogether. But creative and productive professionals are not going to be replaced by robotics and automation. Creativity means that there is an understanding of how to create meaning in an image, as well as the ability to analyse and create content that communicates well.
The role of the professional photographer has been changing dramatically during the last ten to 15 years and this process is going to continue. Professional photographers won’t necessarily be working with the same things as today, but they will still be using their creativity and their aesthetic judgement to produce quality images.
As early as 2006 the European Parliament and the European Council published a recommendation for lifelong learning, which presented eight key competencies that form the common core of all education within the EU.
Communication in your native language
Communication in foreign languages
Mathematic skills and basic scientific and technical competence
Digital competence
Learning ability
Social and civic competence
Entrepreneurship and the ability to take the initiative
Cultural awareness and cultural expressions
In addition to the key competencies of the European Union, the project group has listed a number of competencies that can make a decisive difference for the professional photographers of the future.
A high level of practical, technical and theoretical knowledge
A high level of visual competence
Competencies in moving images and sound
The ability to put your ideas into words and make the argument for visual communication
The ability to tell a story, both visually and verbally
Communication, leadership and self leadership
Entrepreneurial skills
A high level of awareness of society and and an open and interested outlook on the world
An ethical approach to the questions of equality, increased representation, sustainable development and other critically important issues of the future
The ability to create value for your customer and audience
Learning ability and problem solving skills

Read more about education
and completeness

Photo: Lars Rebers

What do education providers need to do?

Education is supposed to change and develop to reflect a changing world. There are challenges both when it comes to technical developments and developments in society at large. Educators in the field of photography need to focus more strongly on the points listed below.
The profession is becoming more global. The importance of intercultural communication keeps growing. How do we communicate in a global market?
Technically speaking, anyone can be a photographer. Why do we even need education?
The competence of the teachers. Developing competence in advanced visual techniques (for example VFX, moving images, VR, AI, drone photography etc) can be challenging for teachers and educators. How do we make sure we have the right competencies?
Students’ mental health. How do we help young people acquire the life skills they need to deal with everyday life as well as their professional life?
Recruiting a more diverse student body. How can the diversity within the groups of students and professionals better reflect the multicultural population structure of the Nordic countries?

Some goals for photography education

Developments within the field of professional photography have happened at lightning speed during the last few years. More has happened in the last five years than in the 50 years before that. Education and professional life go hand in hand. It’s necessary to constantly adjust the education programmes in photography to suit the reality that students will face, not the other way around. Over the last few years, there has been a stronger focus on the following points.
The ability to work remotely. Traditionally, visual production has happened in groups that are physically close to each other, sometimes very large groups. Due to Covid-19, but also for economic reasons, more and more work is done remotely.
An insight in the global nature of the profession. A global professional role leads to an increased need for intercultural competence.
Automation of your own work. The ability to implement automatic processes like robotic photography into your own workflow and the ability to use AI systems in your profession.

Optimizing the way you use your time. The increase in automation and the use of AI will lead to an increased need to spend time on analysis and quality control of images.

Finding your niche. The photographer of the future will need to find an increasingly niched professional role. The ever increasing demands made of professional photographers requires a substantial increase in professional competence.
The ability to market yourself. There is already a need for a high level of competence in marketing your services through digital channels. The dew marketing channels make demands on visual content that traditional marketing channels never did.
The importance of lifelong learning. Finding ways to keep learning is more relevant than ever. The education process never stops.

Read the Final Report of the Project

Photo: Lars Rebers