Director of Education Lisa Robinson talks about Hallmark's intensive program, its focus on training professionals, and its charming New England setting.
For more information about the Hallmark Institute of Photography, and to see photos of the campus, visit the school's profile.
PhotoVideoEDU: What is distinctive about your program?
Lisa Robinson: There are two main things that make our program so special. First, we train students to be professional photographers—we take them from zero to sixty in 10 months. Our students attend classes all day, every day, from 8 a.m. until 5, and then come back on their own during the evenings and weekends to work on their assignments and projects. Our students learn all manner of photographic technique, as well as the business of being a photographer. It’s been called a photographic boot camp because of the intensity of the program.
The other major thing that makes our program so special is our faculty. Our students learn from the best—extremely dedicated, charismatic, and talented instructors that take our students through this very special journey. The one and only Gregory Heisler is on our team, as well as award-winning portrait photographer Rich Barnes, and fashion photographer/guru David Turner. Michael Zide is our renowned fine art and landscape photographer. Braden Chatman and Michael Merritt are experts in Photoshop and Lightroom who excel in bringing our students up to speed in the digital arena. Dick D’Alessandro and Chat Sirichanvimol team up to teach students how to use a large format camera, and navigate a commercial set. Tony Downer lays down the basics of photography, and is an invaluable resource for learning and managing different photo equipment. Talented designer Todd Verlander teaches our students about branding and design so they can begin the process of branding their own business. All of our instructors take part in educating students in the business of photography, which is a crucial skill for a successful photographer. Shelley Nicholson and I go in-depth into career planning and business skills that make our students stand out.
Our educational system is built on team-teaching to small groups of students, and this incredible team participates in all aspects of each student’s educational experience.
PhotoVideoEDU: What kinds of students does the program attract?
Lisa Robinson: Our student body is a diverse and varied group, from those fresh out of high school, to mid-life career changers. They come from all over the United States, as well as a number of international countries. Many have high school diplomas; others also have bachelor's or MFA degrees. The qualities they all share are a passion for learning photography, and the desire to make a living from their art.
PhotoVideoEDU: What kind of campus does your school have, and what is student life like?
Lisa Robinson: The big city it is not: a quintessential New England town, Turners Falls is located at the base of the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts. Students do not live on campus but instead find apartments in the surrounding community. Because of the intensity of our program, students build very strong relationships with each other, which often last a lifetime. Everyone here works hard, and we work together in a wonderfully collaborative way. The energy and passion that both students and faculty have here is something unique and very special.
PhotoVideoEDU: Does the program have required courses or final requirements?
Lisa Robinson: All students take all classes in the program. We expose students to as many different facets of photography as possible, so they are well rounded and prepared to take on any challenge that comes their way. Students are trained in video as well as still photography, and become proficient in Lightroom, Photoshop, and Final Cut Pro editing software.
Students graduate armed with a finished career business plan, and a portfolio of work that represents the sound technique and artistic skills that they have acquired during their time here.
PhotoVideoEDU: Do your students do internships?
Lisa Robinson: A lot of our students pursue internships after they graduate to get some experience on set, but there is no formal or required internship built into the program.
PhotoVideoEDU: Do you hold special events for photography students?
Lisa Robinson: We have a very robust Guest Lecture series, where our students hear from working professionals from all different fields of photography. We host a range of guests, from world-renowned photographers discussing their work, to successful small-business owners who talk about the state of the industry. We have been honored to host legends such as Douglas Kirkland, Joyce Tenneson, Mary Ellen Mark, and Sam Abell, as well as numerous others.
PhotoVideoEDU: Do your students get opportunities to show their work?
Lisa Robinson: In addition to showcasing their work in local galleries, in the school, and on our website, our students have the opportunity to have their final year-end portfolio judged by an outside panel of working photographers. Each student receives an in-depth review and critique of what they have produced before being sent off into the working world. Barbara Bordnick, Grant Peterson, Simon Alexander, and Lois Greenfield have been recent portfolio panelists.
PhotoVideoEDU: What areas do graduates of your program go on to work in as professionals?
Lisa Robinson: Our graduates are uniquely qualified to pursue a number of different careers. Some of them open their own portrait and wedding studios, others find editorial and advertising work or become photo assistants in large cities, and some look for non-shooting jobs like photo editing or studio management positions.
PhotoVideoEDU: Could you name a few distinguished graduates?
Lisa Robinson: We have successful Hallmark alumni in just about every aspect of the photographic world, from sports photography to fashion to wedding and family portraits. Our network is strong, and spans the United States and beyond, so newly graduating students can almost always find someone nearby to help mentor them as they make their way in the industry.
Here is a sample of what some of our photographers are up to:
PhotoVideoEDU: Does the program have any important new developments on the horizon?
Lisa Robinson: The biggest and most exciting change to the Hallmark program has been the addition of more and more video classes to the curriculum. We pride ourselves on training students for what the job market demands, and right now video is exploding onto the scene. We want our grads to be ready to be leaders in what is up and coming, not the ones scrambling to keep up. To kick off our video classes, we were thrilled to have the fabulous folks from Stillmotion present their KNOW presentation to our students.