RGG EDU: Real World Photographic Education for the 21st Century

RGG EDU: Real World Photographic Education for the 21st Century

As company co-founder Gary Martin describes it, RGG EDU is what you would get if acclaimed director David Fincher had a baby with conventional online learning sites.

“Four and a half years ago,” says Martin, “Rob Grimm and I saw photography education as something that the upcoming youth needed, because mentorship, or the coming up process in a studio, those days are kind of ending. People are skipping a lot of the essential, foundational stuff that you get by shadowing a photographer. We wanted to create a company that gave you the experience of being on-set with that photographer, seeing everything that they do.”

Essentially, RGG EDU develops content packages that present real-life photographers doing their jobs, allowing viewers to see both the setups and techniques used in the field as well as post-production practices and running a creative business as a whole. The rationale is that only 10 percent of a photographer’s time is spent behind a camera. Why devote 90 percent of the learning to only 10 percent of the job?

RGG EDU sends a team out to work with seasoned professionals, such as fashion photographer and G-TEAM ambassador Dixie Dixon. (Dixie’s project spanned ten days in Brazil covering the workflow behind a lifestyle and swimwear shoot.) From initial planning to distribution, an RGG EDU course will typically take six months, yield up to 100 videos, and provide 20 hours of finished content. Now with over 60,000 active users, Martin notes that RGG EDU was able to drop course prices from $299 to only $129 each.

Students do not receive certificates or diplomas of any kind. In fact, Martin says that his organization sees little point in offering such things.

“Passing a test, getting a certificate, getting a degree does not mean anything in photography. It’s your portfolio. Your portfolio speaks to your aptitude as a photographer, and your portfolio tells your story — not the full story. There’s still business acumen that comes with running a studio or a brand, bidding and getting clients. We try and teach a lot of that in our tutorials. There’s always some element of business or bidding or project management.”

Martin emphasizes that a key part of running a creative business is the storage and protection of assets. This business facet is so important that RGG EDU has dedicated entire videos to the explanation of and guidance around drive storage for particular needs. Martin adopted G-Technology storage early in his career with a major technology company. From there, he standardized on G-Technology during several years as a digital technician, then carried the allegiance forward into his RGG EDU business.

Most RGG EDU projects are shot with five cameras, often saving to tethered recorders. On site, these get copied to a RAID-protected G-Technology G-SPEED Shuttle SSD, which in turn pours into a G-RACK 12 NAS Server back in the RGG EDU editing offices. The G-RACK allows for live, simultaneous editing by four editors, each equipped with a 10 Gigabit Ethernet connection.

Martin emphasizes that these items are more appropriate to a high-volume video production crew like his. For photographers, he recommends G-Technology SSD solutions as shuttle drives in the field with G-Technology RAID enclosures in the 20TB and up range for editing and long-term storage. He doesn’t get too hung up on exact models because obsession over specifics can lead learners astray.

“To a certain extent, gear doesn’t matter. It’s the creative vision. It’s the ‘why’ you’re doing something, not the how. I think that’s something that a lot of young photographers get hung up on. It’s about that new mirrorless, new lens, new megapixel. We’re being brainwashed by a lot of photography companies to think that a piece of gear can solve your problems. Guess what. There are no shortcuts to being a great photographer. It’s putting in the long hours, all the years it takes to become a great photographer and be able to see that image before you even make it. Because you don’t take photographs. You make them.”

Obviously, some gear is essential, and Martin advocates buying hardware in investment terms. Good storage, for example, is not flashy, but it does allow for steady growth. Reliable storage backed by a prudent workflow and backup strategy will enable a creative professional to scale. Unreliable hardware, at least in financial if not also literal terms, is more likely to crash.

In the end, effective storage is like invoicing, marketing, distribution, and every other part of running a successful business. It’s necessary. It’s part of that 90 percent that happens away from the camera and ultimately determines the success or failure of the creative enterprise. That’s what an apprentice would learn and what you would likely miss in basing your education on free, ten-minute streaming videos.

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RGG EDU: Real World Photographic Education for the 21st Century