Hallmark Institute of Photography
I’m a Hallmark institute of Photography Graduate. I finished top of my class. I got rave reviews when my portfolio was judged. This post is something I’ve been thinking very carefully about, at great length. So here is my tell-all about my alma mater. I will add to it as I see fit, and update as things come to my memory. Portions of this post are also available on the Hallmark Yelp Page
Only the most basic level of photographic instruction is provided at Hallmark, despite claims to being a top notch school. In reality, it’s like photography high school. Everyone from 18-65 is treated as if they are a secondary student instead of an artist spending a ton of money to be there.
Hallmark’s marketing materials are designed to make you think you’ll be ready to work in the industry after you graduate. The reality is, the portrait program is comparable to working at JC Penny for 10 months, and the commercial program is an absolute joke. Everyone learns the exact same outdated, incredibly basic lighting patterns. There is no creativity program, and everyone just rips each other off. The prop room has the same garbage in it that’s been there for years, and the school is too cheap to buy new ones. Which is funny because tuition is over $45k.
The only benefit to attending hallmark is that once you’ve realized you’re getting screwed it’s almost over.
Hallmark’s scare tactics for any naysayers are becoming widely known. A fellow alum received hate mail from staff and instructors after she posted a self portrait of herself on flickr stating that she went to Hallmark and couldn’t find a job. Many people from my graduating class were unable to find work in the photography field and have had to resort to other careers. Hallmark has NO placement program, does not even attempt to help you find work, and cuts you loose upon graduation. Oh and by the way, they spend at least 40-50k on the graduation ceremony, and thousands on open houses (they make students sell the school to potential victims) to make it seem like things are really great.
My numerous meetings with the director of education and the president of the school to address my concerns were fruitless. Their responses were either dismissive or told me to “wait for the next phase” because things would “get better”. They never did.
Hallmark teaches to the LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR. This means if you have any background in photography at all, you will be wallowing in ineptitude for almost half of the program. The least experienced person in the school sets the pace of what is covered. So if you’d like to do some advanced lighting, post-production or anything else photo-related, you’re held back and it never comes. Again, this is the most rudimentary photographic education you can buy.
I took out $70,000 in student loans to pay for school and living expenses. I can’t imagine what it’s costing this fall’s incoming crop of students to hang out in the hell holes of greenfield and turners falls. Both towns are full of white trash or the wealthy. Not much in the way of dining or entertainment. But not to worry, you’re so busy trying to find models (nearly impossible) to photograph that you might not mind. The school doesn’t provide any models or resources to find them.
One of the most revered advertising photographers in the world, David Langley, was an instructor during my stay at Hallmark. They were so cheap that when he asked for a raise the second year, they chose to let him go. Hallmark has everyone else so scared to step out of line, they keep their mouths shut.
I really wish I had a better experience here. But I’m really afraid more people are going to keep padding their pockets without a fair warning. I’ll probably get blowback for even opening my mouth about what goes on here, but there’s plenty more. I can’t in good conscience go another day without saying something.
Bottom line: If you want to spend a lot of money to get a “Certificate” that says you’re a photographer, but don’t really care about being a great one, this might be the school for you. Just be prepared for a mediocre education, lots of unnecessary stress, and to be left high and dry as soon as you’re finished. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.