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Digital photography skills: Erma studies online from Malaysia

by Sarah Hudson
Posted: August 27, 2020

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**This is an updated post**

What would it be like to study an online qualification while living and working overseas in an exotic location? For Erma Gagah, an Open Colleges alumnus based in Malaysia, this is more than just a ‘what if’. This is her life.  

We spoke to Erma about her studies and how she's using her qualification to further her career.


The leap from food to photography wasn’t a huge one for Malaysia-based student Erma Gagah. At the end of her Culinary Arts Management degree, Erma realised she’d hit a roadblock when it came to her camera skills.

Deciding to take matters into her own hands, she signed up for an Open Colleges photography qualification  to supplement her university qualification and gain extra skills that she felt she needed and was missing out on. 

A career in food styling and digital photography

Food stylist photography requires digital photography skills

“It all started with the Food Styling class during my final year,” Erma recalls. “I was hoping that I'd be exposed more to photography techniques throughout the classes. I’d bought a DSLR camera for the subject, but then I didn't know how to use it.” 

Quickly getting over her disappointment, Erma signed up for the Open Colleges course. It’s a decision she’s already getting a lot out of. She found herself a study buddy via OpenSpace and they share assignments and ideas on Pinterest.

“It's a whole new experience for me to learn online and meet new people outside Malaysia. Not to exaggerate but, it still excites me!” she says.

Flexibility is a huge benefit of online study


Already commuting between Sabah and Penang to study full-time, flexibility is crucial to Erma being able to complete her qualification and get her skills up to scratch. 

“Being able to study online means I can accomplish many things at the same time!” says the super motivated student. 

“I'm planning to use this qualification to start up a photography business and lecturing in the future,” she says. “In fact, I'm currently offering a Food Photography service here in Keningau.”

Learning the full process of the Adobe Creative Suite 


Studying a photography qualification online has provided Erma with the skills needed to give her natural creative talents a solid, technical base to work from.   

“I've learnt a lot of things, especially photography techniques, technical aspects and most importantly how to manage photos and do the post-processing using part of the Adobe Creative Suite, called Lightroom,” she explains. 

Already Erma has photographs on sale at her local market, and she’s dreaming big for the future.

“My dream job is to become a business owner. I want to open up a cafe and run a photography studio in future. I just love the flexibility that "being my own boss" can offer!” she says.

Onwards and upwards for Erma's photography career 

Impressively, in between all her studies, cooking up a storm and building her business, Erma still finds time for the great outdoors. Her passion for hiking and extreme sports such as wall climbing, rock climbing and mountaineering also gives her plenty of great photographic subject matter to work with. 

Now she’s in the final stage of her Bachelor Degree and has the toolkit she needs to hit the ground running after she graduates.

Erma’s story proves that everything is possible once you put your mind to it – whether you’re looking to study to begin a new career, move up the ladder, or are passionate about learning more about your favourite hobby.    

To find out more about studying online with Open Colleges, Australia’s leader in online learning, head to the Open Colleges website to search for a course that’s right for you.


Sarah Hudson

Sarah is a freelance Writer and Film Producer. She has over a decade of international experience in print media, national newsrooms and TV studios from Finland to Australia. With a Master's in World Politics and a background in humanitarian aid, her passion is positive storytelling for social impact.

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