Future photographers will have to focus on their potential career before
they snap up a photography program. There is a panoramic range of courses
You can choose from shorter night courses to college diplomas and university
bachelor's and master's degrees in fine arts. You'll want to think about
your long-term goals when choosing a program.
Most entry-level positions require a bachelor's degree, while some technical
positions may only require an associate's degree. Teaching generally requires
a master's degree.
But many jobs in photography will only want to see a strong portfolio.
A good school will help you to develop just that.
"The arts is a wonderful profession, but it's not a traditional-type job.
By going to school along the way you acquire those skills and self-confidence
because you know you're a qualified person. That goes a long way to help you
in your profession," says Scott Weber. He is a photography professor at Barry
University in Miami.
If you're interested in the artistic side, a fine arts program could be
right for you. Techies may be more at home in a bachelor of science or technology
program in photography.
There are also programs with a commercial, photojournalistic, or biomedical
and forensic specialty -- that's a good choice for students with an interest
in photography, biology and criminal justice. Other schools are more general
in their approach and offer a little of everything.
"Although you may not be sure what exactly you want to do in photography,
you still probably have a preference. For example, if you don't like working
with people, then portrait work isn't for you, and neither is a school that
emphasizes that!" says Tamala Pratt Leighfield. She is an instructor of visual
arts at Trident Technical College in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Admission is another hurdle. Fine arts specialty schools are competitive
to enter and you'll need a strong portfolio to apply.
"Liberal arts colleges generally also do not require any portfolio, so
there is less competition," says Leighfield.
Since application requirements differ from school to school, you must
check carefully with each school you apply to.
Regardless of where you go to school, it is important to get a strong foundation
in the basics. The majority of professional photographers these days use digital
cameras, but film is still used for particular purposes.
"If you want to learn marketable skills that will get you work, then the
program should be current with digital technology. Some programs have dropped
teaching silver halide (film) and that may be a factor for you," says Tomo
Tanaka. He is the department chair of a college photography program.
While some schools have stopped teaching film and darkroom processes and
only offer digital photography, some teachers question this decision.
"It's amazing how much more advanced a student is if they start out on
film," says Weber. His school never went completely digital, and he says
some schools that axed film from their programs are rethinking the decision.
Leighfield agrees that students need to focus on composition and creating
strong images. Her college continues to train students in wet/analog photography
in addition to digital.
There are a few things you can do to make sure the program you choose is
a good fit. Tanaka recommends that students check the reputation of the program
within the local photographic community. Try asking local photographers,
labs and stores to see if the program is well-respected. Also, talk to recent
graduates of the program to see if the program was what they wanted. Lastly,
take a tour of the facilities and talk to the faculty.
High school math courses will be helpful. Try to get some photographic
experience. Some high schools offer photography courses as an art elective.
"Do anything that is involved or associated with photography and the arts.
Get involved with the school newspaper. Research local photography organizations
and companies. Talk to photographers. Network," advises Leighfield.
Costs will vary significantly depending on what equipment and facilities
are offered at your school. It is important to investigate what's available
before you sign up.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Photographers
Student Curriculum in Photography
Tips from an experienced photography teacher
Photography for Kids
Lots of links for all sorts of fun sites