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Program Description

Just the Facts

Photography. A program that focuses on the principles and techniques of communicating information, ideas, moods, and feelings through the creation of images on photographic film, plates, and digital images and that may prepare individuals to be professional photographic artists. Includes instruction in camera and equipment operation and maintenance, film and plate developing, light and composition, films and printing media, color and special effects, photographic art, photographic history, use of computer applications to record or enhance images and applications to the photography of various subjects.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree

High School Courses

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Related Careers

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Related Programs

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Additional Information

Future photographers will have to focus on their potential career before they snap up a photography program. There is a panoramic range of courses available.

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


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