Digital Photography School and Degree Programs
Find out about training options in digital photography, including commonly offered courses. Get tips on selecting a school, and learn about career options for digital photographers.
What You Need to Know
A digital photography degree program will teach you how to compose your photos so they captivate viewers. You will also learn how to use color, shadows, balance and lighting to create the digital compositions you strive for. Undergraduate and graduate degree programs in photography exist, including some programs specifically in digital photography, as well as various online options.
|Programs||Certificate, associate degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree|
|Schools||Look for schools with industry-standard photography software, a foundation in traditional photography techniques, and programs that draw from different media|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$32,490 per year (for all types of photographers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Undergraduate Programs Are Available?
Photography majors do not need previous experience, but they do need to be willing to learn to use various software programs as well as other computer, printing and photography equipment. Undergraduate degree programs for photography majors include an Associate in Arts, a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Photography. A B.A. and a BFA in Studio Arts with a concentration in photography are other options, and a Photography Certificate may also be available through a university's continuing education department. Programs specifically in digital photography can be found in Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science formats, too. Course topics for these undergraduate programs may include the following:
- Form and space
- Composition and media
- Digital image manipulation
- Color theory and application
- 3-D design
- Digital darkroom techniques
- Video techniques for photographers
What Graduate Degree Programs are Available?
At the graduate level, students may decide on a Master of Arts or a Master of Fine Arts in Photography degree program. These programs may be available through online learning formats. Coursework will cover a variety of areas, including documentary photography, web design for photography, digital printing methods and art criticism. A thesis may be required in tandem with an internship and studio work.
Which Courses Will I Take?
A large portion of your coursework will be completed outside of the classroom as you search for photography subjects and settings. You'll most likely prepare your digital photographs for print in a computer lab environment. Courses often focus on the aesthetics of artistic photography, along with practical photography career preparation. Some additional course topics include the following:
- Digital printing
- Narrative photography
- Photo silkscreen
- Black and white photography
- Lighting techniques
- History of photography
What Should I Look For in a School?
Photography schools should offer students the use of the best photography software programs, printers and computers. You will likely need to obtain your own camera and other small accessories. Focus on schools that teach traditional film techniques and expand on those disciplines to create digital photography compositions. Find degree programs that use several different media to teach the concepts successfully used in photography. These schools are among those that offer digital photography degree programs:
- Savannah College of Art and Design (GA)
- UCLA (Los Angeles, CA)
- University of South Florida (Tampa)
- Foothill College (Los Altos Hills, CA)
Online vs. On-campus: Which Is Best For Me?
Photography degree programs offered online allow flexibility in planning your courses around your current obligations. If you want to take courses online, you will need to provide all your own photography, computer and printing equipment. In addition, darkroom techniques may be too complex to teach without a lab setting, so you may learn only digital techniques.
What Careers Does a Degree Prepare Me For?
A digital photography degree opens the doors for careers in the fine art, news, scientific and commercial fields. Many photographers are self-employed and commission work from multiple businesses and organizations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, photographers earned a median wage of $32,490 per year in May 2017 (www.bls.gov). Work environments vary depending on the assignment; you may find yourself working out in the cold one day and in a high-rise building the next.