Photography Adult Education: An Overview

If you are interested in learning more about taking pictures with your digital or still camera, or if you would like to make a career out of photography, you can find a course or program to suit your needs. Read about the photography courses and programs offered at adult education centers, colleges, universities and art schools everywhere.

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Adult learners can find several different kinds of courses and degree programs in photography. Explore some of the different programs available and learn about the career outlook.

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Program Information

Education offerings in photography range from individual classes for hobbyists to certificate and degree programs for those who want to begin a career in photography. Certificate programs are available in specific areas of photography, such as studio photography, digital photography and portrait photography. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs are available for those who want to not only learn the basics of photography, but learn about business, multimedia and other design topics, as well as gain experience through a portfolio development and an internship. Students in these programs will master their skills with various cameras, photography equipment, editing software and photography techniques.

Programs At a Glance

Digital Photography

  • These courses can vary in length, but may include 6 or more class sessions.
  • These courses do not have any prerequisites and are offered on-campus.

Certificate in Photography

  • This 8-month program does not require any prerequisites.
  • The program is available on-campus, and some specialty certificates are offered online.

Associate's Degree, Digital Photography

  • Associate's programs typically take 2 years to complete and require a diploma, GED or higher.
  • These programs are mostly available on-campus, but some can be found online.

Bachelor's Degree, Digital Photography

  • Bachelor's programs usually take 4 years to complete and require a high school diploma, GED or higher.
  • These programs are typically offered on-campus, but some online programs exist.

Classes for the Hobbyist

Photography classes are always one of the most popular offerings at adult education centers. You can learn from professional photographers and study everything from the basics to advanced studio techniques. Students in these courses usually need to own or have access to their own digital camera, which may need to meet certain requirements like interchangeable lenses. Course offerings might cover topics such as:

  • Digital cameras and photography for beginners
  • The art of photography
  • Digital photo editing
  • Turning photos into DVD movies

Programs for Professionals

If you are serious about making a career out of photography, you will need to enroll in a professional preparation program, which will include not only coursework in photography techniques (both digital and still camera), but also coursework in the business of photography, which will teach you how to market your services. Students in these programs typically develop a professional portfolio. These programs are available at the certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree levels.

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs provide hands-on experience with picture-taking techniques. Students learn to use image editing software like Photoshop, as well as prepare photos for printing and use on websites. Students also learn about composition, color, lighting and professional practice. In addition to having students make portfolios, schools sometimes hold showcases in which students get to display their work. Focuses may include digital workflow, portrait photography, and studio photography. These programs are often available in the evening or on weekends for those with full-time jobs. Online certificate programs can be found in specialties like portrait or studio photography.

Degree Programs

Associate's and bachelor's degree programs are broader than certificate programs in that they include general education, art and elective coursework. In addition to requiring students to develop a portfolio, these programs often include final projects, seminars and internships. Specific types of photography -- such as location, advertising, studio, news, fashion, architectural or news photography -- may be discussed. Although rare, some of these programs are available online in digital photography. Courses in a photography degree program may include:

  • Lighting
  • Color management
  • Photojournalism
  • Visual arts
  • Photo history
  • Illustration
  • Advanced studio techniques
  • Printing
  • Digital darkroom

Job Outlook and Salary Information

Employment opportunities for photographers are expected to grow by three percent between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS expects limited growth as qualifications for entry have lowered. Having digital video and image editing experience can improve job prospects. The median annual salary for photographers was $31,710 in May 2015, according to the BLS, with the low end of the range being $18,850 or below and the high end of the range being $72,200 and above.

Although typically offered on campus, some online certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree programs in photography are available for the adult learner. Other courses and programs are also available and may be offered in the evenings or weekends to prepare students for a career in photography.

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