Photography Certification and Certificate Program Information

Photography certificate programs are offered at a variety of institutions. They can provide students with the basic skills needed to become a photographer and can set them apart from the many competitors in this popular field.

Essential Information

Photography certificate programs are often offered at private and public colleges and universities, community colleges, design schools and trade schools. These programs typically require completion of 6-10 courses, and students gain significant hands-on experience with cameras and other technical equipment.

Photography Certificate Program

Coursework for a photography certificate program covers photography's technical aspects, such as figuring the aperture, shutter speed and depth of field. Students also study composition, lighting and other aesthetic aspects. Although professional-grade photography equipment isn't usually required, certain gear, like a tripod and a single-lens reflex camera, is often necessary. Required courses may include the following:

  • Studio lighting
  • Digital image management
  • Commercial photography
  • Digital editing
  • Color and composition
  • Portraiture

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that professional photographer is a popular occupation, so individuals can expect fierce competition within the field ( The BLS reported that photographer jobs are expected to grow 4% between 2012 and 2022. Photographers specializing in portrait and commercial photography may find the best job prospects while newspaper photographers may find the least favorable opportunities amid a waning newspaper industry.

In 2014, photographers earned an annual average median salary of $30,490, according to the BLS. Freelance photographers tend to earn less than salaried photographers and also have to purchase and maintain their own gear.

Continuing Education and Professional Certification

For students who want to pursue their photography studies further, there are degree programs in photography at the associate's and baccalaureate levels. Professional photographers can demonstrate their photography proficiency by obtaining voluntary certification. The Professional Photographic Certification Commission (PPCP) awards professional photographer certification to eligible applicants ( To earn certification, applicants must pass an exam covering technical aspects of photography such as exposure, light metering, camera parts, composition and image capture. Additionally, applicants must submit photo samples for review.

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