Bachelor of Science (BS): Digital Photography Degree Overview

Oct 09, 2019

Students wanting to earn a bachelor's degree in digital photography have several options, depending on their career goals. A B.S. program emphasizes business and technical coursework, while a B.A. or BFA program stresses creative and design skills.

Essential Information

Digital photography programs are usually found as Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) programs. Some B.S. in Photography programs may offer courses in digital photography. While both programs share courses in topics, the BFA program highlights more creative expression in digital photography. Applicants to any of these 4-year programs need a high school diploma or equivalent, and may be required to submit a portfolio.

B.A. and BFA Degrees in Digital Photography

Regardless of degree sought, digital photography students learn the fundamentals of taking photographs, working with them in a digital darkroom, making prints and preparing them for showing to others. Lighting, photo composition, color theory and design skills are covered. Students are expected to have their own digital SLR camera and tripod. Some programs also have computer or software requirements that students will need to meet in order to be able to complete coursework and assignments.

In addition to foundational courses in photography techniques and lighting, students may take classes specific to the creative and technical aspects of digital photography. Topics can include:

  • Introduction to digital prepress
  • Principles of digital imaging
  • Web design concepts
  • Digital lab skills
  • Image manipulation skills

Bachelor of Science in Photography

For students who'd like a more broad understanding of photography, a B.S. in Photography can provide basic technical and aesthetic skills in print and digital photography. The curriculum may strike a balance between commercial art and business skills and the development of students' creative vision. Students learn technical skills such as lighting, digital imaging, editing and studio techniques. Students may learn different types of photography from news and documentary to fashion and nature.

Students are generally required to take general education courses in addition to the core classes. Some classes may help prepare students for the business aspect of photography. Courses may include:

  • Photographic lighting
  • Digital imaging techniques
  • Photo editing
  • History of photography
  • Photo criticism
  • Elements of studio photography

Popular Career Options

Students who graduate with a bachelor's degree in digital photography usually qualify for entry-level jobs. While some students do open their own studio or perform freelance work, others find a job as a:

  • Photographer's assistant
  • Digital photo retoucher
  • Digital prepress operator
  • Photo lab technician
  • School photographer

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted employment of photographers would decline by 6% between 2018 and 2028 ( Growth of Internet media, such as online news and magazines, may open up opportunities for digital and freelance photographers; however, the rise of software advancements and the falling prices of relevant digital technology created a competitive market. According to the BLS, work experience and specialized skills such as technical proficiency may help increase a photographer's chances of employment. According to the BLS, the annual median salary of a photographer was $34,000 in May 2018.

Continuing Education

Students interested in graduate-level courses may pursue a master's degree in photography. Degree options may include a Master of Professional Studies in Digital Photography or Master of Fine Arts in Photography. Advanced classes in lighting, composition, image processing and illustration are coupled with studio management courses that address students' business and artistic goals. Students may pursue a concentrated area of study, like fashion, fine art, documentary or advertising photography. Most programs require that students put together a portfolio of their work. Thesis and non-thesis options may be available.

Students interested in photography can pursue a bachelor's degree in photography or digital photography to study the different skills and techniques required to work as a professional photographer. Graduates can work various jobs in the field and may wish to earn a master's degree to focus on a particular area of study.

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