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Master Photographer: Diploma Program Information

Becoming a master photographer requires many years of practice; however, the skills needed to become a master photographer can be learned through a variety of photography degree programs. Photography training is available from the certificate through the bachelor's degree levels.

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Essential Information

Students in photography programs are most often required to provide their own camera regardless of the program selected. Other prerequisites should be confirmed through the school in which they will attend. Hands-on learning can be achieved through darkroom assignments, studio practice and portfolio building. Other topics of learning may include the photography business, Photoshop and digital printing.


Certificate in Photography

Certificate programs prepare students for entry-level photography positions. Students develop their skills in the use of film and digital cameras, basic general and studio photography, photography business basics and develop their own portfolio.

These programs cover the basics of photography and often combine the use of traditional film and digital platforms. Students receive hands-on training in taking photographs and work to develop a portfolio of work. Common courses may include:

  • Digital photography
  • Understanding light
  • Portrait photography
  • Digital imaging workflow
  • Digital printing

Associate's Degree in Photography

Students in associate's degree programs learn the principles and theory

of their craft while developing their photography skills. Many programs combine traditional photography techniques with digital photography and require students to own both a digital and a film SLR (single lens reflex) camera. Students gain experience in developing traditional film in a wet darkroom as well as digital photo manipulation and printing.

Course content typically covers career relevant skills in the areas of commercial, wedding and portrait photography. Additional courses in photojournalism, advertising and commercial photography are available, along with some basic business courses. Students learn to operate cameras, lights and computer software while developing skills in aesthetics. The principles and theory of photography are learned through courses such as:

  • History of photography
  • Photo composition and design
  • Industrial photography
  • Photoshop
  • Studio lighting

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Bachelor's Degree in Photography

Bachelor's degree programs often offer a variety of concentrations for a student to choose from including fashion, fine art, photojournalism, architectural and commercial photography. Students develop a mastery of the technical aspects of photography and also work to find their own artistic voices.

Students receive a broad liberal arts education and are required to complete general education courses in addition to photography courses. Typical courses may include:

  • Introduction to photography
  • Imagery and design
  • Studio lighting
  • Photo manipulation
  • Darkroom practices

Popular Career Options

Graduates of associate's degree programs in photography often work in entry-level positions in the industry as photographer's assistants or as photography retail sales clerks. Those with a well-developed portfolio and additional experience in the field may work as freelance photographers.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Career opportunities for photographers, including freelance photographers, are expected to increase by 3% between the years 2014 and 2024. This slow growth may be primarily due to the rise in amateur photographers and the decline in digital camera purchases. The median salary for photographers was $31,710 in May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

While diploma programs in photography aren't common, prospective master photographers can learn the technical, aesthetic and business aspects of photography through certificate through bachelor's degree levels. Students likely need to supply their own digital camera, but get to practice in darkrooms and photo studios to build their portfolios and get ready for their careers.

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