College Requirements to Work in the Photography Industry

Jun 15, 2021

If you enjoy taking portraits, documenting evidence, capturing life's essence, shooting a wedding album, or providing useful photos for the media, then photography would be a great field to consider. You can learn how to better employ your natural photography skills by taking specified postsecondary classes in your field, and having a college degree opens the door to more job opportunities.

Essential Information

Professional photographers often produce commercial quality photographs for various mediums, including newspapers and magazines. Some also work in portraiture. College programs that prepare students to work in the photography industry place heavy emphasis on hands-on instruction. These programs are available from the certificate to graduate degree level; single courses are also available.

Required Education Variable; photography classes, certificates and degrees available
Median Annual Salary (May 2019)* $36,280 (for all Photographers)
Job Decline (2019-2029)* 4% (for all Photographers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

College and University Photography Requirements

Students interested in photography careers can choose from a range of academic options, from certificates to graduate degrees. Many photography programs combine instruction in traditional photographic mediums, including color and black and white photography, with cutting-edge digital technology. Emphasis is often placed on digital photography and its impact on photography as a whole.

Topics covered as part of a photography program generally include film and plate developing, studio lighting, digital image management, color theory, photography composition, alternate photographic processes, the history of photography, and negative processing. Graduate programs provide more advanced training and often focus more on theory.

There is competition for both permanent and contractual photography jobs. In general, the higher the degree a photographer receives, the better chance he or she has of obtaining work.

Working in the Industry

Photographers use sophisticated cameras, lighting techniques, various angles and an assortment of lenses to produce professional quality images. Successful photographers generally have creativity and possess professional equipment, such as flash attachments, tripods and filters. In addition to taking photographs, many photographers edit photos using computer software.

Self-employed photographers typically run their own portrait studios or bid for contracts with magazines, ad agencies and other businesses. Additional employment settings include newspapers, magazines and commercial studios. Areas of photography include advertising, portraiture, scientific, fine art, wildlife, and commercial photography.

The BLS reported that employment opportunities for photographers are expected to decline by 4% between 2019 and 2029. Median annual earnings for salaried photographers were $36,280 in 2019, according to the BLS.

If you're thinking about becoming a photographer, taking college classes is strongly recommended, particularly photography programs for graduates and undergraduates, as well as earning a bachelor's degree in general. They can provide enhanced training to fortify your skills so you can make better use of your talent for taking pictures. Extra schooling also increases job opportunities.

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