Photography Classes and Courses Overview

Essential Information

Individuals who want to learn photography in a short amount of time should consider a certificate program. Typically offered through a school's continuing education division, these programs may be offered once a week for several weeks. Topics may include the study of portrait, digital or studio photography.

Photography may also be a concentration in an art program or as a single major in undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Doctoral programs in photography are rare, but the field may be offered as a concentration within a fine arts curriculum. Degree programs in photography teach students how to operate cameras and lighting equipment, develop film and edit digital photographs. At the graduate level, students focus on independent research, theory and studio work. Regardless of training option, students will likely need to supply their own camera and equipment, such as lenses, tripod and memory card.

Here are some common concepts taught in photography classes:

  • Photographic development techniques
  • Digital and film cameras
  • Light and shadow
  • Basic camera functions
  • Business of photography
  • Photo editing software

List of Classes

Basic Photography

Introductory photography classes expose students to a variety of camera operations and techniques, such as aperture, shutter speed and white balance. Students also learn about the photographic theories associated with composition, color and exposure. Some programs offer separate introductory courses for film and digital photography, while others explore both forms in one course.

Darkroom Techniques

While commercial photographers almost exclusively use digital cameras and computer editing software, there are many artistic photographers who still prefer film. Darkroom courses teach students to develop quality prints from a roll of film. After a few lectures on processing and chemical safety, students spend the remainder of the course in the darkroom experimenting with development techniques. Introductory darkroom courses cover black-and-white photography, while advanced classes explore color.

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is widely considered the premier photo editing software on the market. Students learn to edit, enhance and alter images with Photoshop. Photoshop courses familiarize students with program menus and tools and teach them to work with filters, resolution and image sizing. Other topics may include rotating, cropping, retouching and color balance. Photoshop is usually taught at the beginning of a degree program so photography students can use it for class projects.

Studio Work

Students experiment with light intensity and background in studio classes. Emphasis is placed on achieving optimal quality images using the high-tech lighting equipment found in a professional photography studio. Some schools also offer advanced studio courses with a practical concentration, such as fashion photography or portraiture.

Alternative Processes

Classes that explore alternative photographic processes encourage photography students to be creative. By experimenting with a variety of camera and darkroom techniques, students learn how to produce unique results and effects. Inside the alternative processes classroom, commercial and professional photographic rules are abandoned, and students are allowed to explore their personal visions without reservation.

Photography History

History classes familiarize students with the development of photography as both a commercial venture and artistic medium. Enrollees study prominent artists and photojournalists from the 19th century through contemporary times.


Many graduates of photography programs enter the news business as photojournalists. Photojournalism classes teach students how to visually communicate newsworthy information. Students learn which camera settings and lenses are most suitable for taking news photographs and also discuss news media ethics.

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