Photography Major Requirements and Course Information

The most common bachelor's degree programs in photography award Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees. Photography programs at the bachelor's degree level offer students courses in multidisciplinary studies, camera technology and creative thought related to photography.

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Essential Information

Bachelor's degree programs in photography provide students with opportunities to develop skills in the foundational techniques of photography, such as black-and-white or color photography, digital photography, darkroom procedures and color balance. Many programs allow students to specialize in an aspect of photography related to their individual interests, such as advertising, photojournalism, visual media, fine arts or commercial photography.

Photography programs may also provide students with opportunities for artistic and professional practice. Some programs require students to develop a portfolio of work that shows their transformation from student to artist.


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Bachelor's Degree in Photography

Throughout a bachelor's degree program, students are trained in basic skills in photography, including positioning and point-of view techniques, shooting indoors and in sunlight, neutralizing backgrounds and finding points of emphasis. Students generally work with a variety of equipment, learning to photograph 2-D and 3-D projects, shooting with 35mm cameras, and understanding how lenses, tripods and film function. Students will also explore various photography techniques, such as depth of field and F-stop.

Programs generally encourage students to develop a personal style in photography in which they convey ideas, emotions and information in their work. Students may be subjected to critiques during courses or collaboration with peers.

Many photography programs have basic requirements, such as a high school transcript or a satisfactory General Educational Development (GED) test score. However, some schools may have additional enrollment requirements, such as the submission of a portfolio. Applicants may also be required to submit SAT or American College Testing (ACT) scores. Students in a photography program must typically complete around 60 hours of major coursework in such areas as lighting, camera use and maintenance, darkroom techniques, composition of images and the history of photography. Course topics within a photography curriculum may include these:

  • Digital cameras
  • Art history
  • 2-dimensional design
  • Photojournalism
  • 3-dimensional design

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Graduates of bachelor's degree programs in photography go on to work as photo editors, museum and gallery staff, multimedia specialists, photographer archivists, photo lab technicians, advertising photographers, portrait photographers, photojournalists or travel photographers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 3% growth in employment opportunities was predicted for photographers between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The median salary for photographers was $31,710 in 2015, with the highest-paid photographers earning in excess of $72,200 that year.

Continuing Education Information

Students interested in pursuing further education in photography may enroll in a Master of Arts or a Master of Fine Arts program in photography. Many master's degree photo courses focus on the individual vision of each student, allowing each student to develop his or her point-of-view. During a master's degree program, students may engage in studio work and residencies, and they may develop a thesis or an exhibition of work near the end of the program.

In a bachelor's degree program in photography, classes run the gamut from traditional photography to digital techniques to art history. Although career growth is on the decline throughout the industry, those who enjoy learning about photography may be interested in pursuing a master's degree to further develop their skills.

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