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Study Photography in the USA


Fine Arts

Ever dreamed of owning your own photography studio or having a career that pays you to travel around the world and take photos? Would you love to see your photographs featured in major media publications, sports news, art exhibits, or high fashion magazines? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you should consider the opportunity to study photography in the US.

Get your photography degree in the US

The United States is home to hundreds of colleges and universities offering top degrees in photography. Some of these schools include the Art Institute of Chicago, Rhode Island School of Design, San Francisco Art Institute, and the list goes on and on. Students studying photography will assemble a visual portfolio of their work, which will be reviewed by faculty and peers at the end of their degree program, and can be used to present to potential employers or to graduate programs following graduation.

What to expect from a photography program

Bachelor’s degree programs in photography help students develop their skills in the foundational techniques of photography, including black and white or color photography, digital photography, darkroom procedures, and color balance. Students learn basic skills such as positioning and point-of-view techniques, shooting indoors and in sunlight, neutralizing backgrounds, and finding points of emphasis. As a photography student, you will likely work with a variety of equipment while you learn how to photograph both 2-D and 3-D subjects, shoot with a 35mm camera, and learn how lenses, tripods, and film function.

Photography programs encourage students to develop their own personal style through which they convey ideas, emotions, and information.

Some courses you may expect to take as a photography student include:

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

Choosing your photography track

When pursuing an undergraduate photography degree the aim is to gain a broad range of knowledge about photography. Many schools also offer the choice of focusing on a particular photography track like fashion, fine arts, or photojournalism. Each track presents different opportunities and you should choose the one you are most passionate about. If you love fashion, for example, consider studying fashion photography; you may have the chance to intern at professional studios and work with models, makeup artists, and clothing designers who can teach you a lot about the industry. If you prefer to explore your own creative photographic ability then look for schools that offer classes on fine arts photography. Studying photojournalism or documentary photography are other tracks to consider as well; they enable you to tell stories through photographs and share thought-provoking images with the world. Most schools will offer you the chance to learn about many types of photography and equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in whichever photography field you choose to pursue after graduation.

Graduates with degrees in photography might go on to have careers as photo editors, museum and gallery staff, multimedia specialists, photographer archivists, photo lab technicians, advertising photographers, portrait photographers, photojournalists, or travel photographers. When choosing between tracks for your major, it’s important to think about what you ultimately want to do with your degree. This should help you decide on your focus.

Getting experience with a photography internship

As an undergraduate studying photography, you will likely take part in an internship. Photography internships are very important because they provide students the opportunity to gain real-world experience working with professional photographers, galleries, magazines, and agencies. Internships are great for networking, acquiring referrals and letters of recommendation, and they can often lead to jobs following graduation. Schools usually help their students find internships so don’t stress out too much about finding a good internship!

Earning a graduate degree in photography

Earning a master’s degree in photography usually take about two to three years. Don’t expect to be attending classes with your fellow students or going to lecture halls; the majority of your time will be spent working individually and meeting with your professor/advisor a few times a week. You’ll also need to prepare a thesis to present before being awarded your graduate degree. Although every degree program is different, there are some core characteristics graduate degree programs tend to have in common:

  1. Individual work/faculty advisor: Students explore their personal direction under the supervision of a faculty advisor. Students meet with an advisor and attend regular critiques with their peers. Most likely there will be a committee who assesses each student’s progress at the end of each semester.
  2. Attend seminars/listen to guest speakers: Students explore contemporary issues in art and photography. Some semesters focus on specific topics and students meet with visiting professionals who critique their work and present critical and theoretical topics for discussion and research.
  3. Thesis and Exhibition: Faculty advisors work with students as they prepare their thesis (written statement) about their exhibits and complete an oral examination or presentation. This is usually the final step before earning your degree.

Wherever you choose to pursue your graduate degree you can expect to participate in activities similar to the ones mentioned above; graduate degrees usually always consist of peer and faculty critiques, independent/personal work, and a thesis and exhibition of your portfolio.

Life after your degree…

After earning your photography degree you can use the knowledge, experience, and contacts you’ve acquired to help you pursue your career. The field of photography is always changing and expanding as new technologies are being developed every year. With your photography know-how and internship experience you will be well prepared for any job opportunity that comes your way. Earn your photography degree in the US and explore the endless opportunities the photography field has to offer!


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