A Full-Frame View of Photography Degrees

The pop of the flash, the click of the shutter, an immortal moment in time. Photographers crystallize the landscapes and smiles of the world and let them stand as evidence of life being lived. A degree in photography can help you capture these moments in breathtaking fashion, taking your hobby to the next level or setting you on the path to turn your passion into a career.

What Skills Can I Learn with a Degree in Photography?

Photography degrees are offered by numerous universities, and no two programs are exactly alike, but they do all share common characteristics. Take a look at this short list of basic skills taught in photography courses:

Photographic principles such as lighting, aperture, and shutter speed
Adobe Photoshop and other professional image-editing software
Decoding and constructing the narrative of an image
Proper techniques for capturing images in a variety of settings
Some photography degree programs allow you to specialize in your particular field of interest, be it fashion photography, sports photography, portraiture, or any other specialty, and some degrees in photography provide a comprehensive general education in the art. Take some time to research schools that offer photography degrees and decide which one best fits your needs as a student.

Photography Degree Programs: the Big Picture

Many universities offer both two- and four-year degrees in photography. The two-year degrees include an associate of science in photography, which focuses mainly on the technical elements of the craft. A popular four-year photography degree is the bachelor of fine arts, which extends its photography courses to include general image design and the handling of commercial concerns.

If pursuing an associate’s degree, you can look forward to some of the following photography courses:

Design Fundamentals
History of Photography
Location Lighting
Imaging Software I & II
The bachelor’s degree track contains some courses more oriented toward building a career out of your skills:

Commercial Photography
Clients and Communications
Web Design for Photographers
Business Launch
Many entry-level positions that lead to a professional photography career require a photography degree, even those that start you out mixing chemicals in the lab. Wire service photography positions also usually recommend or require a degree in photography from an accredited institution.
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The Working Life of a Photographer

There are several different styles of career available to those with photography degrees. Professional photographers may shoot only weddings, or only news stories, or only portraits in a private studio. What’s more, professional photographers choose between salaried and freelance positions, with the former customarily bringing greater job stability and higher wages.

Earnings data for photographers in different locations around the country was compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2009. Take a look at the mean yearly income of professional photographers in certain U.S. cities:

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