Choosing a Photography School

The choice of a photography school can have a big impact on cost, prestige, type of photography, and your chances of finding a job once you finish. Make the choice carefully. First, you must decide what factors are most important to you. Here are some to consider:

Determine the Type of Photography You Are Interested In

Since there are many types of photography, you need to consider that when you choose a photography school. Some curricula are stronger in some fields than others. If you don’t have a top choice for the type of photography, pick a school that has many specialties to try.

If you decide to specialize in news or sports photography, you will probably need to choose a school that emphasizes journalism. Portrait photography requires a different skill set than commercial or industrial photography. People planning a career in scientific photography would be wise to take some science classes to enhance their understanding of the field. Fine arts or scenic photographers can benefit from art classes.

Photography for advertising purposes differs from the other types. You need to know how to fulfill what the client wants and take photos that inspire and persuade. Graphic designers will need to learn a different skill set than other photographers, including layout and design components.

Whichever photographic specialty you may choose, many of the elements will transfer from one area to another. In choosing a photography school, pick one that either strongly focuses on your area or one that gives you a chance to try a variety of fields.

Choosing a Photography School

Education Needed

A person interested in a photography career may pursue many levels of education,from working as an assistant to a professional to learn the trade, up through associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees. The degree plan you choose will depend on you.

Finding an assistant position to learn photography used to be the main route to the profession. However, those positions are much harder to find now and most photographers take some classes to start in the field. A two-year associate’s degree will teach you the basic technical skills that are needed, along with business courses that are valuable if you plan to start your own business. You will also learn fundamental design and composition techniques.

A bachelor’s degree can be useful for running your own business and working as a photojournalist or in commercial or advertising photography. The four-year program will teach the same basics as the associate’s degree, along with more advanced classes on design, business, and photography. You may want to include a heavier concentration in web design, digital photography, or art classes.

The master’s degree in photography will be either an M.A. (Master of Arts) or M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts). With these degrees, you can teach at the college level or use the degree to increase your employment opportunities or obtain higher fees if self-employed. This degree will take about two years beyond the four-year bachelor’s degree.

The amount of education required for your photography career will depend on you and your career path. Even if you start with an associate’s degree, you may later want to build on that to obtain a higher degree.

Photography School Curriculum

One factor in choosing a photography school will be the courses offered. Be sure that the specialty you pick is covered in the curriculum and that you will receive the hands-on work that will help you reach your potential.

Most schools will have basic classes in design and composition, as well as technical elements. You need to learn composition, lighting, and other art techniques. You also will cover practical aspects of using different types of cameras, developing the pictures, and handling digital cameras or video cameras. Some classes will cover the use of digital editing and graphic design software. Understanding terminology and some knowledge of the history of photography are important.

Since many photographers are self-employed, business courses are a vital part of your education. Knowing how to advertise, market your services, schedule appointments, purchase supplies, and invoice buyers is necessary for a successful business. You may need to learn how to hire and train assistants.

Whichever photography specialty you choose, you should look for aphotography school that includes interactive, hands-on activities along with the book work.

The chance to try different techniques and equipment enhances your learning and gives you items for a portfolio to enhance a job search after you have finished your education.


The money required for school is a big factor for any student. Is it worth it to you to go to the highest-rated school, regardless of the cost, or would a lower-ranked school be fine? With the cost factor, you must also consider what financial aid is available. Determining this may take some digging, so check out websites and talk to the admissions people at the schools.

Location, or distance from where you live:

This will be a big factor if you intend to live where you are currently. Check out what schools are nearby and think about the possibility of an online school if there are none close by. If you don’t mind moving to another location, use other criteria to choose your school.


You can find ranking specifications on schools at several websites. They may vary, but in general, certain schools will rise to the top. If the school ranking is important to you, you should put this at the top of your list of factors.

Type of photography:

Some photography schools have stronger concentrations in certain types of photography. If you already know what specialty you want to pursue, check out schools that focus on those skills.

Class size and availability of hands-on training:

Learning to be a photographer involves more than book learning. You need a chance to interact with teachers and actually take lots of photos to develop your skills. Smaller classes and more practical, hands-on training can be important.

Chance of finding a job after finishing:

Ask about the hiring rate for recent graduates. See if the school has a placement service to help new graduates.

You might decide to go for an online photography school.

Many offer either online or on-location courses. Choosing a photography school can require time, so don’t make a hasty decision. List all the factors that matter to you and prioritize them. Then you can have a strong foundation for your decision on the school.

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