Students interested in photography have a few routes to explore in college. You might want to pursue a degree in the fine arts, with a specialization in photography. This degree will feature courses that typically focus on the creative process of creating photos, and they might encompass both film and digital techniques.
Alternatively, you might decide to join a journalism program with a strong photography or media department, so that you can become a photojournalist or documentary photographer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 60% of photographers are self-employed, so you might want to consider business and marketing courses to help prepare you for a future career in photography.
Professional Photography Organizations
Photographers often rely on referrals and professional networks to gain new clients and find projects. The following professional guilds can help you get more direction when it comes to technical advice, job leads and educational resources. Some of these organizations host annual award ceremonies and competitions, which can give students and professionals the opportunity to challenge each other for academic funding and prestige.
- Professional Photographers of America (PPA) – This international non-profit was created in 1880, forming one of the oldest and largest professional photographer networks. Since its founding, the PPA has gained over 26,000 members in 54 countries. Photographers can study for and take the Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) program exam, to earn a professional credential that shows employers that their skills meet certain standards and ethics.
- National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) – If you are a student or photographer using a camera to capture news, then you should definitely look into the NPPA. This organization was established in 1946, when the first issue of the National Press Photographer was launched. The NPPA is dedicated to professional advocacy and continued education for photographers that work in journalism. Members gain exclusive access to insurance and product discounts, are listed in the “Find a Photographer” database and get a subscription to News Photographer magazine, among many other benefits.
- National Association of Photoshop Professionals – NAPP was created by the Kelby Media Group and is based in Oldsmar, Florida. Subscribers gain access to professional software tutorials, exclusive member forums, Photoshop User magazine, webcasts and an online photography helpdesk. It is ideal for professional photographers who wish to further their education with digital processing tools. Subscriptions range from $25 a month to $249 a year.
- American Photographic Artists (APA) – The APA has three primary missions: advocacy, continued education and setting professional standards for photographers within the United States. Annual membership dues range between $55-$350 for students and professionals at various levels of their careers. Members gain access to discounted business insurance rates, exclusive APA newsletters, training manuals and discounts at a number of photography supply retailers. The APA has six regional chapters across the U.S., with the national headquarters based in San Francisco.
Open Photography Courseware
Open Coursware are free, online-based classes that are offered for free by some of the best higher education institutions in the U.S. The realm of digital photography has made some of the more complex effects in photo processing accessible to larger audiences. The following courses explore the fundamentals of photography and photojournalism, with slightly higher emphases on digital formats. Keep in mind that these courses do not yield college credits for those who complete them.
- Introduction to Photography – This is a MIT CourseWare offering instructed by Professor Reiner Leist, co-author of “American Portraits 1910-2001” and “Window Eleven Septembers.” This undergraduate course is comprised of video file lectures, example photography projects put together by the Fall 2002 class and computer lab work. Students can expect to cover digital imaging, lighting, color processes and several other technical photography skills before the end of this course.
- Digital Photography – This introductory course, hosted by Utah State University, was written specifically for undergraduates who plan to go into education fields. It is led by Professor Kurt Johnson from the Department of Instructional Technology. Students will cover digital photography as it is incorporated into blogs, word processing documents and commercial websites. It also covers hardware and software solutions such as digital camera models and computer software used for photo processing.
- Photography – This Plymouth University class has been uploaded on iTunes University. You can download the materials from any computer with iTunes installed and from iOS devices. This course includes 15 in-depth video lectures introducing you to the field of photography. Lectures cover topics such as Plymouth’s photography lab resources, noteworthy contemporary photographers, set construction and discussions from the 2011 Land/Water Symposium.
- Masters of Photography – This National Geographic multimedia course hosted on iTunes University includes an enormous library of nearly 70 video presentations. Get a look behind the scenes with some of National Geographic’s most prominent photojournalists and nature photographers. You’ll get to follow along and see how top-notch adventurers survive in high risk environments to snap photos of some of the world’s most amazing sights and creatures. You’ll also get to watch interviews with some of the industry’s biggest names such as Brian Skerry, Carsten Peter and Sam Abell.
Open Access Photography Journals
If you’re searching for scholarly and professional research articles on photography, these open access journals are a great starting point. They allow you to get in-depth analysis on what makes a photo good, along with further insights into photographic theory and technique. You might even consider submitting your own work to these publications to gain artistic exposure.
- Trans Asia Photography Review (TAP) – TAP appeared online in Fall 2010, so it is a very young open access, academic journal. This international publication is edited by faculty from various locations including Hampshire College, the University of Wellington and Jamia University. New issues of TAP appear twice a year, and they cover artists and projects that span the broad theme of photography in Asia. Previous articles have included commentary on Ai Weiwei’s work, explorations into the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts in New Delhi, and a description of archival collection processes used by Harvard University.
- Philosophy of Photography – This international publication collects articles that focus on the theory, techniques, critical approaches and philosophy of photography. This periodical is published twice a year, with an editorial board hailing from multiple academic institutions across the globe. Like TAP, this is also a new publication, first appearing online back in 2010.
- Journal of Mass Communication and Journalism – Aspiring and current photojournalists should keep an eye on this publication, which frequently highlights the importance of photography within new media. Authors are welcome to submit research papers, commentary, case studies, book reviews and opinion pieces that pertain to mass communication and journalism. New issues are released every other month. The editorial panel consists of professional journalists and educators based in Rome, Egypt, the UK and several U.S. states.
- Open Arts Journal (OAJ) – While this journal isn’t dedicated exclusively to photography, it does showcase essays, reviews and research pertaining to visual arts. This publication is released twice a year, with an editorial board that consists of several faculty members from The Open University. The OAJ frequently hosts a launch event for each of their new issues, which have been previously based in London.
The following books are highly regarded by students, academics and practicing professionals within the fields of art photography and photojournalism. They can help you hone your craft and produce high-quality shots, even if you don’t have the best equipment or technology. Many of these guides focus on photographic composition and shooting techniques.
- Slightly Out of Focus – Photojournalist Robert Capa survived five wars to record combat in stunning detail with his photographs. This is his memoir, chronicling his experiences during World War II as a professional documentary photographer. His tales of horror, courage and desperation will have you on the edge of your seat, as he captures these moments on the battlefield.
- Learning to See Creatively – This immensely popular volume, by Bryan Peterson, teaches aspiring photographers how to cultivate an artistic gaze, which can recognize a scene’s potential and lead to a number of new projects. He emphasizes how individuals have dramatically different views of a situation. Your sight can be a rich field of ideas – you just need to know how to look. You might have the best professional equipment and a high-level of technical skill, but Peterson’s book will show you how to infuse your work with creativity.
- Photographic Composition: A Visual Guide – This popular textbook was written by Professor Richard Zakia and author David A. Page. It covers the fundamental process that occurs before you take a photo. You will learn about framing the scene, choosing a vantage point, considering proximity, controlling light and using post-processing effects in Photoshop. This encyclopedia-like guide contains dozens of example photos to help you grasp the techniques discussed.
- Photojournalism: The Professionals Approach – Professor Kenneth Kobre of San Francisco University explores the techniques, equipment and ethics that go into truly effective photojournalism. This guide comes bundled with a DVD, which shows footage of photojournalists on the ground, capturing events as they unfold. Riveting photos and commentary help students gain insight into this exciting career path.
Online Photography Magazines
Digital magazines are a perfect medium for showcasing photography, since high-resolution images can be displayed in multiple sizes without print degradation or cost. The following periodicals can help you keep up with modern photography trends. Equipment reviews can also help you make informed tech purchases.
- British Journal of Photography – This is a multimedia resource that collects articles on gallery showings, photography equipment, noteworthy photographers and academic developments. This publication does have a print periodical that is published on a monthly basis, however, the digital version features news that is updated several times a week. Mobile users can also purchase subscriptions formatted for iPhones and iPads.
- F-Stop – This digital publication showcases contemporary photographs from all around the world. They feature new artists and group exhibitions that focus on a specific issue theme. Previous F-Stop themes include “The Natural World,” “True/False” and “Juxtaposition.” Each photograph is presented in a high quality digital format with a dedicated slideshow feature built into the F-Stop interface.
- LensCulture – This Paris-based online magazine was launched in 2004, and is well-known by professional photographers for its prominent annual award ceremonies such as the LensCulture Student Photography Awards and the LensCulture International Exposure Awards. This magazine accepts photo submissions in dozens of categories including fine art, urban, alternative process, still life, festivals, and portraits. The magazine also publishes book reviews and interviews with upcoming and seasoned professional photographers.
- Nature Photographers – This is the official publication of the Natural Photographers Network (NPN), a professional guild that is dedicated to the field of nature photography. This magazine showcases galleries in the following categories: flora, avian, environmental photojournalism, wildlife, and human interactions with nature. This platform also posts annual conference recognition for NPN award ceremony winners.
Read about the thoughts and workflow processes of successful professional photographers by bookmarking a few blogs. The following list covers the logistics of running your own photography business and how to market your services.
- PhotoMint – Blogger Lara White founded this blog to address the business side of photography, a facet that many students are inexperienced with upon graduating from college. White posts articles that can help you transform your creative abilities into a lucrative business, by pursuing photography roles in the portrait and wedding industries. She walks readers through the basics of marketing and the logistics of running a business.
- Tofurious – Lawrence Chan is a unique blend of marketer and photographer, and he understands how to navigate professional shoots in the commercial space. His blog covers how to build a reliable client base, photography philosophy and productivity tips. Fans of his writing should keep an eye out for his upcoming book on his marketing and photography tactics.
- 30y3 – This a blog space dedicated to showcasing the work of modern Spanish photographers. Dozens of upcoming and well-known professionals have been featured on 30y3 including Anna Huix, Gonzalo Puch and Jose Ramon Ais. The images are presented in a clean, minimalistic blog space, which emphasizes artists’ work over all other web elements. Fans of 30y3 can also subscribe to their digital newsletter from the blog’s sidebar.
- Dirty Blog – This is the street photography blog of “Dirty Harrry,” a photographer and architect based in Greece. He regularly posts about featured photographers, found photos and photography stories. The blog also serves as a gallery to his own artwork including color candids and black and white portraits of strangers on the city streets.
Who to Follow on Twitter
Social media is ripe with inspiration, allowing you to get an insider’s perspective into the lives of many prolific art photographers and photojournalists. See what it’s like to take photos in the Oval Office, and chat live with educators who are streaming courses live on air. The following accounts will have you taking your photography artwork to the next level.
- @creativeLIVE – This educational media company records live instructional sessions from some of the biggest names in digital and commercial photography, and streams them for free to online audiences live. Once the sessions are complete, you can then purchase the full video recordings from the creativeLIVE course archive. This company regularly fields web audience questions for professionals via Twitter, so you can actually get your pressing questions answered live by highly regarded photo professionals and instructors.
- @LynseyAddario – Lynsey Addario is an extremely high-profile photojournalist who has ventured into high risk situations to get photos of political strife in Libya, the Lebanon Israel War, and shots of female soldiers in various conflicts. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, and National Geographic. She regularly posts news updates about human rights issues.
- @petesouza – Pete Souza is the Chief Official White House Photographer for President Obama. His Twitter account provides us with a fascinating look at life in the Oval Office and outside, as Obama connects with community leaders and activists. Souza posts candid shots of White House visitors and the Obama family to his timeline multiple times a day.
- @500px – This is a major online social network built specifically for photographers to showcase their work. The 500px Twitter account posts links to exclusive interviews with contemporary photographers, a user-submitted “photo of the hour” winner and featured photography projects. This is a great feed to check out if you’re looking for some inspiration, or if you want to discover upcoming artists.