Photographers may capture intimate moments between friends, stunning landscapes, or the minutiae of daily life. If you harbor a deep passion for this artistic expression, an online bachelor's degree in photography can give you the right business know-how and technical mastery to turn your passion into a career.
Read on for our primer on what you can expect from an online bachelor’s degree in photography, including relevant coursework, admission requirements, and a list of frequently asked questions.
What Are the Best Photography Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top Two:
|1||Savannah College of Art and Design||Savannah, GA|
|2||Southern New Hampshire University||Manchester, NH|
An online bachelor’s degree in photography can kickstart a fulfilling career that offers great personal satisfaction and freedom. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of self-employed photographers to grow 10% from 2018-2028. By earning your degree in photography, you can gain a mastery of your craft and boost your resume. Additionally, you can prepare for professional certification and acquire the business skills to start your own studio or refine your digital brand.
- How We Rank Schools
At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students. Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read more about our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.
2020 Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Photography Programs
Savannah College of Art and Design
|Savannah, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 68%||
Located in Georgia, SCAD enrolls more than 14,000 students annually. The school's 180-credit online bachelor's in visual communication with a concentration in photography includes classes in camera exploration and technique, lighting applications: from products to portraits, digital imaging and compositing, and business practices for photography.
Students pursuing this bachelor's in photography must also take courses in drawing and color study. Online learners complete a photography project seminar and an internship before graduating.
The college accepts applications on a rolling basis, but urges students to apply at least six months ahead of their intended start date. Students may transfer up to 90 credits into a bachelor's program. SCAD is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Southern New Hampshire University
|Manchester, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
Located in Manchester, SNHU currently enrolls more than 135,000 online students. The university's online bachelor's degree in photography consists of 120 credits and includes courses like photographic practice in the digital age, digital narratives and documentary, photographic aesthetic concepts, and the business of photography.
Students make a digital portfolio to showcase their work to future employers. This program also teaches skills related to business and social media and brand management.
The university accepts applications throughout the year and does not require standardized test scores. SNHU allows students to bring up to 90 transfer credits into a bachelor's program. This university charges the same tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state online learners. SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Online Bachelor's in Photography Program Overview
The curriculum for an online bachelor’s degree in photography can vary significantly from school to school. Some may offer a broader diversity of electives, while others devote more courses to a single area of specialty. Nevertheless, most programs touch on the same fundamentals.
Students first master the basic techniques and processes of photography. They learn how to create properly exposed images and use equipment such as differing lenses, mounts, and lighting gear. They explore color theory and composition, and use computer software to edit images to refine them further. Analyzing the aesthetics and cultural commentary of photographic art also gives context to their study of composition. Finally, business fundamentals coursework prepares learners to develop their own brand and self-promote successfully.
An online bachelor’s degree in photography prepares graduates to immediately begin forging a career. Most learners treat it as a terminal degree that they must build upon with experience.
Common Bachelor's in Photography Degree Courses
- History and Aesthetics of Photography
This course surveys the work of photographic masters from the 19th century up to the 1960s. Students investigate the cultural significance of photography as a reflection of and commentary on history, and integrate discussion of early masters’ techniques and aesthetics with their own portfolios.
- Digital Image Editing Fundamentals
Most bachelor’s in photography programs feature one or more courses covering digital imaging applications such as Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop. Course topics cover essential technical and aesthetic concepts in digital image editing and color grading such as color gamut, digital color correction and color management. Students also master digital printing techniques.
- Business Practices for Photography
This course prepares students for entering the world of photography as business-savvy professionals. Course topics include self-promotion strategies, understanding licensing and copyrighting, and digital business communication and branding. Students also integrate their new skills in marketing, personal branding, and developing a business plan with their own portfolio presentation.
- Introduction to Lighting
Degree-seekers learn the basics of effectively controlling and manipulating light sources in a variety of studio, interior, and exterior environments. Coursework tests students on their ability to translate available light into compelling, clear, properly-exposed images. Techniques can include continuous lighting, grip equipment, and portable electronic flashes.
- Portfolio Development
In many programs, students submit a final portfolio prior to graduation. This course guides them through the process of developing a market-ready portfolio that fits their chosen area of expertise. Students also survey current trends in contemporary printmaking, photo bookmaking, and online folio presentations, among other areas of interest.
Online Bachelor's in Photography Admission Requirements
High School or Previous College Transcript
All online bachelor’s programs require previous academic transcripts. If you have not taken any college courses within the past 3-4 years, you must submit your high school transcripts with your application. Some schools also require a fee of $30-$40.
SAT or ACT
You may need to submit test scores from standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT. Some schools may allow you to apply to waive this requirement with a special form, while others that review applications on a more individualized basis may not require standardized test scores.
Minimum GPA Requirement
Most online bachelor’s programs require a 2.0 minimum GPA for consideration. Some programs may offer probationary admission to applicants with a GPA under 2.0 due to outstanding merit elsewhere on the application. Students who gain probationary admission typically need to keep their GPA well above 2.0 in order to stay enrolled.
Letters of Recommendation
Your online bachelor’s in photography will likely require you to submit 1-2 letters of recommendation with your application. Reach out to mentors or teachers with whom you had a positive relationship. For the sake of courtesy, give the mentors you wish to write a letter at least one month’s notice.
Meeting Equipment Requirements
In preparation for your online bachelor’s in photography, you should inquire what equipment your program will require. Most programs require both an SLR and DSLR camera, along with a basic lighting kit, tripod, and an array of lenses. You may be able to rent this equipment, as well.
Online Bachelor's in Photography Career Paths
Photography majors can pursue a variety of career paths, such as commercial photography, portraiture, and fashion photography. These careers usually require significant experience in addition to a college degree. The same usually applies to graduates looking to branch off into positions such as video editing, grip work, and production assistant work.
All photographers planning on opening their own studio must obtain a business license. Most states do not require a license for simply working in photography. Organizations such as the Professional Photographers of America offer professional certifications that typically lead to licensure, if needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is a degree in photography worth it?
A degree in photography allows you to study the fundamentals of photography techniques, history, and aesthetics while also gaining skills in business communication. You can build your portfolio with the guidance of teachers and peers who may provide important networking contacts.
- Is photography a good career?
For some, photography may seem like a mere hobby, but to others, it provides a chance to illuminate the world. Whether you work in portraiture, conceptual work, or travel photography, photography as a career can lead to comfortable wages and great personal satisfaction.
- Do most photographers have a degree?
Many photographers do not hold more than a high school diploma. However, just as many photographers hold a postsecondary degree in the field, earning an accredited degree gives the opportunity to thoroughly master the discipline and network with peers.
- How long does a degree in photography take?
The amount of time it takes for you to earn your photography degree depends on the number of credits you transfer, your course load, and your degree level. An online bachelor’s in photography should take 2-4 years to complete at a full-time pace.
- How much do photographers make?
The BLS reports that professional photographers make a median annual salary of $36,280. However, photographers who work hard to sharpen their business acumen and keep busy can earn a comfortable living that also offers a high degree of personal freedom and professional satisfaction.
Discover Similar Degree Programs
Looking for something else? Explore these other online degrees.
Additional Reading and Resources
Want more? We have additional resources to help you in every stage of your educational journey.