What Education is Needed to Become a Photographer?

Photography is an art, a science and a skill. You can learn the basics of photography from a book, online or from a class, but to really excel at it, you need practice and a good eye.

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Basic Requirements

There are no formal education requirements to become a photographer, but that doesn’t mean it is an easy field to break into. Most photographers have at least a bachelor’s degree in photography or a related field. Many photographers also have a master’s degree or higher.

High School Diploma or GED

A high school diploma or GED is often the minimum education requirement for photographers. Many professional photographers, however, choose to complete postsecondary education in photography to make themselves more competitive in the job market. Some colleges and universities offer certificate, associate’s, and bachelor’s degree programs in photography.

Associate’s Degree

An Associate’s degree in photography typically takes two years to complete and is offered at community colleges and some four-year institutions. This degree can lead to a career as a portrait photographer, commercial photographer, or photojournalist, among others. During the first year of an Associate’s degree program, students generally take general education courses. The second year is typically spent completing major-specific coursework in topics such as studio lighting techniques, digital imaging, and the history of photography.

Photography Training Programs

A photographer is someone who takes and develops photographs as an occupation. They use their technical skills and artistic eye to create images that tell a story or document an event. Many photographers specialize in a certain type of photography, such as event photography, portraiture, or landscape photography. While some photographers are self-taught, most have received some form of training through a photography program.

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs in photography typically last from 6 to 12 months and are offered by community colleges, technical schools, and some 4-year universities. These programs include both classroom and studio instruction in a variety of photography topics, such as portrait photography, digital imaging, and commercial photography. Students in these programs typically take courses in art history and liberal arts as well as photography.

Associate’s Degree Programs

Associate’s degree programs in photography typically last two years and are offered at many community colleges and some 4-year colleges. Many of these programs allow students to specialize in a certain area of photography, such as photojournalism or commercial photography.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

In order to become a professional photographer, you typically need to earn a bachelor’s degree in photography or a related field. These 4-year programs typically include both classroom and laboratory instruction in topics such as still photography, digital imaging, photojournalism, and much more. Some schools also offer study abroad programs that allow students to experience different cultures and hone their skills in new environments.

Continuing Education and Professional Development

There really is no specific education required to become a photographer. However, if you want to be successful, it is important to have a strong foundation in the basics of photography. This can be learned through taking classes, reading books, or even taking online courses. In addition to continuing your education, it is also important to participate in professional development opportunities. These can include workshops, conventions, and even online classes.


There are generally two types of certification available in photography: certified professional photographer (CPP) and certified wedding photographer (CWP). CPP certification is granted by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and requires photographers to pass an exam and submit a portfolio for review. CWP certification is granted by the Wedding Photographers International (WPI) and requires photographers to pass an exam, submit a portfolio, and complete a written assignment.

Seminars and Workshops

In addition to degree programs, many professional development opportunities exist in the form of seminars and workshops. These may be offered through colleges, universities, and private organizations and companies, and they vary greatly in terms of length, cost, and quality. While some seminars and workshops are very comprehensive and offer excellent value, others are little more than gimmicky sales pitches masquerading as educational opportunities.

Online Courses

Although there are many fine arts programs that offer degrees in photography, they are not always necessary to become a successful photographer. Many photographers have benefited tremendously from taking online courses that offer specific training in the various genres of photography. These include portrait photography, landscape photography, photojournalism, and wedding photography, to name just a few.

In addition to taking courses that focus on specific genres of photography, many photographers find it helpful to take courses that focus on the business side of things. These courses can teach you how to market your services, set up a website, and price your work in a way that is competitive but still allows you to make a profit.

There are many different online courses available, so it is important to do your research before enrolling in one. Make sure that the course is offered by a reputable institution and that it is accredited by a credible organization. Also, be sure to read reviews of the course before enrolling. This will help you make sure that you are getting what you expect from the course.

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