Photographers work in variety of industries and at a number of different professional levels. Some work for various types of visual media organizations, including magazines and newspapers, while others work in studios doing portraits for clients. In most cases, today's photographers rely on digital cameras instead of traditional film cameras. Photographers must develop a mastery of various digital camera and lens systems, as well as an expertise at using computer software systems to process and edit images. The best online colleges for photography provide students with a sound knowledge of camera and software editing fundamentals, while also encouraging students to be creative.
Photography Course Work Basics
Online colleges for photography offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees in the subject. Many programs are tailored specifically for fine arts or a particular business or industry, such as fashion or photojournalism. Bachelor's degree programs include general education requirements such as English, composition, mathematics, social studies, and some natural and life sciences, as well as the major-specific courses. Major-level courses can vary greatly from program-to-program and school-to-school. However, the top online colleges for photography should prepare students with courses that teach camera and software basics, as well as skills particular to the type of industry where the student hopes to work. In fact, many programs require that students choose an emphasis such as fine arts, fashion photography, or photography for advertising. Some courses an online photography major can expect to see include:
- Fundamentals of Design: In this course, students learn the basic principles of design specific to photography as well as how they can apply their creativity to their photography.
- Principles of Digital Photography: This course teaches students the fundamentals of modern digital cameras including the proper use of various camera systems and how to use a light meter.
- Digital Image Management: Students are introduced to the basics of digital photographic postproduction and are acquainted with the terms, concepts, and processes of digital image editing software.
- Lighting: This course provides students with an introduction to the concepts and principles of lighting for photography. It includes instruction how to recognize and control natural and studio lighting systems.
Master's programs in photography are designed for students who already have a solid understanding of photographic equipment and editing systems, but who want to build their portfolio for a specific industry. The most common online master's degree for photography is a Master's of Fine Arts (MFA) in photography. These programs help students develop a high level of digital and traditional photography skills, as well as a graduate-level understanding of aesthetic theory.
Careers for the Photography Graduate
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were approximately 139,500 employed photographers in 2010. However, the work environment can vary greatly based on the field in which they work. While a degree is not necessary in some occupations, such asart or portrait photography, most careers require at least a bachelor's degree. Photographic services, such as a news wire service, were the second largest employer, accounting for 24% of the industry's workforce. The occupation is expected to grow 13% through the year 2020, while employment of self-employed photographers is expected to grow 15% through the same time period.
Photographers earned a median annual wage of $29,130 in 2010, according to the BLS. However, wages can vary drastically based on the specific industry the photographer works in and the location. Broken down into hourly pay, the median annual wage for photographers was $14. The lowest 10% of individuals in the field earned less than $8.34, while the highest 10% earned $30.48. While photographers face stiff competition, individuals with experience, and well developed portfolios — in addition to a bachelor's degree — will usually fair better in a tough job market. Additionally, many photographers work part-time and must keep flexible hours to attend events after normal working hours.