College Courses Needed to Be a Photographer


Each college and university has its own rules and requirements for a degree in photography. However, as a photography major, you can expect to take a few standard classes that will prepare you for the nuances of the trade. These classes will teach you basic photography styles, lighting and history.


  • As a photography major, you will be subjected to many classes that focus on various photographic styles. Some universities may combine these classes into one larger course that will survey the important styles, but more often than not, the school will separate these classes so as to give you a deeper understanding of the fine points of each style.

    You will likely be required to take classes such as portrait photography, which prepares you for photographing people in a posed situation. You will learn common poses, postures, themes and techniques. You will also take a class in documentary photography, preparing you for photojournalism. In this case, you will be required to put together a photo essay; in essence, you will choose a theme, event or other topic you wish to research. You will then present your research and argument with your photographs. A photo essay is the reverse of a normal essay or journalist piece; generally the photo supplements the text, but in the case, the text will supplement the photos.

Color and Lighting

  • An essential element to becoming a photographer is an understanding of the importance of proper color and light. You will be instructed in how to set up various lighting scenarios. Each situation requires a specific kind of light; for some photographs you will want to have a lot of foreground light but very little backlight. To create a silhouette effect, though, you will have a lot of backlight with very little foreground light. Your lighting classes will teach you the proper way to use each technique.

    You will also learn to use computer software to perfect the color in your photographs. Even the best photographers sometimes choose a wrong setting on their camera that causes the colors in the photograph to be off. Software such as Photoshop can easily fix or enhance the colors in your photo. As Photoshop is an industry standard, it is very likely that you will learn to use it in an entry-level course. It is sure to be an important part of your other photography classes throughout your college career.

History and Business

  • Most colleges will also require you to take a course in the history of photography. This class will teach you about the progression of photographic technology, the origins of film and the arguments of digital versus film photography. To become an innovative photographer, it is important to understand how modern photography came to be; only then can you truly learn to branch out and create your own style.

    Finally, as most photographers eventually branch out to freelance or even own their own studio, you will be required to take a business of photography course. Separate from general business classes, the photography class will teach you the intricacies of running your own freelance business or photography studio. You will be taught how to base your pricing, appropriate contract terms and other information vital to the business side of the trade.

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