It’s easier than ever to take a photo on a smartphone and share it with friends or even the whole world. However, if you are interested in how to become a photographer, you will find that professional photographers employ a wealth of technical skills and artistic techniques that go well beyond these smartphone shots. Anyone can take a picture, but a photographer creates images that tell a story.
Whether you aspire to become a professional photographer or have a burgeoning curiosity about a career in the fine arts, you may be interested in exploring a photography degree. Let’s look at how a bachelor’s degree in photography can make a difference both artistically and professionally.
Why study photography?
The academic and artistic rigor of a bachelor’s degree in photography can provide you with marketable photographic techniques with the additional qualification of a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts.
“A degree in photography says you’ve invested in your career,” he said Rashida Johns, a photography teacher and subject matter expert at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) who helped create the school’s Business of Photography course. “Unfortunately, many still see photography as a glorified hobby. Having a degree shows a commitment to your craft and career.”
“It’s easy for anyone to take a great picture with their phone and think they’re good at it, but what photography students learn is to actually create an image, not just take a picture,” he said Nancy Hortonalso a SNHU photography teacher.
Studying photography in a degree program develops artistic vision, allows you to learn how to use technology for photography and editing, and develops business acumen and professionalism that will benefit you in the world of work.
As a photography student, you will hone your own unique artistic perspective. Core courses in design, media and color theory create a strong foundation for more advanced photographic techniques and aesthetic concepts.
“Formal instruction gives students the tools they need to realize their creative vision,” he said Colleen Vandenburg, a SNHU photography teacher. “They explore the elements and principles of design and learn how to incorporate things like line, shape, texture and color into their compositions to create dynamic images.”
Giving, receiving, and using feedback from faculty and peers is a key component of a photography program and prepares you to receive criticism in the professional world. Horton said that absorbing criticism of creative work is initially challenging for many, but building it is a crucial skill.
“You have to develop a thick skin,” Horton said. “It’s part of the learning process to accept yourself [feedback] and deal with it. You have to be able to defend your work, but not be defensive.”
Vandenburg said that a degree in photography in general is a great foundation for the fine arts and that exploring the world of photography can lead to opportunities in a number of creative fields.
Taking photos is often just the beginning. Photographers employ a range of software and techniques to deliver a finished product to their clients.
According to Vandenburg, some of the most important technology-driven photography techniques for students to hone are manually controlling the camera and manipulating light. Photographers also need a strong understanding of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO (the camera setting that adjusts the lightness or darkness of the photo) and a high level of comfort in post-production programs like Photoshop and Lightroom.
“By learning how to control their camera manually and harness the power of aperture and shutter speed, students can create images with intention,” Vandenburg said. “With a solid foundation of technical skills, the student is free to push creative boundaries.”
And of course you have to be able to put it all together to tell a story.
“We learn how visual storytelling is made up of all your technical choices combined with a strong sense of metaphor and symbolism,” Vandenburg said.
Business skills and portfolio development
Many professional photographers own their own business or work as freelancers. If you want to work for yourself, being a great photographer isn’t enough: essentially, you’ll also be a small business owner. Vandenburg said that students in a photography degree should gain the skills to communicate professionally, meet deadlines and adhere to high standards of quality.
According to Johns, photographers entering the job market also need a strong understanding of the legal, marketing and corporate aspects of the photography business. Students in their class will learn how best to work with clients and agencies, start their own business, develop contracts, set prices, manage overheads, and many other skills.
“In designing this course, I had to think about the lessons I wasn’t taught during my formal education, such as: B. how to build an experience for my customers [and] keep my brand consistent across all channels,” said Johns.
Photographers looking for work rely heavily on the strength of their portfolio. Horton said developing a portfolio is one of the most challenging and important things photography students do in their degree. She teaches the portfolio development course in SNHU’s photography program.
“Students really need to think about who their target audience is [when creating a portfolio]. If they want to do a certain type of imagery, who is the audience for it and how do they connect with that audience?” Horton said.
She said the goal of a portfolio is to show a cohesive creative vision. “They want to see a visual language spoken in all the images that tie them together,” she said.
A bigger picture
A photography degree does not limit you to working exclusively in photography; It’s also a preparation for careers in art direction, archiving, curating, communications, teaching and more, Johns said. Photographers can also work in the film and video industries and in scientific research and development.
Many of the fundamental skills you can learn in an online photography degree will serve you well in a variety of careers.
Pete Davies is the higher education director of marketing and communications. Follow him on Twitter @davispete or connect on LinkedIn.