Earning an Online Photography Degree

How Curriculum Works, Top Schools, Scholarships and Career Potential

By attending an online photography school, you can set yourself up to enter the world of digital and film photography. Photography programs emphasize photographic history, composition, artistic and commercial photography, editing, and client development. The visual nature of an online bachelor's degree in photography means these programs translate well to distance learning, as you can complete projects and assignments and easily send them to professors and peers for critique.

Learners interested in an online photography degree can use this page to learn about average salaries, available careers, common courses, frequently asked questions, and scholarship availability.

How Much Can You Make in a Photography Career?

Many roles exist for graduates of online photography schools, provided they possess the creativity and drive to break into the industry and continue innovating throughout their careers. While no degree guarantees a specific salary or job, graduates who complete a photography bachelor's degree online commonly hold positions listed below. You can review this list to get a sense of what is possible after graduating from these programs, but be sure to conduct additional research to find a position that speaks to your individual goals and skill sets.

Photographer

Median Annual Salary: $34,000

Job Growth (2016-2026): -6%

Photographers shoot digital and film images with camera equipment. They may work in-house for a single client or in a freelance capacity. They may work in art photography or focus on more commercial industries, such as food, fashion, weddings, or family portraiture.

Art Director

Median Annual Salary: $92,780

Job Growth (2016-2026): 5%

Art directors work on magazines, catalogues, periodicals, newspapers, and product design to oversee design and visual elements. They manage photographers, artists, and graphic designers. Tasks include approving designs, making suggestions on artistic approach, overseeing budgets and schedules, and gaining client approval before going to print.

Film or Video Editor

Median Annual Salary: $58,990

Job Growth (2016-2026): 13%

These individuals work with still photographs and videos to create the best possible representations of the subject matter. They correct any abnormalities or issues, adjust coloring, and make any other necessary changes with sophisticated editing software. They also liaise with clients to ensure edits meet requirements and deliver the final product for approval.

Graphic Designer

Median Annual Salary: $50,370

Job Growth (2016-2026): 4%

Graphic designers take their clients' ideas or visions and translate them into artistic representations. They may work in-house for a single client to oversee branding guidelines and contribute to marketing materials, or they may maintain a portfolio of freelance clients. These individuals must stay abreast of design trends and updates to software such as Photoshop and Adobe.

Industrial Designer

Median Annual Salary: $66,590

Job Growth (2016-2026): 4%

Industrial designers use their skills in art and design to create manufacturing plans for consumer goods. They develop artistic renderings of potential products; work with engineers to iron out issues around functionality; test prototypes for safety, effectiveness, and appearance; and present their designs to relevant decision-making stakeholders.

When considering potential careers and salaries, several factors can affect these numbers, including level of degree attained, numbers of years of experience, job title, chosen industry, and geographic location. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that photographers in Washington D.C. earn the highest annual mean wages at $82,840, while those in New Mexico earn $53,720. States with the highest concentration of photographer jobs include California, Florida, New York, Texas, and Illinois.

What Courses Can Be Taken for an Online Photography Degree?

Earning a photography bachelor's degree online can help you build foundational skills in both digital and print photography. These programs take you through a sequence of courses on composition, photographic style, art and commercial photography, and editing tools. The classes compiled below can give you a sense of what to expect. Review individual programs to understand your learning options.

History of Photography

This course provides learners with an overview of photographic movements, trends, and breakthroughs over the course of photographic history. The class features a close study of prominent figures over the ages.

Digital Photography Fundamentals

In this foundational course, professors introduce learners to image sizes, resolution, file formats, layers, and software such as Lightroom, Bridge, and Adobe Photoshop.

Photography as Activism

This elective considers how photography can be used in politics and activism, with studies around known artists and impactful social and political movements across history.

Lighting Techniques

Students in this class learn how to light various photoshoots based on concept, design aesthetic, and client needs. They also learn how to use natural and artificial lighting.

Fashion Photography

A perfect elective for students who want to work in fashion and clothing photography, this course introduces learners to movements and styles in the industry. Students discuss how to work with wardrobe stylists and makeup artists.

How to Choose the Best Online Photography Program

Deciding to enroll in an online photography school requires careful planning. Students should consider aspects such as institutional reputation, affordability, accreditation status, availability of programs, admission and graduation requirements, faculty experience, and enrollment status. You can review the FAQs below to get a better sense of what earning a bachelor's degree in photography online can do for you.

What strategies should I follow in choosing my photography courses?

When looking at the curricula of prospective schools, pay close attention to whether the department offers elective courses that speak to your interests. While a bachelor's program may not offer the option to specialize, you can tailor your electives to areas such as art photography, composition, or photography history to create a program that works for you.

Should I have any concerns about completing this degree online?

Simply put, no. Given the visual nature of photography, your coursework, assignments, and projects will transfer easily to distance learning. You'll have the opportunity to interact with your professors and peers through forums, chat programs, email, and voice and video calls. Further, you can acquire feedback on your photography projects through the learning management platform.

What should I pay attention to when reviewing faculty profiles?

Reviewing faculty profiles serves a two-fold purpose: ensuring professors possess real-world experience, and confirming they have sufficient knowledge in areas of the discipline you hope to pursue. Look for faculty with professional experience, a portfolio of work, and reputable clients.

Should I look for a specific curriculum focus?

Bachelor's degrees in photography tend to avoid offering specializations, preferring instead a broad curriculum to ensure graduates succeed in various photography roles. Specializations are typically more common at the master's level. That said, you can select elective courses focused on a particular topic or theme to focus your studies.

How will this degree help me reach my goals?

Bachelor's degrees in photography serve as the gateway to most entry-level positions, making them a solid first step into the industry. As the discipline becomes formalized, more employers expect job candidates to possess this credential. While it may not be required for freelance positions, roles offering more security usually mandate a baccalaureate credential.

Scholarships and Financial Aid for Photography Programs

The cost of an online bachelor's in photography can feel prohibitive initially, but with careful planning, it need not be. Many methods of paying for your degree exist if you work to find and apply for them.

Notably, scholarships and grants do not require repayment. We spotlight five of the best photography scholarships in this section, but check with colleges and universities, state and federal governments, local businesses, private foundations, and professional associations for more opportunities.

Bodie McDowell Scholarship

Offered by the Outdoor Writers Association of America, this award of up to $5,000 assists undergraduate students enrolled in accredited photography, print, film, art, or broadcasting degrees focused on outdoor communications. Applicants must submit examples of their work, letters of recommendation, a completed application, and evidence of minimum GPA requirements. Applications are due March 1.

Janie Moore Greene Scholarship

The North American Nature Photography Association offers up to $1,000 to undergraduate degree seekers currently enrolled in or accepted to an accredited photography program. Applicants must provide a completed application form, evidence of financial need, and relevant examples of recent photography.

National Press Photographers Foundation Scholarship

NPPF offers multiple scholarships of approximately $2,000 each to students working towards a baccalaureate photography degree. Candidates must supply a portfolio of work, a completed application, letters of recommendation, evidence of need, official transcripts, and answers to essay questions by December 3.

James Alan Cox Student Photojournalists Scholarships

Each year, the James Alan Cox Foundation supplies five $2,500 scholarships to learners attending college or technical school in the pursuit of a photography degree. Candidates must supply an application, a brief essay, a teacher mentor form, two letters of reference, official school transcripts, financial data, and a portfolio. Applications are due in November.

Lucie Scholarship

The Lucie Foundation offers several photography scholarships each year, including the $2,500 emerging artist open genre award. This scholarship benefits students creating a specific and dynamic photographic project. Applicants must provide a project proposal, a 250-word description of the project, a list of five goals, a one-page biography, and examples of 20 recent pieces of work.