10 Best Photography Trade Schools and Programs of 2024

best photography trade schools

If you have been dreaming of becoming a professional photographer whose works are known all around the world, you need to upgrade your skills, learn how to use a range of techniques and work in a variety of photography genres. By learning more about popular photography trade schools, you can develop your signature style and learn how to take attention-grabbing photos.

In the U.S. alone, there are many world-known photography schools that will help you broaden your horizons and get a cutting edge over your competitors. When selecting a suitable photography school, you need to take into account multiple things. Make sure to consider the photography genre that you want to specialize in and the type of diploma or certificate that you want to get upon completing your course.

Besides, different schools have online and full-time on-campus courses, which enable students to study without experiencing any discomfort. When it comes to prices, some schools offer their courses for free, which makes them affordable for beginner photographers. The average price of a photography degree ranges from $30K to $80K, depending on the institution. You can also opt for standalone college courses that last from several months to one year. They will cost you about $1-5K.

Factors to Consider Choosing a Good School for Photography

To select worthy trade schools for photography, it’s important to pay attention to the way they are organized and learn whether they offer career development opportunities. I recommend you pay attention to several things that will be important for every photographer.

Accreditation. If you want to get a degree, it’s crucial to choose an accredited educational institution. It will ensure that its curriculum will correspond to all the requirements. Besides, you might be able to apply for grants or other types of financial aid. In addition, it will allow you to transfer to another college without losing your credits.

The best photography schools may be accredited by the following agencies:

  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)

Pro-level equipment. To develop their skills and learn how to shoot photos like a pro, students need to use the most recent photography gear. Whether you are interested in digital photography techniques or traditional film photography, you still need to learn how to use modern cameras and lighting setups. As a student, you will also learn how to use powerful computers for photo editing and darkrooms.

Teaching staff. It’s important to select a school that hires professional photographers with years of experience instead of hiring people who have art or photography degrees. It will allow you to get all the knowledge you may need to take photos and acquire invaluable skills that will help you build a successful career.

Internships. Many photography schools offer their students to take part in an internship program during their studies. It will allow you to practice your networking skills and get to know other photographers. Besides, some programs pay their interns.

Top 10 Photography Trade Schools in the USA & Online

Below, you will find a list of the best photography trade schools, that provide on-campus and online training.

1. The Photography Institute – free/$199 per advanced module

the photography institute photography trade school photo example

Photo by New York Institute of Photography 

Form of training: online

Level: Beginner

The program includes:

  • Basic photography knowledge
  • Advanced modules
  • Personal tutor

The Photography Institute offers a comprehensive photography course that will be useful for amateur photographers and those who want to become professionals. George Seper is an experienced tutor who works as a freelance photographer and digital retoucher. He teaches students photography basics and helps them to use the newly acquired knowledge when taking photos. The course consists of 12 modules. The average completion time is 24 weeks. After completing the course, you can also continue studying by taking advanced classes.

2. New York Institute of Photography – $1089/course

new york institute of photography trade school photo example

Photo by New York Institute of Photography

Form of training: online

Level: Professional

The program includes:

  • Basics of digital photography
  • Photojournalism classes
  • Graphic design & video creation
  • Business for photographers

New York Institute of Photography offers web-based photography courses that will be useful to both experienced photographers and those who are just getting started. It will allow you to acquire extensive knowledge in photography and learn more about different photography styles. In addition, you can take graphic design, video creation, and photojournalism classes. All the photographers are required to submit coursework. It will allow you to create a professional portfolio.

3. Arizona State University – price list on request

Form of training: online

Level: All levels

The program includes:

  • Online BFA in Art (Digital Photography)
  • Communication with other students
  • The development of the creative potential of a photographer

Arizona State University offers an informative photography course for those who are interested in getting a BA degree in digital photography. Thanks to this photography school, you will know how to implement your creative ideas using a variety of techniques. This is an excellent opportunity to get to know other photographers and mentors. To take part in the course, you are recommended to have a DSLR camera. However, other digital cameras that allow you to capture high-quality photos can also be used during this course.

4. Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design – $664 per credit hour

rocky mountain college of art & design photography trade school photo example

Photo by Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design

Form of training: online

Level: Professional

The program includes:

  • Digital imaging
  • Drawing
  • Commercial photography
  • Digital retouching
  • Editorial photography

Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design is suitable for those who want to develop their technical skills. It’s considered to be one of the best technical photography schools available today. It will help you learn about the different aspects of commercial photography and find out which techniques you need to master to become a high-earning professional.

You will learn the basics of ethical conduct as well. This school is suitable for experienced photographers who want to succeed in different photography genres, including aerial and drone, editorial, fashion, architecture, and portrait photography.

5. Savannah College of Art & Design – $869 per credit hour

savannah college of art & design photography trade school photo example

Photo by Savannah College of Art & Design

Form of training: online /on-campus (Savannah / Atlanta, Georgia)

Level: All levels

The program includes:

  • Basics of visual literacy
  • Color and composition
  • Career consulting

Savannah College of Art & Design has a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees for aspiring photographers to choose from. You can improve your visual literacy and develop your signature style by mastering the basics of color and composition. Throughout the courses, you will take professional photos for your portfolio and visit SCAD museums and galleries. Besides, the college allows you to take part in internship programs and learn how to promote your photos online. You can also take additional courses on advertising and graphic design.

6. Brigham Young University – $19.594 / full course

brigham young university photography trade school photo example

Photo by Brigham Young University

Form of training: on-campus (Provo, Utah)

Level: All levels

The program includes:

  • Lighting methods
  • Photographic language
  • Portraiture
  • History of arts
  • Alternative photographic processes

Brigham Young University is known for its reputable photography school with an advanced curriculum that includes courses on different arts as well. After a BA degree in photography, you will have extensive knowledge about different methods and techniques used by photographers. You will learn how to set up lighting, use a range of darkroom techniques, and take portrait photos.

The curriculum also includes courses on the history of art and photographic processes. The main part of the curriculum consists of courses on digital pictures and videos. If you decide to get an MA degree, you will need to take additional 12 courses on photography and complete an internship program.

7. Bennington College – $78.764 / full course

bennington college photography trade school photo example

Photo by Bennington College

Form of training: on-campus (Bennington, Vermont)

Level: Middle

The program includes:

  • Basics of analog and digital technologies
  • Photojournalism
  • The basics of photography

Bennington College has a regional accreditation issued by the New England Commission of Higher Education. If you are looking for good schools for photography, take a look at this college as it offers a range of courses about different photography genres. It allows students to get a narrow specialization that they prefer and delve into the topic deeper.

For instance, you may take such courses as Light & Lighting, Foundations of Photography/Analog, Photographs as Narratives, and many more. You will have plenty of opportunities to practice as well as visit the studios of professional photographers, nonprofits, galleries, and various companies working in the field.

8. Rhode Island School of Design – $56.435/full course

rhode island school of design photography trade school photo example

Photo by Rhode Island School of Design

Form of training: on-campus (Providence, Rhode Island)

Level: Beginner/Middle

The program includes:

  • Conceptual and aesthetic aspects of photography
  • Darkroom printing
  • Film processing
  • Commercial & editorial photography

Rhode Island School of Design will be a perfect choice for those who are interested in the technical, aesthetic, and conceptual sides of photography. Besides, it will allow you to put your newly acquired knowledge into a social and cultural context. You will learn how to take, present, and interpret photos.

The program allows you to master the basics of film processing and darkroom printing as well as learn how to take photos with a digital camera and print high-quality images. In addition, you can develop your videography skills and find out more about other related topics.

9. Otis College of Art & Design – $1.520/academic year

otis college of art & design photography trade school photo example

Photo by Otis College of Art & Design

Form of training: on-campus (Los Angeles, California)

Level: Beginner

The program includes:

  • Fundamentals of photography
  • Digital art
  • Illustration
  • Animation

The program offered by Otis College of Art & Design will help you learn how to use your camera, set up lighting, edit your photos, and create aesthetically-pleasing compositions. In addition, you can select a specialization in marketing to learn how to promote your services. All the courses are taught by reputable photographers and photo manipulation artists.

By enrolling in this program, you will get excellent networking opportunities. It will help you start your career and select a suitable internship. In the end, you will have a top-level portfolio and a range of skills that will make you eligible for an entry-level position.

10. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – $31.441/full course (for residents), $49.082/full course (for non-residents)

university of illinois at urbana-champaign photography trade school website

Photo by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Form of training: on-campus (Champaign, Illinois)

Level: Professional

The program includes:

  • Technical aspects of shooting
  • Usage of different types of photography gear
  • Darkroom printing
  • Video shooting

The curriculum of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign includes courses on art, photography, and design as well as the history of art, and more. After taking part in the 122-credit program, you will know how to bring your ideas to life and develop your career. This photography school will help you learn how to create a well-balanced composition in the frame and use photo editing software for photographers for enhancing your photos. You will also master darkroom techniques and learn how to take photos that tell a story.

What Are Photography Degrees and Specializations?

There are various types of photography schools like academies, institutes, colleges, and universities. However, not many people know that there are a lot of degree levels. When selecting a photography school, you must pay attention to the educational system and the degree level that each school can give its students. So, we want you to understand the difference between all the degrees.

Photography Certificates. As a rule, such programs are offered at colleges. Students can complete them just in a few months. Photography Certificate Programs allow students to learn basic information about photography. Here students learn how to make use of Photoshop and Lightroom, and how to work in the darkroom during the filming procedure.

Associate Degree. By getting an associate degree, you can delve into the world of photography without spending four or more years getting a BA in art or photography. To get an associate degree, you need to study for 20-24 months full-time, which allows you to get in-depth knowledge about advanced subjects. If you want to become a professional, this option will be more suitable for you than certificate programs.

Bachelor’s Degree. Students can get this degree level after four years of studying at a digital photo school, art university or institute. At this stage, students study photography art deeper, and they work much at developing practice skills. After getting a bachelor’s degree, you will know all the secrets of lighting techniques, new methods of shooting. Moreover, bachelor’s students learn a lot about photography history and development.

Master’s Degree. The Master of Fine Art prepares future photographers to think like an artist. At this stage, photographers learn how to bring their creative school project ideas to life. It will allow you to become a professional photographer and learn how to edit your photos. As a rule, at the end of the study, students present their portfolios or projects. If you want to develop your skills and enrich your general knowledge, make sure to get a master’s degree.

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