2023 Best Online Photography Certificate Programs

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Explore the top online photography certificate programs. Build a foundation in art and design and enter the field more quickly with an undergrad certificate.

An online photography certificate is an academic program that covers the fundamental knowledge and skills that are essential for photographers.

Best Online Photography Certificate Programs

This certificate is designed for individuals who are just picking up a camera as well as for working photographers who want to hone their craft. An undergraduate certificate program in photography condenses photography studies into a much shorter timeframe than a degree program.

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Pursuing a photography certificate could help you find your personal artistic style while growing your expertise in this competitive field.

Online Photography Certificate Programs

Man taking Online Photography Certificate

A digital photography certificate is an academic award given to students who’ve completed the required courses. Upon completing this certificate program, you may have the necessary knowledge and skills to be able to work as a professional photographer.

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In this program, you can learn the fundamentals of photography. You can become familiar with the ins and outs of your camera, the value of one camera over another for a specific project, how to elicit emotion through photography, and more. Undergraduate certificate programs are generally shorter than degree programs, so the curriculum will also be more condensed, focusing on the basic principles of photography.

You’ll study subjects like:

  • Digital photography
  • Commercial photography
  • Lighting
  • Technology and image enhancement
  • Art and design principles

Gaining competency in this discipline could be a solid foundation for building a deeper knowledge of photography over time, whether it be through study or experience. Additionally, photography professionals may work in several fields, including:

  • Fine art
  • Education
  • Journalism
  • Event photography
  • Editing
  • Film directing

A photography certificate can help novices and professionals alike further their knowledge and skills. You may also have the chance to build up your portfolio through the various projects in your program.

Photography Careers & Salaries

Photography Certificate Careers & Salaries

A digital photography certificate is typically designed for students who would like to become professional photographers. As such, the skills you can learn are often technical and specific in nature.

With these skills, you may be able to pursue professional advancement in photography-related fields. Many of the skills you’ll learn are also transferable to similar disciplines. It’s common for students to enter film and other artistic fields for this reason.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the median salaries of careers related to photography and art.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Art Directors $105,180
Lighting Technicians $61,650
Sound Engineering Technicians $60,670
Photographers — Radio and Television Broadcasting Stations $57,640
Fine Artists $57,560
Audio and Video Technicians $50,660
Photographers — Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers $48,820
Desktop Publishers $47,910
Craft Artists $38,150
Photographers — Photographic Services $36,540

Having a digital photography certificate can help you gain versatile skills, but it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll qualify for a particular position or salary. There are many factors that influence the hiring process. Employers may also prefer or require additional education for some of the above positions.

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Most professional photographers are self-employed. It’s strategic for them to market themselves to potential clients, show off a professional portfolio, and find a specialty niche they can focus on. Common specialties include event photography, portrait photography, and commercial photography.

Online Photography Certificate Curriculum & Courses

Students taking Photography Certificate

A photographer certificate will expose you to the essential skills and tools in the field. As such, you can expect to take courses that cover topics similar to the following:

  • Digital Photography: This course provides an introduction to digital photography and teaches you how to manipulate the essential camera settings.
  • Lightroom: In this course, you’ll learn how to import and catalog all of your images within Adobe Lightroom as well as how to manipulate retouching tools.
  • Landscape Photography: You’ll learn how to make the most of your nature photography by studying various techniques and concepts.
  • Color Theory: This course teaches you how to manipulate color and color schemes to improve your projects.
  • History of Photography: This course will teach you about the history of photography, starting from 1839 up to today.
  • Photography Fundamentals: This course will develop your photographic eye through the study and real-world practice of photography. You’ll also receive feedback on your work.
  • Camera Selection and Mechanics: You’ll not only study camera features but will also learn how to determine which type of camera will help you accomplish your goals.
  • Digital Asset Management: This course will teach you how to manage your portfolio, edit your photos to help fulfill your vision, and then disseminate the finished product.
  • Style and Expression Through Photography: You’ll learn how to express emotion through the manipulation of various lighting and camera tools.
  • Building a Photography Portfolio: This course serves as the culmination of your studies by requiring you to design a photography project and execute it from beginning to end.

Courses will vary depending on the school and program, so it’s beneficial to review he curriculum of your school of choice.

Admissions Requirements

Woman preparing Photography Certificate requirements

Since certificate programs are not as extensive as degree programs, they tend to have less stringent admissions requirements.

Common admissions criteria for photography certificate programs include:

  • High school diploma or GED equivalent
  • Online application
  • DSLR camera (preferably)
  • Familiarity with basic camera settings

Every program is different, and some may even have an entirely different set of requirements. It’s strategic to check the specific admissions requirements of your school of choice.

Digital Photography Schools Accreditation

University offering Digital Photography Certificate

Attending a school with accreditation can offer several benefits. The accreditation process consists of a school being reviewed by a formal accrediting agency. If the representative determines that the school consistently provides students with a high-quality education, then it’ll receive accreditation status.

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Only accredited institutions are eligible to receive financial aid, which is a benefit for students. Additionally, employers tend to trust and respect the reputation of accredited institutions. So, holding a certificate from an accredited school may make you more attractive to potential employers or clients.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Photography Certificate Financial Aid

Many students seek financial assistance to meet the upfront cost of their education. The first route that students usually pursue is federal aid. If you submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the government will review your data and determine your eligibility for need-based aid.

The most common forms of federal aid include student loans, grants, and work-study programs. Individual states may offer student aid programs as well. Other options for financial aid include scholarships. These monetary awards can be offered by a variety of sources, including your school, professional organizations, and private institutions.

Some employers also provide professional development programs or tuition benefits for employees who are pursuing postsecondary education.

What Can You Do with a Photography Certificate?

Art Director discussing with team of photographers

A photographer certificate tends to be pursued by students who are interested in photography or have pre-existing experience in the field. Because of this, graduates usually go on to become photographers, whether it be for an organization or as self-employed entrepreneurs.

Some specialize in a certain niche, such as event photography, portrait photography, and commercial photography. That said, students can also take the skills they learn in this program and enter a variety of other fields. Some graduates take jobs in film, media, or even education. Some common positions within these fields include art directors, photo and video editors, camera operators, and more.

How Much Do Photographers Make?

Photographer working on a photoshoot project

The average salary for photographers can vary depending on the job they take and the field they’re in. Some photographers work for companies or studios, while others are self-employed.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall median salary for photographers is $40,170. Most make annual salaries between $26,990 and $82,450. Some photographers focus on the art side of the field and display their works in galleries. The median salary for fine artists is $57,560.

Photography professionals who are experts in lighting may apply their skills as lighting technicians. The median annual salary for this occupation is $61,650.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Photography Certificate?

Man taking Online Photography Certificate

Taking photography certificate programs online usually requires the completion of approximately 5 to 7 courses.

On average, these courses can be completed in two semesters. This may take anywhere from 4 months to 8 months to complete, depending on your school’s academic schedule. For instance, some photography programs have courses that only last 2 weeks each.

Other factors that can affect your completion time include your own individual circumstances, your enrollment status, and your course load.

What’s the Difference Between a Certification vs. Certificate in Photography?

Here are some of the differences between a photography certificate and a photography certification.

Photography Certifications Photography Certificates
  • Industry credential
  • Requires passing an exam to demonstrate mastery of the subject
  • Administered by a professional organization
  • Demonstrates professional level of proficiency
  • Academic credential
  • Earned by completing required educational courses
  • Administered by a postsecondary institution
  • May help students prepare for certification

You might consider obtaining a photography certification online if the certification benefits your specific career goals. While a photography certificate program can teach you foundational skills in the trade, an industry certification will assess your skills and demonstrate your professionalism to potential employers and clients.

Is a Photography Certificate Worth It?

Photographers working together in their office

Yes, a photography certificate is worth it for many students. Photographers may choose to use their skills to shoot anything from family portraits and business portraits to landscape photography and advertisements.

People continue to seek out professionals who can take these high-quality images for their family, business, or special event. There is an abundance of industries that require the services of talented photographers, and a certificate program can help you develop these professional skill sets.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 9% job growth is projected for photographers over the next ten years, which is considered faster than the average for all occupations.

Universities Offering Online Certificate in Photography Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Columbus State Community College

Columbus State Community College campus

Columbus State Community College offers an online certificate program in Advanced Digital Photography. The program requires the completion of 24 to 26 credit hours of coursework, including Photoshop for Photographers, Intro to Digital Photography, Digital Photography and Design, Photoshop for Retouching, and more. Elective options are also typically offered.

Columbus State Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Cornell University

Cornell University campus

Cornell University offers an online certificate program in Digital Photography. The program aims to teach both the artistic and business aspects of working as a professional photographer. Potential courses include Photography Fundamentals, Camera Selection and Mechanics, Digital Asset Management, Lighting, Style and Expression through Photography, Building a Photography Portfolio, and Professional Photography.

Cornell is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Eastern Florida State College

Eastern Florida State College campus

Eastern Florida State College offers an online program for a certificate in Photography. Courses are commonly available both online and on campus, and potentially include Photography with a Digital Camera, Advanced Digital Photography, Portfolio Development, and more. The program requires the completion of 22 credit hours, which may be applied to an AS in Digital Television Media Production program.

Eastern Florida State College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Hazard Community and Technical College

hazard community and technical college campus

Hazard Community and Technical College offers a certificate in Digital Photography program online. Potential courses include Digital Photography and Photoshop Basics plus 2 electives, such as Digital Photography II and Photo Editing for Photography. The program requires the completion of 12 credit hours.

Hazard Community and Technical College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Northcentral Technical College

Northcentral Technical College campus

Northcentral Technical College offers a certificate in Basic Digital Photography and Digital Video partially online. Courses may sometimes be offered only on-campus. The program requires the completion of just 6 credits, Digital Video and Digital Photography. Credits may be applied to a graphic communications technology associate degree.

NTC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College campus

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College offers a certificate in Photography Fundamentals program online. The program typically consists of 4 courses that are 8 weeks each, including Digital Photography, Photoshop Fundamentals, Lightroom Photography, and Introduction to Video. Courses are commonly available online and during the daytime and evenings. Credits may be applied toward a technical diploma in photography.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Pace University

Pace University campus

Pace University offers a certificate in Digital Photography and Retouching program online. The program aims to teach the fundamentals of studio lighting, post-production, and photo manipulation techniques employing modern computer editing techniques. Basic knowledge in Photoshop and access to a DSLR or mirrorless camera is highly recommended for entry into the program.

Pace University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

The New School

The New School campus

The New School offers a certificate in Digital Photography program online. Potential courses include Introduction to Digital Photography, Photography Composition Study, and Photography Workflow. The program is aimed at improving images for social media content or marketing. Courses tend to be 6 to 9 weeks long each, and the program may be completed in 6 months.

The New School is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of California – Berkeley

University of California Berkeley campus

The University of California–Berkeley offers a specialized program in Digital Photography through its online extension school. There are 2 required courses, Digital Photography Fundamentals and Digital Photography Intermediate, followed by 1 elective, with possible options including History of Photography: A Dynamic Study and Practice, Photography Workshop, and Digital Photography in Practice and Context.

The University of California – Berkeley is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

University of Washington

University of Washington campus

The University of Washington offers an online program for a certificate in Photography. The program is typically completed in 3 quarters, which takes about 8 months. Classes meet in the evenings and potentially include It’s The Image That Communicates: History and Practice, Creative Photography and Image Production, Photographic Vision, Practice, and Online Exhibition.

The University of Washington is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Getting Your Photography Certificate Online

student getting Photography Certificate Online

A digital photography certificate is a great alternative to a degree program for many students. By taking a certificate program, you can learn many of the same essential photography skills in a fraction of the time and for a fraction of the price.

Many people seek out certificate programs because they’re looking to accelerate their education and enter the workforce as soon as possible. Other students take them because they may be useful in furthering their expertise and skill sets.

If you’re looking to take your photography career or hobby to the next level, consider researching photography certificate programs from accredited institutions today!

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David has a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in Film from Syracuse University. While in school, much of his time was dedicated to Syracuse’s literary magazine, both as a writer and editor. David’s current interests include literary and film studies as well as social justice.