We’ve all heard the cliche that a picture is worth a thousand words. But those thousand words may not always be positive if the photographer shooting the photograph is not skilled.

With the advent of fancy Smartphones that contain built-in cameras with megapixel ratings as high as eight or 10 – and digital cameras that have become more affordable and easy to use – just about everyone fancies themselves a photographer these days. But it takes more than the technology to make a good photographer.

Professional photographers have been struggling for years with the ideology that anyone can do their jobs. While it is true that anyone can take a photo, it is not true that everyone’s photos will be professional looking.

Dave Prelosky, a photo journalist for over 20 years, has experienced the attitude that professional photographers are no longer important for a good photo. That attitude often results in people who are unsatisfied with the results they receive at the kind of “photography mills”that often can be found in department stores across the country. Prelosky urged anyone who is considering a career in photography to receive proper training first.

Prelosky – who has no formal education in photography – said he wishes he had had the opportunity to attend a photography school. “By not going to school, I lost a lot of valuable opportunities, including the ability to network with my peers and mentors, who could have helped me to advance in my career.”

So where do aspiring photographers go to hone their skills and perfect their techniques? An art school which specializes in photography is a good place to start.

Choosing a Program

There are many factors to consider when choosing a program.The most important one is selecting a program that has received accreditation –a special status that is awarded to educational institutions by an outside agency that certifies the school’s programs meet or exceed the criteria set forth by the accrediting agency.

Currently, there are 16 reputable accrediting agencies qualified to evaluate art schools. Accredited schools are guaranteed to have quality teachers, an extensive curriculum which meets or exceeds educational standards for the arts, access to a variety of student services and activities, access and assistance for students in applying for student loans and grants and ease of ability to transfer credits from one institution to another.

Degree Options

As with other fine arts programs, there are a variety of degrees which can be earned in photography. Which degree one should select depends entirely on how they wish to use their photography skills as a career.

  • Associate Degree in Photography: This two-year degree program will touch on the basics of photography, which include lessons on a variety of styles of photography – such as photojournalism and studio photography – as well as technology used for processing photos in today’s digital world.
  • Bachelor Degree in Photography: This four-year degree program will extend beyond the basics of photography by preparing students for the business and technical challenges associated with a career in photography. Students will delve into not only the creative side of photography, but also the ethically side as well.
  • Master Degree in Photography: In this graduate-level program, students can expect to focus on business management skills in addition to photography skills. They are ideal for students who wish to own their own business, or work in a management position for another photography studio. Master degree programs generally take two to three years of schooling beyond a bachelor degree. These advanced degrees will prepare photography students to not only work in the industry, but also to teach photography at a college level.

Prelosky said that students also should prepare to learn more than just the basics of operating a camera and photo-publishing software and devices.

“Don’t limit yourself to being a photographer. Be a reader, be a historian, be a psychologist. Take the time to truly understand the subject of your photo, because there is more to taking a good photo than simply pushing a button. To be good at it, you have to have some empathy and be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”

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