The Best Colleges for Photography

December 29, 2022
By AdmissionSight

The Best Colleges for Photography

In a time span of fewer than one hundred years, photography has made its way into virtually every facet of our life. Nearly everyone has a camera installed on their mobile device, and people capture pictures at all hours of the day and night. On our technological gadgets, in print publications, and in advertisements, we are continually exposed to photographic images.

Because photography has become so pervasive and varied, it is difficult to pin down precisely what photography is and to determine whether or not photography can still be considered a kind of art.

What is photography?

What exactly is photography? The act of making an image by capturing light with an instrument known as a camera and calling that “photography” is a straightforward explanation of what the term actually means.

According to a contemporary interpretation, the camera might come in a variety of forms, including cameras built into mobile phones, digital cameras, and conventional analog cameras.

What is the purpose of photography?

So, what exactly is the point of taking photographs? Photography may be used for a variety of things and has a wide range of applications.

Photography has many uses; it may be art, it can record history, it can seize a fleeting moment in time, and it can tell stories. It has many applications in the technological sphere, in addition to those in the social and creative spheres.

Moreover, photography is a medium that lends itself to extremely personal uses and interactions, which means that these will look very different from one individual to the next.

What are the best colleges for photography?

So, where can one find the most reputable schools for photography?

Below is the list of the best colleges for photography:

  • United States
  • Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program at RISD lasts for four years, and the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program lasts for two years. After covering the principles of film processing and development as a starting point, these programs continue on to digital photography, printing, video production, and installation work.

In addition, the necessity of understanding the social, cultural, and historical context of the work that students are producing is emphasized throughout the RISD curriculum. This can be performed through acquiring the skill of “reading” images, which refers to the process of deciphering the meanings sent by diverse aesthetic decisions.

Moreover, a robust creative community can be found on campus thanks in large part to the small class numbers (about 30 undergraduates and 15 graduate students), as well as the shared workspaces.

RISD’s approach to teaching photography emphasizes the fine arts, in contrast to that of other best colleges for photography, which place a greater emphasis on learning how to make money through commercial photography and selling work.

As an additional component of the program, internships are also offered, providing participants the opportunity to make connections with companies who may one day become future employers while simultaneously earning elective credits.

Parsons School of Design

A highly regarded art and design institution, the Parsons School of Design can be found in the heart of New York City, widely regarded as one of the finest places in the world for creative types to make their homes.

Students at Parsons have the opportunity to participate in industry partnerships and study abroad because of the school’s integrative educational approach.

Your studies, which include conducting field research all throughout New York City, take place against the backdrop of the cultural epicenter that is New York City.

View of Parsons building

Internships also offer a unique opportunity to gain practical experience working with organizations such as charities, government agencies, and private companies.

In their photography school, you will be taught everything from conceptualization to the practical application of how to manage a successful photography business.

New York Institute of Photography

The New York Institute of Photography is a photography school that does not provide degree programs; nonetheless, students of this school will benefit from online courses that are unique to the photography business, as well as certified certificate programs.

Because NYIP is dedicated to assisting budding photographers, it offers a wide variety of courses that are reasonably priced to accommodate students with varying financial means. Because the classes are entirely offered online and at the student’s own speed, the program can be finished at any time within the 18-month period.

Female student holding a camera.

In addition, the New York Institute of Photography places a strong emphasis on offering instruction that will not only instruct you in photography but also educate you on how to earn a living as a photographer once you have finished your degree.

This school of digital photography offers classes in a wide variety of photographic specialties, including graphic design, reportage, and wedding photography.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), the photography school offers a comprehensive education that covers not just the history of photography but also the examination and discussion of modern influences.

Students will receive instruction from working photographers on a wide variety of photographic techniques and subject matters, and they will also participate in group projects with other students.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago statue placed next to a building.

The program begins with the fundamentals of photography and conceptual thinking and progresses to more advanced workshops that involve self-directed projects and private consultations with the instructors.

The Master of Fine Arts degree is more intellectually demanding than the Bachelor of Fine Arts program since it requires students to engage in critical writing and give two public talks on their own work.

Columbia College Chicago

Students at the photography school at Columbia College Chicago have the option of completing a general degree, as well as specializations in fashion photography, commercial photography, or fine art photography; alternatively, they can choose to pursue a general education.

Students of fashion photography will acquire skills in lighting, styling, hair and makeup application, and digital retouching, in addition to learning how to work with models and clients.

In addition, Columbia College Chicago helps students find internships with local fashion designers and merchandisers so that they can gain practical experience in the field.

View of Columbia College Chicago building.

The session will start off with a brief introduction to the history and various practices of photography. You will be required to create a final show that will be displayed at Columbia’s urban arts festival during your senior year of fashion photography school.

There are also classes that can help you establish your portfolio and other skills that are important for photographers, and there are also faculty and industry connections that can help you get your career off the ground.

Kent State University

The Kent State University campus can be found in Kent, Ohio, and the institution’s educational mission is to offer a curriculum that strikes a healthy balance between traditional liberal arts studies and practical training in digital photography.

The curriculum views photography as a business venture and guides students through the process of constructing their own professional photography practices through the use of hands-on learning opportunities.

Kent State University entrance gate.

Students achieve a comprehensive comprehension of the relationship that exists between communication, information, and technology via the completion of work that is both interdisciplinary and collaborative in nature.

In addition to a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography, Kent State University, which is widely regarded as one of the leading institutions in the United States for photojournalism, also offers a Minor in Photojournalism.

Ryerson University School of Image Arts

The school of film and digital photography at Ryerson University is the oldest of its kind in all of Canada. They have a number of different classes available, including a diploma program, a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, and short-term courses, and they are located in the heart of downtown Toronto.

View of a professional camera placed in a table.

Ryerson addresses the education of photography from both fine art and a business viewpoint, emphasizing internship possibilities at renowned art galleries as well as international exchange programs.

Moreover, the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree prepares students for careers in areas as diverse as advertising, sports photography, and the fine arts.

Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD)

One of the best colleges for photography may be found at OCAD University, which is distinguished by the fact that it is one of the few educational institutions in Canada to have both a color and a black-and-white darkroom.

Their Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography program takes more of a focus on the fine art side of photography rather than the business side.

Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD) building

Students will benefit from a comprehensive course of study throughout the first year of their education. This course will provide them with the opportunity to take lessons in art history, color principles, and drawing, as well as elective possibilities in sculpture, animation, and a great deal more.

On the other hand, the final three years of the program are dedicated to studying a wide range of photographic techniques, in addition to the history of the medium and the conceptualization of photographic work.

Vancouver Institute of Media Arts

In the Van Arts’ intense one-year professional photography program, students get the opportunity to learn everything there is to know about photography as well as business skills.

Because the classes are all taught by professional photographers who are also actively working in the industry, you will get knowledge on photography business practices that are applicable in the real world.

Unidentified person setting his camera on a table.

The program lasts for a full year and is divided into four terms, the first of which focuses on photography foundations. By the time you reach the end of your last term, the primary emphasis will have shifted to intensive training in business topics such as marketing tactics, social media, and the completion of your photography portfolio.

After that, you’ll wrap out the year with a portfolio review conducted by prominent figures in your field. A fully-loaded MacBook Pro is included as part of the purchase price of the course materials.

Royal College of Art

A highly regarded school for photography, the Royal College of Art can be found in London, England, and it offers master’s degree programs.

The photography program at this institution lasts for two years and emphasizes both artistic growth and analytical thinking throughout its curriculum. Personal tutors begin working with kids as early as the first year of school.

In the first year of the program, students spend most of their time working independently in their studios; however, they also participate in a wide range of workshops, tutorials, lectures, seminars, and group critiques.

Royal College of Art building.

In order to move on to the second year, you will need to pass a test. In the second year of the program, you are responsible for producing a body of work under your own direction, which is then reviewed throughout the year. After that, the work of the students will be displayed in the culminating show of the school.

Paris College of Art

The Parsons School of Design, in conjunction with the American University in Paris, was the primary driving force behind the establishment of the Paris College of Art.

PCA, on the other hand, became an independent degree-granting institution in 2010 and severed its ties with Parsons.

This photography school takes its creative cues not only from the rich history of art and design in Europe but also from its location in Paris.

Students can get a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography by completing coursework that emphasizes both the technical aspects of working with their hands and the creative potential of their images. In point of fact, multidisciplinary studies are strongly encouraged, which is one of the many reasons why PCA is such an excellent school for fashion photography.

Photography materials placed next to a laptop.

Moreover, as a student enrolled in this program, you will have the opportunity to select whether you would like to immediately major in photography or take part in a more general foundation year program. In either case, the completion of the curriculum will take place over the course of four years.


Spéos is not a degree-granting institution like some of the other photography universities on this list. On the other hand, once they have completed the program, students are eligible to acquire certificates from France’s National Commission for Professional Certification.

There are opportunities to finish a program in as short as five months, and classes are provided in both English and French.

Students have the option of enrolling in a comprehensive professional photography program or concentrating their education in a particular subfield of the field.

Photography materials placed next to a table.

The intensive and specialized curriculum provides concentrations in both fashion photography and sports photography, in addition to reportage.

Barcelona School of Design and Engineering

This photography college in Barcelona, Spain is also known as ELISAVA, and it offers a master’s degree program in photography and design that is awarded by Pompeu Fabra University.

Throughout the entirety of their education, students will have access to the knowledge and experience of experienced photographers who will serve as guest lecturers and technical consultants.

A person looking through a camera.

The ELISAVA curriculum places a strong emphasis on invention and experimentation, and students are strongly encouraged to participate in the community of over 17,000 students that hail from a variety of countries and regions.

Accademia Italiana

Florence and Rome are the two locations of the Accademia Italiana, which is a school that teaches fashion, design, and photography.

At the end of their time at Accademia, students are prepared for successful careers in the professional world by receiving training in both the classroom and in the student’s chosen field.

Because this is an international school, the student body and faculty come from all over the world, which fosters conversation and interaction across cultural boundaries. The professors at the photography school are all working photographers who, in addition to passing on their knowledge to students, continue to pursue their own artistic or commercial endeavors.

A studio with a camera.

The programs can range from a Bachelor’s degree that takes three years to complete to a professional certificate that can be completed in one year. The fact that Accademia offers courses in both fashion and photography makes it a good choice for those interested in attending a school that specializes in fashion photography.

Koln International School of Design (KISD)

The Koln International School of Design, also known as KISD, has the singular objective of educating its students in both the theoretical and applied aspects of design. The fact that around forty percent of KISD’s student body is comprised of students from other countries is one of the factors that lend credence to the importance that the school places on intercultural collaboration.

Young man holding a camera.

Although the school has a significant emphasis on industrial design, there are many different photography classes available for students to choose from.

Vevey Vocational Education Center

The Vevey Vocational Education Center, also known as CEPV, is an institution of higher education in Switzerland that is divided into three distinct faculties. Students have the option of enrolling in one of three programs: the school of professional maturity, the applied arts full-time program, or the vocational school apprentice program.

Photography material placed on a table.

You can receive training to become a professional photographer at the school of applied arts, and then you can continue your education to become a graduate designer in visual communication with a specialization in photography.

This photography school curriculum requires a student to complete an internship and can be finished in two, three, or four years.

Gerrit Rietveld Academie

Students at the Rietveld Academie start their education with a first-year curriculum that is more general in nature before moving on to concentrate on their chosen major.

Gerrit Rietveld Academie building during winter.

In addition to photography, the school provides education in a variety of related fields, including ceramics, jewelry, moving images, and more.

Because of the Rietveld Academies’s strong fashion program, this establishment has the potential to be an excellent institution for fashion photography as well.

Photography Studies College

The Photography Studies College can be found in the Southbank neighborhood of Melbourne, which is located in the state of Victoria in Australia.

Not only do they provide a four-year program leading to a bachelor’s degree in photography that can be finished in only two and a half years, but they also provide the option of taking classes online or part-time.

View of students in Photography Studies College

Throughout their stay at PSC, students have the opportunity to connect with industry leaders by participating in mentorship programs.

While the first year of the curriculum focuses on teaching students fundamental concepts and techniques, the last year gives students the opportunity to concentrate on either art photography, photojournalism, or commercial photography.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in photojournalism, PSC is one of the greatest photojournalism schools in the world because of its emphasis on providing students with a comprehensive education that explores a variety of career paths.

Tokyo Zokei University

The definition of the Japanese word zokei encapsulates the guiding principle behind the educational system at Tokyo Zokei University. This word places an emphasis not just on the concept that art and design are inextricably linked to one another, but also on the notion that all forms of expression are components of social performance.

Top view of a woman looking at her pictures.

The Zokei School of Art and Design offers a degree in photography that delves into both documentary and creative photography. Additionally, the curriculum encourages students to investigate the function that photography plays in modern society.

National Institute of Design

In the city of Gandhinagar in India, you’ll find the National Institute of Design, which specializes in photography education.

Students in the Master of Design program have the opportunity to select from among 19 different fields of study, some of which include photography, design, film and video communication, and a range of other new media concentrations.

The National Institute of Design focuses on how photography is changing as a result of advances in technology and encourages multidisciplinary approaches.

View of National Institute of Design entrance gate

The National Institute of Design (NID) not only offers foreign exchange programs in the United Kingdom (UK), Germany (Germany), Bangladesh (Bangladesh), Japan (Japan), and Canada, but it also provides a context for photography throughout history, from the present to the future.

Sir J. J. Institute of Applied Art

The Sir J. J. Institute of Applied Art, also known as the JJIAA, was established in Mumbai, India, in 1935, and it was granted independent status in 1961.

Digital photography placed on a laptop.

Both a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Applied Arts and a Master of Fine Arts degree in the same field are currently available to students at this educational institution. The Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is more of a broad arts degree, while the Master of Fine Arts degree gives students the opportunity to choose their field of study from a variety of options including illustration, typography, photography, computer graphics, and exhibition studies.

How to choose the best college for photography?

Now that we go over the pool of the best colleges for photography, what do we do next? We choose!  You should begin to narrow down your search now that you have a general notion of the best colleges for photography.

However, how can you determine which school is the best fit for you? Should you send your application to the school that appears first on our list and then work your way down from there? Or would it be more beneficial to learn more about each school first, and then select the one that best meets your needs?

It’s possible that different people will have different answers to this question, but one thing is for certain: if you want to find a photography school that will meet all of your requirements and assists you in achieving your objectives, there’s no substitute for conducting the necessary study. Although the photography school rankings that we provide are a good beginning to begin your search, the ultimate choice lies in your hands.

When looking for the best program for photography, some of the most significant considerations to make or include are the following:

Academic Reputation

When searching for a school that will put you on the proper path and offers you knowledge and experience that can be applied in the real world, it is crucial to locate a photography program that has a well-established reputation in the field.

The academic prestige of a school is determined by a variety of criteria, some of which are the college acceptance rate, the average grade point average of its students, the past success of a school’s alumni, and reviews written by current and former students.

Quality of Faculty and Facilities

One of the methods that is one of the most direct ways to judge the quality of a photography program is to consider the quality and number of notable faculty members at the school, in addition to the quality of the facilities.

Photography schools need to build a solid reputation for excellence in order to attract top-level faculty and staff. However, offering an environment that is conducive to helping students achieve their individual potential is even more important for photography schools to do in order to attract top-level faculty and staff.

Long-Term Graduate Success

The long-term success of a school’s graduates – that is, how well-equipped students are for life after graduation – is perhaps more important than the short-term success of a school, which may be assessed by the average GPA of its students and the data about the entrance requirements.

The degree to which a program is successful in preparing students for the real world can be evaluated in part by seeing the careers chosen by graduates of the program after they have completed it. This can be a challenging aspect to quantify, but it is possible to do so.

Is it typical, for instance, for graduates to obtain jobs in the industry that they desire to work in the following graduation? When they graduate from the school, would they be able to command a salary that is comparable to others in the same field? Do the majority of graduates of the program go on to have success pursuing their own professional choices, or do they quickly fall into a pattern of performing unskilled labor after they leave the program? W

When deciding which photography program will best prepare you for your future, you need to ask yourself all of these key questions.

Cost and Affordability

When selecting among the best colleges for photography, your financial situation is one of the most significant elements to consider. You’ll want to make sure that you’re receiving the most value for your money, which involves calculating the entire cost of attendance and contrasting it to the amount of money you could potentially make in the field.

When it comes to assisting you in accomplishing your long-term objectives, a high-quality program that is priced outside of your financial means is probably not going to be worth your time.

It is vital to keep in mind that the published cost of attendance at the school is only the beginning; it does not take into account additional expenses such as housing, food, transportation, books, and supplies. Be careful to include all of these supplemental costs in your analysis of the total cost of attendance at each institution so that you can make an informed decision.

Inclusive and Welcoming Environment

The best colleges for photography are not only well-equipped, but they also have a history of cultivating a culture in which they are known for inviting students from all walks of life and fields of study.

Those photography schools that are the most successful treat underrepresented groups with respect and incorporate people from all walks of life into their student bodies.


When selecting a school for a photography program, the location of the institution is an essential component to take into consideration. You will want to think about everything, from the student housing alternatives in the neighborhood to the culture of the city.

Is the place that you have your sights set on going to a school known for its strong presence in the photography industry? During the course of their fieldwork, do students in the program generally collaborate with any of the local businesses, organizations, or galleries?

The greatest programs for photography are those that provide students with a wide variety of different learning chances and experiences. Participating in a photography program in a place that has a culture that supports and encourages photography to thrive can be a very rewarding experience.

The most important step that many photographers need to take in order to transform their aesthetic passion into a marketable ability and disciplined craft is to obtain a photography degree from an accredited institution.

When a student of photography begins their official photographic instruction, they will rapidly find the controlled learning environment that so many artists require in order to advance to the next level in their profession.

They will also discover a social atmosphere where they can form relationships with people who share a passion for artistic endeavors comparable to their own that will last a lifetime.

In addition, by the time students graduate, they will have earned the kinds of qualifications that can lead to a multitude of different job paths in photography. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that a significant number of the world’s most accomplished photographers have received official training at one or more photography schools.

Get moving on the application process as soon as possible now that you have been motivated to think about all of the best colleges for photography that you may attend. Always keep in mind the importance of carefully curating your portfolio, as this will ensure that prospective schools only see the very best of what you are capable of.

Should you need any help, AdmissionSight got you covered! We have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process to get accepted to the top universities in the world. Feel free to set up an appointment today to book your initial consultation.



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