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What Education is Needed to Become a Commercial Photographer?

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 1/28/2011

Here is a look at the type of education you are going to need in order to become a commercial photographer.

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    How to Become a Commercial Photographer

    For those who are trying to figure out how to become a commercial photographer, they will find out that this is one of the most difficult fields to create a career in. The need for commercial photography is fairly common, but making a name for yourself and finding consistent work in this field requires experience, reputation, and even education. The exact education needed to become a commercial photographer is not always fixed, yet in most cases people are going to need to have some form of education to get them to the place they need to be.

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    Get a Degree

    The reality is that having at least a Bachelor's Degree is a requirement in most fields, and it is usually asked for if you want to end up as a consistent staff member. You will not always need this to become a commercial photographer who is working as a freelancer, but without it you are going to end up taking risks and may have trouble progressing. This degree, however, is not going to give you any guarantees about jobs because this will be based almost entirely on your skillset, experience, and portfolio. Though a degree may be a requirement that is set for you, it is only going to act as a base requirement and will still require you to prove your own abilities. Beyond this, you are really going to want to have this under your belt for other types of job security and in the current economic climate this is going to weed you out from other candidates.

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    When in School

    Beyond simply having the paper to indicate that you hold a degree, the education needed to become a commercial photographer is going to be the education that gets you the skills and portfolio necessary. Here you want to choose a school and program that is going to allow you to develop those skills on as many photography projects that you possibly can, build a portfolio, work on professional skills for your field, and even bridge you to the professional world. This is not as common as it may sound in photography education, so you will want to find the college that is going to give you the things you need.

    Part of selecting the right school is going to be determining the type of commercial photography you want to go into. If you are looking to become a photojournalist you will need to find a program that unites a good journalism education with photographic arts. If you want to focus on fine art photography then art schools may be a better choice. No matter what, they should be focused on working with all of the tools available and doing the largest amount of work available, all with a focus on producing work that is shown and critiqued.

    The programs should have a clear technical focus, ranging from teaching you how to work with film and cameras as well as photo editing programs like Adobe Photoshop. When you leave your school you should have a very clear idea of how to work with the current industry technology and knowing software is a must.

    Beyond this, the education needed to become a commercial photographer needs to have experience at its center. Some schools will not require photography internships, but without some good photography internships under your belt it will be hard to transition into the professional world. Try to find photography internships that are going to meet your own professional goals, and you may want to start freelancing while you are still in college.