Photography (BFA)

As a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Photography student at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, you will engage in a comprehensive study of photography. Our degree program offers the opportunity to explore the many dimensions of photography, including content creation, fine art, immersive media, visual storytelling, editorial, fashion, commercial and documentary. The BFA in Photography also welcomes the study of photography as an interdisciplinary skill.

Joining our program will allow you to explore a full range of options, and then to select your own area of focus. You’ll use the incredible media resources and remarkable facilities at UArts to master techniques in a variety of disciplines, including contemporary digital imaging. Our photography degree is designed to help you express your unique artistic voice in multiple modalities through a combination of technical skills, critical thinking and a fine art aesthetic.

Professional Opportunities

Studying at UArts prepares you for a diverse set of careers in photography. You’ll be able to take courses in other programs across the university and minor in 20 disciplines. The Photography program is cross-disciplinary, and there are ample opportunities to collaborate with students majoring in different fields, such as Dance, Film, Fine Arts, Design, Music and Theater.

UArts facilitates the opportunity for internships, during which you can apply your knowledge and get real-world experience. Working in commercial or fine art studios, galleries and production houses in Philadelphia and beyond can help you decide on a career path that is right for you. UArts Photography students have the opportunity to exhibit work in numerous galleries and exhibition spaces, on campus and beyond. Such opportunities provide professional experiences and introduce your work to an audience that includes peers, faculty and the greater Philadelphia arts community.

Studying in the City

Living and working in the heart of Philadelphia, you’ll get to know local art organizations, museums, theaters, venues and much more. Our accomplished faculty utilize industry connections to offer networking opportunities and behind-the-scenes experiences. Our visiting artist and speaker series brings renowned photographers, curators, photo editors, industry professionals and gallery directors to UArts, providing you with the opportunity for one-on-one meetings with the most important professionals in the discipline. Beyond Philadelphia, you’ll explore New York City through program-organized visits to museums, galleries and major industry expos.

Why Hailey Jackson chose UArts


Photography BFA Thesis

Explore the work of UArts Photography graduates completing the Photography BFA Thesis

Photography thesis works

About the Curriculum

The Photography program at University of the Arts is designed to provide professional training, balanced with contemporary fine art creativity. Cutting-edge technology is combined with critical thinking to develop artists who have the ability to adapt in a constantly changing field. A full range of media tools and technologies enable students to develop their own artistic vision and hone the skills necessary for a career in a creative industry.

Student in Media Resources inspects a camera in a case. A sign that reads "Equipment Room" is in the background.

An understanding and application of visual analysis, combined with a mastery of technique, enables the UArts Photography student to develop confidence and a unique artistic voice. Students learn to communicate their ideas visually, verbally and in writing and are therefore prepared and confident makers.

Our diverse faculty comprises active contemporary artists who are engaged in both commercial and fine art practices and bring real-world knowledge to the classroom. The yearly lecture series, gallery exhibitions and visiting artists create a rich and distinct educational experience.

At the end of our program, students will have the ability to

  • lead a successful practice as an artist, creative or entrepreneur using industry relevant skills.

  • develop a distinct and personal approach to art making.

  • analyze visual messages.

  • examine contemporary issues and historical precedents in photography.

  • experiment and innovate.

  • understand the ethics involved in the creation of photographs.

  • engage in creative problem solving.

  • communicate visually, verbally and in writing with critical insight.

  • embrace new technologies.

  • adapt to an evolving discipline.

Thesis Portfolio and Exhibition

Your senior year will be spent engaging in the production of a thesis portfolio and preparing work for a public exhibition! Developing a body of lens-based work using your creativity and your knowledge of theory and criticism! Simultaneously, you will continue your advanced study of commercial practices and develop a professional portfolio that can demonstrate your technical skills to potential employers. You’ll graduate from UArts with an independent body of photographic artwork and with a professional portfolio! No matter what direction you take post-graduation, you will be prepared!

Sample Curriculum

Duration: Four years, full time
Credits: 120

Major requirements: 69 credits
Discipline history: 9 credits
Critical Studies: 33 credits
Free electives: 9 credits

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First Year

Fall Semester: 15 credits
Photography: Fundamentals (1.5 credits)
Photo Field Trip: Welcome to Philadelphia (1.5 credits)
Image/Time (3 credits)
CHOICE: Object/Environment, Drawing: Objects & Space, or Video Production (3 credits)
Art, Design + Moving Image I (3 credits)
Writing Composition I (3 credits)

Spring Semester: 15 credits
Photographs in Sequence: The Foundation (3 credits)
Narrative (3 credits)
Color & the Lens (3 credits)
AHST 101 Art, Design + Moving Image II (3 credits)
Writing Composition II (3 credits)

During your first year in the Photography program, you’ll learn the fundamental skills of art making, photography, and critical thinking while connecting with art history and contemporary art. You’ll learn the principal techniques used in photography, including camera operation, exposure control, printing, as well as the foundation of digital technologies and lab use. You’ll use the city as a resource, and you’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with other students from the School of Art.

Second Year

Fall Semester: 15 credits
Digital Photo Workshop (3 credits)
Sophomore Projects (3 credits)
History of Photography (3 credits)
Critical Studies (3 credits)
Free elective (your choice) (3 credits)

Spring Semester: 15 credits
Influencers: Image in the Age of Social Media (3 credits)
Advanced Digital Photo Workshop (3 credits)
Photo elective (your choice) (3 credits)
Critical Studies (your choice) (6 credits)

Refining your understanding of descriptive photography and the history of the medium is key in your second year. You will develop as a creator by learning concepts and skills including cutting edge digital technology and matters pertaining to visual content creation and storytelling. Choose from an array of electives that will allow you to make photographs in numerous modalities including with drone technology! In Sophomore Projects, you’ll combine research with your studio-based practices to establish the ability to effectively communicate your artistic voice, visually, verbally, and in writing.

Third Year

Fall Semester: 15 credits
Strobe Studio Photography (3 credits)
Junior Projects/Discourse I (3 credits)
Critical Issues in Photography (3 credits)
Critical Studies (your choice) (6 credits)

Spring Semester: 15 credits
Immersive Media & The Photographer: A Collab (3 credits)
Advanced Studio Photography (3 credits)
Junior Projects/Discourse II (3 credits)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3 credits)
Free elective (your choice) (3 credits)

As you progress into your third year, you’ll further your study of advanced studio topics including strobe lighting, digital imaging, color management, tethering practices, exhibition printing, and immersive media. You will refine your understanding of photographic theory and criticism and develop your ability to write and speak about your work. You will also have a course that will teach you how to apply your photographic skills for content creation and for digital visual storytelling. Pursue specialized elective courses in a range topics including documentary/street photography, fashion and editorial photography and in 19th century processes, and more. In a course called Junior Projects Discourse, you’ll expand your individual studio practice through an interdisciplinary dialog held with majors from across the School of Art.

Fourth Year

Fall Semester: 15 credits
Senior Photography Workshop (3 credits)
Professional Practices (3 credits)
Photo elective (your choice) (3 credits)
Critical Studies (your choice) (3 credits)
Free elective (your choice) (3 credits)

Spring Semester: 15 credits
Senior Photography Workshop (3 credits)
Contemporary Issues in Photography (3 credits)
Photo elective (your choice) (3 credits)
Critical Studies (your choice) (6 credits)

As a senior, you will develop and refine multiple portfolios that you will be able to use for opportunities post-graduation. You’ll study the practice of professional photography and spend time exploring career opportunities while learning about portfolio presentation techniques, business practices, professional ethics, and photographic law. You will continue to work in advanced digital techniques and studio courses and gain practical experience through internships and other on-campus programming.

Explore the Full Curriculum

Laptop & Camera Requirements

At UArts, all incoming first-year and transfer students are required to have laptops. Students with qualifying laptops are given access to install university-licensed software for free. Students in the Photography program are required to have a portable external hard drive with at least 500MB and to purchase a Media Resource Insurance Policy. Students do not need their own cameras, and are encouraged to use the Media Resources checkout system to borrow cameras for all courses.

Learn about the recommended laptop specs for Photography students.

See a list of free university-licensed software.


The Photography degree program will put you on the path to success and achievement, putting invaluable current skills into your hands and tapping into an extended network of connections and alumni. Our alumni go on to careers in myriad photography areas and related fields and are recipients of the MacArthur Foundation Award and the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Many have exhibited and been published nationally and internationally, have become editors, art directors, publishers, gallerists and makers. Some of our alumni have gone on to complete advanced degrees like MFAs, while others have established successful businesses.

A student and faculty member work in the Photography studio.

You’ll gain professional experience and a behind-the-scenes view of the photo industry through taking the course Professional Practices and with an optional internship. While students are responsible for finding their own internship, they often utilize faculty’s connections in the industry to find opportunities.

Organizations that have hosted prior internships include

  • Allure Magazine
  • Centro Nueva Creación
  • ELLE Magazine
  • Philadelphia Daily News
  • Philadelphia Magazine
  • Philadelphia Photo Arts Center
  • The Center for Emerging Visual Artists
  • The Photo Review
  • Vox Populi Gallery
  • WXPN Radio/The Key

Career Preparation

There has never been a better time to be an employed photographer, and UArts’ Photography program will introduce you to the types of careers you may pursue post-graduation. Courses in content creation, immersive media, digital storytelling, moving imaging, drone photography and more will prepare you for myriad opportunities in new media. Courses in advanced digital imaging and studio photography will train you to begin as a commercial photographer. You will learn more through a variety of guest artists and speakers brought to campus in order to introduce you to the limitless possibilities for your future.

Common career paths for Photography graduates include

  • Content creators
  • Digital storytellers
  • Social media image directors
  • Art directors
  • Commercial photographers
  • Industrial photographers
  • Gallery managers/assistants
  • Photo editors
  • Photojournalists
  • Portrait photographers
  • Studio managers/assistants
  • Photography/art instructor
  • Directors of photography (film and video industry)
  • Creative Director
  • Photographic Retoucher
  • Post-Production Manager

Legacy Alumni

Portrait of Cathy Edelman
Cathy Edelman

BFA '85

Photography (BFA)
Widely respected leader, educator, and specialist in the field of contemporary photography; founder of Catherine Edelman Gallery and co-founder of CASE Art Fund.
David Lebe - Philadelphia Museum of Art
David Lebe

BFA '70

Photography (BFA)
Renowned photographer whose works have been exhibited nationally and internationally
Portrait of Deborah Willis BFA '75 (Photography)
Deborah Willis

BFA '75

Photography (BFA)
Celebrated photographer whose groundbreaking images and scholarship explore the representations and history of Black people, life and culture, with a particular emphasis on women
A headshot of alum Dominic Episcopo
Dominic Episcopo

BFA '89

Photography (BFA)
Internationally recognized artist and pioneer of the food and lifestyle photography movement
People & Stories
UArts’ Photography (BFA) People & Stories gallery features award-winning work, stories and experiences from students, faculty and alumni.


The Photography program has incredible facilities available for use during and outside class. The Media Resources facilities are located on the 12th and 15th floors of Terra Hall. The recently renovated spaces include three new digital imaging labs, dedicated photography classrooms with color calibrated lighting, two studio lighting classrooms and a Photography program gallery.

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Digital Imaging Lab 1
  • 14 stations
  • 14 Apple 21” iMac computers (16GB RAM, 3.1GHz processors)
  • ASUS ProArt Display PA279CV
  • 6 Epson SureColor P5000 inkjet printers
  • 14 SVII-Calibration/SVIISOFT display calibration software and hardware
  • 8 Epson V700 Flatbed/Film scanners with Silverfast Ai8 Studio scanning software
  • two 80” NEC displays
  • two X-Rite iOne Color calibration system with Profile Maker Pro software
  • two X-Rite iO automatic calibration plotter for the iOne Color calibration system
  • Color Correction viewing walls
Digital Imaging Lab 2
  • 14 stations per lab
  • 14 Apple 21” iMac computers (16GB RAM, 3.1GHz processors)
  • 14 ASUS ProArt Display PA279CV (high resolution, wide screen)
  • 6 Epson SureColor P5000 pigment inkjet printers (17” wide bed)
  • 14 SVII-Calibration/SVIISOFT display calibration software and hardware
  • two 80” NEC displays
  • two X-Rite iOne Color calibration system with Profile Maker Pro software
  • two X-Rite iO automatic calibration plotter for the iOne Color calibration system
  • 4 Color Correction viewing walls
Wide-Format Printing Suite
  • 3 Epson Stylus Pro 9900 44” wide-format inkjet printer
  • 2 Epson P9000 44” wide-format inkjet printer
  • 1 Epson Stylus Pro 7900 24” wide-format inkjet printer
  • 6 Apple Mac Studio: Apple M1 MAX
  • 6 ASUS ProArt Display PA279CV
  • 2 flat paper storage for oversized prints
Non-Silver Darkroom
  • 4 x 5” Beseler 45V-XL series enlargers with three lens turrets
  • five micron water filtration systems
  • temperature controlled sinks
  • silver recovery systems
  • UV exposure units
Photo Finishing Room
  • one Excalibur 5000 cutter
  • two mat cutters
  • four print mounting presses
  • one copy-stand
  • print laminator
Photography Classroom
  • 80” NEC display
  • 6 Color Correction viewing walls
Photography Studios
  • specially designed high-ceiling photography shooting studio
  • daylight studio with north-facing windows
  • ProPhoto Strobe kit in each lab
  • Huge array of light modifiers including softboxes, beauty dishes, snoots, reflectors and more

*Additional lighting kits available for check-out using the Media Resources Insurance Policy

  • two 16-station, air-conditioned, black-and-white darkrooms with
  • 4 x 5” Beseler 45V-XL series enlargers with three lens turrets
  • nine Aristo cold light enlarger light sources
  • two film processing labs with
  • five micron water filtration systems
  • temperature controlled sinks
  • silver recovery systems
  • DSA Senrac film dryers
  • Kreonite film drying cabinets with filtered air

Galleries and Centers

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Photography Gallery

The gallery offers a regular schedule of contemporary photography exhibitions by established and emerging photographers from around the world. Our recently expanded and renovated gallery space includes 75–100 linear feet of gallery walls, projection capabilities and dynamic tunable LED lights on the 15th floor of Terra Hall.

Learn more about the Photography Gallery.

Sol Mednick Project Space & Gallery

The only endowed gallery in Philadelphia dedicated solely to the exhibition of photography and supporting the practice of emerging practitioners, the Sol Mednick Project Space and Gallery was founded by longtime UArts professor Ray K. Metzker. The gallery, named in honor of famed photographer and UArts alum Sol Mednick, offers contemporary photography exhibitions by emerging photographers from the Philadelphia area, as well as serving as a makers and exhibition space for current students. The Sol Mednick Project Space and Gallery is located on the 15th floor of Terra Hall.

Learn more about the Sol Mednick Project Space and Gallery.

OTIS Media Resource Center

The OTIS Media Resource Center (Equipment Room) serves students, faculty and staff by lending equipment, managing facilities and providing consultation during the academic year. Staffed by two full-time supervisors, it is located on the 12th floor of Terra Hall. As a UArts student, you can sign out any equipment you may need for classes and special projects.

Center for Immersive Media

The Center for Immersive Media (CIM) is a 5,600-square-foot facility dedicated to exploring the fields of virtual and mixed reality, performance motion-capture, and human-computer interaction. As a student at UArts, you can take elective courses that utilize CIM. The space includes

A student tests out motion-capture technology with projections.
  • an optical motion-capture system for full-body performance capture and location-based VR applications;
  • a four-channel audio system, multiple video projectors and lighting, and a control station;
  • 16 Genelec speakers for a 3rd Order Ambisonic system; 
  • a 16-station computing classroom with PCs optimized for real-time graphics rendering; and
  • two large project rooms with ceiling grids for the development of installations and virtual environments. 

Learn more about CIM.

Exhibits and Artists

Each year, the Photography program at UArts illuminates and inspires students and the public through the work of exhibiting and visiting artists.

Explore more of this year’s events at UArts.

Guest Lectures

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Past Seasons

Naomeih Jovin
Dana Singer
Louie Palu
Matt Eich
Hồng- n Trương
John Carlano (Exhibition & Lecture)
Janet Delaney (Exhibition)
Matt Eich (Lecture)
Amit Elkayam (Lecture)
Stephen Foster (Lecture)
Jill Freedman (Exhibition)
Amy Giese, Sandi Haber Fifield, Christopher Russell (Exhibition and Lecture by A.Giese)
Henry Hornstein (Lecture)
George Krause ’58 (Exhibition)
Mary Magseman & Stephan Hillerbrand (Exhibition)
Nelson Morales (Exhibition & Lecture)
Zora Murff (Exhibition)
Patrick Nagatani (Screening with Lynn Estomin)
Louie Palu (Exhibition & Lecture)
Kris Sanford (Exhibition)
James Singewald (Exhibition)
Rafael Soldi (Lecture)
Shawn Theodore (Exhibition & Lecture)
Hồng- n Trương (Lecture)
Kurt Tong (Exhibition)
Stacey Tyrell (Exhibition & Lecture)
Daniella Zalcman (Lecture)
Donavon Smallwood
Haley Morris-Cafiero
Ada Trillo
German Ayala Vazquez
Marcus Branch
Elizabeth Kreitschman (aka Liz Kross)
Victor Rodriguez
Maria Dumlao
Naomieh Jovin
Dalia Amara
Giancarlo Montes Santangelo
Archive 192 / Louie Palu
Habiyb Shu-Aib
Nelson Morales
Danna Singer
Sheida Soleimani
Nicky Quamina-Woo
Hannah Price
Eric Mencher
Sasha Phyars-Burgess
Devin Allen and Jeannine A. Cook
Arielle Bobb-Willis
Kris Graves
Anthony Goicolea

Photography Program Gallery Exhibitions

The Photography program’s gallery puts on seven exhibitions each year. Exhibitions feature artists of diverse backgrounds and practices. There are three exhibitions each semester and a sophomore student exhibition over the summer. Exhibiting artists have included Sandi Haber Fifield, Nelson Morales, Zora Murff, Kris Sanford, Shawn Theodore and Stacey Tyrell.

Student Exhibitions

At the end of the spring semester, sophomores install an exhibition of their work in the Photography program gallery and juniors install a “pin-up” show in the hallway of the Photography floor. This gives students the opportunity to consider the curation of their work. The seniors exhibit in Hamilton Hall as part of their thesis work as well as in an off-campus exhibition venue of their choosing. The senior off-campus exhibition is organized solely by students, from contracting a location to curating, installing, promoting and managing.

How to Apply

UArts offers recommended priority deadlines; students who apply and submit all required materials by the priority deadline will receive first consideration for scholarship aid from UArts. Applications received after the priority deadline will be reviewed on a rolling, space-available basis.

International students requiring an F-1 visa for study in the U.S. might be subject to earlier deadlines to provide time for completion of the visa process. Contact Admissions for guidance if you are an international student who wishes to apply after the priority deadline.

Spring 2024 priority deadline: Oct. 15, 2023

Fall 2024 priority deadline: Feb. 15, 2024

We cannot accept spring 2024 applications after Jan. 8, 2024, and cannot accept fall 2024 applications after Aug. 16, 2024.

The following materials are required for your application.

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A completed application for admission

Start or resume your application. 

The application includes two required short-answer questions: What excites you about UArts? What inspires you?


A nonrefundable $60 application fee

If you qualify for a fee waiver from NACAC, CollegeBoard, UArts or another source, indicate that on your application. If the cost of the application fee is a barrier, contact Admissions to request a fee waiver code.

Official high school transcript
  • Official transcripts must be sent directly from your school by mail, email or a secure electronic document-delivery service. 

  • International transcript requirements 

  • Transfer student transcript requirements

    • High school transcripts may be waived for transfer applicants who have completed a minimum of 24 credits of college-level coursework, including a minimum of 18 academic, non-studio credits.

    • Official college transcript(s)

      • Official transcripts must be sent directly from all the colleges you have attended by mail, email or a secure electronic document-delivery service.

      • If you’ve attended college outside the U.S., you are required to have an official course-by-course evaluation of your college coursework sent to UArts. Additional guidelines for international transcripts are available.

Your portfolio

A portfolio is required for all Art, Design, Film and Writing programs. Your portfolio may be uploaded during the application process or via your applicant status portal after submission. You must confirm when your submission is complete via the linked electronic form before your portfolio can be reviewed for admission.

Learn more about portfolio requirements.

International applicants must submit proof of English proficiency
Optional letters of recommendation

Letters of recommendation from teachers or mentors are optional and may be submitted by the recommender via email to or by your high school through a secure electronic document-delivery service. 

Apply Now

Scholarships & Financial Aid

UArts recognizes the extraordinary talent of our students through a range of merit-based scholarships. All applicants are automatically considered for such scholarships—no special application is necessary.

Nearly 80 percent of UArts’ undergraduate students enrolled on a full-time basis are eligible for some type of need-based aid. Additionally, some scholarship opportunities take need-based criteria into account. All students who are U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens and are enrolled in a degree program are encouraged to apply by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

We encourage students to complete the FAFSA by March 15, if possible.

Many students and families have encountered technical challenges while trying to complete the FAFSA this year. If this is the case for you, continue to utilize the FAFSA support resources until your issue is resolved. UArts will ensure that all admitted students who file the FAFSA are eligible for the same institutional funding to support your costs.

Learn more

Learn more about scholarships and financial aid.


Frequently asked questions about the Photography BFA program. 

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What can you do with a Photography degree?

Some professional avenues upon completion of a Photography degree include working as a professional photographer, specializing in areas such as portrait, fashion, commercial, fine art or documentary photography, or photojournalism. You can also explore opportunities in photo editing, photo retouching, photojournalism, image consulting, art direction or working as a freelance photographer.

Do you need a degree to go into photography?

Though a degree is not always a strict requirement to enter the field of photography, having a formal education in photography can provide you with valuable technical skills, artistic knowledge and critical thinking abilities. The photography program at UArts will also help you build and design a strong portfolio, gain practical experience with professional contacts, and set you up with opportunities like internships and networking events.

Why is it important to study photography?
Studying photography is important for reasons beyond only career outlook. It allows you to develop technical skills, artistic vision and conceptual understanding necessary for creating compelling and impactful images. Photography also encourages you to explore visual storytelling, document moments in time, express your creativity and develop a unique photographic style. Additionally, studying photography can deepen your understanding of the history and theory of the medium, exposing you to a diverse range of perspectives and artistic practices.

About the School of Art

The School of Art at University of the Arts deeply values and celebrates creative curiosity, interdisciplinary collaboration and exploration of numerous media and practices. You will be professionally prepared for a creative practice that emphasizes critical thinking and technical skill. You can create your own education through interdisciplinary learning and mixed media, or focus on a chosen discipline. No matter your path, you’ll learn to express your personal vision and innovate your chosen artforms.

Learn more about the School of Art.

About the School of Art

Learn More

Terra Hall
211 S. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107 

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