20 best professional photography schools in the world

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20 best professional photography schools in the world

20 best professional photography schools in the world

The photo industry has changed significantly in the last ten years, and according to recent surveys, so have photography schools. From offering video and film production training to increasing their online presence through blogs and websites, photography institutions are finding new ways to connect with students and push the industry forward.

Plus, while many art and photography schools have been going strong for the larger part of a century, the last several decades have brought with it an array of new, game-changing opportunities for emerging artists and photojournalists, making the 2020s a particularly exciting time to study photography.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of just 20 schools and workshops that continue to shape the industry around the globe, from celebrated institutions boasting thousands of students to competitive programs admitting just a few students every year. There’s something in here for everyone, from the aspiring editorial/commercial photographer to documentary photographers with their sights set on inspiring social change.

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Yale University

Yale School of Art in New Haven, Connecticut, admits ten students each year to their world-renowned two-year MFA photography program. With top-of-the-line darkroom, studio, and computer facilities, Yale students work individually and collaboratively while learning from an extraordinary roster of visiting artists and faculty members, including Gregory Crewdson, Laurie Simmons, Collier Schorr, Lesley Martin, and many more.

International Center of Photography

Founded in 1974 by Cornell Capa, ICP in New York City offers a range of programs, from one year programs in photojournalism and new media narratives to master’s degree programs, as well as part-time programs, workshops, longer courses, and exhibitions. They have over 4,000 students of all levels and an impressive range of community partnerships.

School of Visual Arts

In addition to their BFA program, this New York City school offers a full-time, two- or three-year MFA program in photo and video, led by Charles Traub. They cover just about everything, from emerging tech to the business side of photography, and students can customize their experiences by taking advantage of some incredible electives. The faculty includes Elinor Carucci, Michael Foley, Lucas Blalock, Greg Gorman, Andrew Moore, and many more.

Parsons School of Design

Parsons also has a BFA and MFA program for photographers, with stellar internship opportunities within the New York City photo community, including galleries, publishers, and more. Past speakers include the likes of Wolfgang Tillmans and Renee Cox, with guest artists like Elinor Carucci, Charlotte Cotton, Louise Lawler, and more. Photography students often work alongside those exploring other disciplines, from fine art to design to technology.

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The Eddie Adams Workshop

Now in its 33rd year, this four-day, tuition-free photojournalism seminar welcomes 100 participants every year to upstate New York. Photographers are selected on merit alone and work alongside leading voices in the industry, including photojournalists and editors, for a range of assignments, discussions, and presentations. Alumni include Ami Vitale, Matt Black, Carolyn Drake, Preston Gannaway, among dozens more.

Rochester Institute of Technology

The School of Photographic Arts and Sciences at RIT offers undergraduate and graduate programs in fine art, advertising, photojournalism, biomedical photography, and more. Their professional, two-year MFA program occupies the number four spot in U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of graduate photography programs, and ten of their photography alumni have won a combined 14 Pulitzer Prizes.

Rhode Island School of Design

RISD offers a four-year BFA and a two-year MFA program in photography, covering the fundamentals of darkroom printing as well as digital, video, and installation. RISD alumni have gone on to accept roles within almost every facet of the industry, from editorial and commercial photography to education and fine art. The graduate program is directed by the preeminent photographer and writer Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa.

Maine Media Workshops + College

MMW+C in Rockport, Maine, offers MFA and Professional Certificate programs as well as year-round workshops for lens-based artists. One of the longest-running workshop programs in the country, leading photographers ranging from Mary Ellen Mark to Arnold Newman to Ernst Haas have all taught at Maine Media, while the current faculty reads like a veritable who’s who in the photo world, including Nancy Borowick, Matt Eich, Cig Harvey, Ron Haviv, Peter Turnley, and many, many more.

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School of the Art Institute of Chicago

The Department of Photography at SAIC has undergraduate and graduate programs in photography, with their MFA program currently ranked number two in photography by U.S. News and World Report. Their state-of-the-art facilities foster learning in traditional and experimental practices, while MFA students receive guaranteed teaching assistantships and can work closely with visiting artists, critics, and curators.

Ryerson University School of Image Arts

Ryerson University in Toronto offers a BFA program in photography, with a focus on 21st-century practices, including video, design, and emerging tech. They cover analog and digital formats as well as CGI and moving images, spanning documentary and creative genres, and their state-of-the-art facilities allow for hands-on learning experiences in addition to theoretical and historical coursework. Beyond the BFA program, Ryerson also offers graduate studies programs in documentary media, film and photo preservation, and more.

Royal College of Art

The two-year photography MA program at RCA in London is headed by the renowned Swiss photographer Olivier Richon, with preeminent faculty members like Rut Blees Luxemburg, Peter Kennard, and more. The program culminates in a graduate show seen by some of the leading voices in the photo industry, and alumni include Anne Hardy, Joanna Piotrowska, Mustafa Hulusi, and Idris Khan, among others.

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Gerrit Rietveld Academy

The faculty at the photography department at Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam includes the photographers Paul Kooiker, Charlotte Dumas, Johannes Schwartz, Erik van der Weijde, and many more prominent names in art, design, and cultural theory. They incorporate courses in technical skills, visual research, art history, image manipulation, philosophy, and more, while providing partnerships with galleries, festivals, and museums to foster an autonomous artistic practice within students and alumni.

The École cantonale d’art de Lausanne

ECAL in Lausanne, Switzerland, has a bachelor’s and a two-year master’s degree program in photography, headed by Milo Keller. The master’s program focuses on contemporary photography, including digital, web, new media, interactive exhibition design, moving images, and more. Students can enjoy ECAL’s workshops, labs, studios, a stunning print shop, and more, while taking advantage of the school’s collaborations and partnerships with leading figures in the worlds of fine art as well as commissioned photography.

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Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie

Founded in 1982 in Arles, the birthplace of Les Rencontres d’Arles, ENSP is the only art school in France dedicated exclusively to photography. With a focus on theoretical as well as technical knowledge, it’s trained hundreds of rising stars in the industry, while maintaining partnerships with other leading photography schools, including ICP. Since 2019, the preeminent art critic and curator Marta Gili has served as the director of ENSP.

International Summer School of Photography

ISSP in Latvia is an annual, nine-day immersive educational event for photographers; each year, they announce a theme and select a limited number of photographers to take part in a series of workshops, lectures, discussions, masterclasses, portfolio reviews, and more with some of the photo industry’s leading voices—representing over 30 countries around the world. In the past, they’ve partnered with Alessandra Sanguinetti, Roger Ballen, Jason Fulford, Takashi Homma, Todd Hido, and many others.

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The Rodchenko Art School

Founded in 2006, the Rodchenko Art School in Russia is part of the Multimedia Centre of Actual Arts. They offer a three-year program based on other preeminent schools, including ICP and ENSP—where they have had short-term collaborations and residence programs—while also drawing inspiration from the Russian Avant-garde Art and Technical schools. Students can specialize in documentary, art photography, video art, new media art, and more. They accept about 40 new students per year.

Tokyo Zokei University

The photography major within the design department at Tokyo Zokei University covers the medium as both an art and design discipline, exploring the present and future of its relationship with social issues and contemporary culture. They offer courses in documentary photography and creative photography, while examining the ever-shifting role of photography in modern society. Professors include Katsuhito Nakazato, Ken Kitano, Ryudai Takano, and more.

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Sir J. J. Institute of Applied Art

JJIAA in the heart of Mumbai offers undergraduate, postgraduate, and apprentice training courses in subjects like illustration, computer graphics, typography, exhibition design, and, of course, photography—to mention just a few. Many alumni have gone on to forge influential careers in advertising, filmmaking, publishing, and the fine arts.

Market Photo Workshop

Founded in 1989 by the South African photographer David Goldblatt and currently headed by Lekgetho Makola, this school, gallery, and project space in Newtown, Johannesburg, fosters conceptual and technical skills while also encouraging critical thinking and a deeper understanding of photography’s role in contemporary culture.

Students also learn entrepreneurial skills they need to build successful careers after their time at the Workshop, and the projects division organizes internship, fellowship, and mentorship opportunities for students. Alumni include some of the leading voices in South African photography today.

Foundry Photojournalism Workshop

Foundry is a weeklong workshop comprising classes, presentations, and more from leading photojournalists, organized by VII Academy in partnership with PhotoWings. Past instructors include Ron Haviv, Maggie Steber, Ashley Gilbertson, Natalie Keyssar, and many more. The workshop is held in a different place each year, with past editions in Mexico City, Manali, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Chiang Mai, Sarajevo, Antigua, Bali, Cape Town, Kolkata, and Kigali.

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