Career Education in Digital Photography Proves Vital for Occupational Success

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Harrington College of Design in downtown Chicago offers students a unique new program for digital photo careers.

According to the US Department of Labor Statistics, significant competition for photography jobs is expected, as the work is very attractive to new career-seekers. Although a “good eye,” imagination, and creativity are essential, technical expertise is vital to succeed in this burgeoning career. Harrington College (, located in the heart of downtown Chicago, has a unique program created specifically to prepare students for a variety of employment opportunities within the innovative photography industry.

Harrington has Chicago’s only digital photography program, which is under the direction of Dirk Fletcher, a Brooks Institute of Photography graduate and accomplished photographer. Harrington developed the program in partnership with Brooks, a world leader in professional photographic education, delivering training in the center of one of the world’s best photography markets — and most inspired cities. Students can hone the artistic basics of light, texture, color, focus and depth of field, and also work with increasingly sophisticated equipment and image-manipulating software, including computer software, printing technology, and industry current digital cameras.

The program, created for professionals by professionals, is concentrated and comprehensive. It covers the digital essentials as well as the business end of photography.

Derek Johnson, a graduate of Harrington, found the school to be helpful in his transition from career education to a profession in photography. "Instructors here are still immersed in the profession. They can tell me what I need to make it outside the classroom. That's what matters,” he said.

More than half of all photographers are self-employed; the most successful are able to adapt to rapidly changing technologies and are adept at operating a business, which are taught at career education schools. Photographers held about 130,000 jobs in 2002. The self-employed photographers are a much higher proportion than the average for all occupations. Some have contracts with advertising agencies, magazines, or others to do individual projects at a predetermined fee, while others operate portrait studios or provide photographs to stock photo agencies.

Though there are no formal educational or licensing requirements for photographers, earning a college degree in photography can be very helpful. Some employers, like news or advertising agencies, may even require a four-year degree, and university and art school students often have an easier time finding internships.

Harrington College of Design offers an Associate of Applied Science degree, working with the modern digital commercial equipment and learning directly from professionals.

Students start with a broad overview of basic photography principles and techniques that enable them to compose distinctive and technically proficient photographs. Plus, they explore how to create, enhance, and modify digital images with the use of computer software and printing technology. As an added bonus to the Digital Photography program at Harrington College of Design, portraiture, photojournalism, and commercial photography are included in the program to help students cultivate and nurture their own artistic style.

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Wendy Franczyk
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