For a lot of photographers, going to school for photography is the crucial turning point that makes their aesthetic passion become a marketable ability and disciplined profession.
A photography student will rapidly discover the organized learning environment that so many artists require to advance their profession when they enroll in official photographic training. Additionally, they’ll discover a social setting where they can establish enduring bonds with people who share their enthusiasm for related artistic endeavors.
Additionally, students will graduate with the kind of qualifications that make a variety of photographic employment possible. The fact that so many of the top photographers in the world have formal education from photography institutions is therefore not surprising.
Photography school was a crucial stepping stone for so many of photography’s best, including Richard Avedon, who created renowned portraits of James Baldwin, Andy Warhol, Toni Morrison, and more, Pink Floyd’s photographer and videographer Storm Thorgerson, and Francesca Woodman, one of the most revered photographers of all time.
In actuality, all three of the photographers previously mentioned are former students of the universities on this list.
For photographers who wish to take that crucial step that so many photographers have taken before them—the one towards becoming a master in their craft—this article will analyze The 10 Best Photography Schools in the World
This list’s organization will also give students useful information as they choose which of these outstanding institutions would be the greatest fit for them.
The 10 Best Photography Schools in the World
Table of Contents
Spéos International Photography School (Paris, FR)
The Spéos International Photography School, one of the top 5 photography schools in the world according to more than 15 organizations, has 18 studios in Paris and 3 in London.
It gives students the option to pursue degrees lasting one year, two years, three years, or five months in a number of photography specialties.
Alumni frequently take home top honors in competitions for photography, as seen in the 2021 Grand Prix du Photoreportage Étudiant and the inclusion of two Spéos grads in the list of the “30 under 30 women photographers.”
This alumni achievement comes as no surprise because Spéos graduates have access to a one-of-a-kind program that aims to provide lifetime access to Spéos galleries and professional coaching. The Nicéphore Niépce House, where Spéos students have exclusive access, is home to the first photograph in history. Spéos is also the curator of this location.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
The national arts journalism program at Columbia University selected the following photography school the “most influential art school” in the United States.
As evidenced by recent CNN coverage of SAIC photography instructors, the photography program at SAIC is no less significant. Two recent SIAC community winners of the coveted Creator Labs Photo Fund awards, a prize established by Aperture and Google, are also mentioned.
Students have access to a photography facility that includes a 2,000 square foot photography workstation as well as individual graduate studios with separate critiquing areas and everything a budding photographer could want.
Additionally, SAIC provides instructional workshops where experienced, professional artists give students practical training in a range of specialized art-production abilities. These workshops also feature guest lectures from visiting artists. Last but not least, SAIC was named as the third-best photography school in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.
Ryerson University (Toronto, ON)
Most people agree that Ryerson University is the most esteemed post-secondary photography school in Canada.
Students who study photography at the Ryerson School of Image Arts receive instruction from accomplished photographers who emphasize hands-on learning.
In addition to Ryerson’s longstanding reputation for offering top-notch instruction in conventional photographic techniques, the university is also home to a renowned “integrated digital” program, which all photography students can opt to enroll in during their third year.
This curriculum focuses on digital media such as web design, motion graphics, multi-channel video, creative coding, mobile app development, and more that is neither quite photography nor quite film.
Additionally, Ryerson is home to the Ryerson Image Centre, which is in charge of maintaining the famed Black Star Collection. This collection consists of about 300,000 photographs taken by the Black Star Publishing Company, which was established in the 1930s by German immigrants.
Ringling College of Art & Design (Sarasota, FL)
The Department of Photography and Imaging is a division of the Ringling College of Art and Design, a highly esteemed institution that consistently ranks among the top 20, and frequently among the top 5, for the caliber of its opportunities in a range of artistic disciplines.
This is also true of the Department of Photography. The photography students at Ringling get guest lectures and workshops from an amazing roster of visiting artists, including recent artists like Platon, John Paul Caponigro, Emmet Gowin, and others.
In addition, Ringling offers a special opportunity to study at the International Center of Photography, the foremost center for photographic research in the world, which is only open to students of two other universities in addition to Ringling.
Ringling University students compete each year for the opportunity to enroll in the ICP’s Creative Practices Program for a full year.
California Institute of the Arts (Valencia, CA)
The legacy of interdisciplinary collaboration at CalArts dates back to when Walt Disney, a former employee, decided to enlist the help of the whole CalArts community, including animators, dancers, composers, and artists, to work on what would one day become the movie Fantasia.
This strategy is still used today, as photography students are urged to collaborate with many artists from various fields to create original work at CalArts that they will fully own the rights to.
The CalArts Center for Life and Work, which collaborates with several employers, internship providers, and networks to ensure that its students may convert their artistic passions into sustaining jobs, is available to CalArts students and alumni.
Paris College of Art (Paris, FR)
Paris College of Art offers a BFA in photography at the undergraduate level, but if a student enrolls in an MFA, they have the choice of an MFA in fashion film & photography or photography and image-making, creating a department with a strong focus on photography.
More than ten cultural organizations throughout the globe have connections with the Paris College of Art, giving students the chance to study with leading arts-research institutions. One such organization is the Les Arts Décoratifs Library, one of France’s largest picture libraries with a collection of over 400,000 images, some of which date back to the invention of photography.
The PCA not only teaches students the theoretical and technical aspects of photography, but also how photography is discussed, used, archived, and distributed. As a result, students graduate from the PCA knowing how to become world-class photographers as well as the current state of photography culture.
California College of the Arts (San Francisco, CA)
The photography program at CCA gives students the opportunity to learn from some of the most accomplished photographers in the world.
Tammy Rae Carland, Aspen Mays, the photo editor for the New York Times, and Christopher Johnson, whose photographic collections are on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, are some of these persons.
Since CCA is the nation’s top arts school in terms of return on investment for students, its reputation for excellence extends beyond only the time that students spend there to include the value that the institution offers alumni throughout their life.
Students have the option of enrolling in classes taught by the visiting artist for that year, who runs a series of workshops throughout the year, in addition to learning under famous academics using the best tools available.
Deana Lawson, Charlotte Cotton, and Esther Teichmann are some recent guests.
The New School Parsons School of Design (New York, NY)
Few institutions enjoy the same level of fame as Parson’s School of Design.
Photography students at Parsons will have the opportunity to learn from esteemed instructors including Katherine Wolkoff, a client of Samsung, Johnson & Johnson, and Kate Spade, and Arthur Ou, a contributor to the New York Times and Aperture.
Richard Avedon, a well-known photographer, graduated at Parson’s. The proportion of international students at Parsons distinguishes it from other arts colleges with comparable rankings.
The fact that about 40% of Parson’s students come from other countries ensures that the school’s student population will not only consist of the best photographers in New York or America but also from all over the world.
Royal College of Art (London, UK)
An MA in photography, a pre-master’s in art and design, and a number of DPhil programs with a focus on photography are all offered at the Royal College of Art.
The Royal College of Art fosters an environment that encourages talented artists to close the gap between the conceptual elements of art and the concrete advantages that creative activity has for society.
This is evident from the list of ongoing research projects at the college, which cover topics like the use of art to resolve disputes and the development of pain visualizations.
The £21 million Dyson Building, which houses photography classes at the Royal College of Art—Storm Thorgerson’s alma mater—was created as a “factory” of imagitivity where every feature of the building was intended to foster student creativity.
Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI)
RISD frequently ranks in the top 5 schools in the world for arts education in each artistic discipline it teaches, from design to photography to printmaking.
The renowned black and white photographer Francesca Woodman attended RISD, which has a strong reputation for brilliance.
Anytime one searches for news items about RISD photographers, they may easily find their names in publications like The New York Times, Vogue Magazine, the list of Fulbright recipients, other arts awards, and more.
Students who acquire degrees, either BFA or MFA, from RISD will leave the school with a profound understanding of the history, present culture, and art of photography because renowned photographers Diane Arbus and Aaron Siskind were past teachers as well as Deana Lawson and Todd Hido were alumni.