Make the world see itself through your eyes.


There was a time when photographs were called "memories." Really, they were called that in some languages, many of which are now extinct. If someone wanted to remember a moment, or just wanted to stand in front of something, they had to think really hard about it and hope they didn't get amnesia.

Then photography was invented, and suddenly moments in time could be captured, just as long as color wasn't important. It took a little while longer to get the hang of that. Now, we take pictures of everything, although the main subjects tend to be cats, meals, and ourselves. The ultimate achievement would be taking a selfie of ourselves eating a cat. That's also a good way not to get invited to the Shmoop Holiday Party.

Photography started its existence as a novelty, but it's difficult to imagine the world without it today. It's become a legitimate art form on its own. It's also more ubiquitous since everyone carrying around a digital camera in their phones.

Methods have changed, as well. Photography used to be a chemistry-intensive process that involved soaking a picture in different solutions to bring out a picture. Now, it's closer to computer programming. In any case, it's still all about getting pictures of cats.

Some photographers are in it for the art. Maybe they like landscapes, or they want to document the anguish of a particular group of migrating swallows. That's not the point. The point is that there are practical concerns for this line of work. Practical concerns you learn from a photography major.

Other photographers want to do the news. It's called photojournalism and it's in the same trouble that most journalism is in. Still, there's a market for good shots, and with the right one, you could govern how a turning point in history is remembered. Think of that guy in Tiananmen Square. Someone took that picture of him stopping the line of tanks with nothing but some shopping bags. That could be you. Not the guy in front of the tank, but the guy who took a picture of that guy.

Really, anything that anyone could conceivably want a picture of will probably have a market somewhere. Fashion photographers for clothes, still photographers for movies and television, publicity photographers for, well, publicity. The list goes on. The point is that it turns out people really like pictures of things and occasionally are willing to pay for them. That's where you come in.

In the modern age, it's a pretty easy fit. Camera phones have turned every man, woman, and child—and maybe even a few house pets—into amateur photographers. May as well make a living out of it.

Famous People who majored in Photography

  • Selma Blair (with English studies and psychology)
  • Maya Rudolph, actress who was on Saturday Night Live
  • Gillian Welch, singer-songwriter
  • Timmy Yip, director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Annita van Iersel, ex-wife of former prime minister of Australia

Percentage of US students who major in Photography:


Stats obtained from this source.