Photography - FAQs

Not all Photography Programs are alike; What kind of photography program is offered at Grand Valley?

Grand Valley is a comprehensive regional institution dedicated to the ideals of a liberal education. Photography is offered at Grand Valley State University in the Department of Visual and Media Arts, giving students access to a wealth of creative peers and opportunities for learning. The photography program offers high-quality, student-centered, production and theory courses aimed at developing liberally educated professionals able to thoughtfully adapt and thrive in a variety of professional and creative environments.  The B.A. and B.S. degrees prepare students to engage graduate studies in fine art programs, begin careers as professional artists, work creatively in commercial advertising and portrait studios, produce compelling work as photojournalists and editorial photographers, apply their expertise in museums and galleries, or combine a knowledge of image-making with another field for a variety of interests and functions.  This dedication to the education of intelligent image-makers that is neither constrained in a vocational training program, nor a narrow studio art emphasis alone, is what makes the photography program at Grand Valley distinct and valued in the state and region. 

If I am a new student, what courses should I take?

Students in their first year of the photography program (without transfer credit in photography) are encouraged to take PHO-171 Photo I and PHO-266 History of Photography I in the first semester (Fall), and PHO-172 Photo II and ART-149 Introduction to Visual Composition in the second semester (Winter). Students are advised to meet with their faculty advisor to determine their further course of study.

What camera do I need?

The photography program at GVSU currently requires a fully manual 35mm SLR FILM camera, beginning with the Photo I course. Fully manual means the user has full control of apertures, shutter speeds, manual focusing and ISO settings. The camera can have automatic functions, as long as they can be turned off. This camera is used in Photo I and II, which are wet darkroom courses, the color photography courses, as well as several upper-level courses. We currently do not require students to have a Digital SLR camera, however, many students will purchase a digital SLR or another camera as they move through the program, depending on their educational and vocational goals. The School of Communications has several Canon DSLR cameras, medium and large format cameras, and other equipment for checkout in the equipment room. Some students find it more convenient to purchase their own camera, computer, and other equipment as they progress through the program. A laptop with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop is recommended. See the links page for suppliers.

Why does the program continue to use wet darkrooms?

Most Photography programs have agreed that learning the essential skills and theories of photography in a wet darkroom before learning the digital tools is a best practice in photography education.  All of the methods and techniques in digital photography have their origin in darkroom photography, and therefore the software used in digital photography makes sense having learned the skills in the darkroom.  Only programs that have technical or vocational training as their mission have done away with wet darkrooms in instruction.  Knowing both traditional and digital techniques expands the possibilities for meaningful expression with the medium alone or in combination with other media.

Page last modified October 28, 2019