Photography - Major Requirements

The photography program, in supporting its mission, develops liberally-educated professional image-makers and media scholars through student-centered inquiry and practice in visual communication and the history, theory, criticism, and production of photographic images using state-of-the-art methods, tools, and facilities.

Students are encouraged to explore a variety of photographic formats, including 35mm and 4x5 view camera, and to acquire experience in black-and-white, color, and digital imaging processes.

Please consult the GVSU catalog for further information and general education requirements. For more information, consult your academic advisor.

Download a handy Photography BA/BS advising guide.



3 images of floating people and candles in a surreal vein.


Working closely with a faculty advisor, students plan at least 37 semester credits directly relating to photography, plus the communications core (nine credits), and the Capstone (three credits). Students connect photography to related fields in the visual arts, performing arts, business, media and publications, and the humanities. The emphasis of the photography program is on the students’ growth as educated picture makers who not only know photography, but also know something about themselves, about the world around them, and about the culture that has shaped them. Students are expected to develop working knowledge in many areas of visual communication and are encouraged to pursue elective studies in areas that provide a broad understanding of social and cultural issues and the role of the visual communicator in contemporary society.



School of Communication Core Courses


Photography Courses

31 (minimum)

Elective courses


Program Requirements for BA or BS Degree


University General Education courses


Total Credits


School of Communication Core Courses

Students take all 3 core courses in this category:

  • COM 101 - Concepts of Communication (3 credits)
  • COM 295 - Communication Theory (3 credits)
  • COM 201 - Speech (3 credits) or COM 215 - Story Making (3 credits)

Photography Courses

Students take nine courses in this category, for a minimum of 31 credits

  • ART 149 - Introduction to Visual Composition (3 credits)
  • PHO 171 - Photography I (4 credits)
  • PHO 172 - Photography II (3 credits)
  • PHO 266 - History of Photography I (3 credits)
  • PHO 272 - Digital Photography 1 (3 credits)
  • PHO 273 - Classic 4 x 5 Photography (3 credits)
  • PHO 279 - Color Photography 1 (3 credits)
  • PHO 366 - History of Photography II (3 credits)
  • PHO 375 - Studio Photography (3 credits)
  • PHO 495 - Photography Capstone and Thesis Seminar (1 to 6 credits)

Elective Courses

Students must complete a minimum of 9 credits in this category.

  • PHO 371 - Experimental Black and White Photography (3 credits)
  • PHO 373 - Digital Photography 2 (3 credits)
  • PHO 377 - The Social Eye (4 credits) (offered in Fall of even years)
  • PHO 378 - Advanced Problems in Photography (3 credits)
  • PHO 399 - Independent Study (1 to 6 credits)
  • PHO 490 - Internship (1 to 6 credits)
  • PHO 280/380/480 Special Topics (TBA) (3 credits)

Program Requirements

Both the BA and the BS degrees require 9 (nine) credits in cognate areas

BA In Photography

The Bachelor of Arts degree in photography requires a third-semester proficiency in a foreign language of the student’s choice.

BS In Photography

The Bachelor of Science degree in photography requires the following three courses:

  • STA 215 - Introductory Applied Statistics (3 credits)
  • COM 275 - Foundations of Communication Research (3 credits)
  • COM 375 - Communication Research (3 credits)

General Education Courses

Students must refer to the General Education Handbook for information on General Education Requirements. 

The Grand Valley State University General Education Program provides a broad-based liberal education experience that fosters lifelong learning and informed citizenship. The Program prepares students for intelligent participation in public dialogues that consider the issues of humane living and responsible action in local, national, and global communities.


Suggested Freshman Sequence

The sequence below is recommended for students during their first year as a Photography Major

Fall Semester

Winter Semester

PHO 171 - Photography I

ART 149 - Introduction to Visual Composition

PHO 266 - History of Photography I

PHO 172 - Photography II


For degree requirement questions, please consult your academic advisor in the Department of Visual and Media Arts or the CLAS Advising Center.

Page last modified November 27, 2020