What is a Film and Photographic Technology Degree?

Film and photographic technologists or technicians set up and operate camera and lighting equipment and manage camera to computer transfers of data.

Coursework in the discipline includes operation of digital cameras and light meters; camera shots and angles; creating moods with lighting and color; image manipulation and retouching; editing and post-production; video and sound synchronization; and computers and software in the profession. In short, programs in film and photographic technology teach students the technical aspects of the art of visual storytelling.

Program Options

Certificate in Film and Photographic Technology – Six Month to One Year Duration
Certificate programs teach only subjects in the major. They are focused exclusively on the various aspects of the film, video, and photo technician’s job. A work experience is a component of most of these programs. With a certificate in the field, graduates qualify for most entry-level roles.

Associate Degree in Film and Photographic Technology – Two Year Duration
Associate programs typically combine courses in the major with general education classes in subjects such as English composition, math, and the social sciences. These two-year programs also provide more extensive field study and supervised learning experiences, often through internship / apprenticeship partnerships.

Despite the differences described above, film and photographic technology courses like the following are at the heart of both of these programs:

Film / Video Technology

  • The Art of Visual Story Telling – introduction to screenwriting and story structure for moving image media; characters and archetypes; creating moods with lighting, color, music, locations, tempo/pacing, etc.; camera shots, angles, and lenses; frame composition; storyboards and animatics; introduction to editing and post production using Adobe Premiere and other tools
  • Film Production – roles in TV and film; pre-production in practice; health and safety for filming; camera sensors and types of cameras; lenses and apertures; camera settings such as white balance, shutter speed, format, etc.; lighting design; sound recording skills; application of storytelling; application of digital video standards; editing basics and post production
  • Broadcast Engineering – TV studio equipment, analysis of studio systems, studio talkback set up and use, video channel, sound channel, synchronization and timing, studio camera systems, TV communications systems
  • Computer Imaging and Systems I – computer architecture including 32 bit and 64 bit, requirements of computers for professional use, the analysis and storage of image and video files, manipulation of video on a computer, C programming features
  • Sound in Film and TV – film and TV sound techniques, audio equipment, film post production processes, sound for picture mixing
  • Computer Imaging and Systems II – use and application of computing in the professional media industry; application of switchers, routers, and IT systems; applying video over IP and Ethernet
  • Film and Broadcast Technology – professional video engineering, channel coding systems for broadcasting television, format for film recording
  • Professional Projects Portfolio – post production compositing, animation, and grading software; editing on industry standard software; graphic and stills manipulation; copyright; project management; post production workflow; sound mixing delivery
  • Cinematography – cinematography, digital film cameras, practical camera operations and technology, grip equipment, fundamentals of lighting, film genres, production management, safety on location and film shoots, editing, color grading in an edit, recording formats
  • TV Studio Practice – studio lighting, studio sound mixing and sound effects, studio cameras, production talkback, scriptwriting for TV, studio layout and design, recording formats, graphics, floor managing, live studio broadcast
  • Advanced Color Science – color science as applied to video signals in the film and broadcast industries

Photographic Technology

  • Camera Function and Operation – operation of digital cameras and light meters, lens use and selection, exposure metering, introduction to lighting
  • Two Dimensional Design – composition, color perception theories, elements of visual design
  • Introduction to Photographic Lighting – on-location and in-studio techniques of photographic lighting
  • Photographic Critique – students analyze and critique photographs, with the objective of improving their own photography
  • Image Processing and Output – digital file formats, capture, importing, and processing using industry standard image processing software; copyright procedures; preparing images for presentation through digital file, web, and print
  • Advanced Photographic Lighting – photographic lighting equipment and techniques
  • Post-Processing and Retouching – manipulation and enhancement of images using industry standard image processing software and plug-ins; Photomerge, montages, restorations, and compositions
  • Digital Asset Management – accessing, organizing, and storing photographic images using digital asset management (DAM) systems
  • Photographic Essay – students capture and organize a series of photographs for the purpose of telling a story

Degrees Similar to Film and Photographic Technology

Animators are artists. Their art is producing images or ‘frames’ that when combined in sequence create an illusion of movement called ‘animation.’ Degree programs in the field teach students how to use animation software and hardware to create characters and stories for the motion picture, television, and video game industries. Typical components of the curriculum include two-dimensional and three-dimensional art and animation, storyboarding, life/human and background drawing, layout, and digital painting.

Broadcast Journalism
Students of broadcast journalism learn how to report, produce, and deliver the news for television, radio, and other broadcast media. Their studies typically include communication theory, electronic media production, mass communications law, and media and society.

Broadcast Technology
Degree programs in broadcast technology prepare students for careers in radio and television production. Topics covered include video editing, digital imaging, software use, field production, and the operation of technical equipment such as cameras, lighting tools, and sound equipment.

Communications Technology
Degree programs in communications technology teach the skills required to operate equipment and provide technical support in the communications sector. Graduates of these programs often work in the film, television, and digital media industries.

Film Production
Degree programs in film production teach every stage of film production, from conception to distribution. Coursework includes securing screenplay rights, identifying financing sources, finding locations, negotiating with film distributors, hiring casts and crews, and managing production budgets.

Photography degree programs teach the technical, creative, and business skills required to be a professional photographer. Courses cover the history of photography, black-and-white photography, color photography, lighting techniques, materials and processes, two-dimensional design, digital photography, and photography as a business.

Sound Engineering
Sound engineers, also known as audio engineers, are part technician, part artist. They are the masters of clarity and quality behind recordings and live performances. They are crucial to many fields in the entertainment, broadcasting, and live event sectors. Degree programs in sound engineering teach students the fundamentals of sound design – recording, mixing, reproducing, and manipulating the equalization and electronic effects of sound.

Skills You’ll Learn

Film and photographic technology is multidimensional. It therefore leaves its graduates with a considerable skillset:

  • Attention to detail – the work of a film and photographic technician is meticulous work
  • Communication and collaboration – film and photographic technicians need to be able to work closely with other professionals
  • Computer skills – the digital imaging and production skills that film and photographic techs need involve using various computer software
  • Creativity – although film and photographic technology is by definition a technical discipline, it is also one that calls for a creative and design sense
  • Critical thinking, problem-solving, and troubleshooting – when camera and lighting equipment malfunction, solutions need to be found
  • Manual dexterity – the work involves setting up equipment, connecting wires, and using controls to make adjustments
  • Multitasking – the work of is multifaceted
  • Self-discipline and flexibility – the work can demand long hours and willingness to push through unexpected technical challenges

What Can You Do with a Film and Photographic Technology Degree?

Most film and photographic technicians work directly in the film and photography sectors. They may work exclusively with commercial photographers, fine art photographers, portrait photographers, or wedding and special event photographers. In the commercial sector, there are opportunities in the fashion, advertising, and architecture industries.

In film production, the technical roles tend to be very specific. Here are some of the primary examples:

Director of Photography (DP or DoP) / Cinematographer
The director of photography is the head of the camera and lighting department of the film. The DP works with the film director regarding the lighting and framing of scenes.

Camera Operator
Working with film director or the director of photography, the camera operator is responsible for operating the camera to capture the scenes on film. Depending on which camera format – film or digital – is being used, the camera operator and DP roles may be combined.

First Assistant Camera (Focus Puller)
The first assistant camera (1st AC) keeps the camera in focus while it is shooting.

Second Assistant Camera (Clapper Loader)
The second assistant camera (2nd AC) operates the clapperboard at the beginning of each take and loads the raw film stock into the camera magazines between takes. The 2nd AC is also responsible for recording in the log book when the film stock is received, used, and sent to the lab for processing.

The loader transfers the film from the manufacturer’s light-tight canisters to the camera magazines for attachment to the camera by the 2nd AC. After filming, the loader removes the film from the magazines and places it back into the light-tight cans for transport to the lab.

Camera Production Assistant
The camera production assistant, also referred to as the camera PA, is a trainee positon to learn the job of the camera assistant, operator, or cinematographer.

Digital Imaging Technician (DIT)
On digital productions the digital imaging technician is responsible for the workings of the digital camera. The DIT adjusts variables of the digital camera to manipulate the resulting images.

Data Wrangler
On digital productions the data wrangler managers the transfer of data from the camera to a computer and/or hard drive.

Steadicam Operator
The steadicam operator is someone who is skilled at operating a Steadicam (trademark for a camera stabilization rig).

Motion Control Technician / Operator
The motion control tech operates a motion control rig, which is basically a ’camera robot’ able to consistently repeat camera moves to create special effects.

Video Split / Assist Operator
A video split is used by directors to watch a monitor during each take. This is captured by special recorders fitted to film cameras next to the eye piece.

Essentially, gaffers help the director pf photography shape the light. They place flags, nets, or diffusion filters on lights to control color, softness, and intensity.

Grips build and rig lighting, dolly tracks, and other lighting accessories.


Find out what graduates typically earn.

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