The Department of Photography and Film offers a variety of basic, intermediate and advanced photography and filmmaking classes leading to a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and Film.

The program provides students with the ability to intelligently express, investigate or document using photography and/or film and to interpret meaning in still and moving images. Emphasis is placed on photography and film as contemporary fine arts. The department promotes a fundamental and effective philosophy that students maintain creative freedom, have access to resources and are enrolled in courses in which they can refine their voices and skills through traditional and contemporary media, tools and professional working methods.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing this program, students will know and know how to do the following:

  • Clearly recall a functional knowledge of the history and theory of photography
  • Assess contemporary issues within the context of photography and related media
  • Effectively communicate, visually, orally and in writing, a range of ideas and emotions for a broad range of purposes and audiences
  • Demonstrate proficiency in basic to advanced photographic tools and techniques
  • Demonstrate broad knowledge of current business practices of professional photographic artists
  • Meet all of the objectives associated with the Photography, Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) degree program

Special requirements

While in the program, students must earn a minimum grade of C in each departmental course. Students who fail to meet this requirement may be asked to change their major.

Degree requirements for Photography and Film, Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A) with a concentration in filmmaking

General Education requirements

University Core Education Curriculum
UNIV   111 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry IFocused Inquiry I3
UNIV   112 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry IIFocused Inquiry II3
UNIV   200Inquiry and the Craft of Argument3
Approved humanities/fine arts3
Approved natural/physical sciences3-4
Approved quantitative literacy3-4
Approved social/behavioral sciences3-4
Total Hours21-24
Additional School of the Arts requirements
ENGL   215Textual Analysis3
General education electives6
Total Hours9

Collateral requirements

Art Foundation Program
ARTF   131Drawing Studio3
ARTF   132Surface Research3
ARTF   133Space Research3
ARTF   134Time Studio3
ARTF   139Project2
Art history
ARTH   103
ARTH   104
Survey of Art I
and Survey of Art II
6
ARTH   270
ARTH   271
History of the Motion Picture I
and History of the Motion Picture II
6
ARTH   374Studies in Film3
or ARTH   370 History of Animated Film
Studio art electives7
Total Hours36

Major requirements

PHTO   260Experiments in Sequencing3
PHTO   275Film as Material3
PHTO   280Moving Pixels3
PHTO   281Digital Imaging I3
PHTO   295Revolutionary Cinema3
PHTO   350Concepts I3
PHTO   361Sound and Color3
PHTO   377The Film Image3
PHTO   390Writing for the Screen3
PHTO   394Documentary I3
PHTO   436Senior Suitcase3
PHTO   475Advanced Production Workshop3
PHTO   484
PHTO   485
Thesis Film I
and Thesis Film II
6
PHTO   494Documentary II3
Total Hours45

Open electives

Select nine open elective credits9

Total minimum requirement 120 credits

What follows is a sample plan that meets the prescribed requirements within a four-year course of study at VCU. Please contact your adviser before beginning course work toward a degree.

Freshman year
Fall semesterHours
ARTF   131 Drawing Studio 3
ARTF   134 Time Studio 3
ARTF   139 Project 1
ARTH   103 Survey of Art I 3
UNIV   111 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry I Focused Inquiry I 3
Quantitative literacy course (University Core) 3
 Term Hours: 16
Spring semester
ARTF   132 Surface Research 3
ARTF   134 Time Studio 3
ARTF   139 Project 1
ARTH   104 Survey of Art II 3
UNIV   112 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry II Focused Inquiry II 3
Social/behavioral sciences course (University Core) 3
 Term Hours: 16
Sophomore year
Fall semester
ARTH   270 History of the Motion Picture I 3
PHTO   275 Film as Material 3
PHTO   280 Moving Pixels 3
PHTO   281 Digital Imaging I 3
UNIV   200 Inquiry and the Craft of Argument 3
 Term Hours: 15
Spring semester
ARTH   271 History of the Motion Picture II 3
PHTO   260 Experiments in Sequencing 3
PHTO   295 Revolutionary Cinema 3
PHTO   377 The Film Image 3
Natural/physical sciences course (University Core) 3
 Term Hours: 15
Junior year
Fall semester
PHTO   350 Concepts I 3
PHTO   390 Writing for the Screen 3
Humanities/fine arts course (University Core) 3
Studio arts elective 4
Open elective 3
 Term Hours: 16
Spring semester
PHTO   361 Sound and Color 3
PHTO   394 Documentary I 3
PHTO   475 Advanced Production Workshop 3
General education elective 3
Open elective 3
 Term Hours: 15
Senior year
Fall semester
ARTH   374 Studies in Film 3
ENGL   215 Textual Analysis 3
PHTO   436 Senior Suitcase 3
PHTO   484 Thesis Film I 3
PHTO   494 Documentary II 3
 Term Hours: 15
Spring semester
PHTO   485 Thesis Film II 3
General education elective 3
Open elective 3
Studio art elective 3
 Term Hours: 12
 Total Hours: 120
 

PHTO   201. Sophomore Photography Seminar. 1 Hour.

Semester course; 1 lecture hour. 1 credit. Prerequisite: sophomore standing in Department of Photography and Film. Introduces various methods and means of exhibition.

PHTO   202. Sophomore Film Seminar. 1 Hour.

Semester course; 1 lecture hour. 1 credit. Prerequisite: sophomore standing in the Department of Photography and Film. Students will learn all aspects of organizing a film festival that will be held at the end of the spring semester.

PHTO   233. Elements of the Moving Image. 4 Hours.

Semester course; 4 lecture hours. 4 credits. A survey of new media and their origins. An exploration of this visual phenomena and its relationship to modern society.

PHTO   243. Darkroom. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: sophomore standing in the department. Manual 35mm film camera is required. Study of fundamental camera techniques and photographic processes including darkroom printing. Emphasizes professional standards, technical proficiency and individual artistic expression.

PHTO   245. Design Photography I. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. For communication art and design majors only or permission of instructor. A comprehensive beginning class covering an introduction to the camera, the process of exposure, developing, and black-and-white printmaking.

PHTO   260. Experiments in Sequencing. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHTO   243 or PHTO   281. Explores the history, contexts and applications of sequencing as a unifying artistic practice. Emphasis is placed on sequencing as it relates to visual communication and contemporary multimedia.

PHTO   275. Film as Material. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. Prerequisite: sophomore standing in the department. Study of the fundamental techniques and processes of 16mm film production, including cameras, lighting and composition. Emphasizes technical proficiency and individual artistic expression.

PHTO   280. Moving Pixels. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: sophomore standing in the department. Introduction to digital video, computer imaging and interactive multimedia as tools of artistic expression and social inquiry.

PHTO   281. Digital Imaging I. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. Prerequisite: sophomore standing in the department. Digital still image camera is required. Study of fundamental techniques and processes of digital image-making, including image capture, manipulation and digital printing. Emphasizes professional standards, technical proficiency and individual artistic expression.

PHTO   289. Filmmaking for Non-majors. 1-3 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-3 credits. May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credits. Digital motion picture camera is required. Study of fundamental techniques and processes of digital filmmaking, including image and audio recording, editing and exporting digital media. Emphasizes media as a tool of artistic expression and social inquiry.

PHTO   290. Photography for Non-majors. 1-3 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-3 credits. May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credits. Digital still image camera is required. Study of fundamental techniques and processes of digital image-making, including image capture, manipulation and digital printing. Emphasizes professional standards, technical proficiency and individual artistic expression.

PHTO   295. Revolutionary Cinema. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHTO   280. Investigates a range of experimental/underground/alternative moving image art forms and styles and covers key historical moments in the avant-garde. Emphasizes attentive viewing and critical analysis of works that challenge dominant media conventions.

PHTO   301. Junior Seminar. 1 Hour.

Semester course; 1 studio hour. 1 credit. Prerequisite: junior standing in the Department of Photography and Film. Instruction in how to make an artist website using current technology and 2-D design principles.

PHTO   307. Processes and Techniques. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHTO   243. Explores alternative photographic techniques with an emphasis on handmade printing. Places various photographic practices and aesthetics in a historical context. Students develop personal awareness of their creative process in the pursuit of a conceptually coherent body of work.

PHTO   340. Lighting I: Studio. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: PHTO   243 and PHTO   281. Introduces controlled lighting for still photography in the studio. Students use continuous light sources and professional grade strobe equipment to explore tabletop and portraiture photography through lectures and studio assignments. Emphasizes professional standards, technical proficiency and individual artistic expression.

PHTO   350. Concepts I. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: UNIV   200 or HONR   200 and PHTO   281. Students utilize the aesthetic and technical skills mastered in previous courses to explore photography as a conceptual tool. Emphasizes both historic and contemporary contextualizations of the medium and fosters development of a long-term, personal artistic project.

PHTO   351. Portrait Photography. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHTO 345 Design Photography or PHTO   350 Intermediate Photography. Students explore the various visual possibilities of the use of portrait photography.

PHTO   352. Concepts II: Junior Project. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. Prerequisite: PHTO   350. Students complete a conceptually coherent body of work that engages with photography as an artistic medium. Course emphasizes advanced understanding of historical perspectives and critical theory as they relate to the development of a personal project.

PHTO   361. Sound and Color. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: PHTO   280 and PHTO   281. Explores advanced concepts and techniques in sound design, editing, color grading and postproduction workflow for film, video and multimedia.

PHTO   377. The Film Image. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. May be repeated for a maximum of 9 credits. An examination of production techniques and problems encountered by the filmmaker in creating the motion picture image. A selected number of narrative, documentary, experimental and animated films are viewed as source material and dealt with from a production point of view. The films chosen for discussion vary from semester to semester.

PHTO   381. Digital Imaging II. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHTO   281. Digital still image camera is required. Study of advanced techniques and processes of digital image-making, including advanced manipulation and color control and advanced digital printing. Emphasizes professional standards, technical proficiency and individual artistic expression.

PHTO   382. Advanced Digital Printing. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: PHTO 380 and 381. How to manage a digital color workflow in order to produce desired colors and tonal values in the final output -- the print. Instruction in controlling image management, color calibration and printing through lectures, demonstration and hands-on experience. Discussion of student work in regular critiques.

PHTO   390. Writing for the Screen. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV   200 or HONR   200. Explores basic theory and formal aspects of story, structure and character through readings, workshops and writing exercises. Students develop skills specific to writing and pre-producing a short fiction, documentary or experimental film.

PHTO   391. Topics in Photography and Film. 1-3 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-3 credits. May be repeated with different topics for a maximum of 6 credits. A lecture and/or studio course offered on a variety of photography or film issues. See the Schedule of Classes for specific topics covered each semester.

PHTO   392. Animation. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Explores various materials and processes, analog and digital, involved in creating animated moving image works. Emphasizes studio technique and artistic exploration.

PHTO   394. Documentary I. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHTO   390. Introduces strategies for developing, shooting and editing various types of documentary and nonfiction media including, but not limited to, the electronic essay, biography/portraiture, ethnographic film and new genres. Covers key historical moments and ethical issues related to the representation of the real world.

PHTO   420. Senior Thesis I. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: senior standing in the department. Critical analysis and development of a yearlong creative thesis project with emphasis on the completion of a conceptually coherent body of work. Course emphasizes professional standards, technical proficiency and individual artistic expression informed by historical perspectives and critical theory.

PHTO   421. Senior Thesis II. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHTO   420. Critical analysis and development of a yearlong creative thesis project with emphasis on the completion of a conceptually coherent body of work. Course emphasizes professional standards, technical mastery and individual artistic expression informed by historical perspectives and theory. This course is a capstone experience integrating effective oral, written and visual communication, critical thinking and advanced studio techniques.

PHTO   435. Professional Practice. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Examines a range of business models, practices and tools applicable to building a career in photography and related artistic, commercial and media fields. Emphasizes practical skills, marketing, legal and ethical issues.

PHTO   436. Senior Suitcase. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Examines a range of professional practices and tools applicable to building a career in the media arts. Students develop ancillary materials related to their overall student film portfolio. Emphasizes practical skills, marketing and audience-engagement issues.

PHTO   442. Lighting II: Location. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHTO   340. Explores photography using lighting design on location. Students concentrate on balancing and matching available lighting with electronic flash and continuous lighting tools. Emphasis is on the technical, professional and logistical skills required of a photographer working on location assignments and on using creative approaches to lighting and image design.

PHTO   474. Contemporary Critical Perspectives. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHTO   352. Explores and interrogates multiple theories of representation and the aesthetic, ideological, ethical and cultural issues raised by contemporary photography and related media. Students will view work, read contemporary criticism, engage in discussion and produce original, critical writing.

PHTO   475. Advanced Production Workshop. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHTO   390. A practical, intensive workshop in which students work collaboratively in standard industry crew positions to complete a single project. Students explore craft, aesthetics, storytelling and production issues at an advanced level.

PHTO   484. Thesis Film I. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHTO   475. Students complete writing, previsualization, preproduction and initial production on their thesis films. Students engage in workshops, screenings and critiques in order to further develop their professional identities and to advance their understanding of the methods and tools deployed by independent film and media artists.

PHTO   485. Thesis Film II. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHTO   484. Students complete all production, editing, sound design and outreach materials for their thesis films. Students engage in workshops, screenings and critiques in order to further develop their professional identities and to advance their understanding of the methods and tools deployed by independent film and media artists. This course is a capstone experience integrating effective oral, written and visual communication, critical thinking and advanced studio techniques.

PHTO   491. Topics in Photography and Film. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-4 credits. May be repeated with different topics for a maximum of 12 credits. A seminar or workshop that intensively engages photography, film and related-media subjects, including, but not limited to, a range of historical and contemporary photographic/cinematic practices, trends, theories and concerns within a wider artistic and art historical context. See the Schedule of Classes for specific topics covered each semester.

PHTO   492. Independent Study in Photography and Film. 1-3 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-3 credits. May be repeated for a maximum total of 6 credits. Prerequisites: junior or senior standing as a major in photography and film, and approval of department chair and instructor. Individual instruction and supervision of a special project. Learning experiences should be designed with the supervising faculty member in the form of a contract between student and instructor. This course is limited to those students who have demonstrated an exceptional level of ability and intense commitment to their discipline.

PHTO   493. Teaching Practicum in Photography and Film. 1-3 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-3 credits. Repeatable for a maximum of 6 credits. Prerequisites: senior standing in the department and a minimum GPA of 3.0. Advanced students in photography and film are mentored in the classroom while serving as teaching apprentices. Specific duties are negotiated between the student and the mentor and approved by the department chair. Duties will typically include regular classroom attendance, peer tutoring and assistance in technical demonstrations of equipment and/or software.

PHTO   494. Documentary II. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 3 studio hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PHTO   394. Students will explore advanced concepts and techniques in documentary and nonfiction media creation through in-class exercises, screenings, independent productions and group critiques.

PHTO   495. Photography and Film Internship. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 10 hours per week for a total of 150 hours of professional work experience. 3 credits. May be repeated. Prerequisite: consent of internship supervisor and academic adviser. Practical work experiences are coordinated with professionals in the field of photography, film and related media.