Average First-Year Salary of RIT Graduates from this degree
Value of industry-standard equipment available to students in photographic sciences labs
Photographic sciences is an RIT New Economy Major. This collection of degree programs is forward-thinking and future-forming, and helps prepare you to excel in the multidisciplinary nature of our modern, dynamic economy.
By combining interests in both science and the arts, photographic sciences features unique course work found at no other U.S. institution. Upper-division classes focus on high-speed photography, micrography, ophthalmic imaging, image analysis/quality, among other topics.
Students complete a required co-op–full-time, hands-on, paid work experience related to their field of study. Recent co-op placements include opportunities at Carl Zeiss Microscopy, Edmund Optics, the FBI, the Flaum Eye Institute, The Mayo Clinic, and Smithsonian Institution.
Carl Zeiss Microscopy and NASA are two of the biggest employers of our graduates. Canon, Fujifilm, Leica Microsystems, and the National Retina Institute also employ our graduates.
Alumni, students, and faculty are regularly recognized by industry competitions like Nikon’s Small World and the BioCommunications Association’s BioImages competition.
Part scientist, part artist. A scientific photographer uses imaging to capture scientific data to explore science and medicine. These scientific images identify and solve problems–and help to advance our understanding–in biology and biomedical sciences, medicine, forensics, chemistry, and engineering. It’s a dynamic field that combines photography with imaging science, information technology, computing, optics, biology, and biomedical sciences.
How to Become a Scientific Photographer
A scientific photographer needs to have the broad-based skills required of a professional photographer combined with a solid foundation in the sciences. RIT’s photographic sciences program provides this in-depth study, preparing you to launch a successful career as a scientific photographer.
You’ll complete courses that develop your abilities as a photographer and gain the photographic skills and approaches required of scientific photography. In addition, you’ll study science and technology through the lens of photography, with courses in high-speed photography, micrography, and ophthalmic imaging.
In the first two years, this scientific photography degree will immerse you in the technical applications of scientific photography while you also pursue courses in laboratory sciences, including physics and biology. This in a photography degree that is flexible, and enables you to use elective courses to explore areas that interest you and complement your career goals. You’ll be encouraged to use general education requirements to integrate complementary studies in subjects such as imaging science, information technology, or developmental biology to help prepare for exciting and evolving career opportunities. It is common for graduates to pursue advanced degrees in fields such as optics, imaging science, and medicine.
You will graduate well-prepared to apply technological advances in photography to a wide variety of photographic and imaging careers spanning the fields of science, technology, and medicine.
Scientific Photography Careers
With a 95% outcomes rate, you’ll be well-prepared to launch an exciting career in scientific photography. Our graduates are employed as ophthalmic photographers, forensic photographers, surgical photographers, photomicrographers, medical photographers, latent finger print examiners, core imaging facility managers, technical support engineers, imaging specialists, imaging engineers, public relations photographers, research associates, dermatology photographers, research photographers, and image quality engineers.
Recent employers include imaging companies, universities and research centers, camera companies, forensic laboratories, and government agencies. NASA, Apple, The Mayo Clinic, Carl Zeiss Microscopy, Harvard University, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and Canon have all hired graduates of the program.
Photographic Sciences Student Association
The Photographic Sciences Student Association promotes professional and social interaction among students in the program and professionals from the imaging and photographic technology industries. The association regularly invites alumni and leaders from the professional imaging fields to present lectures and demonstrations.
Accelerated 4+1 MBA
An accelerated 4+1 MBA option is available to students enrolled in any of RIT’s undergraduate programs. RIT’s accelerated bachelor’s/master’s degrees can help you prepare for your future faster by enabling you to earn both a bachelor’s and an MBA in as little as five years of study.
Join us for Fall 2023
Applications will be reviewed on a rolling, space-available basis.
What’s different about an RIT education? It’s the career experience you gain by completing cooperative education and internships with top companies in every single industry. You’ll earn more than a degree. You’ll gain real-world career experience that sets you apart. It’s exposure–early and often–to a variety of professional work environments, career paths, and industries.
Co-ops and internships take your knowledge and turn it into know-how. Co-op in the College of Art and Design provides hands-on experience that enables you to apply your artistic capabilities in dynamic professional settings while you make valuable connections between classwork and real-world applications.
Students in the photographic sciences program are required to complete one co-op experience. These experiences are generally completed between the second and third academic years. Some recent co-op placements, as well as permanent job placements, include Harvard University, the Mayo Clinic, Smithsonian, Georgetown University, Case Western Reserve University, NASA, Imatest, Carl Zeiss Microscopy, FBI, Nikon Scientific Instruments, Apple Inc., and NVIDIA.
Creative Industry Day
RIT’s Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education hosts Creative Industry Day, which connects students majoring in art, design, film and animation, photography, and select computing majors with companies, organizations, creative agencies, design firms, and more. The 2021 Creative Industry Day will be a week-long virtual event where you’ll be able to network with company representatives and interview directly for open co-op and permanent employment positions.
Class of 2021 Capstone Research
For their senior capstone projects, students in RIT's photographic sciences major choose their own research topic to investigate over their final two semesters.
This course will provide an immersive introduction to the field of the photographic arts. It will emphasize both craft and visual problem solving. The course will explore: seeing and appreciating the quality of light, image capture, photographic vision, historical and contemporary genres of photography, best practices and workflow as well as an introduction to the critique forum and its practices. (Co-requisites: PHPS-106 or equivalent course.) Critique 2 (Fall, Spring).
This course is the second of a two-semester sequence of study further enhancing photographic practices. Emphasis is on improving photographic skills learned in Photography I. Skills include studio lighting, lighting on location, and macro photography. Principles of creativity, craftsmanship, and applied photographic theory will be used to support technical applications. (Prerequisites: PHPS-101 or PHAR-101 or equivalent course.) Lab 3 (Spring, Summer).
Photographic Technology I
This is the first in a two-course sequence that explores the technology of photography. This course demonstrates the application of physics, mathematics and optical science to the technology of image making. The course also provides the students with the opportunity to employ statistical data analysis to identify trends through laboratory exercises utilizing principles of scientific inquiry. Among the topics explored are the optics and physics of image formation, lens evaluation, light sources, digital light-sensitive materials, digital workflows, variability, quality control and photographic effects. Lab 2 (Fall).
Photographic Technology II
This is the second course in a two-semester course based in the study of the technology of photography, with emphasis on applications to real world photographic problems. Among the topics studied will include color vision, Munsell color system, CIELAB system, color theory, color management, digital color balance during post-processing, digital tone reproduction, and digital workflows. (Prerequisite: PHPS-106 or equivalent course.) Lab 2 (Spring).
RIT 365: RIT Connections
RIT 365 students participate in experiential learning opportunities designed to launch them into their career at RIT, support them in making multiple and varied connections across the university, and immerse them in processes of competency development. Students will plan for and reflect on their first-year experiences, receive feedback, and develop a personal plan for future action in order to develop foundational self-awareness and recognize broad-based professional competencies. Lecture 1 (Fall, Spring).
General Education – Ethical Perspective
General Education – Artistic Perspective
General Education – Global Perspective
General Education – Mathematical Perspective A**
General Education – Mathematical Perspective B**
General Education – First-Year Writing (WI)
4D Design introduces students to the basic concepts of art and design in time and space. The course explores elements of moving images such as continuity, still and moving image editing, transitions and syntax, sound and image relations, and principles of movement. Computers, video, photo, sound and lighting equipment are used to create short-form time-based work relevant to students in all majors and programs required to take this course. The course addresses the both historical conventions of time in art and recent technological advances, which are redefining the fields of Fine Art and Design. In focusing on the relations between students' spacing and timing skills, 4D Design extends and supplements the other Foundation courses, and prepares students for further work with time-based media. (Undergraduate Art and Design) Lab 5 (Fall, Spring).
Scientific Photography I
The first course of a two-semester sequence that will develop photographic skills and approaches required in scientific photography. The course will develop scientific methods required for standardized imaging. Appropriate subjects including contact lenses, rice grains and other challenging, nearly invisible objects will be explored. Students will investigate unique illumination techniques in order to reveal a subject’s unusual characteristics. Techniques including polarized light and fluorescence reveal what cannot easily be observed without specialized photographic imaging and image processing. In addition, the course will expose students to ethical problems encountered in scientific imaging including managing and processing digital data. (Prerequisites: PHPS-102 or PHAR-102 or PHAR-161 or equivalent course.) Lab 3 (Fall).
Scientific Photography II
This is the second course in a two-semester sequence that explores new and different photographic skills and methods useful in scientific photography not covered in Scientific Photography I. Appropriate subjects will be explored in each of the various assignments designed to develop methods used in various scientific applications. Students will investigate new ways to reveal a subject's characteristics such as imaging with ultraviolet and infrared revealing what cannot be observed without photographic imaging and image processing. The course will expose students to the processes required to produce scientific research as well as scientific posters. (Prerequisites: PHPS-201 or PHAR-102 or PHAR-161 or equivalent course.) Lab 3 (Spring).
General Education – Elective: Vision, Perception and Imaging (WI-GE)
This course will explore the anatomical structure, function, and physiology of the human eye and brain and their relationship to vision, color, visual perception and imaging systems. The biology and physiology of the eye and psychology of visual perception will be explored. The concepts of depth perception in human vision as they relate to both two-dimensional and three-dimensional contexts will be examined. Relationships of image brightness, contrast and how visual processes lead to seeing will be addressed. Lecture 3 (Spring).
This required course will investigate advanced photographic technology, with an emphasis on the study of the components of photographic imaging systems. Geometrical optics, color management, printing technologies and video standards will also be studied. Working in a lab environment, students will evaluate how technology can be optimized and where its limitations might be found. (Prerequisites: PHPS-107 or equivalent course.) Lab 3 (Fall).
Media Production & Technology
Media Technology explores the design, production and delivery of instructional media and marketing materials used in various industries. Students will plan and produce the content for media projects that integrate video, audio, still images, interactivity, two-dimensional animation and video. The course also explores the technology and production techniques involved in delivering digital content today. Additionally, the course will provide an introduction to basic instructional technology concepts that influence design, development and assessment decisions. The focus of classwork will be the production of media used in support of training and marketing activities commonly found in corporate, governmental, industrial, and scientific communities. (Prerequisites: FDTN-141 or equivalent course.) Lab 3 (Spring).
Photographic Sciences Co-op (summer)
Cooperative Education will provide photographic and imaging technologies students with hands-on experience in their field, directly related to a student’s major with an established studio or related business. Students will need to apply for co-ops, and interview as part of the selection process, based on available positions posted by the Co-op and Career Services Office, or found through the students’ own research. In programs where co-op is a degree requirement, students must obtain permission of their program or graduate director prior to enrollment. Co-ops are typically paid work experience, and can be part-time (150-479 total hours within the term), or full-time (480+ hours within the term). Co-ops may be one or two consecutive terms - fall, spring, or summer – with department permission. (This course is restricted to students in PHIMTEC-BS.) CO OP (Fall, Spring, Summer).
General Education – Elective
General Education – Social Perspective
General Education – Natural Science Inquiry Perspective
General Education – Scientific Principles Perspective
Programming for Photographic Sciences
This course will introduce students to programming as a data visualization tool and a programming language (Python). Students will learn the various capabilities of the language and how it can be used to rapidly prototype solutions to various imaging-related problems. As these solutions are developed, fundamental concepts of programming and data structures will be introduced. (Prerequisite: PHPS-211 or equivalent course.) Lab 3 (Fall).
Digital Image Processing
This course covers the principles and fundamental techniques in writing digital image processing algorithms and computer programming techniques that are used in implementing said algorithms. Topics covered will include color space transformations, basic image manipulation, and spatial and frequency manipulations. (Prerequisite: PHPS-331 or equivalent course.) Lab 3 (Fall, Spring).
General Education – Elective (Choose from STEM Elective list)
General Education - Elective
General Education – Immersion 1, 2
Photographic Sciences Capstone I (WI-PR)
This course is the first of a two-term sequence designed to begin work on a major student project. The topic will relate to an aspect of the photographic sciences, including but not limited to photomicrography, image testing and quality, ophthalmic imaging, color, or other relevant topics. In this course, students will conceive and design a long-term project or experiment, including a proposal, description, goals, timeline, resources, and funding (if necessary). The student will work to construct and refine the proposal, and will identify a faculty advisor if needed for the execution of the project in PS Capstone II. The class sessions will focus on project planning and provide in-progress discussion of proposals.
The project will be completed during the second semester (PHPS 402 – Photographic Sciences Capstone II). Projects will be student initiated within an individual’s area of expertise. Completed projects will constitute a substantial portfolio/professional project. (Prerequisites: PHPS-202 or equivalent course and completion of First Year Writing (FYW) requirement.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
Photographic Sciences Capstone II
Students will execute a major project proposed in the first course of the sequence: PS Capstone I. Projects may address subjects related to the photographic sciences or other relevant topics. Students will provide a progress report to the course coordinator at set intervals. Class will meet weekly to provide discussion and feedback on individual projects. (Prerequisite: PHPS-401 or equivalent course.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
General Education – Immersion 3
General Education – Electives
Total Semester Credit Hours
Please see General Education Curriculum (GE) for more information.
(WI) Refers to a writing intensive course within the major.
Please see Wellness Education Requirement for more information. Students completing bachelor's degrees are required to complete two different Wellness courses.
§ Please see an advisor for a complete list of photographic sciences electives.
** Please see an advisor for math and science course recommendations.
A strong performance in a college preparatory program is expected. This includes:
4 years of English
3 years of social studies and/or history
3 years of mathematics which must include algebra, geometry, and algebra 2/trigonometry. Pre-calculus is preferred.
2-3 years of science. Biology is preferred.
Transfer course recommendations without associate degree
Courses in liberal arts, photography, design, and art history. Portfolio required for photo credit. View Portfolio Requirements for more information.
Appropriate associate degree programs for transfer
Applied Photography. Portfolio required for photo credit. View Portfolio Requirements for more information.
100% of all incoming first-year and transfer students receive aid.
RIT’s personalized and comprehensive financial aid program includes scholarships, grants, loans, and campus employment programs. When all these are put to work, your actual cost may be much lower than the published estimated cost of attendance. Learn more about financial aid and scholarships
Matthew Breitbart '10, Tom Rieger '74 and Don Williams '82 are core members of the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative, which provides uniform methods that drive the digitization efforts of federal agencies, libraries, archives, museums and institutions around the world.