Gain experience in a wide range of technical imaging and photography applications by combining your imaging studies with information technology, computer science, optics, and biology for careers with imaging and camera companies, research centers, forensic laboratories, and government agencies.
In the photographic sciences major, photography is used to advance science and imaging is used to collect scientific data. Students integrate complementary studies that may include imaging science, information technology, computer science, optics, and biology to solve imaging problems and advance photographic technology.
Plan of study
The photographic sciences major offers an immersive and flexible curriculum that prepares students for a wide variety of photographic and imaging careers spanning the broad fields of science, technology, and medicine. The major provides strong foundational experiences in applied technical photography and explores contemporary imaging technologies, professional practices, and problem-solving. Classroom experiences are focused on preparing students for a wide range of employment opportunities in science or industry. Cooperative education is required and enables students to gain valuable career experience in their field of primary interest.
During the first two years, students are immersed in technical applications of scientific photography courses while also pursuing courses in laboratory sciences, such as physics or biology, chosen to complement their career goals. General education requirements encourage students to integrate complementary studies in subjects such as imaging science, information technology, or developmental biology to best prepare for exciting and evolving opportunities. It is common for graduates to pursue advanced degrees including optics, imaging science, and medicine. Recent employers include imaging companies, universities and research centers, camera companies, forensic laboratories, and government agencies. NASA, Apple, Mayo Clinic, Carl Zeiss Microscopy, Harvard University, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and Canon have all hired graduates of this major.
The foundational courses teach students how tools and methods are used to solve imaging problems and advance photographic technology. Students are able to create a flexible curriculum drawing on required and elective courses from the program. Guided by faculty, industry professionals, and required cooperative education, students are prepared for diverse careers in technical imaging and applied photography.
An employment survey of graduates indicates that 95 percent are employed within three months of graduation. 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 engineer.
Photographic Sciences Student Association
The Photographic Sciences Student Association promotes professional and social interaction among students and professionals from the imaging and photographic technology industries. The association regularly invites alumni in professional imaging fields to present lectures and demonstrations.
Government (Local, State, Federal)
Biotech and Life Sciences
Internet and Software
outcome rate of graduates
median first-year salary of graduates
Cooperative education, or co-op for short, is full-time, paid work experience in your field of study. And it sets RIT graduates apart from their competitors. It’s exposure–early and often–to a variety of professional work environments, career paths, and industries. RIT co-op is designed for your success.
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. The Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education assists students in identifying and applying to co-op placements. 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.
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 3, Lecture 1, Lab 3 (Fall, Summer).
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, Studio 3, Lecture 2 (Spring, Summer).
Photographic Technology I
This course is part of a two-course sequence that explores the technology of photography. The photographic technology course demonstrates the application of physics, mathematics and optical science behind 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 3, Lecture 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 3, Lecture 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)
This course will introduce students to video, photo, sound, and lighting equipment are used to create short-form time-based work. The basic concepts of art and design in time and space. The course explores elements of moving images, such as serial, narrative ordering, still and moving image editing, transitions and syntax, sound and image relations, and principles of movement. The course will address historical conventions of time in art and recent technological advances. 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 3, Lecture 2 (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, Lecture 2 (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, Lecture 2 (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, Lecture 2 (Fall).
Media Production & Technology
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, Lecture 2 (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, Lecture 2 (Fall, Spring).
General Education – Electives
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.
For all bachelor’s degree programs, a strong performance in a college preparatory program is expected. Generally, this includes 4 years of English, 3-4 years of mathematics, 2-3 years of science, and 3 years of social studies and/or history.
Specific math and science requirements and other recommendations
Biology is required for the biomedical photographic communications option of photographic sciences.
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
After the shift to distance learning in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, RIT students like Daniel Bacon, a second-year photographic sciences major, had to seamlessly transition to classes in the virtual space.
A multidisciplinary team of first-year students has been working to develop an imaging system that can reveal information hidden in historical documents for their Innovative Freshmen Experience project-based course. But with the shift to remote classes, the students left campus with the device nearly complete. Although disappointed, they shifted focus to the opportunities the new situation would create.