Gain experience in a wide range of technical imaging and photography applications by combining your imaging studies with studies in 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.
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.
Plan of study
In the photographic sciences major, photography is used to advance science, and imaging is used to collect scientific data. 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.
Students may elect to choose one of two options within the major.
Biomedical photographic communications option – This option prepares students for photographic careers in a wide variety of environments including forensic and research laboratories, hospitals, and other biological settings such as ophthalmic (eye) clinics and veterinary research schools, or in other life science situations such as pharmaceutical companies. All students in the photographic sciences degree share foundational courses in combination with practical experiences using digital photographic equipment and processes, that include still and moving media, as well as digital media applications. Additional elective courses in the life sciences prepare students for work assignments such as creating images useful for scientists or biological research. Students can specialize in light and confocal microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and ophthalmic imaging. Course work can be used to assist in the preparation for certification as a Certified Retinal Angiographer (CRA), administered by the Ophthalmic Photographer’s Society.
Imaging and photographic technology option – This option prepares students for imaging or image analysis careers in governmental agencies, industrial or corporate environments such as Apple Inc., NVIDIA, and NASA. The third and fourth years allow students to build on a strong foundation of photographic technology, creating areas of specialization that include color measurement, high-speed imaging, optics and camera testing, and image analysis. Complementary courses include programming for imaging, physics, and applications of color in imaging. These courses provide hands-on exposure using modern tools and techniques. Students may choose from a variety of electives including scanning electron microscopy, high-speed photography, and imaging science, as well as image quality and color measurement and management. Many students have also taken advantage of the imaging systems minor to complete a unique education only available at RIT.
Students are required to complete one cooperative education experience. Co-ops are paid, professional, full- or part-time positions that offer an opportunity for students to gain experience in the field. They 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.
Government (Local, State, Federal)
Biotech and Life Sciences
Internet and Software
Under the Microscope
Teri Zgoda ’17
Teri Zgoda ’17 (photographic sciences) has become a regular honoree in Nikon’s annual Small World Photomicrography Competition.
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.
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.
Photographic Technology I
This first course of a two-semester course will explore the basic technology required for producing photographs, with an emphasis on applications to real world photographic problems. Among the topics studied in the course will be lenses, image formation and evaluation, perspective, light sources, light-sensitive materials, exposure, digital systems and post-processing, tone reproduction, digital workflows, variability, quality control and photographic effects.
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.
RIT 365: RIT Connections
LAS Perspective 1 (ethical)
LAS Perspective 2 (artistic)
LAS Perspective 7A** (mathematical)
LAS Perspective 7B** (mathematical)
First Year Writing (WI)
4D Design introduces students to the basic concepts of art and design in time and space. Computers, video, photo, sound, and lighting equipment are used to create short-form time-based work. Students learn video, audio, camera, lighting, composite animation, and other skills relevant to all students in majors and programs required to take this course. 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 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.
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.
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.
Vision, Perception and Imaging
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. Both the physiology 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 explored. Relationships of image brightness, contrast and how visual processes lead to seeing will be addressed.
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.
Media Production & Technology
Cooperative Education Experience (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.
LAS Perspective 3 (global)
LAS Perspective 4 (social)
LAS Perspective 5 (natural science inquiry)
LAS Perspective 6 (scientific principles)
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.
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.
LAS Immersion 1 (WI), 2
Photographic Sciences Capstone I (WI)
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.
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.
LAS Immersion 3
Total Semester Credit Hours
Please see General Education Curriculum–Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) 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 adviser for a complete list of photographic sciences electives.
** Please see an adviser 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
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.