New York Film Academy
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New York Film Academy Photography

2-Year Hands-on Conservatory Photography Program

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2-Year Hands-on Conservatory Photography Program

2-Year Hands-on Conservatory Photography Program


The New York Film Academy 2-Year Certificate Program in Photography is a dynamic two-year program, which provides candidates with a focused grounding in the fields of Commercial, Fine Art and Documentary Photography.

Across four semesters, students are immersed in all aspects of Photography study, representing a progression of knowledge that provides them with scholastically rigorous and creatively challenging courses.

Photo by Brian Dilg The two-year conservatory program is an intensive, hands-on immersion program designed to train aspiring professional photographers in the art, craft, and business of contemporary image making. Encompassing state of the art digital technology, the moving image as a natural extension and 21st-century convergence of photographic and cinematic technologies and aesthetics, while being firmly grounded in the history and photochemical processes of the medium, students graduate with a comprehensive set of skills tailored towards making them fiercely competitive in today’s saturated marketplace.

The New York Film Academy 2-Year Certificate Program in Photography is a 2-year including summers, 4-semester conservatory-based, full-time study program.

Students will spend an additional twenty to twenty-five hours a week beyond the classroom on the preparation of their final portfolio and exhibition and the completion of homework assignments. Production or practicum hours are considered separate from lab and lecture hours. However, they remain necessary to successfully complete the program. The New York Film Academy recognizes that these hours will vary from student to student. In addition, students will collaborate with their classmates and instructors to ensure that projects are completed thoroughly and during the designated times.

Our prescribed four-semester Photography curriculum serves to address the following core competencies:
  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of the characteristics of available and artificial light and apply this to their images
  • Students will demonstrate proficiency in the use of Lightroom as an organizational tool, Photoshop as a non-destructive editing tool and other image editing software
  • Students will demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of and proficiency with lighting tools, digital and analog camera systems, digital output systems and the video controls on DSLRs
  • Students will demonstrate an applied understanding of the visual language and aesthetic theories of photography and incorporate these in their creative work
  • Students will demonstrate working knowledge of industry standard marketing and business practices
  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of the history of photography, aesthetics and technology
  • Students will demonstrate their ability to produce photographic work that is consistent with high professional standards


Photo by Photography Graduate Evgeniya Melnikova The main goal of the first semester is to develop core photography skills using the Canon 6D or the Nikon D600 camera for assignments. As students shoot and edit, they are immersed in the theory and history of photography. Analyzing and critiquing images, students develop the skills to conceptualize, compose, expose and edit powerful images using light and perspective to underscore content.

Students are encouraged to think beyond convention and choose lighting that enhances the emotional and dramatic impact of an image. They explore a vast array of both artificial and natural sources of illumination and learn techniques to employ them in images.

Using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom as the standard digital darkroom tools, students gain proficiency in image editing and RAW processing under the tutelage of industry experts.

Learning Goals:
Students will:
  • Demonstrate working knowledge of the Canon 6D or the Nikon D600 and standard lenses for still imaging
  • Apply working knowledge of the video capabilities of the Canon 6D or the Nikon D600 to the production of two film projects
  • Evaluate the components of exposure by comparing and contrasting aperture ranges, shutter speeds, lenses, lighting tools and filtration options on a wide variety of subjects
  • Thoroughly test the limits of over- and underexposure and RAW processing and their effects on the look of an image
  • Apply digital darkroom skills using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom
  • Demonstrate working knowledge of audio devices by gathering audio for multimedia stories
  • Demonstrate working knowledge of basic color management and be able to output accurate prints to modern inkjet printers
  • Apply working knowledge of the characteristics of light and make creative use of basic lighting tools and camera positions
  • Apply theories of aesthetics, semiotics, design, composition and color to their images
  • Examine the history of photography and photo technology from its inception to 1960


The second semester builds on students’ basic skills and challenges them to refine their technical, aesthetic and business practices. Students work intensively with studio lighting on a wide variety of assignments. Art direction and design elements are employed to create distinctive visual styles. Students expand their repertoire of techniques with light and shadow as they work with professional strobe lighting and grip hardware, as well as inexpensive and unconventional practical sources of light. The use of the moving image as a natural extension of still photography is explored.

Photo by Photography Graduate Scott Brownlee In post-production, students move beyond basic color and tone correction into sophisticated compositing methods, dynamic range extension, and advanced retouching and masking techniques. Students thoroughly explore the creative potential of digital image-making technology.

As students examine a wide range of imaging disciplines, they also experience the essential business elements that professional photographers oversee routinely, including research, assignments, bidding, stock imagery, studio organization, contracts, exhibitions and licensing.

Learning Goals:
Students will:
  • Thoroughly test a wide variety of lenses and alternative image-capture devices
  • Demonstrate working knowledge of refined lighting skills and apply these under any conditions using a comprehensive array of tools
  • Demonstrate working knowledge of commercial business practices, ethics and legal issues
  • Demonstrate advanced digital imaging skills using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom
  • Examine the history of photography and photo technology from 1960 to the present
  • Demonstrate refined aesthetic sensibilities in composition, color, design and lighting
  • Apply working knowledge of printing by exploring the wide range of output options available
  • Demonstrate critical and analytical thinking skills as they pertain to problem solving and textual comprehension and technique


Photo by Photography Graduate Baha Ali nasuhioglu In semester three, students refine and apply their knowledge of the characteristics of artificial and mixed lighting over a broad range of more complex assignments. This semester, they are introduced to an intensive filmmaking course where they will have the opportunity to become directors, cinematographers, producers and editors of two major projects. Their digital imaging skills are further refined with advanced color correction techniques for digital prepress, website design and building programs and instruction in live digital capture. Students are immersed in using mechanical cameras and lenses and will learn the technology and processes involved in photochemical photography. They will gain hands-on experience shooting black and white film in a variety of genres and lighting conditions and develop the film, making silver prints on both RC and fiber papers. They will use their analytical skills to explore the ever increasing fluidity of media in photography and art, and their rich exchange. Finally, students will conceive a body of work in their main area of interest and begin to expand their ideas in preparation for the final semesters’ presentation.

Learning Goals:
Students will:
  • Apply working knowledge of the characteristics of studio lighting (continuous and strobe) and mixed light sources and make creative use of light modifiers, camera positions and grip equipment
  • Apply key skills needed to effectively control and manipulate artificial and mixed light sources in a variety of situations
  • Demonstrate working knowledge of the components of exposure and color temperature
  • Demonstrate the ability to pre-visualize an image and realize it through lighting and photographic techniques
  • Apply knowledge of color management in Photoshop to images and output accurate prints to inkjet printers and photographic techniques
  • Demonstrate knowledge of film scanners for medium and large format black and white film and prints
  • Apply advanced theories of aesthetics, semiotics, design, composition and color to their images
  • Examine and interact with working professionals in the photography industry to create networks and gain information
  • Examine master photographers’ techniques, aesthetics and approaches and apply these to their images
  • Demonstrate knowledge of technological, artistic, social and cultural currents from the history of photography
  • Examine current trends in various facets of the industry as well as photographic printing methods
  • Demonstrate knowledge and analyze the effect visual media has on the way contemporary society reads images
  • Apply theories of lighting using medium and large format cameras and film
  • Demonstrate working knowledge of the Zone System for exposure, film development and darkroom printing
  • Evaluate the limits of over and under exposure using black and white film
  • Demonstrate advanced working knowledge of DSLR for video
  • Produce two non-sound film projects


During the fourth semester, students focus on their final projects. Consolidating their work from previous semesters, students will demonstrate advanced technical skills, creative vision and personal aesthetic in the production of their final portfolio and body of work for the group exhibition. Students work with medium and large format digital backs for familiar camera systems and reinforce their digital editing, compositing and design proficiencies. They produce two-sync sound film projects and execute large-scale conceptual projects that present formidable technical and creative challenges, and involved specialized techniques and equipment.

Photo by Photography Graduate Bryan Kong Refining their business skills, students learn to brand and market themselves over a broad range of areas within the photography industry. They become familiar with target markets and interact with working professionals, creating valuable networks and seeing first-hand the myriad professional paths available to them on completion of the program. Students will leave the program with a written business plan, printed business cards with personal logo, a social media and marketing strategy, promotional image mailers, and a tightly edited, complete live web site on a custom URL.

The Certificate program culminates in a final portfolio presentation and group exhibition in which invited peers and industry professionals attend. This event is an opportunity for students to exhibit their best work and to develop their professional network.

Learning Goals:
Students will:
  • Apply expert digital imaging skills using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, Moving Image II, Adobe After Effects Pro, Adobe Premier Pro, AbodeSpeedGrade
  • Demonstrate the ability to pre-visualize an image and realize it through lighting and photographic techniques
  • Write a business plan and construct a marketing strategy
  • Conceive, develop and construct a live web site
  • Apply working knowledge of the Zone System to analyze and evaluate images
  • Produce a portfolio of digital prints using inkjet printers
  • Produce two sync-sound film projects and apply their knowledge of core skills in cinematography, continuous light sources, directing, screenwriting, location sound recording, directing actors to their projects
  • Examine master photographers’ techniques, aesthetics and approaches and apply these to their images
  • Demonstrate knowledge of and discuss key histories and theories of photography
  • Examine current trends in photography
  • Demonstrate the critical thinking skills necessary to interpret images
  • Produce a project proposal and body of work for the graduate exhibition
  • Produce a comprehensive artist’s statement and bio for the catalog and final exhibition
  • Demonstrate knowledge of and execute current exhibition practices
  • Discuss and critique their own work and that of their peers
  • Create and implement marketing plan for the exhibition

Course Description (*Optional)

  • Photography I A hands on course focusing on key camera and lighting skills across a series of lectures, demonstrations, assignments and peer critiques.

    An essential skills component of the program, Photo I introduces students to the mechanics of cameras, lenses, D-SLR operation, and basic lighting for still and video imaging. Students will master the interrelated components of exposure and be able to adjust them to achieve a desired aesthetic based on an assessment of lighting conditions; effectively compress and expand time within a still image through the precise use of shutter speed to blur or freeze motion; apply the distorting properties of lenses based on focal length, angle of view, depth of field, magnification, and sharpness across the picture plane; be able to identify aesthetic approaches and construct dynamic compositions; correctly identify and exploit the direction, quality, and color of natural and artificial continuous and strobe light sources; correctly configure and handle a DSLR camera for video use; understand the aesthetic construction and narrative value of a basic vocabulary of shot types in cinematography. Learning how to correctly apply these skills will open up a world of creative opportunity.
  • Imaging I An intensive introduction to Adobe Photoshop as a digital darkroom tool, and Lightroom as a RAW digital editing and image library management system.

    Through immersion in Adobe Photoshop, students will acquire key digital darkroom techniques ranging from nondestructive editing to unparalleled color and tonal control over their own images. Students will also learn the entire process of digital workflow with Lightroom: from RAW processing through output for print and web page. Basic video editing will be introduced beginning with timelapse, stop motion, and multimedia slide shows using Quicktime Pro and iMovie. Along with lectures and demonstrations, Imaging I allows plenty of lab time to practice and master image-editing skills.
  • Ways of Seeing I Students study, analyze and critique the work of master photographers, both past and present.

    This course explores the ways in which history’s seminal photographers have held a mirror up to society, showing humanity the technological, artistic, social and cultural currents of life through the lens. Examining master photographers’ techniques, aesthetics and approaches segues into students’ individual shooting and research projects.
  • Vision & Style I This course teaches students critical thinking skills, the visual language of photography, and pushes them to explore their personal interests in photography as they conceptualize, execute, refine, and critique. Students will define and develop a personal, iconic visual style and specific area of interest, studying master bodies of work across both genres as examples. The primary focus will be on the still photography, but the use of the moving image will also be explored through class assignments.

    Students will become familiar with principles of graphic design, composition, color, editing, sequencing and presentation. Through writing, journaling, drawing, research and photographic assignments, students will gain a level of self-awareness necessary to understand the most salient origins for their ideas, and start to conceive how their work might fit into the context of current practices and attitudes.

    In the final weeks of Vision and Style I, each student meets with the entire faculty to review their first semester’s work and discuss possible directions for the final graduation project that they will submit for final approval early in the 2nd semester.
  • Shooting Lab A unique, hands on course in which students develop core professional skills and techniques during several location shoots with different instructors.

    Covering a wide range of genres along with aesthetic, logistical and technical challenges, students will have the opportunity to work directly with instructors, practically applying new skills across a range of assignments of increasing complexity.
  • Photography II An immersive course in which students master essential lighting skills to create dramatic light under any conditions using a wide array of tools and techniques.

    Students will explore the conventional lighting tools from hot and cool continuous sources, studio and portable strobe lighting, professional grip hardware along with a variety of unconventional sources. To consolidate this knowledge, class discussions will be based around topics such as three-point lighting, soft and hard light, color temperature, gels, diffusion and light-shaping tools.
  • Imaging II An in-depth follow up to Imaging I, this lab-based course enables students to further their mastery of RAW processing, color management and workflow practices while developing advanced perceptual skills. Students will also explore a range of possibilities for printing images.

    Students will receive in-depth training in visual perception, advancing their ability to see and orchestrate subtle differences in tone and color with the end goal of developing a unique personal palette and visual style. Composite entirely new visual worlds using transformations, layer masks, tone, texture and color matching. Furthering their skills in RAW processing, students will learn commercial retouching and advanced color and tone control within multiple color spaces. This course further demystifies color management enabling students to achieve consistently accurate results throughout their work. We also look at RGB, CMYK and LAB color spaces, conversions and workflow configuration.
  • Ways of Seeing II We live in a world of images, so understanding how we use them to create a narrative and effect cultural change is essential to the study of photography. This is a hands on course featuring shooting practice, intensive class discussions and field trips.

    Students will continue their investigation into the work of the most influential image makers throughout the history of photography to contemporary times. This course also asks students to: examine how different technologies (such as the 35mm camera and digital revolution) have shaped photography and continue the dialogue / debate about photography as art and art as commerce.
  • Production Lab This course gives students the opportunity to put their knowledge of lighting and photography into action during a series of location shoots, and to receive individual guidance from instructors as they edit, print, sequence, and prepare their portfolios and final exhibition of images.

    Students will receive lighting demonstrations in class and hands-on shooting time with instructors on location. This course also explores digital editing techniques and looks at ways for students to increase their web presence to get their work out into the wider world.
  • Vision & Style II Vision and Style II guides students through the development of a cohesive body of personal work that most accurately represents the area of interest that they will pursue as image-makers after graduation. In the early weeks of the course, students must submit a final project proposal to the entire faculty for approval.

    Throughout the course, students refine their conceptual approach, submit ongoing work for critique, analyze the business and creative practices of successful contemporary artists by preparing class presentations, write an artist’s statement, create titles, decide on image sizes, choose a mounting and presentation method, plan and execute their final exhibition of images printed to professional exhibition standards, assign prices and decide on editions, and assemble an exhibition catalog.

    Visits to and analysis of current gallery and museum exhibitions will also play a major role.
  • Applied Photography I Creating outstanding work and delivering to brief are the keys to becoming a successful professional photographer.

    This comprehensive course introduces students to the business / production side of professional photography covering a range of issues including: budget, location searches, permits, model releases, equipment, crew, ethics / legalities, exceeding clients’ expectations and so much more.
  • Moving Image I An intensive, hands-on introduction to the craft of the moving image from a photographer’s perspective. Through in-class exercises and two major projects outside of class, students will be immersed in the core aspects of filmmaking craft, including visual storytelling, cinematography (including lighting, camera movement, camera assisting, and operating), grip/electric, casting, story structure, screenwriting, design choices (set, costumes, props), storyboarding, directing, directing actors, and producing. Major projects will include an MOS (silent) mise-en-scene/single shot short film and a four-minute non-sync film incorporating post-production sound design and score.
  • Film Photography A hands-on introduction to medium and large format film photography, the Zone System for exposure and development, and B&W photochemical printing.

    Using mechanical cameras and lenses, students will learn the technology and processes involved in photochemical photography, from the mechanics of cameras themselves to traditional darkroom techniques for developing film and making silver prints on both RC and fiber paper.

    Students will gain hands-on experience in black and white printing and develop their own creative vision by making images in a variety of genres and lighting conditions, including landscape, architecture, portrait and still life. Exposing both black and white and color negative film stocks and controlling contrast through a variety of processing techniques will also be taught.
  • Imaging III A workshop encompassing advanced printing techniques, capture software, web design, and moving image applications.

    Weeks 1-5 focus on Adobe Premiere Pro and the principles of non-linear video editing, including aesthetics, 3-point editing, montage, screen direction, media organization, crafting scene and story arc, incorporation of stills, basic timeline-based color correction and sound editing, straight cuts vs L-cuts, exporting, encoding, delivery, and compression options.

    Weeks 6-9 immerse students in advanced color correction techniques for digital prepress including CMYK and LAB modes, framework-based tone and color manipulation to orchestrate visual attention, advanced printing techniques, scanning, spotting, sharpening and digitally printing film negatives using high-end dedicated film scanners, the use of exotic media including transparency film, the use of color RIP systems, and printing using dedicated monochrome pizeography inksets in modern inkjet (giclée) printers.

    Weeks 10-12 have students master the expert use of Capture One for live digital capture, RAW processing, and shoot management using high-end medium format digital backs as well as DSLR cameras.

    Weeks 13-16 is an intensive introduction to web site design for the needs of media artists using Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Fireworks, and Dreamweaver, including principles of graphic design, user interface design, slicing, tables, frames, rollover animation, basic HTML, using Javascript code snippets (behaviors), site management, site workflow, and choosing a site host. Students will design and build a live web site to host their portfolios and create a professional-quality web presence for their business.
  • Ways of Seeing III This course explores the ever-increasing fluidity of media in photography and art, and their rich exchange. Current examples from contemporary artistic practices that reference photographic technologies in relation to different artistic mediums (e.g., photo as sculpture, photo as document) will be explored. Students will apply a broader range of historical and contemporary tools to their own projects and to the re-creation of iconic images.

    Topics of investigation and presentation will include the intersection of photography with drawing, painting, and animation, photography as a document of personal experience, invented worlds, the photo as sculpture, photojournalism and war, and the photographer as protagonist.
  • Personal Vision I Regardless of practice area, prospective employers can be counted on to be primarily interested in an image-maker’s personal work as the best indicator of their creative voice, and the best source of their ideas for commercial projects.

    This course in sequence with Personal Vision II guides students through the development of a graduating exhibition of personal work based around a single concept. Students will be encouraged to follow the current business practices of successful fine art photographers. This includes preparing an artist’s statement, creating titles, planning an exhibition (sequencing, layout and framing), deciding on appropriate prices, how many editions to prepare, and collating an exhibition catalog.

    Internal investigation and external exercises will include strategies for working methods, location as muse, project management, developing methodological discipline and rigor, editing, sequencing, and presentation methods. Frequent guest lectures and studio visits will shed additional light on the practices of successful contemporary artists.
  • Applied Photography II This course broadens students’ professional portfolios through the execution of five major projects using medium and large format film and digital camera systems. Each assignment is based on a theme that is both specific and fluid enough to provide ample room for creative application of personal style and approach. Assignments take instructor-assembled collections of thematically connected master bodies work as the point of departure and inspiration.

    Instruction and exercises will cover a wide variety of medium format camera systems including rangefinders and SLRs, state of the art digital backs with and without live computer-based capture, plastic cameras, film backs, and in-depth practice of the view camera.

    Assignments will be of greater complexity than in Applied Photo I, but have the same requirements in terms of delivering every aspect of a professional shoot, from bid and pitch through final prints, invoice, and licensing agreement for real-world clients.
  • Moving Image II Expanding on the foundation acquired in Moving Image I, this course has the student execute two sync-sound video projects using modern DSLR cameras. Instruction and exercises encompass location sound recording, crew positions and responsibilities on larger shoots, permits, location scouting, pre-production, scheduling and budgeting, screenplay format, creating a shooting script, script breakdown, production and E&O insurance, camera movement, advanced lighting techniques, ADR, score, post-production workflow, distribution deliverables, and marketing and distribution strategies.
  • Self Promotion This course prepares students for a career in professional photography by analyzing the state of the business and requiring students to develop a sound business plan suited to their area of interest.

    Topics include presenting and targeting a portfolio to specific markets, pros and cons of ever-shifting social media marketing tools, analysis of current market and pricing trends, contests, solo and group shows, working with photo editors, strategies for setting and exceeding expectations with clients.

    Students will leave this class with a written business plan, printed business cards with personal logo, a social media and marketing strategy, promotional image mailers, and a tightly edited, complete live web site on a custom URL (developed in conjunction with the Imaging III and IV classes). Student will have researched and contacted a list of potential clients, have shown their work and attended informational interviews with at least three of them, and reviewed the meetings in class.
  • Imaging IV This course provides instruction and support to allow students to edit and output projects assigned in Moving Image II, and produce their final exhibition and portfolio prints, and a self-published book of a tightly edited body of their work.

    Weeks 1-6 focus on Adobe After Effects for titling, compositing, effects editing and generation, and final output.

    Weeks 7-10 teach advanced editing techniques using Adobe Premiere Pro, including segment editing and trimming, and in-depth audio editing, sound design and mixing using Adobe Audition.

    Weeks 11-12 focus on video color correction techniques using Adobe SpeedGrade.

    Weeks 13-16 provide instruction in design, layout, sequencing, editing, and production of a self-published or hand-made book of photographs, a final professional portfolio, and a body of prints for the graduate exhibition.
  • Ways of Seeing IV This course focuses on the interface between the artist and the world with whom he or she wishes to communicate. Activities will include guest lectures, field trips, presentations, and discussion, reading, and writing assignments.

    Topics will include: the role of photo collectives and communities both physical and virtual, the influence of blogs, multimedia and the confluence of photography with audio and the moving image, books and book publishers, self-publishing, the collectible object, and e-books, magazines and periodicals inside and around the photo industry, scientific and industrial applications of photography from astrophotography to interferometry, the advertising industry, and art venues from the traditional museums or galleries to pop-ups, art fairs, biennials, festivals, portfolio reviews, trade shows, online venues, and more. Every module will feature a prominent guest speaker representing an insider’s view in a segment of the industry.
  • Personal Vision II This course is designed as a seminar-style class to shape each student’s work into an exhibition, catalog, book, web site, and portfolio.

    Topics will include intensive critique, conceptual refinement, analysis of successful bodies of work by master image-makers, presentation of stylistic and conceptual references within and outside of photography, editing, proofing, printing, sequencing, mounting, framing, presentation, the development of promotional materials, and exit strategies.
  • Applied Photography III A continuation of Applied Photography II, this course guides students through the execution of large-scale conceptual projects that present formidable technical and creative challenges, and involve specialized techniques and equipment. The goal of this class is to produce the work that will get you work: a highly polished body of work representing each photographer’s deepest interests, executed in their personal style, and demonstrating the highest level of technical and aesthetic expertise.

    Students will execute every assignment fulfilling the same criteria that would be required of them on a professional shoot, from concept pitch through bid, budget, schedule, equipment list, crew, casting, location scouting, lighting plot, licensing agreement, contract, budget, and final printed and electronic deliverables.

Dates & Tuition

Fees Per Year

1st Year Tuition: $41,360 (USD)
2nd Year Tuition: $35,753 (USD)
Equipment + Lab Fee: $2,068(USD) Per Year

Number of Semesters: 4

Equipment + Lab Fee: $2,103 for Year Two
Location & Available Dates

For Los Angeles:
September 2019 - January 2021
January 2020 - May 2021
September 2020 - January 2022

Please note: Dates and Tuition are subject to change
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One-year photography program includes an HDSLR camera and one-week trip
*The expedition is planned and supervised by NYFA faculty and staff. Please note: participants pay for the costs of their transportation, accommodation, and food. The trip is scheduled during a school vacation or semester break. It is offered as an optional experience, students and alumni are not required to participate.

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