Certificate in Fine Art Photography

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Photographic Center Northwest (PCNW) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and licensed in the state of Washington under Chapter 28C.10 RCW.


The Certificate in Fine Art Photography is a 53-credit program in fine art photography. Photographic Center Northwest (PCNW) is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Courses are technically and creatively demanding, and the program provides instruction on par with post-baccalaureate programs in photography. During their studies, students develop their own style of photography and grow in ability to understand, appreciate, produce and critique photographic works.

Certificate students gain a solid education in the fundamentals of photography through the Photo I-III sequence, Photoshop basics, color and studio lighting basics classes. There are required classes in history, professional practices and project development, and advanced students customize their education, pursuing advanced seminars and topic classes that align with their own style and vision.

Students refine their ability to create a body of work in the Junior and Senior Seminars and in the capstone course, Thesis, which is a year-long course. During their Thesis year students meet with faculty advisors and develop a body of work for exhibition. After defending their work before a committee Certificate students participate in the annual thesis exhibition at the PCNW gallery.

Advising / Admissions

For more information or to set an advising/admissions appointment, contact Eirik Johnson, Programs Chair or Jennifer Brendicke, Registrar.


2023 APPLICATION DEADLINE: February 27, 2023
Application Fee = $20.00

All application materials must be received by the stated deadline. Additional details included in application above. Applicants accepted into the Certificate in Fine Art Photography will begin their studies as certificate students in Fall 2023.

Are You Ready to Apply?

  • I’ve taken one or more courses at PCNW
  • I have a portfolio that reflects my interests and ambitions in photography
  • I’ve developed or feel ready to develop long-term photographic projects
  • I want a solid foundation in the history and future of this art form, and to build discipline in my creative practice

Program Length

Certificate students taking two or three classes a quarter, three quarters a year, will complete the program in three years, with the last year devoted largely to the thesis class. Most of our students complete the program in 5 years. The majority of program courses are offered in the evening, with some daytime options. Scheduling suggestions for completion of the program in three years available from the Registrar.

Program Requirements

Certificate students are governed by the credit and course requirements in place at the time of enrollment in the program. Students with formal education elsewhere may request credit transfer. Students who have learned through experience may ask to waive prerequisites and then take additional electives to complete the program.

Program Requirements
(as of September 2020)
Photography I: B&Wquarterly3
Photography I: Digitalquarterly3
Photography IIannually3
Photography IIIannually3
Photoshop Basics (formerly Digital Imaging I)annually3
Contemporary Colorannually3
Fine Art Printing2x annually3
Studio Lighting Basics (formerly Light Control)2x annually3
History of Photographyannually3
Professional Practices in Photography (formerly Business of Photography)2x annually3
Junior Seminarannually3
Senior Seminarannually3
Advanced Seminars / Electivesquarterly8
Thesisbegins fall of each academic year9
Total Credits 53


Both Photo I courses are designed for those who have little or no previous experience in photography and there are no prerequisites.

Photography I: B&W is an introduction to traditional analog darkroom processes and manual camera operation. Students gain a basic understanding of black and white photography through exercises and assignments that emphasize fundamental camera and darkroom skills. The course introduces concepts of composition, emphasizes personal expression alongside technical development, and covers an introduction to history and philosophy of photography. This is a required course for all students in the Certificate in Fine Art Photography.

Photography I: Digital is an introduction to the creative and technical process of photography though digital media. The course is designed to provide students with a basic understanding of photography through exercises and weekly assignments using a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera. Class sessions include critiques, lecture, in class hands-on exercises, and the review of weekly shooting assignments. Critiques acquaint students with the language of photography and the basic critical skills for conceptualizing, creating, viewing and discussing photographic images. Photo I: Digital is required for all students in the Certificate in Fine Art Photography.

Prerequisites: None

PHOTOGRAPHY II (may be taken as B&W or Digital)
The focus of Photography II: B&W is an expansion of the technical skills and a deeper understanding of the aesthetic principles guiding personal work. Emphasis will be on applying sophisticated technical knowledge gained through film/developer/exposure tests to students’ personal creative vision. Through exercises, material tests, and assignments, students gain a greater control over variable materials (fiber paper, developers, films) and creative development is encouraged through class critiques of personal projects. Editing for a series, presentation methods and options, as well as professional workflow are also key components of this requirement. Students in the Certificate in FIne Art Photography may opt to take Photo II with either a Digital or Analog (B&W) focus.

Prerequisites: Photography I: Black & White

Photography II: Digital challenges students to explore advanced digital photography techniques while learning workflow process for making visually sophisticated fine art photographs. Students learn techniques that parallel digital camera and computer workflow such as advanced frame division, crop and frame-ratio; RAW conversion; custom white balance; basic Photoshop adjustments for workflow, composite, retouching, image formatting and output; on-camera flash and external lighting; printing and archiving. Students are exposed to concepts of image/artistic construction: images containing hierarchies of subject-matter, advanced visual language to establish points of contention or dynamic tension in the image, and context, symbolic, metaphoric or narrative language. Students in the Certificate in Fine Art Photography may opt to take Photo II with either a Digital or Analog (B&W) focus.

Prerequisites: Photography I: Digital

Building on Photo I and II courses, Photography III is a project and critique driven course aimed at students who have completed at least two photography courses in either black and white or digital. Assignments in this course are designed to allow students maximum latitude in their choice of medium, style, or subject while focusing their work on a single project for the quarter. In this course, students refine their technical knowledge and develop new conceptual strategies for creating their work. Research, critiques and project development are integral components of the class. This is a required course for the Certificate in Fine Art Photography and it is recommended that students take Photo I, II, III in sequence.

Prerequisites: Photography II

PHOTOSHOP BASICS (formerly Digital Imaging I: Photoshop Fundamentals)
Photoshop Basics is a survey of Adobe Photoshop CC for photographers. As an introductory course it covers concepts like: basic navigation, layers and masks, channels, adjustment layers, how to make global and local adjustments, Camera RAW, and basic digital workflow. An introduction to printing is also a component of this course. This course is a prerequisite for Contemporary Color and Fine Art Digital Printing.

Prerequisites: Photography I: Digital

Contemporary color photography has grown to encompass traditional chromogenic printing, color transparency, digital inkjet and lightjet prints, as well as numerous alternative processes. This integrated course covers color theory, the nuances of digital printing, and a new set of foundations in color photography while drawing on analog and digital traditions.

Prerequisites: Photoshop Basics (formerly Digital Imaging I)

Both Fine Art Digital Printing and Fine Art Silver Printing courses are designed for students who are printing towards projects or portfolios. Fine Art Printing courses cover digital and analog techniques for making global and local adjustments in the image, enhancing or adjusting contrast, and proofing photographs for print. Students completing this course will be well-prepared for producing final projects and exhibition quality images.

Prerequisites: Photoshop Basics (for Digital Printing) or Introduction to Zone (for Silver Printing)
Recommended for Digital Printing: Photography II: Digital

STUDIO LIGHTING BASICS (formerly Light Control)
The course serves as an introduction to lighting beginning with natural light and moving into more complex studio lighting, mixed lighting, and on location scenarios. The class will cover the nature of light and how different surfaces transmit, absorb, and reflect it. Studio flash and tungsten lighting, as well as location lighting and on-camera flash will all be covered. This is a intermediate class that assumes a Photo II level of proficiency in camera operation and knowledge of color, although prior experience with studio lights is not required.

Prerequisites: Color or Photography II: Digital

This seminar will focus on significant people, events, and subjects in the development of photography. Through class discussions and readings, students will analyze and compare the works of a variety of artists and practitioners, examine how historical events have impacted photographic practice, and explore the relationship between photography and the fine art world. Visits to important photographic collections in the Seattle area, as well as local galleries, will form a part of this class. This course has no prerequisites, and can be taken concurrently with other courses in the Certificate in Fine Art Photography.

Prerequisites: None, recommended Photography I

PROFESSIONAL PRACTICES IN PHOTOGRAPHY (formerly Business of Photography)
Professional Practices in Photography courses, offered with emphasis on either Commercial or Fine Art, cover a wide range of topics that are geared towards helping you build the skills and knowledge to run your own photography business. The course addresses various stages of getting your business into full swing, outlining the fundamentals of business planning: research, evaluation, strategy and implementation. Other topics include: copyright law, licensing, invoicing, marketing/promotion, and editorial crossover. Students will gain clearly defined objectives for their businesses and strategies to aid their business development, career path and success in the photographic industry. This will be accomplished by using a combination of lecture, guest presentation, research and business-planning projects.

Prerequisites: None

The Junior Seminar is an advanced level course for students learning to develop a long-term photographic project. While emphasizing independent work, the course supports students in their ability to edit their work, see connections and parallels in contemporary practice, and confront artistic challenges. Engaging these topics and ideas, students will also gain confidence writing and speaking about their work. Aspects of professional artistic practice and project development are key components of this course.

Prerequisites: Photography I-III

This seminar is an advanced course that combines readings in the history and theory of photography and art, visiting lectures from curators and professionals in the field of photography, writing, and discussions of contemporary photographic practice. The course provides opportunities for students to discuss their project and work amongst a group of other advanced students, and to situate their own ideas and practice within a framework of contemporary photography. Students completing this course are encouraged to take Thesis in the following year.

Prerequisites: Junior Seminar

Any seminars, classes or electives may fill this requirement, though we encourage students to consider their creative and professional goals, as well as the level of the course before choosing courses to fill this requirement. Students entering the program through Photo I: Digital will have three instead of four elective courses (because of Photo I: B&W requirement).

Prerequisites: Vary

This final course in the PCNW Certificate in Fine Art Photography is designed so that each student may bring an extended photographic project from an initial stage to final realization. Students have an entire year to explore frameworks for building a long-term project with conceptual, visual and thematic components. Over the course of the year, students will develop a project appropriate for public exhibition, and will be challenged to justify their visual and conceptual decisions in the context of fine art photography practice. The course culminates in a gallery exhibition of student work. Students will work with their individual advisers outside of class time to prepare work for critiques.

Prerequisites: Senior Seminar

Estimated Cost

The total cost of the Certificate in Fine Art Photography outlined below is a range, given the variation from student to student, which courses the student chooses, what equipment and supplies the student buys and how much time the student spends using the facilities. Photographic Center Northwest reserves the right to increase tuition and fees.

PCNW offers a need-based Scholarship Program, as well as a 2 Part Payment Plan for students interested in options for financial assistance.

The following is our current projection for completion of the program in three years. Please note that many of our students take five years to complete the Certificate in Fine Art Photography, and this would increase the overall cost.


Tuition, assuming a 5% per year increase in tuition and assuming the student completes the Certificate in Fine Art Photography in three years (updated fall 2018):$14,575
Facility rental fees, which are subject to incremental increases, and vary depending on class choices:$2,400
Supplies purchased by the student (paper, film, etc.):$3,600
Camera (required to do class assignments) and other equipment:$1,200
Required materials and textbooks, purchased new:$1,000
Total of the above:$22,775
Estimated cost of completing the Certificate in Fine Art Photography in the next three years (beginning 2018):$22,775-$24,000


Photographic Center Northwest is an accredited institutional member of National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

What does Accreditation Mean?
Learn more about NASAD and accreditation here.

11250 Roger Bacon Drive
Suite 21
Reston, VA 20190-5248

Telephone: (703) 437 0700
Fax: (703) 437 6312
E-mail: info@arts-accredit.org

Regional Licensing

Photographic Center Northwest is licensed in the state of Washington under Chapter 28C.10 RCW. Inquiries or complaints regarding this private vocational school may be made to:

Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board
128 – 10th Ave. SW
Box 43105
Olympia, Washington 98504
Phone: 360-709-4600
E-Mail Address: wtecb@wa.gov
Web: wtb.wa.gov

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