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Photography Certificate Program - CDA
Discover the world of commercial, advertising, portrait & event photography with the CDA certificate program.


Discover the world of commercial, advertising, portrait and event photography. Explore composition and color management while learning image archiving and file preparation. Apprentice with renowned photographers and digital experts to create a competitive portfolio, build an invaluable network, and gain insider knowledge in this dynamic field.

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Photography Certificate Program Curriculum-CDA
From traditional black & white photography to digital imaging, learn the latest photographic techniques from CDA.

Get schooled

Journey from photography enthusiast to expert with the Professional Photography Certificate. From traditional black and white photography to digital imaging, learn the latest photographic techniques and technologies while exploring photographic narrative, vision and point of view. Whether you’re interested in fashion or sports, commercial work or photojournalism, we prepare students for artistic and professional success. The Photography program curriculum includes:

Camera and Workflow

This course introduces the digital single lens reflex camera (dSLR), a professional photographer’s primary image-making instrument. Classroom demonstrations, lectures and exercises will help the student to fully understand major camera controls, functions, components and accessories; how light, ISO, shutter speed and aperture are all interrelated (reciprocity); metering light for correct exposure; adjusting for optimal exposure; and how variable and fixed focal length lenses affect the look of our images. This course also takes a detailed look at Adobe’s Lightroom’s Library and Develop functions. Students will learn how to import, catalog, rank, sort, compare, edit, develop and export RAW files, as well as how to embed keywords and metadata.

PP110 / 60 Hours

Advanced Camera and Workflow

This course will introduce Lightroom’s output functions for Slideshow, Print and Web. Students will learn how to quickly build slideshows and web galleries for client and portfolio presentations, as well as how Lightroom’s templates and presets streamline the process of making test prints, contact sheets and exhibition prints. Students will learn how to register their domain names, and will download a free trial of a professional website template. By the end of the course, each student will have built the foundation for a professional quality portfolio website and a linked blog.

PP120 / 30 Hours

Printing Fundamentals

This course teaches both the objective and subjective skills necessary to produce exhibition-quality inkjet prints, and is a deep dive into Lightroom’s Develop and Print functions. Students will develop a thorough understanding of a process that enables complete control over the final print’s density, contrast and color. Simple print finishing techniques like dodging, burning, vignetting and color range adjustment complete the process. Students will also learn a variety of black and white conversion and print methods, and after a demonstration of archival matting and framing, will have the option of leaving the course with a beautifully matted frame-ready print.

PP130 / 30 Hours

Introduction to Photoshop Tools

Adobe Lightroom has not only revolutionized the way photographers organize, edit and present their work, it has also redefined and focused the role of Photoshop in an advanced digital workflow. This course introduces Photoshop’s sophisticated pixel editing capabilities with an emphasis on the application’s key features and basic methodologies including proper setup, “round tripping” from Lightroom to Photoshop and back, the overall interface, general editing tools, layers, masks, selections, and simple retouching techniques. Each session’s instructor-led demonstrations and exercises will help students develop a thorough understanding of the application’s fundamental features.

PP140 / 30 Hours

Introduction to Light

In this course students will apply the technical concepts of ambient and flash exposure learned in Camera and Workflow to a series of daily lighting exercises. Working outside and in the studio, we will learn to recognize, reproduce, modify and redirect hard and soft light whether it be natural (existing) light, incandescent “hot” light, or professional studio strobe. Emphasis will be placed on how light defines shape, form, texture and tone, and how contrast control (or lighting ratio) contributes to the mood and visual impact of a photograph. Finally, using a single light source and simple light modifiers, each student will create a complex, powerfully lit conceptual studio photograph.

PP150 / 30 Hours

Photographic Seeing

Edward Weston described composition as “the strongest way of seeing”. Ansel Adams proclaimed that “there is nothing worse than a sharp picture of a fuzzy concept.” Between the two of them they identified and offered solutions to what are often a photographer’s most serious creative challenges— how do we bring visual order to a chaotic world, and how do we make interesting, meaningful photographs that transcend “the thing itself”. Through classroom discussion, challenging assignments and extensive location shooting both individually and as a group, this course will stress the importance of concept and composition in the creation of compelling imagery.

PP160 / 30 Hours

Practical Applications of Photoshop

This course provides hands-on reinforcement of the foundation-level aspects of Photoshop as they apply to typical photographic situations. Using timed shooting and post-production assignments, students will be challenged to demonstrate competence in the application of those fundamental skills. Upon the successful completion of those assignments, students will be well prepared to move into more advanced, imaginative post-production topics such as compositing, photo illustration and beauty retouching in subsequent courses.

PP170 / 30 Hours

Product and Still Life Studio Lighting

This course provides advanced training in product and still-life studio lighting with an emphasis on commercial practice and methodologies. Students will learn to critically control exposure, contrast, light quality and mood through the use of various light modifiers, reflectors and diffusers. Daily exercises and shooting assignments will demonstrate techniques for lighting textural, transparent/translucent and highly reflective objects. Emphasis in this course will be on developing a proficiency and comfort level working in the studio, using tethered digital capture processes on multi-light tabletop sets.

PP180 / 60 Hours

Integrating Photoshop into the Creative Studio

One of the most exciting aspects of digital photography is the immediate access to the post-production processes required to solve technical challenges or to realize a creative vision. Photographers no longer need to surrender control to retouchers, compositors or lab technicians- we now can do it all ourselves, often right on the set as we are capturing images. A solid understanding of both the nuances of studio lighting and the layering, selecting, masking and blending methods available in Photoshop is a powerful combination indeed. This course introduces and explores how deliberate and precise lighting and post-production techniques used in tandem result in a far more controlled, efficient and creative imaging workflow.

PP190 / 30 Hours

Photographing Architectural Interiors

Photographers who specialize in documenting both interior and exterior environments for architects, interior designers and realtors face two fundamental challenges: composition and lighting. In this course, students will first learn how to establish the optimal camera position before addressing the creative and technical hurdles of balancing mixed light sources, adding supplemental light, and using advanced techniques to extend the camera’s ability to record highlight and shadow detail. Shooting and post-production assignments will demonstrate when and how to supplement effective lighting skills with Photoshop and HDR technology.

PP200 / 30 Hours

Studio Portrait Photography

Due to the sheer volume of the potential client base, the ability to make a flattering and salable portrait of any subject is a skill every professional photographer must master. This course introduces traditional and contemporary portrait aesthetics, tools and methodologies and will reinforce the skills required to master this essential aspect of our craft. From the simplicity of window light portraiture through the flexibility of the standard 4-light setup, students will gain a thorough understanding of the dramatic and cosmetic potential of a variety lighting schemes and posing techniques as practiced within a controlled studio environment.

PP210 / 30 Hours

Portable Lighting with Speedlights

Today’s small, camera-mounted flash units made by both Canon and Nikon pack a lot of power and advanced electronic versatility, but they also provide an important opportunity to supplement, shape and enhance the quality as well as the quantity of light in almost any photograph imaginable. This course introduces the speedlight first as a manually-operated device not unlike larger professional lighting tools, but then quickly shifts to TTL and balanced flash exposure, remote off-camera triggering and multiple light setups. A variety of light modifiers and wireless triggering systems will also be demonstrated and available for student use.

PP220 / 30 Hours

Location Portrait Photography

Extending the lighting and posing techniques learned in Studio Portrait Photography beyond the studio, this course demonstrates how a carefully chosen environment becomes an integral component of the final image. Whether adding personality to portraits of families, couples, high school seniors, and children, or narrative context to business, editorial and advertising portraits, students will learn how to take advantage of unique lighting, compositional and business opportunities as well as how to solve the logistical challenges every location photographer faces.

PP230 / 30 Hours

Working with Models

Commercial, fashion and editorial photographers rely on professional models to provide the dynamic presence vital to the success of their projects. This exciting course demonstrates how the successful photographer/model collaboration works. Students will develop concepts, practice sophisticated lighting and shooting techniques, deconstruct and emulate inspiring images from published tear sheets, and learn how to direct talent and crew. Comprehensive classroom discussions cover casting, preproduction, pre-light, editing, postproduction and delivery. Students will show their work in a group review where the rules of editing will be discussed. Beauty retouching includes treatment of skin, softening, selective sharpening, treatment of eyes, teeth and hair, blending and masking to optimize facial features.

PP240 / 60 Hours

Photo Markets and Business

This course introduces the essential core concepts that every small business owner and freelance creative must consider, along with market-specific topics relevant to retail, commercial and editorial photographers. Through lectures, assignments and role-playing exercises, students will build a working knowledge of marketing and branding, contracts, negotiating, estimating and pricing, credit and finance, copyright, insurance, taxes and legal issues. Students will leave this important course with a greater understanding of their own creative and professional goals, along with the Business Plan Outline, Marketing Plan and Mission Statement necessary to help ensure their success.

PP250 / 30 Hours

Photo Illustration

Commercial and editorial photographers must often move beyond simply capturing “found” images and instead pre-visualize, design and produce complex visual constructions limited only by their imagination. By combining an extensive knowledge of camera, lighting and Photoshop skills learned in previous courses, students will conceptualize an image that displays the attitude, lifestyle or message needed to sell a product or promote an idea. Studio and location shooting and advanced Photoshop compositing techniques are equally emphasized, and students are encouraged to ignore conventional constraints and challenge themselves to create compelling, convincing and confounding photographic illustrations.

PP260 / 30 Hours

Wedding Photography

This course illustrates the concepts required to successfully photograph a modern wedding or similar event. Students focus on a wide range of lighting, posing and photographic styles, and address current trends and traditions in the wedding photography industry. Students learn to properly prepare and shoot using natural light, portable flash and mixed lighting in varied setting, including mock wedding exercises with bride and groom on location. Special emphasis is placed on a range of shooting topics including camera and lens selection, effective use of on and off camera flash, and preparing for inevitable equipment malfunctions. Students learn to create a personal brand and signature for their work, and successfully market and network their business.

PP270 / 60 Hours

DSLR Video for Photographers

Driven in part by the rapid development of DSLR cameras incorporating high definition video capabilities, the convergence of still photography and filmmaking has created a profound shift in the nature of both media. For still photographers especially, the integration of movement and sound into our work has become a crucial (and highly marketable) skill. From planning the shoot by storyboarding, through sequencing the shooting schedule, advanced lighting (including “motivated” lighting with continuous supplemental light sources), dynamic focusing and exposure, directing subjects and crew, and tracking movement through the frame, students will begin to master the fundamental aspects of video production using the same small, portable and highly flexible DSLR cameras they already own.

PP280 / 30 Hours

Audio Recording for Photographers

This course expands on DSLR video production and introduces enhanced audio recording technique as perhaps the most critical component of a successful multimedia video project. Beginning with the basic skills required to produce an effective “radio interview”, students will explore the process of professionally capturing ambient sound, music and the spoken word using small multi-channel digital recorders with and without supplemental microphones.

PP290 / 30 Hours

Multimedia Tools for Photographers

This course introduces the editing techniques required to build dynamic multimedia productions for the web. Step-by-step exercises will provide a clear understanding of how advanced authoring tools combine still photography, audio and video assets into an engaging piece of work.

PP300 / 30 Hours

Visual Journalism

A photograph can decorate a wall or it can have the power to shake the world. It is a picture’s storytelling potential that makes photography such a potent force in our lives. After advance approval of story proposals, timetable and budgets, students will produce a still photographic essay that will form the basis of a multimedia film presentation. While exploring the traditional elements of story telling (“pitching” a concept, shooting, editing, documentation and presentation), students will also collect additional assets for inclusion in their final Multimedia story project for Storybuilding, including audio, video, narration, and supplemental or transitional images.

PP310 / 30 Hours

Story Building

Applying their knowledge of authoring tools, audio and video to the story content generated in the previous course, students bring it all together into a refined multimedia presentation. Emphasis is placed on image sequencing and transitions, combining video clips with still imagery, and effective audio. Students will leave the course with a completed 3-5 minute multimedia piece.

PP320 / 30 Hours

Critical Skills Review

This course provides the opportunity for students to refine and review foundation-level topics in preparation for the advanced applied courses that follow. Students will also work with their instructor to propose and commit to a long-term extracurricular project, focusing on a subject of personal interest. Personal projects will be presented during the Portfolio course at the end of the program.

PD400 / 60 Hours

Portfolio Development

This final pair of courses begin the process of focusing and defining each student’s creative identity by writing a biographical artist’s statement, then selecting, reviewing and refining a portfolio that best defines his or her current creative ability and professional ambition. Working together as a class along with meetings with portfolio advisors and through focused individual effort, students will learn how to define and present their distinctive vision to their chosen field of study.

PD410 / 60 Hours

Photography Certificate Program Quote - CDA
Contact CDA today and take the first step to achieving your photography certificate.
I’m proud to say that today I’m a successful commercial photographer that has worked with Cartier, Porsche, GE, EMC, and Merrill Lynch just to name a few. I would highly recommend CDA for any professional that is serious about jumping into a career in the creative field.
Nicole Connolly
Photography Program
Photography Certificate Program Faculty - CDA
Our faculty are working professionals offering years of practical experience in all areas of the digital arts.

The Faculty

Let our crew of industry leaders, influencers and experts challenge and inspire you.


Damian Hickey

Damian is a freelance photographer whose work has appeared in American Photo, Home Magazine, Design New England, and Architectural Digest. After studying fine art and concentrating in drawing and sculpture, first at the University of Chicago and then at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Damian fell in love with photography through playing with Photoshop. He is influenced by contemporary and classic fashion and advertising photography, as well as by 19th and 20th century painting. He lives and has a studio in Jamaica Plain.

Sharon White

Sharon has been a photographer in Boston for 20 years. Along with Bob Packert, she formed the commercial photography business White/Packert and has had the opportunity to work for many advertising agencies and companies including Bose, Canon, Boston Magazine, Citibank/Mastercard, Cole Haan, Sinar Bron, Putnam Investments, Boston Globe Magazine, Reebok, Shure Microphones, TDK Electronics, and Fidelity Investments. Sharon’s stock photography is represented by Getty Images. Her work has been highlighted in PDN and View Camera magazines and has won awards from the NY Art Directors Club, Studio Magazine (Toronto), CA Design Annual, PDN Digital, One Show and Graphis Photography Annual.

/ 781-209-1700

Felix Rust

Felix flirted with photography in High School and college but when his son was born in 1999 he started a project that turned him into a professional photographer. He began taking images of his son every single day and posting them online so his extended family could watch him grow up. With his son, now 14, and his daughter, 11, he has posted more than 12,000 images. Felix soon began taking pictures of other people’s children and then shot his first wedding - that of his son’s kindergarten teacher. He now has difficulty keeping up with the demand for his unique, photojournalistic approach to weddings and meticulously designed wedding albums. He operates his studio, Felix Rust Photographers, from Cambridge.

/ 781-209-1700

Shawn Reed

Shawn Read has been telling stories since elementary school, first with words and a typewriter, and now with photographs and Final Cut Pro. He earned his B.A. in English Literature from the University of Florida and moved to Okayama, Japan, where he lived for eleven years. During that time he got married in a Samurai garden, studied zen, and picked up both the travel and photography bugs. He shoots corporate head-shots and video, weddings, and portraiture at his own studio, L.B. Read Photography.

/ 781-209-1700

Photography Certificate Program Careers - CDA
Let CDA devise a road-map to a vibrant, thriving photography career. Turn your dream into reality.

Turn Pro*

Learn to Become a: Event Photographer / Fashion Photographer / Studio Photographer / Sports Photographer / Wedding Photographer

*At The Center for Digital Arts, we don’t believe you should have to choose between professional success and creative fulfillment. We prepare our students for thriving careers as digital creators and builders. Our graduates are Working:

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