Student examines negatives over a lightboard
Undergraduate | In-Person

Photography, BFA

Our mission is to empower you with the confidence and skills to thrive and be self-sufficient as image makers and responsible, thoughtful, cultural producers in the ever-changing field of photography. 

Why Major in Photography? 

Student image of a dog in natureThe Watkins College of Art's B.F.A. in Photography encourages in-depth research and experimentation in technical and conceptual methods to hone skills and sensibilities for high-end photography in multiple media.

Our curriculum is designed with a strong art foundation program that leads to major courses including advanced film and digital photography methods and professional practices. The BFA degree prepares students to enter the field and/or pursue a graduate degree. Students will complete an ambitious thesis exhibition at the culmination of their degree.

In the B.F.A., you will develop creative, entrepreneurial and critical thinking skills in your art making process that can be applied to all areas of your life through professional internships, public exhibitions, presentations and exposure to writing for proposals (grants, exhibitions, editorial pitches, etc.). You will also develop a cross-disciplinary and global perspective by bringing in elements of a wider liberal arts education into your photographic practice.

For students looking for a more interdisciplinary approach to their photography practice, the Watkins College of Art offers a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Photographic Studies.

Start your photography career in the bustling, creative industry of Nashville.

What You'll Learn 

  • Digital imaging and large-format printing
  • Darkroom and film photography
  • Digital photography
  • Experimental video techniques
  • Applied studio lighting
  • Documentary photographic projects that emphasize social concerns
  • Photo history and theory

Career Possibilities

  • Studio or Commercial Photographer
  • Entertainment Photographer
  • Lifestyle Photographer
  • Fashion/Editorial Photographer
  • Photo Editing
  • Gallery or Museum Curating
  • Photojournalism
  • Photo Archivist
  • Darkroom and Digital Printing Technician
  • Short or Long Form Documentary

Christine Rogers

Faculty Spotlight

For Associate Professor of Photography Christine Rogers, her own artistic journey is as much a part of her teaching philosophy as the lessons she teaches in the classroom.

"I don't think you can really teach art from the memory of having once made art and not doing it anymore," she explained. "The fun and the magic of making art, if I'm really alive and active with it, that feeds into the way I teach.”

Program Details


All photography students within the College of Art take the same core foundation studio courses as the other BFA majors during the first year. Portfolio reviews are conducted to further enhance learning through external feedback.

  • BELL Core requirements: 38 hours
  • Major requirements: 82 hours
  • General electives: 6-8 hours

See All Program Requirements

Below are a few of the courses offered in the BA and BFA Photography Degree:

  • ART 1060, Introduction to Darkroom Photography

An introduction to the basics of black and white photography. This class emphasizes the basic parts and operation of an SLR (manual) camera, black-and-white film processing and darkroom use. Students will study the basics of composition, design, lighting, printing, processing and final print presentation. Students will learn to develop film, process prints, and other printing controls such as dodging, burning, split filtering, experimental printing techniques and the use of filters. The concentration is on photography as a fine art medium. Students must have a 35mm manual control camera.

  • ART 1100, Introduction to Digital Photography

This is a beginning-level class, starting at and expanding on the basics of DSLR color exposure, processing in Camera RAW, Bridge and Photoshop as well as the basics of using the scanner as a means of photographic capture. This class will cover the basics of photographic color theory, composition fundamentals in photography and the applications of color in photography. There will be a strong emphasis on developing the ability to communicate ideas effectively through the photographic medium as well as the ability to talk about photographic works analytically, formally and conceptually. Concentration is on photography as a fine are medium. Students must have a 35 mm DSLR camera with manual controls.

  • ART 2300, Intermediate Photography

This course is a continued study of digital photography through advanced digital capture, advanced Photoshop techniques, scanning film, digital printmaking and artificial lighting. Students will move from physical media (film) to digital files, and back to physical media through the process of digital printmaking. Students will be able to experiment with a variety of digital papers as well as scale in printing, and the narrative potential of video art and photo books. Through lectures, readings and library visits, students will engage with both the virtual and physical spaces of photographic production.

  • ART 2360, Studio Lighting Photography

This course covers essential concepts of lighting for studio photography: controlling the quality of light and the architecture of multiple light setups with flash, strobes, natural lighting and continuous artificial light along with lighting accessories. Students explore the manipulation of quantity, quality, direction and contrast of both natural and artificial lighting. The use of artificial and natural lighting in situations outside the studio will also be explored.

  • ART 3060, Advanced Photography

An intense exploration of a wide range of lens-based and non-lens-based photo media, creating both virtual and physical artworks with an emphasis on experimentation, the creation of visual style and the used of photography as a means of personal expression. Through various exercises and prompts students will develop their critical practice and self-directed research models, eventually producing a large, carefully considered portfolio of work. Emphasis will be on professional practices, critical self-reflection throughout the course of the semester, creative, personal and intellectual expression and continued development of connections with their photography across boundaries.

  • ART 3061, Photography Printmaking

This course is a hands-on exploration of non-traditional methods in photograph image making which may include cyanotype, salt prints, Van Dyke, kallitype and palladium. Enlarging negatives and other techniques will be demonstrated. This course relies heavily on the knowledge of technical processes that students use to aid in the development of their artwork. The final portion of the semester is dedicated to the completion of more conceptually driven projects.

  • ART 3360, Photo Workshop

After technical demonstrations and overview, students will partner with a rotating special topics partner to produce applied lighting techniques in a professional context. There are a series of Photo Workshop classes offered on a regular basis ranging in topics of Fashion, Architecture, Film Set and Music photography. Other topics will be offered on a less regular basis.

  • ART 4360, Photo Professional Practice

This course introduces the student to professional practices strategies such as the invoicing, copywriting, contracts, negotiation tactics, marketing strategies and studio management skills that are necessary for successful careers in photography. Building a client network and finding your unique photographic voice through professional practices are critical to becoming an accomplished professional photographer.

  • ART 4860, Photography Thesis

This course provides practical and critical experience of preparing, producing and installing a body of artwork for exhibition; researching and writing a thesis paper; and preparing and giving a public presentation. Students continue to explore professional practices and business applications in preparation for a career in the arts. Group and individual critiques will form the basis of the course curriculum, supplemented by visiting critics, discussions, readings and class exercises.

  • ART 2370, Photo History

This course surveys the history and development of photography primarily in Europe and America from the 1830s into the twentieth century, examining new technologies and styles such as documentary, portrait and landscape photography as well as the relationship of photography to painting.

  • ART 2370, Portfolio Practices

Through inquiry, reflection and integration, students will bring coherence to, synthesize and integrate learning experiences inside and outside of the classroom in the context of a liberal arts university by producing an electronic portfolio for both academic and professional purposes. This course will introduce students to the basis of documenting, curating, reflecting on and showcasing learned proficiency as shown through such artifacts as visual and written work. The course will emphasize both visual and written/reflective components of creating and critique. Students will also be introduced to professional practices in preparation for an internship.

  • ART 3060, Advanced Photography

This course is a hands-on exploration of non-traditional methods in photograph image making which may include cyanotype, salt prints, Van Dyke, kallitype and palladium. Enlarging negatives and other techniques will be demonstrated. This course relies heavily on the knowledge of technical processes that students use to aid in the development of their artwork. The final portion of the semester is dedicated to the completion of more conceptually driven projects.

  • ART 3062, Experiential Video

This course is designed to expand student’s conceptual and creative understanding of the applications time-based media using a variety of video capture. This class builds on previous technical foundation and preparation with an emphasis on conceptual development. Performance art, installation art, appropriated media and other time-based works will be explored. The course will focus heavily on experimentation of the media covering the linear and nonlinear aspect of digital editing. The course will also hold discussions of video as a fine art form, it’s history and significant artists. Emphasis is placed on creative and appropriate technical application, critical analysis and articulation of ideas.

  • ART 3063, Documentary Video

This course will expose you to both the history and methods of documentary practice. Students will explore the elements of documentary photography, video and writing by viewing works, films and written accounts by historical and contemporary documentarians. In addition to readings, discussions, written assignments and oral presentations, students will explore and develop a documentary project and present the work for constructive group critiques.

  • ART 4370, Critical Texts in Photo

From the time of the first photographs, both practitioners and critics groped for a language to address this new medium and its direct relationship with the world. Over the years, some described photography with phrases such as a "mirror with a memory," "the pencil of nature," a "momento mori" and "embalmed time." Others claimed that this new apparatus would mean the "annihilation of time and space." Some regarded its invention as the death of painting while others saw it as the last recourse of failed painters and the unfortunate triumph of industry over art.

This scientific, but seemingly almost magical, photo-mechanical (and now digital) process has inspired a wealth of philosophical, historical and critical exposition. During the course of this semester, we will explore these varied interpretations and look at works by the writers who have most shaped contemporary ideas about photography. We will discuss the relationship of this medium to aesthetics, politics, society, memory and language, and we will address the relevance of these ideas to photographers today.

All students pursuing a B.F.A. degree must complete at least one internship for college credit. Students may work in any art or design-related employment, such as advertising, publishing, photography or galleries. Students can earn up to 6 credits towards their degree.

Your major will provide you with a wide array of opportunities including but not limited to:

  • Study abroad- Photography has a Maymester trip to India
  • Study away for a semester in alternate markets through Belmont USA (N.Y.C., L.A., Washington D.C.)
  • Internships- Our relationship to Nashville’s professional creative community is personal and rich. We will assist you with internship placement to ensure the experience is a good fit
  • Four campus gallery spaces to professionally exhibit your work
  • Opportunities to present at campus-wide research symposiums and professional conferences
  • Kappa Pi, an international honorary art fraternity
  • Compete in local, regional and international art/design competitions

We encourage you to explore the exceptional work our students create in their programs.

View Student Work

The Watkins College of Art requires all students applying for a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree to submit a portfolio as a part of the admissions process. You must first be admitted to Belmont before hearing a decision from Watkins. 

Portfolios submitted before December 1 will be considered for the Watkins Merit Scholarships. Any applications submitted after December 1 will be considered for admission, but not for departmental scholarships.  

View all Portfolio Guidelines

Deadlines for the Portfolio and Belmont application: 
December 1 for scholarship consideration 
April 1 for incoming freshmen students 
June 1 for incoming transfer students 

What if I am accepted to Belmont but not the BFA program? 
Any applicants not accepted into a BFA program will have the option to be enrolled in a second major of their choice. We encourage applicants to select one of our Bachelor of Arts (BA) majors (See below). At the end of the student’s freshman year and completion of foundational courses, the student will be eligible to reapply to the BFA program through another portfolio review. 

The Watkins College of Art has significant scholarship opportunities for students. Last year, the college offered more than 55 scholarships to incoming students valued over $380,000.

Applicants who intend to pursue a degree in the Watkins College of Art and wish to be considered for the merit-based scholarship must submit an essay and portfolio of work in art and/or design. Students must have their Belmont application and portfolio submitted by December 1 to be eligible for the scholarships.

Please visit the Portfolio Guidelines page for more specific details.

Learn more.

Need-based scholarships will be determined from a student's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is the official form that families use to apply for college financial assistance from the federal government.

Students have access to analog and digital cameras (small, medium and large format), darkrooms, lighting studios, large format printers and alternative printmaking studios.

Students pursuing a degree should plan on purchasing their own digital camera. The camera does not need to be purchased prior to entering the program. The camera can be any brand, must have RAW capabilities and can be a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

Photography minors first study the basics of composition, design, lighting, processing and printing film and producing effective prints. With additional classes, students are enabled to explore photography as an expressive, personal tool, reflecting its status as a fine art medium. Students primarily explore traditional darkroom techniques, in addition to digital photography. Students also have the opportunity to explore non-traditional techniques in upper-level classes. At all levels, emphasis is placed on creativity, personal expression and the quality of finished prints.

In addition to Belmont University's Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) accreditation, the Watkins College of Art is a fully accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Black and white image of photography graduate Natasha Lehner

Alumni Testimonial

“My professors at Belmont demonstrated an overwhelming commitment to students’ success within the classroom and beyond. The support and personalized attention given to every student is truly unique to the Belmont experience.”

Natasha Lehner, Class of 2020

Student Testimonial

“Watkins is made up of a close-knit group of creatives. The students encourage and support each other, helping out on projects and challenging each other to be their best. The instructors know no bounds when it comes to helping their students. I’ve had multiple instructors and staff go above and beyond to help me. Each experience here has equipped me with the skills and a network of other great photographers that’ll help shape my career.”

Elise Rowland, Class of 2025

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Watkins College of Art

Elise Haines
Admissions Coordinator
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