Calling all shutterbugs: You might already know that you can get college scholarships for your love of photography. But did you know that you might be able to get enough scholarships to start a career behind the lens without being buried in student loans?
It might seem like STEM degrees are the only majors earning scholarships these days, but luckily there are still programs that support the study of art. If you’re planning on leading a life behind the camera, these photography scholarships can help.
6 programs that offer photography scholarships
Many different organizations are contributing to photography scholarships, especially those supporting photojournalism. Here are six such programs that you should know about.
1. Bodie McDowell Scholarship
The Outdoor Writers Association of America — an organization that seeks to improve the skills of professional communicators who work in the great outdoors — offers the Bodie McDowell Scholarship. This scholarship is available to undergraduate students studying print, photography, film, art, or broadcasting.
You can win anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 if you demonstrate “clear, significant goals in outdoor communications.” Applications are now closed but will open back up in December.
2. Janie Moore Greene Scholarship Grant
Offered by the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), the Janie Moore Greene Scholarship Grant awards $1,000 to photography students at the undergraduate and graduate level. Students are eligible if they attend two-year or four-year colleges, art/design schools, or photography schools.
Although the scholarship doesn’t say your work should be focused on nature, it can be assumed that it will make a difference in receiving this award. The application period generally closes in the middle of fall.
High school students interested in studying nature photography can also apply for the NANPA High School Scholarship Program. Not a college scholarship, this is an immersive education program that takes place during the summer months in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
3. National Press Photographers Foundation Scholarships
The National Press Photographers Foundation (NPPF) has six photography scholarships. Luckily, you only have to apply once to become eligible for them all.
These six awards are specifically focused on photojournalism. And they all award $2,000 to students who demonstrate talent and financial need:
- The Bob East Photojournalism Scholarship
- The Reid Blackburn Memorial Award
- The Bob Baxter Scholarship
- The Kit C. King Scholarship (graduate students only)
- The Rich Clarkson Founders Scholarship (can be won in addition to one of the scholarships above)
4. The James Alan Cox Foundation for Student Photojournalists
Another scholarship focused on photojournalists, applications for the James Alan Cox Foundation photography scholarship are due each November.
This scholarship is available to high school students, undergraduate students, and graduate students alike. All applicants need to have at least one semester of school left to receive the award.
Other requirements are as follows:
- High school students need to be at least a sophomore and have taken at least one photography or related art class.
- College students or students at technical schools need to have at least one full year under their belt at an accredited school. They must also have taken at least one photography or photojournalism class.
- Graduate students must be studying journalism or photojournalism.
And here’s what you can win:
- High school students can win a digital camera.
- Undergraduate students at a college or technical school can win a $2,500 scholarship, either for video work or still photography.
- Graduate students can win a $2,500 scholarship for video work only.
If interested, you can apply for this photography scholarship via the James Cox Foundation.
5. Worldstudio AIGA Scholarship
The Worldstudio AIGA Scholarship was designed to help minority and economically disadvantaged students pursue a degree in art or design. To win, you should not just show talent and financial need, but also have a plan to give back to your community through your work.
Majors in photography (as well as other artistic disciplines) can win up to $5,000 for school. Here’s the breakdown of awards:
- The top prize is $5,000 to help pay for school.
- The basic scholarship amount is $2,000 to $3,000.
- Or you can win an honorable mention prize of $500 in cash.
Applications for this scholarship closed in May but will reopen in early 2018.
6. Lucie Scholarship Program
The Lucie Scholarship Program doesn’t offer money for college, but it does award money to help you pursue your work.
There are three different awards in this program:
- Photo Made: $1,000 Emerging Scholarship awarded for a fine arts approach to a new or ongoing project.
- Photo Taken: $1,000 Emerging Scholarship awarded for a new or ongoing project with a documentary or photojournalism angle.
- $2,500 Emerging Artist Scholarship awarded for any genre of photography in the creation of a new or ongoing “dynamic” project.
The submission deadline was at the end of June, so interested applicants might want to check back for a new application in the spring.
How to find even more photography scholarships
The list of scholarships above is available to students from all backgrounds and regions. But you can find even more photography scholarships if you individualize your search.
For example, below are a few photography scholarships based on location or school:
- The Betty Harlan Memorial Arts Scholarship: For visual arts majors in Northern Illinois.
- F. Lammot Belin Arts Scholarship: Arts scholarships, including photography, that place an emphasis on residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
- Iowa Scholarships for the Arts: For fine arts majors in Iowa.
- Ivan Burnham Scholarships: For students attending the New England Institute of Professional Photography.
- Portfolio Awards in General Art or Photography: For students attending the Pratt Institute.
- Support Creativity Scholarships: For students in New York City and the surrounding tri-state area studying photography or other arts and design disciplines.
- Tenfold Initiative Scholarship: For Central Ohio residents studying art or design.
- Yellow Dog Studio Memorial Scholarship: For future photography majors graduating from a high school in the Great Lakes Bay Region in Michigan.
And here are some examples of photography scholarships based on race and gender:
- Against the Grain Products Artistic Scholarship: For art students of at least 50 percent Asian and/or Pacific Islander ethnicity.
- CBC Spouses Visual Arts Scholarship: For black students studying visual arts.
- Formation Scholarship: For women studying creative arts — see participating schools to apply.
- Hispanic Education Endowment Fund (HEEF): Various scholarships for Hispanic students of the arts living in Orange County, California.
As you engage in your own scholarship search, look on your college (or soon-to-be college) website to see what they offer. Then do a Google search for “photography scholarships,” adding your race, gender, or hometown to come up with search results specific to you.
Finally, be sure to look at more than just photography scholarships. A search for “scholarships for art majors” turns up even more opportunities (such as those above) that include — but are not limited to — photography majors.
Don’t forget to look for photography competitions
As you work to find more money for school, don’t forget about photography contests. Although winnings from photography contests don’t necessarily have to go towards college tuition, the money you win can help in many ways.
Consider the National Young Arts Foundation. Winners of this contest can earn cash awards of up to $10,000. Winners also get:
- Master classes with renowned photographers.
- A nomination to be a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts.
- A “lifetime of mentoring and support.”
(Note that there are sometimes fees for such contests, such as the $35 fee for this one.)
And remember that contests don’t just help you earn money. If you win, you can gain exposure, build your resume, and even improve your skills behind the lens. All of this can help you mature as an artist while you prepare for the next step in your studies.
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