Many aspiring cinematographers ask the question “what are the best schools for cinematography?” So what are the best cinematography schools? Like all of our articles on the “best schools for film education,” the answer is subjective. For some people, the best cinematography schools may be online; for others they may be at private institutions. If the latter is your focus, we’ve got you covered. These are the schools regarded as the best cinematography schools in the country.
Note: *The listed tuition rates vary by entry. Some are listed by semester, some by year, and some by total. This is because all tuition rates were taken directly from their institutions, as they were listed.
American Film Institute
Learn Cinematography • AFI Conservatory Cinematography Fellows Discuss the Program
Program: Cinematography Certificate of Completion
The American Film Institute (AFI) is one of the few graduate-level institutions to offer a dedicated cinematography program. The two-year Cinematography program tasks students with shooting hundreds of pieces, short and long form, in both digital and film.
AFI Cinematography has produced some of the biggest names in cinematography, including Robert Richardson, Wally Pfister, and Rachel Morrison.
Film Cinematography Courses
The AFI Cinematography program may consist of graduate-level work, but it’s rewarded by just a certificate of completion. That won’t be a problem for most cinematographers. Still, it’s worth noting there isn’t a degree waiting in the light at the end of the tunnel.
Tuition: $62,049 (per year)
ArtCenter College of Design
Cinematography Colleges • Film at ArtCenter College of Design
Program: Bachelor of Film with a specialization in Cinematography
The ArtCenter College of Design is one of the most picturesque arts schools in the country. Seriously, if you have a chance to see their Hillside campus, check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
But ArtCenter prides itself on more than just its beautiful facilities and vistas, it prides itself on integrating critical practice into undergraduate and graduate programs. The Bachelor of Film program allows students to choose between three specializations: cinematography, editing, or directing.
ArtCenter isn’t your typical film school – it’s an arts school with a lot of film students. However, as a student, you’d have more opportunities to collaborate with artists of other disciplines.
Tuition: $23,667 (per semester)
Cinematography Programs • Introduction to the School of the Arts at Emerson
Programs: Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts in Media Arts Production; Master of Fine Arts in Film & Media Art
Emerson College is a dual-coast private institution with campuses in Boston and Los Angeles. Students in the B.A., B.F.A., and M.F.A. programs are expected to advance their knowledge of media arts through their education.
Emerson may be most famous to some Californians as the site of one of the strangest campus buildings in the country – but it’s actually a renowned liberal arts school with deep roots in Boston’s historic Back Bay and theater district.
Film Cinematography Courses
Los Angeles Film School
Cinematography Major • Cineped Demonstration at LAFS Cinematography Guild by George Ohan
Program: Bachelor of Science in Film Production with a concentration in Cinematography
The Los Angeles Film School is one of the only schools in the country to offer an undergraduate film degree with a concentration in cinematography. Interesting note: the degree is a Bachelor of Science, which implies technical expertise.
LAFS is a tried-and-true film school with degree programs in animation, audio production, entertainment business and more. LAFS campus students can expect to collaborate with aspiring film professionals outside of the classroom.
The Los Angeles Film School Bachelor of Science in Film Production degree with a concentration in Cinematography boasts featured classes such as “Advanced Operating & Steadicam,” and “Color Grading & Correction.”
Tuition: $91,645 (total)
New York Film Academy
Get a Degree in Cinematography • New York Film Academy Cinematography Program
Programs: Master of Fine Arts, one-year conservatory program, 15-week online course, 4-week online course
New York Film Academy offers an insane amount of film related programs and degrees – so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they offer a dedicated program, degree, and TWO online courses in cinematography.
The Master of Fine Arts Cinematography program at NYFA takes place over two years and five semesters, where students are expected to master film and digital photography.
New York Film Academy prides itself on giving students real-world experience; the Cinematography degree-program is set-up so that the first year is focused on classroom learning, while the second year is focused on applying the knowledge gained in the classroom.
Tuition: MFA: $19,018-$19,665 (per semester, five semesters total)
Tuition — Conservatory: $21,717-$22,455 (per semester, two semesters total)
Cinematography Major Programs
New York University
Film Cinematography Courses • Behind the Scenes of an NYU Student Film by Hayley Karis
Programs: Bachelor of Fine Arts in the Department of Photography and Imaging (DPI), Master of Fine Arts in Film and Television
The New York University Tisch School of the Arts took home gold in The Hollywood Reporter’s 2021 list of the best American film schools – and for good measure: the Tisch School is home to some of the most celebrated voices in cinema today, including Chloe Zhao, Spike Lee, Ang Lee, Martin Scorsese, and Jim Jarmusch.
NYU offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in cinematography. The bachelor's degree in particular is renowned for being one of the best in the world.
Best Film Schools for Cinematography
University of California Los Angeles
Cinematography Education • UCLA Film School Experience by bestdressed
Programs: Master of Fine Arts degree in Film and Television Production with a specialization in Cinematography; Certificate of Completion in Cinematography
The film programs at the University of California Los Angeles are probably the most competitive in the country. Why? They’re really good; they’ve produced some of the most notable alumni in the industry (i.e., Stephen H. Burum and Dean Cundey); and most importantly, they’re affordable, especially for California residents.
UCLA offers a graduate degree in film/television production with a focus on cinematography as well as a much cheaper certificate program
Cinematography Major Programs
If you’re one of the lucky few to be admitted to the UCLA Cinematography program, you’re likely going to have a lasting career in film/television production.
Tuition: $17,756 (per year for California residents), $32,858 (per year for non-California residents)
On-campus Certificate fees: $4,995
Off-campus Certificate fees: $3,895
University of Southern California
Best Cinematography Schools • USC School of Cinematic Arts Virtual Tour
Programs: BA, BFA or MA in Cinematic Arts, Film & Television Production
The University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts is the crown-jewel of U.S. private film-schools. Students at the school can expect to see names such as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, and Louis B. Mayer adorn the masthead of their campus buildings.
But for all of USC’s greatness, there aren’t any designated cinematography programs at the undergraduate or graduate level. Still, if you can get in, and more importantly if you can afford it, you should take a degree in the visual arts from USC.
USC is as impressive as it is financially unfeasible (especially for four-year programs). Notable cinematographer alumni include Jeff Cronenweth, Robert Elswit, and Conrad L. Hall.
Tuition: $60,446 (per year)
Best Cinematography Online Courses
The best cinematography schools offer amazing benefits to students working on campus. However, not everybody wants to work on campus. That’s why we compiled a list of the best cinematography online courses, with free and paid options. By the end, you’ll know where to learn cinematography via great cinematography courses online!
Up Next: Basic & Advanced Online Courses →
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