Photography Certificate

The Photography Certificate focuses on gaining the skills to launch a career or to become a competent photographer and features courses in areas such as traditional photography, digital photography, Photoshop, lighting and digital workflow. Additionally, KCAI is pleased to partner with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for the History of Photography class. This unique offering will teach students about the great photographers and movements using the Museum’s collection. The program will culminate in a capstone class and a portfolio development class to aid students in assembling a professional body of work. Students will learn not only technical skills needed to be a good photographer, but also be exposed to conceptual ideas to become a photographer with a “great eye.”

The program is ideal for hobbyists, those serious about starting careers in photography or those wanting to add new skills to their resume. The program is 13 total credits. Each class is worth one credit and meets once a week for eight weeks. Students may enter the program at any time during the five sessions offered each year. An online application and $35 fee are required for entry to the program.

General guidelines

Students should be proficient in the Macintosh operating systems, standard menus and commands, and opening, closing and saving files.
Certificate students are expected to attend classes, complete in-class assignments and take examinations. The certificate program for photography consists of 13 core requirements/courses, each conferring one undergraduate credit. Certificate students may request a transcript.
Credits from other institutions or from previous semesters at KCAI may transfer to the certificate program. Approval for course substitution may be obtained from the director of the School for Continuing and Professional Studies for students who have taken the equivalent of a required course at the college level.
Some advanced classes require submission of materials proving skill level.
Individual certificate program classes are open to all students. Anyone interested in taking these classes for professional growth or personal development is welcome. However, since class sizes are limited, priority will be given to enrolled certificate students.

Expectations of Students

Frequently Asked Questions

Meet our Photography faculty

Program features

  • Five eight-week sessions each year offering a variety of classes each session
  • Students may enter the program in any one of the five sessions
  • Classes are held in the evenings and on weekends
  • Each class meets once a week for two and a half hours
  • For each class, approximately 10 hours of homework may be assigned per week

Certificate issuance conditions

Required program courses must be completed with a grade of "C" or better.  Students are encouraged to complete their coursework in three years or less. At the end of the program, students must make a written request to the School for Continuing and Professional Studies office for the certificate by contacting the director.


Download the 2016 certificate program course schedule.

Registration and tuition information

Due to limited class sizes, students are encouraged to sign up for classes as soon as registration opens to ensure course placement. See a current list of classes here. Students can obtain a course catalog by emailing
Online registration for a class may close before the registration period ends if the class is filled early. Classes are cancelled if the minimum enrollment is not met. Timely registration helps keep classes open.
Beginning students must complete the certificate program application, submit a one-time, non-refundable $35 application fee and proof of high school diploma or equivalent. If you have college degree please submit this transcript in lieu of the high school transcript.  An official transcript should be sent to: Continuing and Professional Studies, KCAI, 4415 Warwick Blvd., KCMO 64111.
Enrollment in subqsequent classes requires online registration for each class and payment of applicable fees. Tuition for each eight-week class is $400 plus a $25 lab fee, totaling $425 per class. The total certificate program cost is $5,525 and is not eligible for financial aid. Private lenders who support continuing education programs are available (see below).

Students wishing to request transfer credit, substitutions or prior learning experience should download the Credit Approval Form.  Complete the information related to the particular request and submit it to the Director for approval.

Students who have advanced through the program and would like to take a Directed Studies course for specifc curriculum that is not covered in the program should download the Application for Directed Studies Form, complete the required information and submit it to the Director for approval.

Financial aid

Financial aid for certificate programs is currently unavailable. However, the School for Continuing and Professional Studies does accept the following sources for tuition payments:
Tuition reimbursement may also be available through your employer. Consult your human resources/benefits department or supervisor for more information.

Required classes

Certificate program classes are organized into a three tier system, with each tier containing four to five required classes. See a list of current classes here. As students advance through each tier, classes become more advanced. Students working toward a certificate must complete all classes within a tier before moving on to the next tier.

To see more information about each class, click on the course title.

Introductory Level

Focus on the history of photography from its invention in 1839 to the present day using the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's internationally-recognized collection as a primary source.  Students will become familiary with primary movements in relationship to other artistic and historic trends as well as gain an understanding of key technical terms.  Additionally, students will become familiar with the unique visual language of photographs and learn to evaluate aethetics.
The focus of this hands-on course is the demystification of the design process, presenting the principles of 2D design as a rational series of prescribed steps and by emphasizing how those principles apply to all design and art disciplines. Emphasis is placed on the principals of Gestalt theory.
This course covers the use of 35mm analog film cameras.  Learn to develop film as well as acquire basic darkroom skills.  The lab fee will cover the use of a camera, chemicals and equipment.  Students may be asked to partner with another student for equipment use.  Supply List
This class takes you from the basics of exposure, manipulation of depth of field and shutter speeds to the ultimate goal of creating compelling photographs.  Students will cover the operation of your digital SLR (single lens reflex).  We will cover the available settings of your camera and when to use them.  Students should bring their own camera, instruction book for the camera and a flash drive to class.  
The class will cover the use of Photoshop, Camera Raw, Bridge and Lightroom to create efficient methods for ingesting, cataloguing, editing and finalizing large quantities of images.  Software:  Photoshop, Camera Raw, Bridge, Lightroom

Intermediate Level

Traditional Photography II

This course continues working with the 35mm.  Additionally, demonstrations of 4 x 5 large format analog film cameras, advanced light metering, developing film and advanced darkroom skills will be covered.  The lab fee will cover the use of a camera, chemicals and equipment.  Students may be asked to partner with another student for equipment use.  Supply List
This class takes you past the basics and into intermediate/advanced camera controls.  Emphasis will be on working the camera in specific shooting situations as we go "on location" to photograph.  We will follow up with student reviews and image management and work with Photoshop techniques.  Please bring a 1 gigabyte travel drive to class.
The focus of this hands-on course is to study and apply the principles of design and composition as they relate to the still photograph.  The elements and effects of light will be studied and applied.  Students will work with various types of light, how to deal with their outcome and effects in different situations.

Digital Imaging I

 This course is an in-depth introduction to the most popular raster-based image editing/painting software

 program, Photoshop, used by design professionals.  Software:  Photoshop


Advanced Level

This class is a continuation of Digital Imaging I, building on basic image manipulation and editing skills using Adobe Photoshop. Software: Photoshop
The focus of this hands-on course is to continue to study and apply the principles of design and composition as they relate to the still photograph.  The emphasis of this course will be alternative light sources, primarily flash, its applications and how to use light effectively to achieve the desired results.  The locations will be based on real world commercial situations and how to manage them.
This class serves as the conceptual and technical culmination of the program.  Students will complete a self-directed project that results in a group exhibition. 
Students will explore the portfolio as a design problem. A portfolio is a doorway to the professional world and is a reflection of the designer. In this class, students will have an opportunity to share work with and receive feedback from a professional working in the design field.

Lifetime learning tax credit

This tax credit applies to tuition and fees for undergraduate, graduate and continuing education course work. Students may be able to claim this credit if enrolled at or attending an eligible educational institution. The Kansas City Art Institute is an eligible institution. Amounts paid for any course that helps the student acquire or improve job skills are qualified expenses. In order to qualify for the lifetime learning credit, you must provide your legal name and social security number. Check with a tax professional to insure your eligibility for this tax credit.


Students enrolled in the certificate program have limited KCAI library privileges as well as access to some resources through the Career Services office.

Computer facilities

Two computer labs are available in The School for Continuing and Professional Studies, located at 32 E. 46th St. Students are also permitted to use the lab in the Jannes Library and Learning Center at 4538 Warwick Blvd.
Each lab is equipped with iMacs running current software applications. Scanners are capable of scanning all forms of two-dimensional media. All classes are hands-on with one student per computer. Additionally, lab time is available beyond classroom time, and hours are posted each semester. However, students are encouraged to purchase a computer if they don’t already have access to one outside of class time. Instructors can lend guidance on specifications prior to purchase. Students in the certificate program are eligible for hardware and software discounts.

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Spring 2016 classes

Download a spring brochure with a complete list of all the classes we're offering.

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