Professional Intensive

Twice* the education in a quarter the time

Spend one year in an immersive, career-building photo program
Photography college students using professional studio lights to photograph a model performing a flip in the air.
*it's actually more like four times the education, but you won't believe us 'til you've lived it
ONE-YEAR IMMERSIVE PROGRAM
Jumpstart your photography career with detailed, hands-on instruction about technique, lighting, editing, marketing, business and entrepreneurship!
  • Program runs annually September thru May
  • Located in beautiful Missoula, Montana
  • Full-time, in-person, supportive education
  • Continued mentorship after graduation
Sept. 5, 2023 - May 10, 2024
A Canon camera tethered to a laptop computer.

this might just be what you've been searching for

A program that trains professional photographers for the actual work
1
You have a dream

You want to become a part- or full-time photographer offering your services to your region or beyond

2
You need the know-how

The thirst for knowledge begins with a drive to be excellent in your field, and you start piecing together the info

3
You find RMSP

Finally, a program that teaches everything you need to know and nothing you don't, in only ONE YEAR

1000+

hours of class, lab, shoot, & studio time in 36 weeks of school

36

students accepted into the program, creating a small student body

100%

of 2022 "PI" grads said they feel prepared to launch a photo business
2 students adjusting the settings on a Profoto studio strobe.
Professional Intensive Curriculum
Expert Camera Skills
Advanced Image Editing
Efficient Workflows
One-on-one Critiques
Mastering Ambient Light
File Management
Estimates & Contracts
Storytelling for Brands
Equipment Knowledge
Retail Photography
Pricing Considerations
Client Relations
Assisting / Digital Tech
Modern Trends
Creativity & Visual Development
Outsourcing Photo Prints
Entrepreneurship
Copyright & Licensing
Color Management
Professional Retouching
Composition & Aesthetics
Studio & Location Lighting
Developing Your Vision
Marketing & Branding
Creating a Business Plan
Finances & Accounting
Image Compositing
Posing & Directing Models
Graphic Design
Online Advertising
Wedding & Retail Photography
Editorial Photography
Food & Product Photography
Fashion Photography
Commercial Photography
Portfolio Development
Building a Website
Social Media Marketing
Multimedia & Audio
Videography
Mentoring
Business Coaching
Program Overview

How is "PI" different?

Individualized Support
You're never just a number at RMSP. Our priority is that our students discover their path in the industry, which means personalized mentoring throughout.
No Gen-Eds
One of the best parts of learning at RMSP is that we don't make you sit through two years of English, math, science, or philosophy. We're all photography.
Relevant Instructors
We hire instructors based on how well they can translate the realities of the current photo industry to our students, not how the industry was in 1998.
Training in Many Genres
Every "PI" student will learn the basics of operating in both the retail/consumer and commercial/advertising worlds of photography, making them more versatile for potential clients!
Hands-On Experience
It's pretty impossible to enter the industry with confidence and marketable skill unless you've spent time doing the same kind of work. We provide that time.
Business & Marketing
Yes, you'll need to become a savvy businessperson in order to succeed in the photography industry; we'll walk you through all the steps to prepare.
Professional Intensive

Curriculum Breakdown

45%

Photo & Video Skills: Camera operation, editing, retouching, lighting, gear, styling, posing, composition, etc.

40%

Business, marketing, finances, advertising, entrepreneurship, contracts, licenses, accounting, branding, planning, etc.

15%

Learning the photo industry, mentorship, exposure to variety of styles & genres, insight from numerous perspectives

+200

Hours of optional special topics, studio shooting opportunities, and weekend field trips
2 students smiling looking at the back of a camera outside.
All the nitty gritty

Learn all the details

Who is Professional Intensive for?

Professional Intensive is a program specifically crafted for aspiring pros. It's for those who want to dedicate an entire year to learning all the right things the right way instead of fumbling through the process on their own.

If you've found yourself struggling to piece together your own education–through online classes, YouTube, books, etc.–and the idea of a carefully crafted curriculum sounds appealing, "PI" is for you.

If you've been "out there" working in the photo industry for a while, but you aren't seeing the results you want and you aren't sure what to do next, "PI" is for you.

If you love the idea of spending your days building and cultivating a photography business and you're willing to put in the work but you want help along the way, "PI" is for you.

You'll develop a technical foundation so strong it's ingrained. This is the reason RMSP requires that students take every foundational class, and why every student must become well versed in both commercial and retail photography. Being comfortably tech-savvy during a shoot means you can focus on what really matters: creativity and style.

Without the technical mastery and precision that deliver outstanding results, the effort you've put into your photography business won't matter. Plenty of photographers take good photos, but very few know how to create and produce exceptional work that will stand out in a saturated marketplace. Some professionals simply wing it, unsure what they're doing with their cameras and why. Not RMSP graduates.

Application & Enrollment

Scheduled dates for the upcoming Professional Intensive program:
September 5, 2023 - May 10, 2024

Application

To apply for Professional Intensive (PI), please click Apply Now and follow the online instructions. We accept applications for our Professional Intensive program up to the start of the program if space is available. However, due to limited enrollment, we suggest you apply early. In the event that the program is full, you will be notified and your name will be placed on a waiting list. There is no application fee.

During the application process you will be asked to:

  • Give us some information about yourself.
  • Upload one professional letter of recommendation. This letter of recommendation might be written by one of your high school or college instructors — or someone you interact with on a professional level, such as an attorney, a banker, or a minister. This type of letter might attest to your academic strengths, your skills and accomplishments and your work ethic. For more tips on getting a letter of recommendation from a current or former teacher, read "How to Get a Great Letter of Recommendation" from College Board.
  • Think about a shoot or project that you’d like to do, something that fits with your professional photography goals. Think about who this project is for — is it a family, a couple, a company or brand, a publication, etc.? Imagine RMSP is that client and pitch your idea to us! Help us understand the look and details of the shoot. You have complete creative freedom on how you pull this together and what you tell us or show us; the only rule is your submission should be between 1 and 3 pages long.
  • Take a short quiz on computer skills.

Enrollment

Once your application is reviewed, RMSP will send an email to you indicating acceptance or denial. If you are accepted into the program, you will be asked to return to this website to enroll. To complete the enrollment process, you must read the Professional Intensive Program Catalog and sign our Enrollment Agreement. If you are younger than 18 years old at the time of enrollment, a parent or guardian must perform this task. You complete the enrollment process by paying your tuition deposit (see Tuition tab).

Important: Being accepted into the program does not reserve your spot. You must complete the enrollment process to officially register for Professional Intensive and reserve one of the 36 seats in the program.

Entrance Requirements

No prior photographic experience is necessary for enrollment in Professional Intensive, however our selection process is designed to accept students who can meet the demands of this comprehensive and challenging education. In order to enroll in Professional Intensive, we require that you are a U.S. citizen, and that you:

  • Demonstrate a commitment to pursuing a full- or part-time career as a professional photographer.
  • Are fully comfortable with intermediate-level computer operating tasks.
  • Are able to demonstrate personal and professional qualities that include a willingness to learn, a strong work ethic, an ability to adapt to new technologies, an ability to get along with others in group situations and the determination to succeed.
  • Are a high school graduate or have a General Educational Development (GED) certificate by the time of our program orientation.
Program Tuition

Tuition for the 2023/2024 Professional Intensive program is $29,950.

A $1000 non-refundable*, non-transferable deposit is due upon enrollment in Professional Intensive. This deposit amount of $1,000 is applied to the tuition for the program. Ninety days before the start of the program, a minimum payment of $7,950 is due to RMSP. The final balance of $21,000 is due to RMSP 30 days before the start of the program.

**If a tuition payment is not made within 14 days of the due date (please see above), the student's spot in the program may be forfeited to a prospective student on the waiting list.**

In the event that a student's spot is forfeited due to non-payment, they can be re-registered as soon as the payment is made, provided that the program has not reached maximum enrollment.

*Tuition deposit is refundable to Veteran's Benefit Eligible Students who cancel their enrollment.**Please see the Professional Intensive Program Catalog for special considerations and exceptions regarding tuition payment policies for Veteran's Benefit Eligible Students.

Don't miss the Early Registration discounts! If you register by January 31st of the year the program begins, you'll receive $1,000 off your total tuition. If you register before March 31st of the year the program begins, you'll receive $500 off your total tuition.

Save money by paying with a check! Due to the large tuition amount of Professional Intensive, credit card processing fees can really add up. We always prefer students to pay by check when possible, but we understand that can make things difficult. That’s why we’re offering $250 off of your tuition if you make your first and second payment with a check.

Here's how it works when paying by check: Apply and register online by paying your $1000 deposit with a credit card (or call). When the first payment is due (90 days prior to the start date), make a check out to RMSP for $7950. When second payment is due (30 days prior to the start date), make a check out to RMSP for $19,750 ($20,000 - $250). That’s all there is to it. You save $250! Note: the check discount is not available to students using VA benefits to pay for their education. And yes, the check discount can be combined with the other PI discounts that we offer.

Curriculum Details


Throughout 36 weeks at RMSP, there is a lot of time for lectures, assignments, shoots, homework, fun, learning and community. But the most important part about the whole adventure is that you will leave with a massive foundation of applicable skills. Click here to see what Professional Intensive students will have learned upon graduation. It must also be noted that this lists only the advanced topics. The basic skills a student needs to understand some of these advanced concepts will also be covered thoroughly.

Professional Intensive Units:

Unit 1: Photography Foundations:
This unit covers camera functions, exposure, natural lighting, composition, editing, output, and photo gear. You’ll also start to explore your own style, goals, and vision.

Unit 2: Professional Foundations: This unit covers an intro to artificial lighting (flash), Photoshop, basic business and entrepreneurship topics, and the main photo industry paths.

Unit 3: Studio Lighting: This unit covers studio lighting equipment, proper use and safety, and the basics of studio portraiture and product photography.

Unit 4: Business Idea:
You’ll develop an initial business idea and pitch it to a panel of RMSP staff and instructors. You’ll also complete a self-directed shoot.

Unit 5: Focus Foundations:
This unit provides a solid foundation for Unit 6 with advanced professional topics and an introduction to relevant software programs.

Unit 6: Focus Weeks:
You’ll choose either a Retail or Commercial focus and cover relevant topics in marketing, pricing, client relations, shoot planning, image creation, and workflow.

Unit 7: Video & Content Creation: This unit covers an introduction to video and best practices for creating a variety of photo and video content for you or for a client / employer.

Unit 8: Website & Portfolio Development: This unit covers website design, content development, and additional marketing / sales topics. You’ll also pitch another portfolio-building shoot.

Unit 9: Breakout Weeks: This unit covers in-depth instruction on a variety of genres and paths from working photographers. You’ll choose 3 different topics that align with your path.

Unit 10: Business Development & Program Final: This unit covers legal and financial topics to help you start your business. You’ll also finalize your business plan, pitch, website, materials, and portfolio.  

Program Calendar

Professional Intensive runs for 36 weeks from September 5, 2023 – May 10, 2024. The program is divided into two phases (or semesters): Phase I in the fall and Phase II in the spring.

Students can expect the following breakdown of their time in the program:

PHASE I:
Total expected "school time:" 400+ hours
~60% of time in classes & labs & image critiques
~15% of time at coordinated shoots in studio and on location
~25% of time working on your own photo projects/assignments

PHASE II:
Total expected "in-school time:" 400+ hours
~50% of time in classes & labs & image critiques
~20% of time at coordinated shoots in studio and on location
~30% of time working on your own business/projects/assignments

Also, students may choose to add about 200 hours to their "PI" experience:
- attending additional classes on special topics
- utilizing open studio time for their assignments and personal projects
- going on weekend group field trips

Professional Intensive is further organized into units (see Curriculum Details tab). Students receive a detailed daily schedule before the start of each unit. Required classes are scheduled Monday through Friday within the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., although classes do not always fill that entire time period each day. The daily schedule of classes varies by unit and by individual class durations. Students can expect to be in class a minimum of 24 hours per week, excluding unit finals weeks and holiday and other breaks.

The academic calendar includes the following holidays/breaks:

September 5, 2023: Program Start / First Day of Phase I
November 10, 2023: No Classes (Veterans’ Day observed)
November 22-26, 2023: No Classes (Thanksgiving Break)
December 15, 2023: Last Day of Phase I

December 16, 2023 – January 7, 2024: No Classes (Holiday Break)

January 8, 2024: First Day of Phase II
January 15, 2024: No Classes (MLK, Jr. Day)
February 19, 2024: No Classes (Presidents’ Day)
March 9-17, 2024: No Classes (Spring Break)
May 10, 2024: Last Day of Phase II/- Program End


Our Campus & Missoula
The bright and spacious lobby of Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula, Montana.

OUr campus

See the RMSP space and why it's a great place to learn

Show me RMSP
A close-up of the Clark Fork River in Missoula, Montana.

why Missoula?

A great place to live, recreate, and photograph

Missoula Specifics
Housing, Equipment, Financing
An interior window with plants and several miniature houses sitting on the window sill.

Where to live in Missoula

Housing recommendations for RMSP students

See Recommendations
Several neatly arranged camera lenses.

Equipment Requirements

Learn which equipment is required for our program and why

See Equipment List

Financing & Scholarships

Detailed loan information & tips for alternate funding

See Financing Suggestions
Cancellation Policy
  • Provided that the Professional Intensive program has not yet begun, a full refund of all money paid will be made to any applicant who cancels his or her enrollment within 72 hours (until midnight of the third day, excluding weekends and legal holidays) of enrolling in the program.
  • A full refund of all money paid, less the tuition deposit, will be made to any applicant who cancels enrollment 30 days or more prior to the start of the program (and after the 72-hour cancellation privilege).
  • A full refund of all money paid will be made to any applicant in the event that educational services are discontinued by RMSP.
  • For cancellations received 30 days or fewer prior to the start of the program, RMSP retains the $1000 deposit and a cancellation fee of $7950. Any additional tuition paid will be refunded to the student.
  • For withdrawals on the 1st through 14th calendar days of the program: RMSP retains the $1000 deposit and a cancellation fee of $10,000. Any additional tuition paid will be refunded to the student.
  • For withdrawals after the 14th calendar day of the program: RMSP retains all tuition paid and no refunds are available.
  • The official date of withdrawal will be considered to be the date of receipt of written withdrawal notice from the student.
  • Refunds will be processed within 30 days after our office receives notice of withdrawal or cancellation.

Professional Intensive Tuition Refund Policy for Students Using VA Education Benefits

For students receiving VA education benefits who withdraw from the Professional Intensive program, RMSP will refund the portion of the tuition which represents the percent of the program not completed (as measured in days). Portion paid by the VA will be refunded to the VA according to the following table. Portion paid by the student will be refunded to the student according to the following table. Refunds will be made within 40 days of written notice of withdrawal.

In the case of a student’s prolonged illness or injury or a death or severe injury in the student’s immediate family, RMSP, at its sole discretion, will make a settlement that it considers reasonable and fair to both parties. The settlement proposed may include an option for re-enrollment in a future instance of the program. The school will propose a settlement within 30 days of the official date of withdrawal.

VA/Student entitled upon withdrawal/termination
Refund Amount
  • 10% of program completed
  • 20% of program completed
  • 30% of program completed
  • 40% of program completed
  • 50% of program completed
  • 60% of program completed
  • 70% of program completed
  • 80% of program completed
  • 90% of program completed
  • 90%
  • 80%
  • 70%
  • 60%
  • 50%
  • 40%
  • 30%
  • 20%
  • 10%

Professional
intensive

vs

Four-Year
College

Hours of class, lab, & 
shoot time in 36 weeks

1000+

hours of class time
in 30 weeks (one year)

480

Days until career launch

249

days until career launch

1356

total tuition for RMSP
Professional Intensive

29,950

average full-time out-of-state
four-year college tuition

110,240

ONE year: ALL the training

Build a sustainable career with hands-on training

See what it's like!
A photo student sharing her work with a classmate.An instructor with 2 photo students  in winter at a farm.A photographer taking pictures of a woman sitting at a table by a window.A photography student setting up for a studio food shoot.6 students huddled together looking at a smart photo.3 photography students in a studio looking at a laptop screen.Photography college students learning commercial photography in Missoula, Montana.Students working together to set up studio lights.2 students working together to photograph a portrait outdoors by a river.A student photoshoot on location of a man wearing a hat in a brewery.A photo college student taking a picture with her camera on a tripod.A photo college student looking at the back of a video camera setup.

Do I really need to go to photo school?

Of course not! Many incredible photographers have had no formal training, but nearly every one of them we've talked to has said they wished they attended a program like ours in the beginning. "PI" speeds up the learning curve exponentially.
Plus, you can be a stellar photographer but lack important business sense, or you can be great at navigating the business, but need to hone your aesthetic. Our program teaches it all, creating well-rounded professionals.
Hear it from our graduates

What our students say

Learning at RMSP is unlike anything else. Here are some thoughts from those who have graduated Professional Intensive.
Read More Testimonials
Headshot of Bryn Corbett
Bryn Corbett
PI 2021-2022
Seriously the best school ever. I think the staff is amazing and so is the program. No random classes that had nothing to do with what I wanted to do. I am now able to kickstart my business after only 8 months of learning.
Headshot of Candice Utigard
Candice Utigard
PI 2020-2021
One of the best things about PI is how driven the staff is to make the program better. It's already an amazing program because the pace and lack of fluff gets you from point A to B in such a short time. They are always reaching out for feedback and always looking for ways to implement what would benefit most.
Headshot of Jessica Waibel
Jessica Waibel
PI 2021-2022
PI was amazing and I will always treasure every experience and every little bit of knowledge that I got from here. I loved how easy it was for classes to be added or changed and although at first I worried about RMSP being unaccredited it ended up being the best part about it.
Headshot of Harvey Schwier
Harvey Schwier
PI 2020-2021
I have never been happier with a single decision ever. RMSP will stand out as the best thing I've done in my life. Every single member of the staff whether permanent or visiting, has gone above and beyond to make sure we learn and feel accepted.

Countdown to "PI" 2023-2024

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Frequently asked questions

Still have questions about Professional Intensive?  Get in touch!
Want more information?

Our inboxes are
always open

(and so are our doors... unless it's a weekend)
REACH OUT now
We'll help you figure out if "PI" is right for you.