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10 Photography Internships for High School Students

For high school students interested in pursuing photography, the right internship can provide valuable work experience, give a strong boost to your CV or college application, and help you grow your portfolio. The internship opportunities in this list provide an immersive work and educational experience.

 

A photography internship can help you build valuable professional connections, learn new skills, create a unique and strong portfolio, and take a deep dive into this competitive field.

 

An internship can also be a powerful way to enhance your college applications. Colleges and universities look for applicants who demonstrate a passion for learning and the ability to apply critical and creative thinking skills to real-world situations. Competitive or prestigious internships clearly showcase your dedication to your academic pursuits and your willingness to challenge yourself. It also gives you tangible and unique experiences that make your college essays and interviews more compelling.

 

In other words, not only can an internship enrich your high school experience, it can also set you apart as a university applicant who strives to pursue challenging intellectual pursuits and seeks out experiences to round out their education.

 

Location: New York, NY

Cost: $3,000 stipend for full participation

Application Deadline: Varies by year, applications for the 2025 program open in August of 2024

Internship Dates: Ongoing throughout the year in three-month cycles

Eligibility: Interns should have the ability to commit to 15 hours/week for three months and they should be at the beginning of their photography careers, which includes students

 

This program offers students the chance to gain artistic and professional skills by working directly with reputable artists during three-month cycles. The program pairs interns with practicing artists in NYC whose work aligns with the intern’s interests and goals.

 

Interns can expect to assist with administrative and technical support and to help conduct research. They will also gain photographic skills and skills closely linked with contemporary art. One of the benefits of this program is the emphasis on mentorship and professional connection. Interns are encouraged to stay connected with Penumbra’s photographic community even beyond their three-month cycle.

 

The main drawback to this internship is that it has less of a focus on building a portfolio. On the other hand, the one-to-one ratio of intern to mentor allows for potentially significant growth within the field. Over all, this internship is a solid choice for students in or near NYC who are interested in the intersection of art and photography.


Location: New York, NY

Cost: These are paid internships at the rate of New York State’s minimum wage

Application Deadline: Applications typically close in March

Internship Dates: Varies year on year, but typically the program runs for six weeks from the end of June through the first week of August

Eligibility: Must be in grades 10 and 11 and reside or attend high school or home school in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut

 

This prestigious program connects students with mentors and offers a hands-on learning experience. It’s focused on connecting students with art, museum, and creative professionals. Successful applicants are placed in small cohorts and work one-on-one with their assigned mentor. Mentors and focus areas are assigned based on student interest in a wide variety of photography focused fields like social media, marketing, editing, and art.

 

The main drawback of this internship is that there isn’t as strong of a focus on creating a portfolio, though there is a lot of emphasis on developing professional and technical skills after candidates are placed in their departments. On the other hand, networking is built into the program itinerary, making this internship a strong option for students who are looking to form professional connections and who want to explore professional interests that intersect with photography, like curating.

 

Location: A variety of locations are available around the country and some internships are remote or hybrid

Cost: Free, stipend provided (varies by internship type)

Application Deadline: Depends upon the program and application year, but usually, applications are due by the end of February

Internship Dates: Depends upon the program, but the programs run during the summer months

Eligibility: High school seniors

 

The Smithsonian offers two photography internships for which high schoolers can apply, the Young Ambassadors Program and internships at the National Zoo. These internships are competitive and prestigious. They also provide excellent networking opportunities and stipends. Both programs have a strong academic component alongside the work experience aspect.

 

The internship at the National Zoo focuses on zoological studies and would be best for students interested in pursuing a career with a focus on the biological sciences as well as photography.

 

The Young Ambassadors Program is focused on fostering the next generation of Latino leaders in the arts, sciences, and humanities, particularly in relationship to museum career pathways. If you’re interested in the intersection of museum studies and photography and identify as Latina, Latino, or Latinx, this could be a great way to make career contacts, gain valuable work experience before starting college in the fall, and add to your portfolio.

 

Location: Various program options all over the world

Cost: Depends on the internship, but usually around $9,000

Application Deadline: Varies by program

Internship Dates: Varies by program, but all of the photography programs run during the summer and normally last 2-3 weeks

Eligibility: Grades 9-12 are eligible to apply. You’ll also need to be eligible to obtain a visa in your country of travel.

 

National Geographic is quite possibly the most well-known name in nature photography. They’re photography internship programs are a combination of academic development, field experience, and travel. Students can expect a student to staff ratio of roughly 8:1.

 

One of the benefits of these programs is that they are highly structured with clear itineraries and guided work experience. They’re a great option for students who want to build a stronger foundation in the field of photography and gain work experience at the same time. You can expect active support throughout the program and don’t have to worry about housing, planning meals, or setting your own itineraries/deadlines. But you’ll still get plenty of amazing photos for your portfolio and gain advanced technical skills.


 

Location: New York City, NY

Cost: $10,960, some scholarships are available

Application Deadline: Varies by year, but the application is normally open from August to January

Internship Dates: Varies by year, but usually from the beginning of July to the beginning of August

Eligibility: Must be a rising high school junior or senior

 

This program is rigorous and highly competitive. While it’s described as an academic program, it’s included in this list because it shares many characteristics with a traditional internship. The program focuses on using photo-based image-making for storytelling, communication, creative expression, personal exploration, and digital output.

 

The program has assigned projects, but also has a heavy focus on self-directed projects and research, which is one of the aspects that overlaps with a traditional internship. Also like a traditional internship, successful applicants keep standard work hours with daily classes, professional training, and studio and production time running from 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.

 

There are often evening and weekend curricular events and opportunities to work individually or with peers on assigned projects. There is plenty of time to connect with faculty mentors and peers, build a strong portfolio, and gain key professional skills.

 

Location: Remote

Cost: $1,990 - $2,490

Application Deadline: Rolling admissions, available year-round with staggered two-week start dates

Internship Dates: You can select the duration of your internship from 4-24 weeks. Internships are offered year-round with start dates every two weeks. You can also choose between 10, 20, 30, or 40 hours per week.

Eligibility: Must be 16 or older

 

The Intern Group is an organization that provides international internships and connects candidates with companies all over the world. Their main focus is experiential education to promote a new generation of talented, skilled, and cooperative people. You’ll also walk away from this internship with a strong portfolio and quality work experience.

 

You’ll be expected to work with marketing teams, printers, vendors, and clients. You’ll also assist with client bookings and scheduling, editing photos and digital materials, and managing and maintaining an extensive image library. In other words, you’ll be able to tell future universities and employers that you have experience with social media management, studio organization, photo editing, and project management. This internship aims to give you technical skills, boost your attention to detail, and help you realize your (and your client’s) creative vision.


Location: Washington, DC

Cost: Free

Application Deadline: Applications typically close in March every year

Internship Dates: This is a three-week program that usually takes place in July

Eligibility: The program is open to high school students entering 9th through 12th grade

 

While this program is free, it is competitive – only 20 students are selected each year. Successful applicants should expect to be outside a lot during summer weather in the DC area, but the program has a variety of strengths.

 

The program is specifically designed to combine theory and practice in the field of photography through the lens of the National Park Service. Students learn photography and editing skills, explore national parks, and have their best work exhibited publicly in the White House Visitor Center, all of which are great for crafting compelling admissions essays, building a strong portfolio, and developing professional skills and experience.

 

As an added bonus, the program loans all necessary equipment to students and the National Park Service sometimes uses student photos for park publications and other media purposes, which is another great CV booster.


Location: Boston, MA

Cost: Students will be paid.

Application Deadline: Applications typically open in the spring

Internship Dates: Varies by year, but typically in the months of July and August

Eligibility: Boston residents between the ages of 16-18

 

This program is a paid position with the City of Boston and is designed to introduce participants to all aspects of photography. It is led by a professional photographer and includes the chance for students to conduct photo shoots, attend weekly excursions, learn digital photo editing skills, and serve as a staff photographer for Boston Centers for Youth and Families.

 

This program is a bit more introductory than some of the others on this list, so it’s a strong option for Boston students who want to build a foundation in photography and gain work experience at the same time. It has great mentorship and collaboration opportunities and gives you plenty of chances to add to your portfolio. The main drawbacks are that it’s only open to Boston residents and that more advanced students might not be challenged as much as they would be in some of the other internships discussed in this post.


Location: Seattle, WA

Cost: Free or pay-what-you-can

Application Deadline: Varies by year and program

Internship Dates: Varies by year

Eligibility: Students aged 15-19

 

Youth in Focus is a photography-specific arts and youth development organization in Seattle. They pride themselves on supporting BIPOC students and offering skill-building activities that focus on curiosity and personal agency.

 

They offer two major internship-type opportunities and a variety of classes, summer camps, and partner programs. The first internship opportunity is the Creative Career Cohort, which is a 6-month program for BIPOC students. The focus is on photography and graphic design. Students complete professional projects, develop a portfolio, learn interview skills, and are provided with networking opportunities. Students also receive a $1,400 stipend. This program is currently closed for 2024, but keep an eye out for the 2025 applications later this year.

 

They also offer a job training program, which includes paid opportunities for teens who have completed several of their classes or the Creative Career Cohort. For this program, students are paired with artist-mentors and do work in portrait photography, photobooths, and event photography.

 

For all of their programs, all needed equipment is provided, along with free snacks and bus passes. These programs are inclusive and provide valuable experience and the opportunity to make connections with professional photographers and build your portfolio. However, they aren’t quite as prestigious as some of the other programs on this list and so might not be viewed as equally challenging by admissions officers.

 

Location: Portland, OR and surrounding areas

Cost: Free

Application Deadline: The position will be open until filled.

Internship Dates: May-December, depending on the applicant’s availability and interest. The summer months are the most important for the organization, so you could expect more work hours during July/August.

Eligibility: Students who can drive to on-site meetings 1-2 times monthly in Beaverton, OR; who can dedicate 3-10 hours weekly, and who has strong communication skills. Note: Because they help teens who often come from troubled backgrounds, they’re looking for an applicant who is sensitive, kind, and discreet.

 

Empowerteen is an organization dedicated to helping teens in the Portland, Oregon area. Their goal is to empower adolescents to live connected, happy, and healthy lives. The organization is seeking a photography intern to take pictures at events, collaborate with other interns and staff, and work on a variety of project types.

 

You can expect to direct, capture, and edit promotional media content and curriculum. This includes capturing and curating photos for the organizational website and social media profiles, editing photos, documenting program events such as summer retreats, obtaining and organizing release forms and authorizations, and producing promotional photos for event campaigns. This internship is largely about building work experience and a portfolio, and less about formal education in the photography field. Interns are expected to come to the position with proficiency in using photo equipment and editing software. This would be a great fit for students who already feel confident about their photography education, but need work experience where they can apply what they’ve learned.

 

Photography interns receive class credit for their completed work, walk away with materials to add to their personal work portfolios, and obtain a letter of recommendation from the director/founder of the organization.

 

One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you aren’t quite ready to pursue an internship, but are passionate about research, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a Ph.D. student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.


Image Source: Empowerteen logo

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