He earned a B.A. from Acadia University and was granted a fellowship to study at Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University. While in New York, he studied photography and design under Dr. Helen Manzer. After completing three years there, he taught for three more years in Edmonton before finally deciding to pursue photography full-time.
Publications and instruction
Patterson has authored several books on photographic techniques and theory, including Photography for the Joy of It (1977), Photography and the Art of Seeing (1979) and Photography of Natural Things (1982). These books were issued in revised formats in 2006.
Patterson has also authored books centered on his nature photography, such as Namaqualand: Garden of the Gods (1984), Portraits of Earth (1987), In a Canadian Garden (1989), The Last Wilderness: Images of the Canadian Wild (1990) and One Planet, One Man (1994). In 2001, Patterson and co-author Andre Gallant, produced Photo Impressionism and The Subjective Image.
Awards and recognition
Patterson has been recognized by numerous national and international groups, including:
- Gold Medal for Photographic Excellence, from the National Film Board of Canada (1967)
- Elected member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Art (1975)
- Highest recognition (EFIAP) from the International Federation of Photographic Art (1975)
- Honorary fellowship (Hon. F.P.S.S.A.) in the Photographic Society of Southern Africa (1976)
- Gold Medal for Distinction in Photography, from the National Association for Photographic Art (1984)
- Member of the Order of Canada (1985)
- The Progress Medal, from the Photographic Society of America (1990) 
- The Lifetime Achievement Award from the North American Nature Photography Association (2001)
- Honorary fellowship in the Nature Photography Society of New Zealand (2004)
- Honorary Director of the North American Native Plant Society 
In the 1980s, Patterson contracted Hepatitis B. His condition deteriorated until, in 1999, he was identified as a candidate for liver transplantation. In January 2000 he received a donor liver, however the transplant was unsuccessful. For 5 days he was kept on life support until a second organ was located, though there was by this point some debate among his doctors about his viability as a candidate, given the low probability of success. After the second operation concluded, he was kept in a medically induced coma for several weeks, followed by years of convalescence at home. He has since made a complete recovery and is, himself, a registered organ donor.
- Freeman Wilford Patterson, The Canadian Encyclopedia.
- "Freeman Patterson : Biography". Freeman Patterson. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- Joel Jacobson, "Freeman Patterson 'Through life's lens'"
- "Freeman Patterson: Honours & Awards". Freeman Patterson. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- "The Governor General of Canada". Government of Canada. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- "PSA: Previous Recipients". Photographic Society of America. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- "The North American Nature Photography Association - NANPA Awards". North American Nature Photography Association. Retrieved 4 November 2012.