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Become A Commercial Photographer

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Working As A Commercial Photographer

  • Thinking Creatively
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Selling or Influencing Others
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Getting Information
  • Stressful

  • $37,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Commercial Photographer Do

Photographers use their technical expertise, creativity, and composition skills to produce and preserve images that tell a story or record an event.

Duties

Photographers typically do the following:

  • Market and advertise services to attract clients
  • Analyze and plan the composition of photographs
  • Use various photographic techniques and lighting equipment
  • Capture subjects in commercial-quality photographs
  • Enhance the subject’s appearance with natural or artificial light
  • Use photo-enhancing software
  • Maintain a digital portfolio to demonstrate their work

Today, most photographers use digital cameras instead of the traditional film cameras. Digital cameras capture images electronically, so the photographer can edit the image on a computer. Images can be stored on portable memory devices, such as compact disks, memory cards, and flash drives. Once the raw image has been transferred to a computer, photographers can use processing software to crop or modify the image and enhance it through color correction and other specialized effects. Photographers who edit their own pictures use computers, high-quality printers, and editing software. For information on workers who specialize in developing and processing photographic images from film or digital media, see photographic process workers and processing machine operators included in occupations not covered in detail.

Photographers who work for commercial clients often will present finalized photographs in a digital format to the client. Wedding and portrait photographers, who serve primarily noncommercial clients, frequently also provide framing services and present the photographs they capture in albums.

Many wedding and portrait photographers are self-employed. Photographers who own and operate their own business have additional responsibilities. They must advertise, schedule appointments, set and adjust equipment, purchase supplies, keep records, bill customers, pay bills, and—if they have employees—hire, train, and direct their workers.

In addition, some photographers teach photography classes or conduct workshops in schools or in their own studios.

The following are examples of types of photographers:

Portrait photographers take pictures of individuals or groups of people and usually work in their own studios. Photographers who specialize in weddings, religious ceremonies, or school photographs may work on location.

Commercial and industrial photographers take pictures of various subjects, such as buildings, models, merchandise, artifacts, and landscapes. These photographs, which frequently are taken on location, are used for a variety of purposes, including magazine covers and images to supplement analyses of engineering projects.

Aerial photographers travel in planes or helicopters to capture photographs of buildings and landscapes. They often use cameras with gyrostabilizers to counteract the movement of the aircraft and ensure high-quality images.

Scientific photographers focus on the accurate visual representation of subjects and therefore limit the use of image manipulation software to clarify an image. Scientific photographs record scientific or medical data or phenomena. Scientific photographers typically use microscopes to photograph subjects.

News photographers, also called photojournalists, photograph people, places, and events for newspapers, journals, magazines, or television. In addition to taking still photos, photojournalists often work with digital video.

Fine arts photographers sell their photographs as artwork. In addition to having technical knowledge of subjects such as lighting and the use of lenses, fine arts photographers need artistic talent and creativity. Most use traditional film instead of digital cameras.

University photographers serve as general photographers for academic institutions. They may be required to take portraits, document events, or take photographs for press releases. University photographers are found primarily in larger academic institutions, because smaller institutions often contract with freelancers to do their photography work.

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How To Become A Commercial Photographer

Although postsecondary education is not required for portrait photographers, many take classes because employers usually seek applicants with a “good eye” and creativity, as well as a good technical understanding of photography. Photojournalists and industrial and scientific photographers often need a bachelor’s degree.

Education

Although postsecondary education is not required for most photographers, many take classes or earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field because such an education can improve their skills and employment prospects.

Many universities, community and junior colleges, vocational–technical institutes, and private trade and technical schools offer classes in photography. Basic courses in photography cover equipment, processes, and techniques. Art schools may offer useful training in photographic design and composition.

Entry-level positions in photojournalism or in industrial or scientific photography generally require a college degree in photography or in a field related to the industry in which the photographer seeks employment. For example, classes in biology, medicine, or chemistry may be useful for scientific photographers.

Business, marketing, and accounting classes can be helpful for self-employed photographers.

Training

Photographers have a talent or natural ability for taking good photos, and this talent is typically cultivated over years of practice. For many artists, including photographers, developing a portfolio—a collection of an artist’s work that demonstrates his or her styles and abilities—is essential. A portfolio is necessary because art directors, clients, and others often want to look at one when deciding whether to hire or contract with the photographer.

Photographers often start working as an assistant to a professional photographer. This work provides an opportunity to gain experience, build the photographers’ portfolios, and gain exposure to prospective clients.

Important Qualities

Artistic ability. Photographers capture their subjects in images, and they must be able to evaluate the artistic quality of a photograph. Photographers need a “good eye”—the ability to use colors, shadows, shades, light, and distance to compose good photographs.

Business skills. Photographers must be able to plan marketing strategies, reach out to prospective clients, and anticipate seasonal employment.

Computer skills. Most photographers do their own postproduction work and must be familiar with photo-editing software. They also use computers to maintain a digital portfolio.

Customer-service skills. Photographers must be able to understand the needs of their clients and propose solutions to any problems that arise.

Detail oriented. Photographers who do their own postproduction work must be careful not to overlook details and must be thorough when editing photographs. In addition, photographers accumulate many photographs and must maintain them in an orderly fashion.

Interpersonal skills. Photographers often photograph people. They must communicate effectively to achieve a certain composition in a photograph.

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Commercial Photographer Career Paths

Commercial Photographer
Freelance Photographer Editor Consultant
Senior Project Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Freelance Photographer Editor Owner
Business Owner
6 Yearsyrs
Freelance Photographer Editor Project Manager
Marketing Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Owner/Photographer Executive Assistant Owner
Marketing Director
7 Yearsyrs
Owner/Photographer Executive Assistant Office Manager
Administrative Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Owner/Photographer Executive Assistant Account Manager
Sales Account Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Graphic Designer Senior Graphic Designer Art Director
Creative Director
5 Yearsyrs
Graphic Designer Marketing Coordinator Account Executive
Sales And Marketing Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Graphic Designer Designer
Design Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Staff Photographer Lead Photographer Owner
Board Of Directors Member
8 Yearsyrs
Staff Photographer Instructor Adjunct Professor
President And Founder
5 Yearsyrs
Staff Photographer Instructor Artist
Senior Graphic Designer
5 Yearsyrs
Videographer Producer Marketing Manager
Digital Marketing Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Videographer Producer Co-Founder
Owner And Founder
6 Yearsyrs
Videographer Producer Product Manager
Marketing Communications Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Graphic Designer And Photographer Senior Graphic Designer Marketing Manager
Communications Director
6 Yearsyrs
Graphic Designer And Photographer Senior Graphic Designer
Creative Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Graphic Designer And Photographer Freelance Designer Web Developer
Web Content Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Lead Photographer Manager Property Manager
Asset Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Lead Photographer Manager Business Owner
Entrepreneur
5 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Commercial Photographer?

Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Owner/Photographer 6.3 years
Staff Photographer 3.7 years
Lead Photographer 2.9 years
Photographer 2.0 years
Top Careers Before Commercial Photographer
Photographer 26.9%
Internship 5.4%
Owner 2.9%
Supervisor 2.3%
Top Careers After Commercial Photographer
Photographer 22.7%
Owner 7.7%

Do you work as a Commercial Photographer?

Average Yearly Salary
$37,000
Show Salaries
$20,000
Min 10%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$68,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Opus
Highest Paying City
Santa Barbara, CA
Highest Paying State
Minnesota
Avg Experience Level
7.2 years
How much does a Commercial Photographer make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Commercial Photographer in the United States is $37,846 per year or $18 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $20,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $69,000.

How Would You Rate The Salary Of a Commercial Photographer?

Have you worked as a Commercial Photographer? Help other job seekers by rating your experience as a Commercial Photographer.

Top Skills for A Commercial Photographer

  1. Product Photography
  2. Adobe Photoshop
  3. Company Website
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Possess extensive experience with environmental portraiture, product photography, and shooting assignments involving both a high and low energy environment.
  • Designed computer illustrations using Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe InDesign.
  • Provide professional quality photos for company website and the local news website which showcase local attractions in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Drive Art Direction for Corporate and Small Business ad campaigns.
  • Self-owned photography and video production business.

Rank:

Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Commercial Photographers

  1. Minnesota
  2. Rhode Island
  3. Massachusetts
  4. California
  5. New York
  6. Connecticut
  7. Wyoming
  8. Vermont
  9. North Dakota
  10. Alabama
  • (19 jobs)
  • (5 jobs)
  • (18 jobs)
  • (63 jobs)
  • (33 jobs)
  • (11 jobs)
  • (1 jobs)
  • (1 jobs)
  • (3 jobs)
  • (10 jobs)

Commercial Photographer Demographics

Gender

Male

65.2%

Female

23.6%

Unknown

11.2%
Ethnicity

White

66.2%

Hispanic or Latino

14.8%

Black or African American

10.7%

Asian

5.4%

Unknown

3.0%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

61.5%

Portuguese

7.7%

German

7.7%

French

7.7%

Dutch

3.8%

Chinese

3.8%

Cantonese

3.8%

Russian

3.8%
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Commercial Photographer Education

Schools

Art Center College of Design

9.5%

Columbia College Chicago

7.6%

Brooks Institute

7.6%

Savannah College of Art and Design

6.7%

Rochester Institute of Technology

6.7%

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

5.7%

Art Institute of Atlanta

4.8%

Art Institute of Colorado

4.8%

School of Visual Arts

4.8%

Academy of Art University

4.8%

The Academy

4.8%

Syracuse University

3.8%

Ohio University -

3.8%

New York University

3.8%

Randolph Community College

3.8%

University of Phoenix

3.8%

San Francisco Art Institute

3.8%

Art Institute of Seattle

3.8%

Arizona State University

2.9%

University of South Florida

2.9%
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Majors

Photography

40.3%

Graphic Design

16.5%

Fine Arts

9.2%

Business

4.1%

Communication

4.1%

Marketing

3.2%

Journalism

3.0%

Psychology

2.7%

Audiovisual Communications Technologies

2.5%

Design And Visual Communication

2.1%

Advertising

2.1%

Liberal Arts

1.6%

Elementary Education

1.6%

Music

1.4%

General Studies

1.1%

Entertainment Business

0.9%

Philosophy

0.9%

Nursing

0.9%

Electrical Engineering

0.9%

Education

0.9%
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Degrees

Bachelors

48.8%

Other

20.4%

Associate

15.6%

Masters

9.9%

Certificate

3.4%

Diploma

1.1%

Doctorate

0.7%
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