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Become A Photographer

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Working As A Photographer

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

  • $33,769

    Average Salary

What Does A 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 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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Photographer Jobs

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Average Length of Employment
Owner/Photographer 6.4 years
Staff Photographer 3.5 years
Lead Photographer 2.9 years
Photographer 2.0 years
Top Employers Before
Cashier 12.9%
Internship 10.5%
Server 4.9%
Volunteer 4.6%
Assistant 3.7%
Teller 3.4%
Manager 3.1%
Waitress 2.9%
Hostess 2.7%
Top Employers After
Cashier 9.0%
Internship 7.0%
Server 5.2%
Manager 4.2%
Volunteer 3.7%
Owner 3.4%
Teller 3.3%
Assistant 2.7%

Do you work as a Photographer?

Photographer Demographics

Gender

Female

61.1%

Male

36.9%

Unknown

2.0%
Ethnicity

White

78.8%

Hispanic or Latino

12.2%

Asian

6.9%

Unknown

1.6%

Black or African American

0.5%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

58.7%

French

9.7%

German

4.1%

Chinese

3.9%

Mandarin

3.4%

Japanese

3.1%

Italian

2.9%

Russian

2.5%

Portuguese

2.2%

Arabic

2.2%

Korean

1.3%

Cantonese

1.2%

Polish

0.9%

Vietnamese

0.7%

Greek

0.6%

Tagalog

0.6%

Hebrew

0.5%

Swedish

0.4%

Hmong

0.4%

Hindi

0.4%
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Photographer Education

Schools

Savannah College of Art and Design

10.2%

University of Phoenix

9.2%

Columbia College Chicago

7.9%

Art Institute of Pittsburgh

7.3%

Full Sail University

6.7%

Rochester Institute of Technology

5.0%

Academy of Art University

4.8%

Ball State University

4.4%

Liberty University

4.4%

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

4.0%

Kaplan University

4.0%

University of Central Florida

3.9%

University of North Texas

3.8%

Ashford University

3.7%

Southern New Hampshire University

3.6%

New York Institute of Photography

3.6%

Virginia Commonwealth University

3.5%

Northern Virginia Community College

3.5%

Syracuse University

3.2%

School of Visual Arts

3.2%
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Majors

Photography

26.9%

Graphic Design

10.9%

Business

9.6%

Communication

9.0%

Fine Arts

7.3%

Journalism

5.2%

Psychology

4.5%

Criminal Justice

3.2%

General Studies

2.4%

Marketing

2.3%

Liberal Arts

2.3%

English

2.2%

Nursing

2.1%

Medical Assisting Services

1.9%

Health Care Administration

1.8%

Education

1.8%

Design And Visual Communication

1.7%

Computer Science

1.7%

General Education, Specific Areas

1.6%

Digital Media

1.5%
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Degrees

Bachelors

44.5%

Other

28.8%

Associate

14.3%

Masters

6.1%

Certificate

4.4%

Diploma

1.3%

License

0.4%

Doctorate

0.3%
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Job type you want
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Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Photographer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Photographer SK Visual New York, NY Apr 01, 2014 $198,265
Photographer Christian OTH Inc. New York, NY Sep 01, 2012 $198,265
Photographer Christian OTH Inc. New York, NY Jan 15, 2013 $198,265
Photographer SK Visual New York, NY Jul 01, 2014 $198,265
Photographer Christian OTH Inc. New York, NY May 01, 2013 $156,525
Photographer Mannkul, Inc. Corona, CA Dec 09, 2011 $98,114
Photographer Special Projects Studio LLC New York, NY Mar 15, 2016 $76,000 -
$79,000
Photographers Studio Berry, Inc. Fort Lee, NJ Apr 10, 2013 $75,379
Photographer Special Projects Studio LLC New York, NY Mar 15, 2016 $72,000 -
$78,000
Preproduction & Location Scouting Photographer Point Lake Pictures LLC Minneapolis, MN Jun 28, 2016 $62,401
Photographer Forever & Ever Inc. New York, NY Apr 13, 2015 $60,523
Photographer Studio, Kanji Ishii Inc. New York, NY Feb 09, 2016 $59,197
Photographer Picturegroup LLC Calabasas, CA Jan 18, 2010 $58,302 -
$76,502
Photographers Visual Image Photography, Inc. Cedarburg, WI May 19, 2010 $46,430
Photographer Ben Baker Photo Inc. New York, NY Apr 01, 2010 $46,000 -
$48,000
Photographer Image Atlas LLC New York, NY Jan 09, 2016 $45,914 -
$52,175
Photographer Gen X Clothing, Inc. Vernon, CA Jan 28, 2016 $45,698
Photographer Oz Sports Photography New Haven, CT Apr 11, 2011 $45,000
Photographer Oz Sports Photography New Haven, CT Apr 14, 2011 $45,000
Photographer Kutlu Inc. New York, NY Jun 01, 2015 $39,000
Photographer Clear Moon Inc. New York, NY Oct 01, 2010 $38,526
Photographers Publication Group, Inc. DBA Shalom L.A. CA Nov 15, 2007 $37,858
Lifestyle & Interior Photographer Hattop Media Raleigh, NC Oct 01, 2011 $37,566
Lifestyle & Interior Photographer Hattop Media Raleigh, NC Jun 01, 2011 $37,566
Photographer Paul Barnett Inc. San Diego, CA Nov 22, 2016 $37,315
Photographers American FOTO Features, Inc. CA Mar 15, 2010 $37,200

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Top Skills for A Photographer

AdobePhotoshopPhotographicEquipmentPortraitPackagesCustomerServiceSkillsCompanyWebsitePhotoShootsVideoArtificialLightAdobeLightroomSchedulingAppointmentsSpecialEventsPhotoPackagesSelectPictureCompositionFacebookDslrSmallGroupsNikonInternetSetup

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  1. Adobe Photoshop
  2. Photographic Equipment
  3. Portrait Packages
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Edited and managed images with Adobe Photoshop for publication in newspapers and magazines throughout Latin America and the United States.
  • Drive to various schools, set up photographic equipment, take school photos
  • Hired by this portrait studio to sell portrait packages to increase studio sales.
  • Engaged in excellent customer service skills towards customers and potential customers.
  • Assisted in design choices for the company website, marketing material, and blog layout.

How Would You Rate Working As a Photographer?

Are you working as a Photographer? Help us rate Photographer as a Career.

Top Photographer Employers

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Photographer Videos

Career Advice on becoming a Photographer by Naroop J (Full Version)

Career Advice on becoming a Photographer by Amit A (Full Version)

Career Advice on becoming a Photographer by Naroop J (Highlights)