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The Rule of Thirds. Exposure. White Balance. What do these have in common? They're used widely by photographers who are just trying to get the most creative and best angle to perserve a specific image.

Photographers work in a variety of spaces. Sometimes they travel. Some work in studios. Others work in laboratories. While it's not necessary for photographers to have a postsecondary education, many take classes so they understand the art of photography.

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.

Learn more about what a Photographer does

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.


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.


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.

Photographer Career Paths

Average Salary for a Photographer

Photographers in America make an average salary of $36,237 per year or $17 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $61,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $21,000 per year.
Average Photographer Salary
$36,237 Yearly
$17.42 hourly
10 %
90 %

What Am I Worth?

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Photographer Education

Photographer Majors

Photographer Degrees


50.8 %


21.2 %

High School Diploma

17.9 %

Top Colleges for Photographers

1. Harvard University

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition

2. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition

3. Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA • Private

In-State Tuition

4. Duke University

Durham, NC • Private

In-State Tuition

5. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition

6. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition

7. University of Texas at Austin

Austin, TX • Private

In-State Tuition

8. Northeastern University

Boston, MA • Private

In-State Tuition

9. New York University

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition

10. Boston University

Boston, MA • Private

In-State Tuition

Top Skills For a Photographer

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 18.2% of photographers listed photoshop on their resume, but soft skills such as artistic ability and business skills are important as well.

  • Photoshop, 18.2%
  • Customer Service, 14.6%
  • Photography, 12.0%
  • Photographic Equipment, 6.8%
  • Communication, 6.2%
  • Other Skills, 42.2%

Choose From 10+ Customizable Photographer Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Photographer templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Photographer resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

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Photographer Demographics

Photographer Gender Distribution


After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among photographers, 61.7% of them are women, while 38.3% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among photographers is White, which makes up 72.0% of all photographers.

  • The most common foreign language among photographers is Spanish at 59.7%.

Online Courses For Photographer That You May Like

Advertising Disclosure  The courses listed below are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the course, we may receive a commission.
Digital Photography for Beginners with DSLR cameras

Learn how to take stunning photographs by mastering both the technical and creative sides of digital photography...

Photography - The Nikon D3400 DSLR Camera user course

Master your Nikon D3400 DSLR and shoot great pictures and videos...

Nikon Camera Photography: Getting Started with Your Nikon

Improve your photography by learning how to confidently use your Nikon DSLR camera - perfect for beginner photographers!...

Show More Photographer Courses
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Best States For a Photographer

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a photographer. The best states for people in this position are Alaska, California, Oregon, and New York. Photographers make the most in Alaska with an average salary of $50,948. Whereas in California and Oregon, they would average $50,737 and $46,969, respectively. While photographers would only make an average of $46,135 in New York, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. California

Total Photographer Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
1.38 Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. New York

Total Photographer Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
2.3 Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Oregon

Total Photographer Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
0.98 Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Photographers

How Do Photographer Rate Their Jobs?

Zippia Official Logo


It's great!April 2019


Zippia Official LogoIt's great!April 2019

What do you like the most about working as Photographer?

I love capturing memories that will last for lifetimes. Show More

What do you NOT like?

I do not like when my customer is not happy. Show More

Zippia Official Logo


I Love PhotographyMarch 2019


Zippia Official LogoI Love PhotographyMarch 2019

What do you like the most about working as Photographer?

Meeting new people and the way excellent photography makes the clients feels good Show More

What do you NOT like?

I don't like club party with smoking Show More

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Top Photographer Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ photographers and discovered their number of photographer opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that Lifetouch was the best, especially with an average salary of $23,980. Sears Holdings follows up with an average salary of $33,978, and then comes J. C. Penney with an average of $32,128. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as a photographer. The employers include Lifeway Kefir, 1871, and Life Way Christian School

Most Common Employers For Photographer

Rank  Company  Average Salary  Hourly Rate  Job Openings  
3Sears Holdings$33,978$16.341,800
7Communications & Power Industries$24,122$11.60296
9Magic Memories$23,979$11.53127
10Inter-State Studio & Publishing Co.$23,979$11.53118

Photographer Videos

Becoming a Photographer FAQs

How long does it take to become a Photographer?

It takes 2 years of professional experience to become a photographer. That is the time it takes to learn specific photographer skills, but does not account for time spent in formal education. If you include the normal education requirements to complete a college degree, then it takes 5 to 7 years years to become a photographer.

How do I become a full-time photographer?

To become a full-time photographer takes strategy, passion, and hard work. With the right steps, you can move from an amateur photographer to a full-time photographer in no time. To become a full-time photographer, you need to find your market, build your brand, and keep your nose in the grindstone.

How do photographers get paid?

Photographers are paid in many different ways, including by selling their art, working as a photographer for hire (e.g., website, newspaper, wedding), and through teaching.

Photography can be a very crowded space, with tons of services for every single genre and price range. On the other hand, a photographer has many different avenues to make money.

How much do you pay a photographer?

You pay a photographer a standard rate, usually based on hours, days worked, or final images; a typical photographer charges between $100 to $250 per hour or around $25 to $100 per final edited image.

Is it hard to become a photographer?

Yes, it is hard to become a photographer. Becoming a full-time photographer might be more difficult than ever because everyone is now a photographer. To really make it as a photographer, you really need to have a passion and willingness to put in a lot of hard work.

What does photography mean in photography?

Photography in photography means the art of capturing and processing light using a sensor or film. The essence of photography, however, is to capture moments and share them with the world. It is quite a simple act, but it is capable of changing people's perceptions.

What is the difference between photography and photographer?

The difference between photography and photography is that a photographer takes photographs (e.g., professional, amateur), while photography is the art and technology of producing images on photosensitive surfaces and their digital counterpart.

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