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Photographer Career Guide

A career as a photographer is one that offers a lot of autonomy, flexibility and many different career paths to specialize into. A photographer does not need a college degree, yet they can still easily become self-employed and in charge of their own schedule.

It's not enough to just own a camera. Everyone owns a camera. To be a photographer, you must understand, appreciate, and harness the power you hold!

Mark Denman

Photographer Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Photographer Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Photographer field.
IDJob TitleGenderAgeEarningsCity & StateDate
33944Graphic Designer, PhotographerFemale38 $18,000Arlington, MA01/01/2010
33890Photo TechnicianMale30 $15,000manchester, MO01/01/2010
33870Retoucher / Digital TechnicianMale23 $45,000Brooklyn, NY01/01/2010
33802Photographer Although I Also Do Some Design And Graphic DesignFemale34 $40,000Rockford, IL01/01/2010
33759Fashion PhotographerFemale30 $90,000DeLand, FL01/01/2010

Overview

What a photographer actually does

A photographer is an artist that uses a camera to take pictures, using artificial and/or natural lighting, of various people, places and things. There are a variety of photography niches, with some photographers focusing on studio work and others explore the natural, outside world. Regardless of the type of photography, the typical duties and responsibilities of a photographer include:

  • Marketing to attract clients and then working with these clients to discuss the images they require
  • Analyzing and planning the composition of photographs
  • Using photographic techniques and lighting equipment to ensure professional-quality photographs
  • Using photo-enhancing software, such as photoshop, to touch up photographs
  • Maintaining a detailed digital portfolio to demonstrate their work and skill
  • Carrying out research and preparation for a shoot
  • Communicating with photographic subjects to put them at ease, encourage them and direct them
  • Arranging still life objects, products, scenes, props and backgrounds
  • Liaising with other professionals, including graphic designers, writers, gallery managers, picture researchers, commissioning editors and art directors
  • Managing the processing and use of images, discussing technical problems, checking for quality and dealing with clients’ concerns
  • Compiling finished products for sale, such as albums and framed prints

Why they are needed

Photography is important in the world because it allows people, from all over the world, to see things from different points of view and perspective. It is important for sharing information across the world, representing whats important, advertising and marketing, and documenting history.

Pros and cons of a career in cybersecurity:

Pros:

  • There is high levels of freedom and flexibility as photographers are mostly self-employed and can therefore pick their own schedule and hours
  • It is a career with lots of activity and adventure, which can involve lots of travelling
  • There is a wide range of career paths and choice of speciality
  • It can be a rewarding career as you are making a difference to the world, by helping spread information and make history
  • There is uncapped potential to increase earnings, career progression and photography skills

Cons:

  • The photography equipment is expensive, meaning it is an expensive career to enter. On top of this, it can cost lots to upkeep and replace if it gets broken or outdated
  • As most photographers are self-employed, there is not a guarantee of work or stable income
  • Photographers can work long and uncertain hours, meaning photographers may have to spend time away from family and friends
  • It can be quite a lonely career at times as photographers often work alone

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of photographers is expected to decline 6 percent from 2018 to 2028. This decline is thought to be due to the number of amateur photographers increasing, which will reduce the need for professional photographers. There is also increasing access to stock photographs online, which may dampening demand for photographers.

However, employment of self-employed photographers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The demand for portrait photographers will remain as people continue to want new portraits and corporations will continue to require the services of commercial photographers to help develop compelling advertising and marketing campaigns.

Career paths

To become a professional photographer, postsecondary education is not required. However, many photographers will take classes, that covers equipment, processes, and techniques, or earn a bachelor’s degree to improve their skills and increase their employment prospects.

Specifically, photojournalism or industrial/scientific photography roles generally require a college degree in photography or in a field related to the industry in which the photographer seeks employment (e.g., classes in biology, medicine, or chemistry may be important for scientific photographers).

Photographers will face strong competition for most jobs. This is due to the relative ease with which photographers can enter the occupation, meaning there will be many qualified candidates for relatively few positions.

As companies are increasingly using freelancers photographers, job prospects will be best for candidates who have a strong portfolio and related skills, such as in editing photos and capturing digital video.

Example Job Titles for Photographer

Below is a list of common job titles in the Photographer field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for a photographer in the United States was $17.44 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.92 per hour and the highest 10 percent earned more than $38.19 per hour. The highest paid industry for photographers was the broadcasting industry, with the average hourly salary being $22.83, this is closely followed by newspapers, periodical books and directory publishers where the average hourly pay is $21.74.

As most photographers are freelance, they will receive no employer benefits.

Autonomy and Flexibility

As over half of photographers are freelance, this provides them with a great deal of autonomy and flexibility when choosing assignments. Freelancing can also allow for greater flexibility because the photographer may have more control over the choice of setting and the types of photos that they take.

Locations and commute

As photographers are often self-employed and there is work available in a wide range of settings (e.g., studios, outside, for large businesses), there should be jobs available in many locations with a short commute.

Work environment

64% of photographers in the United States were self-employed in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Photographers may work indoors or outdoors, depending on their speciality. For example, a portrait photographers may work in studios, but they also travel to take photographs at a client’s location, such as a school or a home. Whereas news photographers may travel internationally and must be prepared to work in dangerous surroundings, often working irregular schedules.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Photographer careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Photographer career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Photographer.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

While there has been no scientific exploration as to specifically what personality types create successful photographers. However, Gary Martin, the Co-Founder PRO EDU, carried out his own research on facebook regarding the personality types of photographers using the Myers-Briggs 16 personality types. He found that 59.93 percent of the 145 photographers who responded fell under the ‘diplomat’ personality category, meaning they were INFJ‘s INFP’s, ENFJ‘s, and ENFP’s.

Although not scientifically justified, these results make sense as people belonging to the diplomatic personality type category are imaginative, which is essential for creating good photographs. Diplomatic personality types are also typically cooperative, warm, empathic and influential, which will benefit photographers as it allows them to create a secure and relaxed photographic environment.

Accomplishment and mastery

As photography skills can be mastered relatively easily, there is a high level of mastery in the profession – especially as photography is a career that offers never ending skill development. Photographers will also feel a sense of accomplishment when they see the end product of their work and produce good photographs.

Meaning and contribution

As photography can play a key part in documenting history and the sharing of information across the world, the work of a photographer can be meaningful to many and contribute greatly to society. On top of this, photographs also help many families document precious memories with their loved ones, which means their work is meaningful to many.

Life fit

Photographers mostly work on a freelance basic, meaning that they have complete control over their schedule. This means the career can offer a great life fit. However, it is not as simple as this, as it is not uncommon for photographers to work long hours, including evenings and weekends, to meet the needs of their clients.

Who will thrive in this career?

It goes without saying that those with an artistic and creative mind will thrive as a photographers main responsibility is to create art and envision interesting and catching images. With this will also come an eye for detail as even the smallest things, such as the lighting or positioning of the subject, need to be considered so the the photograph delivers the desired message.

Those with exceptional patience are also likely to thrive as a photographer as there will be days when the lighting won’t cooperate, when the models will be difficult, or when the desired results just aren’t happening. Finally, if you are self-directed, self-motivated and business-minded, then you will thrive as a photographer as most photographers are self employed and need these skills to be successful.

Who will struggle in this career?

Quite obviously, those who are not in the least bit creative and do not have a passion for art are likely to struggle as a photographer, as these skills are needed to produce successful images. Those who prefer to work regular and predictable hours may struggle with the unpredictability of a photographers schedule. Similarly, those who struggle with being self-governed and making decisions alone may struggle with the self-employed aspect of being a photographer.

Requirements

Skills and talents

As well as a creative mind and artistic ability, the typical skills and talents required for a photographer include:

  • Customer-service skills as photographers will work with lots of different clients to understand what they want and agree on suitable alternatives for ideas that may be unrealistic
  • Communication skills, both verbal and written, are essential to communicate with clients and communicate with the subjects they are taking photos of
  • Attention to detail is key as photographers must focus on every small detail, such as lightening or positioning, to create images
  • Computer skills are essential as photographers are normally responsible for their own postproduction work and therefore must be able to use photo-editing software
  • Business skills will also be very beneficial as photographers are often self-employed and will therefore have to run and coordinate their own business, plan marketing or advertising strategies and reach out to prospective clients

Education

To become a professional photographer, postsecondary education is not required. However, many photographers will take photography classes, that cover equipment, processes and techniques.

Some photographers may also earn a bachelor’s degree to improve their skills and employment prospects. Specifically, photojournalism or industrial/scientific photography roles generally require a college degree in photography or in a field related to the industry in which the photographer seeks employment (e.g., classes in biology, medicine, or chemistry may be important for scientific photographers).

To get the skills required to be a successful photographer, many photographers begin by working as an assistant to a photographer, as this gives them experience in the industry. Successful photographers will also develop a good portfolio the demonstrates their work and skills.

Certifications

Most photographers do not need a license to operate. However, those who commercially operate drones must obtain certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). To achieve this certification, you must be at least 16 years old, be able to read, speak, write, and understand English, be in good physical and mental condition to operate a small drone safely and pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.

How to Become

Summary

A career as a photographer is one that offers a lot of autonomy, flexibility and the opportunity to make a difference. It is a career that offers many different career paths to specialize in and allows you to become self-employed and in charge of your own schedule.

Immediate action

To kickstart a career as a photographer, you should look into photography courses near you. It can then be beneficial to become a photography assistant, as this experience will give you the skills you need to become a successful photographer.

Education and learning

To become a photographer, a college degree is not necessary. However, some photographers, especially those in photojournalism or scientific photography, do achieve a college degree to give them the skills they need.

Skill development

To develop the skills needed, many photographers start by becoming a photography assistant as this gives them the experience that they need. They then gain the valuable skills on the job, and create portfolios to show their skills.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Photographer careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

IDJob TitleGenderAgeEarningsCity & StateDate
33944Graphic Designer, PhotographerFemale38 $18,000Arlington, MA01/01/2010
33890Photo TechnicianMale30 $15,000manchester, MO01/01/2010
33870Retoucher / Digital TechnicianMale23 $45,000Brooklyn, NY01/01/2010
33802Photographer Although I Also Do Some Design And Graphic DesignFemale34 $40,000Rockford, IL01/01/2010
33759Fashion PhotographerFemale30 $90,000DeLand, FL01/01/2010

Resources