Advertising Photography Career Requirements and Information

Sep 23, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an advertising photographer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and technical training to find out if this is the career for you.

Although it is possible to begin a career as a photographer with no formal education, those pursuing a career in this field may benefit from taking photography courses or a degree in photography. This training covers lighting, equipment repair and how to digitally enhance images. Those interested in advertising photography may also consider taking marketing courses.

Essential Information

An advertising or commercial photographer supports the goals of a company or organization. This photographer's job is to concentrate the attributes of a given product or scene in a single emotionally provocative image designed to a sell the product or inspire a desired action. Technical expertise and a stellar portfolio are required to get hired as a commercial photographer. No formal education is required, but degree programs in photography are available.

Required Education No degree required, preference given to those with degree in photography from a university
Other Requirements Technical knowledge, portfolio of work
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 6% decline (all photographers)
Average Salary (2018)* $42,770 (all photographers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Requirements

Training and Experience

Course preparation for a job in advertising photography can be relatively minimal, but for highly paid assignments, or any full-time position, it is important that the photographer can document formal technical training.

Preference is given to those who have a degree with a concentration in photography from an art school or a university. These schools offer courses in photographic lighting, use and repair of camera equipment and digital enhancement of images. Some photography programs include courses in the fundamentals of art such as color theory.

While technical knowledge is paramount, a background in advertising or marketing may prove useful to the commercial photography profession. Such business courses help to educate the photographer about the power of the advertisement in the retail arena so that he/she can better serve the client.

The portfolio of the prospective photographer is the single most important component of the job application process. Previous work should highlight product presentation in a manner consistent with the prospective employer's goals. For example, the image should focus on the appeal of a given object rather than make a statement about pop culture. Most importantly, the portfolio should showcase the full range of a photographer's technical skills and aesthetics.

Essential Qualifications

Computer expertise is an essential skill used in processing and submitting the finished product to the appropriate venue. Photographers use software to alter the dimensions of the photograph, change the lighting or add special effects to the image.

Communication skills are especially useful in obtaining assignments for high end products or sites as well as for negotiating the terms of the contracts involved. For example, a photographer might offer his/her expertise in shooting images of a resort hotel, then negotiate for market wages as well as for additional compensation such as air fare to the destination.

Additionally, commercial photographers should understand what constitutes a photograph of artistic merit. But while creativity is necessary in effectively interpreting the company's goals, commercial photographers must adhere to the specific instructions of the client. They will work within the parameters of the specific ad campaign. For instance, they may be asked to showcase a product in such a way that it illustrates an accompanying slogan.

Career Information

The advertising photographer's job is to create images that evoke a positive reaction to the scene presented. Since most advertisements appeal to the emotions rather than to the intellect, the image is a vital part of the advertising and marketing campaign. The photographer's goal is to sell the product.

To accomplish this task, the photographer will pay attention to setting, lighting camera angles, lenses and filters, product placement and the overall composition of the piece. However, the photographer's work is a collaborative effort. He/she must work under the direction of the advertising director.

In highly competitive markets, commercial photographers often specialize in specific product categories such as food or restaurants, vehicle and equipment, or luxury items.

This job entails travel. The photographer will often shoot on company premises, especially for larger items, or journey to a picturesque location, such as a vineyard or beach to create a desired atmosphere in the photographs.

It may be necessary for the professional to take multiple photographs over several days. Outdoor shots such as those that highlight a tourist location are dependent on weather conditions and therefore necessitate more time.

Much of the advertising photographer's work will occur in the processing phase, usually on the computer using software to digitally enhance the image. He/she will manipulate the image to highlight various aspects of the subject. The photographer will then consult with the advertising director to either continue the process or to submit the final image for publication. The photograph will appear as a print ad in magazines or brochures or on posters or billboards.

As far as job outlook, photographers can expect a 6% decrease in job opportunities from 2018 to 2028, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Potential Earnings

Commercial photography can be a lucrative field. Since print ads can cost up to $20,000 per full page ad, the photographer can expect to earn high wages in this area of photography. Generally, photographers earned a mean salary of $40,280 as of May 2018, according to the BLS. However, the low-to-high pay range spanned from $19,850 to $76,360, with the most lucrative photographer industries being aerospace products and parts, local government, and the motion picture and video industry.

With a low rate of job growth expected from 2018 to 2028, those planning to enter the field of photography will need a strong portfolio to showcase their work. Aspiring photographers can expect tough competition for work in this field and will increase their job prospects if they complete a degree in photography. Advertising photographers may also benefit from studies in advertising, marketing and business.

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