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Digital Photographer: How to Start a Career in Digital Photography

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

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Individuals interested in becoming digital photographers can enroll in digital photography programs or standalone courses at most colleges. This training, along with a work portfolio, can help digital photographers find jobs and clients.

Essential Information

Digital photographers earn a living by capturing a specific moment or event. Digital photographers must have working knowledge of digital camera operation, lenses, lighting and posing. Becoming a digital photographer typically requires vocational or on-the-job training. It is also recommended that digital photographers put together a portfolio so they can show their work to potential clients and employers.

Required Education Some formal training, which may include postsecondary classes
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) -6% for all photographers*
Median Salary (2018) $34,000 per year for all photographers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Digital Photographer Job Description

Photographers take pictures for the purpose of art, entertainment, business or news. Digital photographers use the existing and emerging technology of digital photography to create more accurate and colorful images. As opposed to photography using traditional silver halide film cameras, digital photographers can create their own professional prints using editing software, computers and photo printers.

Digital photography gives photographers the advantage of being able to view what they've taken instantly on a small screen on their camera. Additionally, the photos can be uploaded to a computer, where they can be edited. Professional photographers typically choose from specialty areas in portrait photography, fine arts photography, commercial and industrial photography, news photography and scientific photography.

Educational Requirements for Digital Photographers

Individuals interested in digital photography usually require some sort of formal training to gain technical proficiency with equipment. Portrait photographers may begin their careers working as assistants to gain obtain on-the-job training, while photojournalists may need the more in-depth knowledge of camera operation, media laws and photography techniques gained through a certificate or degree program. Digital photography courses and certificate or degree programs are offered at many vocational colleges, community colleges and universities.

Digital photography students learn editing techniques, lighting and camera settings. They can choose from electives such as wedding, portrait, sports or wildlife photography. Candidates gain proficiency with editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop. In addition to coursework, students create portfolios of their photography. Photography degree programs may allow students to participate in internship or study abroad opportunities.

Career Overview for Digital Photographers

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that job opportunities for photographers will decline 6% during the 2018-2028 decade. The BLS predicted that job growth will be restricted due to the affordability of digital photography equipment, which allows many consumers to take their own photographs. Photographers earned a median annual wage of $34,000 in May 2018, according to the BLS.

Digital photographers can work in studio or private settings shooting portraits or they can work in larger businesses doing commercial photography. They need to have a strong understanding of the computer software and programs that are used in digital photography. Digital photographers use these computer programs to edit, alter, and adjust their photographs.

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