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Digital Photographer: Job & Career Info

Learn about the type of work digital photographers perform. Read about the educational options and skills necessary, in addition to salary and employment info, to make the career choice that is right for you.

Career Definition for Digital Photographer

Digital photographers use digital cameras to take pictures and then edit those images on a computer. Images can be cropped, colored, reshaped or enhanced before being stored on a hard drive, compact disc, memory card or flash drive.

Required Education Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography recommended but not required
Necessary Skills Working knowledge of digital cameras, computers, photo editing software and high-quality printers; ability to prepare a business plan, write contracts and submit bids; marketing and finance skills
Median Salary (2017)* $32,490 (all photographers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* -6% (all photographers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

While entry-level positions in digital photography don't require a formal education, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography or a related area can help you build your portfolio. However, associate degrees or vocational training are also available.

Skills Required

Digital photographers must be comfortable working with digital cameras, computers, photo editing software and high-quality printers. Additionally, freelance digital photographers should know how to prepare a business plan, write contracts, submit bids, market their work and keep good financial records. A strong background in computers or electronics, previous work experience and exceptional talent will help entry-level digital photographers stand out in the eyes of employers.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), employment of photographers may decrease by 6% from 2016-2026. Job growth may be strained as digital equipment prices decline and more digital photography novices begin to use digital cameras for personal and professional use. Also, more companies are hiring freelance photographers, so finding a salaried position as a digital photographer may be more difficult. According to the BLS, annual median earnings for salaried photographers were approximately $32,490 as of May 2017.

Alternate Career Options

Some skills required to be a photographer can also prepare you for jobs in other similar areas.

Camera Operator

For individuals interested in capturing moving images, a career as a camera operator is a possibility. Under the direction of producers and directors, camera operators shoot scenes for motion pictures, television and other mediums. These professionals should have knowledge of industry-standard computer software and digital technology, and most employers require a bachelor's degree in a related field of study.

The BLS projects 7% growth in job opportunities for camera operators during the 2016-2026 decade, and strong competition will exist to fill available positions. In May 2017, the BLS reported that the median salary of motion picture, television and video camera operators was $53,550 per year.

Graphic Designer

Photographic editing and manipulation are part of the work that graphic designers perform, in addition to creating layout and text work for print and website projects. To enter this field, a bachelor's degree in a related art or design field is required, or technical training can be combined with an unrelated degree. While pursuing a degree, students also need to develop a professional portfolio they can present when seeking employment. The BLS stated the median salary of graphic designers was $48,700 in 2017, and that these professionals can expect to see an increase of 4% in employment between 2016 and 2026.


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