How to Be an Architectural Photographer: Career Roadmap

Jul 15, 2018

Research the requirements to become an architectural photographer. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in architectural photography.

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  • 0:04 Be an Architectural…
  • 0:32 Career Requirements
  • 0:56 Steps to Architectural…

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Be an Architectural Photographer

An architectural photographer uses his or her artistic talent and composition skills to capture images of structures on film. As of 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that more than half of photographers in general were self-employed. In that case, considerable time might be spent finding customers and new assignments. Travel might be required, and photographers often work on their feet for extended periods of time.

Career Requirements

Degree Level A degree is not required, but may expand career opportunities
Degree Field Photography
Key Skills Artistic ability, ability to operate camera equipment and use photo editing software, customer-service skills, attention to detail, interpersonal skills, and business skills
Salary (2016) $47,472 per year (median salary for commercial photographers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale.com.

Steps to Architectural Photographer

Architectural photographers have a combination of skills and experience and frequently a college degree.

Step 1: Learn to Operate Camera Equipment

Individuals interested in pursuing a career in architectural photography need to know how to operate camera equipment, specifically digital camera equipment. Even if a student plans to pursue formal education in the field, he or she will need to know how to properly use a camera prior to attending school. Architectural photographers can learn basic camera skills by practicing taking pictures of buildings and other structures around their cities.

Take beginner photography classes. To build a strong foundation in the basics of photography, aspiring architectural photographers can take beginner-level classes. Such classes may be available at local community centers or through privately owned photography studios.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

While formal education is not required to enter the field, the BLS noted that employers may prefer candidates who have a four-year degree in photography. A bachelor's degree program focuses on instruction in composition elements, shooting techniques, and darkroom procedures. Courses may include studio lighting, photojournalism, digital imaging, and photography history. Students may also want to earn a minor in architecture or take courses focused on architectural structures.

Participate in an internship. Some bachelor's degree programs require students to complete an internship before graduation. Prospective architectural photographers may want to seek internships with professional photographers or professional photography associations. The Young Photographers Alliance offers mentoring and internship opportunities to students and recent graduates of a four-year degree program.

Step 3: Build a Portfolio

A portfolio highlighting an artist's best photographs is necessary to begin a career as an architectural photographer. Architectural photographers can begin building their portfolios while still in school and should continue updating their portfolios throughout their careers. A portfolio should include published photographs, as well as exemplary pieces taken in college and an internship program. Creating an online portfolio will allow a greater audience to view a photographer's work.

Step 4: Gain Experience as a Photographer's Assistant

Beginning architectural photographers can gain professional experience working as an assistant to a photographer. Along with learning technical and business skills, an assistant may be responsible for menial tasks such as finding business opportunities for the employer. Seek assistant positions through job search sites and local photographers. Organizations such as the Association of Independent Architectural Photographers (AIAP) offer services to match photographers with assistants.

Step 5: Join a Professional Organization

Professional photography organizations can provide beginning and experienced photographers with clientele and job opportunities. The AIAP offers clients a service that finds architectural photographers in their areas. Similarly, the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) offers a photographer finder that allows clients to specify a professional's specialization. To benefit from one of these organizations, a photographer must obtain membership, which entails a yearly fee and review by the membership board.

Continue education. While not required, architectural photographers can benefit from taking advantage of continuing education opportunities throughout their careers. Professional organizations, such as the ASMP, offer a variety of continuing education tutorials and seminars to members to help them improve their skills and learn new techniques. Continuing education can help architectural photographers stay current in laws related to business photography as well as technologies that evolve with the industry.

Architectural photographers rely on their inherent creative ability and proficiency in operating camera equipment, although many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree in photography. A portfolio and related experience as a photographer's assistant, in addition to membership in professional organizations that offer photographer finder services, can improve job prospects and career advancement.

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