Job Description and Duties of a Photo Lab Technician

Working as a photo lab technician requires no formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Photo lab technicians help process, develop and review film. Skills in both print and digital photography are needed, so formal coursework may aid a successful photo lab technician.

Essential Information

Although the job of a photo lab technician is changing with the switch to digital photography by casual photographers, photo lab technicians are still a vital component to the photography industry. The main duties of these professionals are to develop and process film. With on-the-job training, the skills necessary to work as a photo lab technician may be gained quickly.

Required Education None mandatory; coursework in photography and photo development is available
Other Requirements Voluntary certification through the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI)
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -32.9% for photographic process workers and processing machine operators
Median Salary (2015)* $26,590 for photographic process workers and processing machine operators

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description of a Photo Lab Technician

Photography laboratory technicians (or photo lab technicians) ensure that photographic negatives submitted to their lab are developed and processed correctly. Recently, this work has also included the development of digital film into hard copies of photographs, as well as the development of photo rolls. Technicians may also be responsible for enlarging, refocusing or retouching photographs to make specific parts of the image clearer or more visible.

Although photo lab technicians can work in unaffiliated photography laboratories, they may also seek employment with specific laboratories attached to forensic departments, insurance companies or governmental agencies. Often photo lab technicians attached to specific agencies are also required to work as photographers. As such, technicians may need to produce and identify orders according to agency specifications.

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Job Duties of a Photo Lab Technician

Photo lab technicians are required to know how to produce copies of negatives, whether digital or print. For film, this involves understanding how to prepare photographic chemical solutions. Currently, computers are also utilized to assist in this work, and it is the duty of photo lab technicians to maintain the computers and the programs necessary. In addition, photo lab technicians must be able to examine prints for defects and trim photographs as needed.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the skills needed to perform the duties of photo lab technicians can be learned on the job, although classes on photography and photo development may be an asset. For most jobs, no additional education is necessary. Nevertheless, training will teach prospective photo lab technicians how to use and maintain computer equipment, mix chemical baths necessary for photo development and determine the best possible finish, coloring and shading. These programs may also instruct photo lab technicians on techniques to enhance the photographer's work and avoid defects.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Photo lab technicians are placed in the category for photographic process workers and processing machine operators and the BLS expects a steep decline, -32.9% - in employment over the 2014-2024 decade. The median wage for these workers and operators was $26,590 in May 2015, reported the BLS.

Photo lab technicians are not required to have any formal education but typically need to have an understanding of both print and digital photography. On-the-job training is often provided to ensure continued growth and development, and voluntary certification is available.

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