Nature Photographer: Job Description and Training Requirements

Sep 25, 2019

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

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There are no specific educational requirements to enter the field of photography, although a degree in the fine arts or photography may be an asset. Those interested in becoming nature photographers will need to build a portfolio of their work to showcase their abilities capturing images of plants, animals, weather and natural environments.

Essential Information

Nature photographers are professionals who focus on natural subjects such as plants, animals or weather to depict a natural occurrence or create a work of art. There are no specific education or training requirements, but many professional photographers hold degrees in fine arts with a concentration in photography or have taken courses in photography. Nature photography often demands the physical stamina to work in all weather conditions and travel in sometimes unforgiving terrain while carrying heavy equipment.

Required Education No requirements, but a bachelor's degree in fine arts/photography is recommended
Additional Requirements Experience with cameras and editing software is beneficial
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* -6% for all photographers
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $34,000 for all photographers

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

Job Description

Before taking photographs, photographers must select the appropriate equipment and adjust settings that minimize or increase light levels to capture the desired image. Equipment selection and the adjustment of settings depend on the natural environment, lighting and the subject matter. Photographers estimate distances and levels of light when selecting cameras and settings. Individuals may work in dangerous and uncomfortable locations when capturing images of subjects in their natural environment.

Nature photographers develop and edit the images of natural subjects with photography and computer equipment. Freelance photographers operate a small business and must perform business activities such as marketing and accounting. Freelance nature photographers may sell the images they capture independently or accept assignments to photograph a particular subject or location for science journals and magazines.

Training Requirements

There are no formal requirements for nature photographers; however, fine arts degree programs in photography can provide students with the technical skills to develop images on film and in digital format. In addition, a fine arts degree program teaches students to create images of natural subjects in an artistic manner. Fine arts programs in photography include coursework in color and black and white photography, digital imaging and the development of a portfolio. A fine arts degree offers students courses in composition and design.

Students can pursue business courses such as marketing and advertising, which provide a budding freelance nature photographer the skills to operate a small business successfully.

Technical and vocational photography courses are available for students and provide a foundation in topics such as photographic equipment, processes and techniques. Beginning photographers may also train alongside a seasoned nature photographer as an assistant to learn the techniques and practices professionals use in the field.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median salary of $34,000 per year for photographers in general. The BLS projected 6% overall decrease in employment for photographers from 2018-2028. Employment opportunities for self-employed photographers is also expected to decline by 6% during the same time period.

Although formal education isn't required to work as a nature photography, fine arts training along with business courses can prove beneficial. Many work as freelance photographers and their livelihood depends on their ability to sell compelling images. The 2018-2028 job outlook is slower than average for photographers overall, including those who work for themselves, according to the BLS.

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