Photo Artist: Job Description & Career Info

Learn about the work responsibilities of a photo artist. Find out the education and skills needed in addition to employment outlook and salary to decide if this is the right career for you.

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Career Definitions for Photo Arts Jobs

Photo artists use digital or film cameras, along with a variety of professional photography equipment, to create artistic photographs and art pieces. Typical duties include using color analyzers, mixing photographic chemicals, and retouching negatives or prints. Photo artists market their work to attract customers, study subject composition, enhance subjects through artificial lights and filters, and use editing software. The subjects of their photographs vary widely and depend heavily upon their employer and chosen industry.

Education No postsecondary education is required, but holding an undergraduate degree is beneficial for building experience and finding work
Job Skills Hand-eye coordination, knowledge of camera operations, photo editing ability, creativity with the medium, understanding of composition and lighting
Median Salary (2017)* $32,490 (for all photographers)
Career Outlook (2016-2026)* -6% (for all photographers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Photo artists and portrait photographers typically don't require a postsecondary education. However, completion of an associate degree or bachelor's degree program in photography can help you to build your portfolio and get inside training in camera settings, photo equipment, graphics software, and lighting. Coursework may include basic photography, an introduction to graphic design, and color photography. Additionally, photo artists can gain industry experience by assisting a professional photographer.

Skills Required

Photographers need to have a solid understanding of camera functions, lighting, and composition. They should also have good coordination and eyesight. Artistic ability and a creative nature are a must to capture one-of-a-kind photographs that encourage an emotional response. Photo artists need to understand how to use and work with photo editing software, and they should have a basic understanding of how to use the Internet and how to build a unique photograph portfolio.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for photographers was $32,490 in May 2017. Also, more companies are hiring freelance photographers rather than their own photographers, according to the BLS figures, reducing the number of full-time positions. Overall, employment in the photography field is expected to decrease 6% from 2016 to 2026.

Alternative Careers

Similar careers relating to photography and the arts include:

Graphic Designer

While photo artists create and manipulate photographic images, graphic designers go beyond that by adding text and other elements to the image. They also generate original illustrations by hand and with computer software in addition to determining the layout, text and color schemes for digital and print projects. In order to enter this profession, a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related art field is generally required. Education programs will allow an opportunity to create a professional portfolio to present while job hunting. The BLS projected a 4% increase in employment of graphic designers during the 2016-2026 decade and estimated that these workers received a median yearly salary of $48,700 in 2017.

Film and Video Editor

For those who are interested in working with moving images instead of still ones, a career in film and video editing may be the right choice. These editors add audio and visual elements to film and video segments in addition to cutting out parts that may not fit with the overall artistic vision of the director. To gain employment, a bachelor's degree in a film or broadcasting field is generally required. Most of the work is now done digitally, so knowledge of software and digital equipment is necessary. The BLS estimated that about 5,800 jobs are expected to be created in this field between 2016 and 2026, but many of those will be found in the motion picture industry because of expanding special effect use. Film and video editors earned $61,180 in median wages, as shown in 2017 BLS data.

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