Career training programs for photographers vary by field. Generally, photographers must have a high school diploma or GED certificate and some level of post-secondary photography training. A bachelor's degree program in digital photography are preferred for many roles. But in some areas, such as photojournalism, photographers must have several years of experience prior to employment.
On-the-job training programs may be available for commercial and portrait photographers who work in family photography studios. Photographers may be required to have their own digital cameras and lighting equipment. To demonstrate knowledge of photographic technique, many photographers develop portfolios that showcase their professional work.
Bachelor of Arts in Photography
A bachelor's degree program in photography prepares students to effectively create, process and edit digital and film photos. Students learn how to take photos in a variety of indoor and outdoor settings using advanced lighting and camera equipment. Programs often include internship opportunities and courses on:
- Digital photography
- Black-and-white photography
- History of photography
- Color techniques
- Photography lighting
- Digital photo editing
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The employment for photographers from 2014-2024 is expected to grow by 3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The job outlook for photographers is slower than average compared to other occupations. As of May 2015, these professionals had an annual median salary of $31,710.
Photographers are not required to be licensed or certified. But voluntary certification is available from the Professional Photographic Certification Commission (PPCC) and can give better work opportunities. To obtain certification, photographers must pass a comprehensive exam and submit photography work for commission approval. According to the PPCC, less than five percent of photographers have earned this certification.
Digital photography workshops and seminars are widely available through colleges, universities, photography studios and various online organizations. Colleges and universities with photography departments typically hold workshops on diverse areas of digital photography, including computer editing concepts, photography composition, commercial photography and black-and-white photography. The Professional Photographers of America (PPA) holds free and paid online seminars and training sessions. Workshops are available to members and non-members alike, though members of PPA receive significant discounts. The organization also holds 3-day training workshops in different cities each year. Workshops and seminars address the business aspects of photography; they are ideal for self-employed photographers or studio owners.
The PPA provides an ample amount of networking and professional development resources for salaried, freelance and self-employed photographers. Members of the organization can subscribe to photography forums, newsletters, blogs and even annual photography competitions. Photographers can seek continuing education courses, such as those that teach the legal and business aspects of the photography industry. These may help photographers develop client relations and a professional reputation.
Prospective students of digital photography can choose to obtain a bachelor's degree, apply for certification, attend workshops and seminars, seek on-the-job training, or a combination of these for career advancement. Photography experience demonstrated through a portfolio is also advantageous for those seeking employment.