Photographer Career Options, Duties and Salary Information

Jun 27, 2019

You might be wondering, is photography a career? Yes, there are diverse photography career opportunities that allow photographers to creatively tell a story through images. Explore our list of careers in photography and see how education and experience can help prepare for a future in the field.

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Photographer Career

There are many different careers in photography that capture and preserve images of various subjects and events to tell a story. Photographers are creative and often have technical expertise with different digital cameras, lighting equipment, and editing software. Here are more details about this career:

Degree Required High School Diploma or Equivalent
Other Requirements Training on the job
Annual Mean Salary (2018)* $42,770
Estimated Job Growth (2016-2026)* -6% (Decline)

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

Photographers' works may be purchased by clients and/or displayed as artwork. Typically, photographers have flexible schedules, and many are self-employed. Other job duties include:

  • Advertising for clients
  • Editing photographs
  • Planning for photographs
  • Updating a digital portfolio
  • Archiving photographs

Photography Career Options

There are several different kinds of photography job opportunities, such as those that specialize in taking photographs of specific subjects or taking photos with different photographic techniques. Explore some of the different kinds of photographers below and learn what they do.

Aerial or Drone Photographers

Aerial photographers take pictures out of helicopters or planes, while drone photographers take photos using drones. Typically, these kinds of photographers take pictures of landscapes, buildings, events, or other scenery.

Fine Arts Photographers

Fine arts photographers usually have the most creative freedom with their work as they aim to sell their work as pieces of art. These photographers take pictures of any number of subjects but may experiment with different lighting and editing techniques or the kinds of cameras and lenses they use.

Portrait Photographers

Portrait photographers specialize in photographing individuals and/or groups of people. Some of these photographers may specialize in events, like weddings or religious ceremonies, while others work in studios to take professional portraits.

Scientific Photographers

Scientific photographers typically use microscopes to photograph scientific or medically-related images and phenomena that are too small to see. Their work must be very accurate and usually calls for limited use of editing software.

News Photographers

News photographers, or photojournalists, may work for magazines, newspapers, journals, or other forms of media. They take pictures of events, people, and other images needed to relate a particular story for their organization.

How to Become a Photographer

The minimum education requirement for becoming a photographer is usually a high school diploma or equivalent. However, many photographers may take postsecondary courses in the subject, and some kinds of photography, like photojournalism or scientific photography, may require students to have a bachelor's degree. Students who decide to earn their bachelor's degree may pursue a degree in photojournalism or fine arts. There is a wide range of available photojournalism colleges and some Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree programs are even available online.

Besides education, most photographers develop their skills through years of practice. They may also work as photography assistants to gain experience taking pictures and editing photos. This also allows them to add to their digital portfolio and try new techniques and methods.

Photography does not typically require licensure, but drone photographers will need to meet the criteria necessary to earn certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This includes being 16 years or older, speaking English, meeting physical and mental conditions, and passing an aeronautical knowledge exam.

Photography Salary and Outlook

In 2018, the BLS reported that the average annual salary of a photographer was $42,770. For the same year, the BLS stated that photographers working in the aerospace product and parts manufacturing industry made the highest average salary of $81,090. Photographers in other professional, scientific and technical services had the highest levels of employment in 2018 and made an average salary of $39,130. Although job growth for photographers, overall, is expected to decline from 2016-2026, jobs for those who are self-employed are expected to expand by 12%, says the BLS.

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