Photographer Career Options, Duties and Salary Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a photographer. Get a quick view of the requirements, including job duties and salary information, to find out if this is the career for you.

For the aspiring photographer, there are many options available when it comes to this career choice. A new photographer may or may not want to take a degree program to increase their photography skills. They can choose where to work, and what subject they are interested in, whether it is sports, weddings, studios, etc. They can also choose whether to work freelance or for a company.

Essential Information

Photographers take pictures of events, people and places. Many career options exist for photographers. Some common areas of specialization include news photography, commercial photography, scientific photography and fashion photography. A high school diploma is the minimum education needed to become a photographer, since technical skills and creativity are more important for employment than a degree. However, formal degree programs in photography are also available.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent; postsecondary programs in photography are available
Other Requirements Work experience, portfolio
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3%
Average Salary (2015)* $40,280

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options for Photographers

Photographers use cameras to capture an image. They can work in many different areas and often choose an area to specialize in. Photographers may work for a company, but many freelance. They find assignments by advertising or networking.

Portrait photographers take pictures of people and events. They may work out of a studio that people visit. They also travel to events like weddings and meetings. Some portrait photographers specialize in school photos; they travel to schools to take pictures of students on picture day.

News photographers, or photojournalists, work for magazines, newspapers, websites and television stations. They photograph current events and use images to convey information to the public. News photographers may work out of local news bureau but they often travel to the site of a breaking news story.

Commercial and industrial photographers take pictures for books, magazines and advertisements. These pictures include buildings, archaeological findings, outdoor scenery and consumer goods. Commercial photographers may take pictures for advertising and marketing companies.

Fine arts photographers sell the pictures they take as art. Their work may be featured in a museum or gallery. Fashion photographers photograph models in order to highlight a designer's clothes.

Scientific photographers may use specialized equipment to take pictures of cells, bacteria, internal body parts and faraway planets. They may need additional scientific training and may specialize in a specific type of scientific or medical photography.


Photographers use cameras and other photo equipment to capture moments in still frames. The majority of a photographer's time may be spent editing pictures in computer applications such as Adobe Photoshop. Photographers who still use film often develop their own pictures in a darkroom. Many photographers must travel for work. For example, photojournalists often go on location to cover news events. Other photographers travel to events like weddings.

Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, the average earnings for salaried photographers in 2015 were $40,280. The salary range varies because location, reputation and area of specialization factors into a photographer's fees. A freelance photographer's annual salary depends on the number of assignments he or she receives and the fee he or she charges.

Some photographers take pictures of a wide range of subjects, while others prefer to specialize on one particular area, such as portraits, sports, or private events. Beyond skills with a camera, photographers may also need an understanding of digital photo finishing programs and software. While the salary will depend on their location, concentration and freelance or formal employment status, photographers on average made about $40,000 in 2015.

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