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Photography Careers, Jobs, and Employment Information

Photography Career and Job Highlights

  • Because of it’s appeal to many different people, these jobs are highly competitive
  • Creativity and technical proficiency are important
  • The majority of photographers work for themselves and have familiarity with running their own business and newer technology

Photography Career Overview

Photographers capture images that visualize a story or event. Both creative and technical skills help them create a quality photographs. This includes manipulating lighting procedures, lenses, or subject environments to achieve the desired aspect.

Many photographers are using automatic lens and shutter speed settings although manual operation is still largely popular among those desiring more creative control. They use much different equipment to achieve the commercial quality affect so desired, from film, filters, flash attachments to special lighting equipment and tripods.

Photographers use a traditional, halide film-print camera or a digital recording camera. Depending on the type of print, color or black and white for example, photographers may submit film to special laboratories, or they may do the processing themselves—typical for most black and white printing. In the latter case, they should have enough knowledge of darkroom equipment and/or computer programs to process film correctly.

Electronic and technological photographic advancement have begun to allow photographers to easily scan and produce standard film onto digital formats. The photographer can then manipulate and edit digital images and send them easily send them through email from any location.

Photographers can use computer software to manipulate the affects on a digital image. They can then be stored on compact disks or other special memory cards, including flash disks for digital cameras. Digital film and software is broadening the field of photographic art and advertising with more precise color schemes. Digital portfolios are becoming common, and photographers are necessarily becoming increasingly knowledgeable of related computer software.

Many photographers work in certain commercial fields such as in a fine arts gallery or commercial news. Portrait photographers shoot pictures of people alone or in groups in a studio. Others take pictures for religious or school ceremonies and weddings. These photographers usually require themselves to run all technical and business aspects of their job, including advertising, equipment maintenance, and film processing. They also work with customers in scheduling and billing.

Commercial and industrial photographers capture images used for books, advertisements, catalogs, and wide media. They take pictures of a wide variety of objects and subjects, including models, landscapes, buildings, and merchandise. An industrial photographer might take pictures of machinery, workers, and other products that can be useful to workers in analyzing, public relations, and business strategies. Industrial photography takes place at the site of its use.

Scientific photographers take pictures that are used for scientific procedure and medical records. In addition to photography skills, they usually have certain knowledge in related fields of medicine or science.

News photographers take pictures of people and community events for special media publications. This includes pictures of sports, politics, and notable people. These photographers are either freelance self-employed or salaried wage earners.

Fine arts photographers commercialize their artwork. They should exercise creativity and have a strong technical knowledge.

Freelance photographers contract their work with organizations or license out their photographs through stock agencies. These agencies allow magazines to use the photographs and pay the photographer for the sale. Submission of an application and portfolio is generally required for contracting with agencies. The photographer is then asked submit a certain number of photographers per year.

Government and advertising photographers have a typical 40-hour, 5-day workweek, while news photographers may be required to work long and difficult hours. Part-time work is also usually available.

Portrait photographers work in a studio or may travel to a school, private home, or any other client location. News photographers may have to travel on short notice and stay for a lengthened period of time at a distant location.

Photographers may be required to work in a dangerous environment when they have to cover events such as natural disasters, accidents, or military or civil conflicts. Photographers should have physical stamina in carrying equipment large distances at times. News photographers can have short, heavy deadlines to meet.

Self-employed photographers have a lot of freedom in their work, but income can sometimes be unpredictable and/or uncertain. They often have assistants to help find new business.

Photography Training and Job Qualifications

Employers want people with strong imaginations and technical skills in photography. The most qualified individuals have degrees in photography or journalism. Portrait and freelance photographers must have technical aptitude as achieved through some kind of training.

Several colleges and training institutions have photography programs that teach all creative and technical aspects of the art. Composition, design, techniques, processes, and equipment are each individually covered, whiles some bachelor’s programs have business courses.

Those interested in a future in photography should gain as much experience as possible through camera clubs, summer employment in studios, and by subscribing to newsletters.

Photographers usually begin as assistants that do all preparatory work, including mixing chemicals and developing and printing photographs. A common practice among freelancers is to develop a unique style that separates them from others. Photographers should have a portfolio to present their work. Some even provide advertisers with their photos for free in order to step into the field.

Important characteristics for photographers to have are good coordination, eyesight, and creative ability. Additionally, they should be quite accurate and patient and have good interpersonal skills in working with clients, advertisers, publishing agencies, and designers. They should be knowledgeable of relevant computer programs that help them develop images.

Portrait photographers should be able to work with people in front of the camera. Fine arts and commercial photographers should have vivid imaginations. News photographers do well to match the story content with what they are shooting. They should be able to efficiently capture an image at any time.

Freelance photographers who own their own business should have skills in business in addition to artistic skills. This includes all of the steps to write contracts, submit bids, secure copyrights for their work, hire models, keep financial records, and license photographs, including other requirements. Understanding intellectual property requirements in obtaining copyrights is important to having their work protected.

Photographers for news and magazine publications sometimes advance to editing positions. They also might become teachers at universities or film institutes.

Photography Job and Employment Opportunities

Photography work is highly appealing and thus jobs will continue to be highly competitive. This is especially so in news and commercial photography, as demand is often greater than job supply. The most successful and self-employing freelance photographers will be skilled in technical and artistic abilities and be business adept. Specialized knowledge in a certain area, such as computers, is also very useful for prospective employees to know.

Photographer employment rates are projected to grow along the occupational average over the next eight years. Demand should rise with the population. As photography becomes electronic, greater numbers of photographers will have to provide the media publications with digital images.

This expansion of the use of digital photography also places obstacles in front of job growth. It is becoming much more convenient for any photographer to produce and store digital images. Consumers and industries are also able to access these pictures easier, providing more photographers with contracts. This reduced demand will also result from newspaper decline.

Historical Earnings Information

Approximate annual salaries for photographers range from $14,600 for the bottom ten percent to $50,000 for the top ten percent. In 2002, middle earnings were around $24,000. Numbers vary according to industry, with periodical and newspaper industries providing the highest salaries and scientific and other professional services providing the lowest. Some photographers who work for high-end magazines may earn much higher numbers.

Self-employed photographers typically do not earn as much than salaried photographers. This is because independent, freelance photographers usually have to buy and use their own personal equipment and this costs money. Fine arts photographers usually make enough money to be self-sufficient, not like many commercial and news photographers.