Career Development

Photographer Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

The field of photography is wide open to anyone who has a passion for taking pictures and a desire to share their work with the world.

The field of photography is wide open to anyone who has a passion for taking pictures and a desire to share their work with the world.

People who work as photographers fall into three main categories: professional photographers, freelance photographers, and photojournalists.

Photojournalists work for newspapers, magazines, television, or other organizations. They take pictures of news, sports, and entertainment events, and they may be on staff or freelance. They are responsible for getting the best possible shots in the most difficult circumstances, and they often must be able to think on their feet.

Freelance photographers work for themselves rather than for an employer. They usually sell their work to photo agencies or to clients for use in newspapers, magazines, brochures, and other media.

Professional photographers are usually self-employed and work for a variety of clients, including businesses, individuals, and organizations. Many professional photographers specialize in a particular type of photography.

Photographer Job Duties

The photographer’s job is to capture and share memories. They do this by:

  • Shooting and editing photos for various purposes, including weddings, family portraits, corporate events, and commercial projects
  • Developing client’s ideas and concepts into a visual medium
  • Communicating with clients to determine the nature and scope of projects
  • Editing photographs using image editing software such as Photoshop
  • Coordinating with the other vendors involved in the photo shoot
  • Scheduling photo shoots including location scouting and selection of props
  • Conducting research on new technologies in order to stay up to date with industry trends

Photographer Salary & Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics reports that, as of May 2020, the median annual wage for photographers was $19.85 per hour. The highest-earning 10% of photographers make more than $42 per hour.

The Bureau of Labour Statistics predicts that the number of photographers will decline by 4% between 2019-2029. The proliferation of digital photography, along with the ease of accessing professional-level photos online for a small fee, has made it easy for anyone to take pictures. As a result, there’s less need for professional photographers.

However, photography work is far from dead. The Bureau also predicts that the number of self-employed photographers will increase by 10% between 2019-2029. There’s always a demand for photography, especially for special events, like weddings and family portraits.

Photographer Job Requirements

Formal education is not required to become a photographer, but a college degree can increase one’s chances of employment.

Education: Some employers prefer to hire applicants with a bachelor’s degree in a relevant area, such as art or photography. Many photographers have a background in fine arts, such as graphic design. Photographers should also have some knowledge of computer software, such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe InDesign.

Certification: Although not required, certification can help increase a photographer’s employment opportunities. The Professional Photographers of America (PPA) offers a certification program that can lead to a professional designation.

Experience: Photographers typically need several years of experience in photography to be considered for a position. A portfolio of work is also important.

Photographer Skills

To become a photographer, you need to have the following skills:

The ability to work independently: Photographers must be able to take initiative and complete tasks without constant supervision.

Ability to manage time well: Photographers must be able to manage their time effectively in order to meet deadlines.

Good communication skills: Photographers must be able to communicate with clients, models, other photographers, and others involved in the photoshoot.

Patience: The job requires patience as it can take a long time for the right shot or moment to occur.

Knowledge of photography equipment and software: Photographers should know how to use all types of cameras and lighting equipment, as well as computer programs such as Photoshop.

Business sense: Photographers should have business sense so they can market themselves effectively and understand what sells photos.

A creative eye: This is one of the most important skills for a photographer because it helps them capture images that are unique and interesting.

Photographer Work Environment

Photographers work in a variety of settings, including offices, studios, and the outdoors. Because of the nature of their work, they are required to travel to meet clients and to shoot photos on location.

The biggest downside of this job is the physical stress it can put on the body. Photographers spend long hours standing, crouching, and holding cameras and equipment.

Photographer Career Advancement

There are a plethora of opportunities for photographers to advance their careers. For starters, photographers can work for a newspaper, a magazine, or a stock photo company. They can also work freelance, take on commissioned work from clients, establish themselves as experts in a specific field, or teach photography at a community college or university. Photographers who want to advance their careers should take courses in their area of expertise and work on personal projects to show their creativity and skill.

Photographer Trends

Here are three trends influencing how Photographers work. Photographers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Preferring Professionals for One-Off Events

Today, people of all backgrounds are getting into photography—from amateurs who use their camera phones to professionals with expensive DSLR gear that they use professionally. As such, more individuals are opting for professional photographers for one-off events like birthday parties instead of using family members as amateur shooters. This trend will likely continue as it provides customers with better quality photos from someone who is trained and experienced in capturing memories at this type of event while also saving time by not having to search through dozens or hundreds of candid shots later on looking for the best ones.

More Value for Photojournalism

In recent years, photojournalists have seen an increase in demand as news organizations and media outlets increasingly turn towards images instead of text for content creation.

As such, this trend has had a positive impact for photographers who specialize in the field; thus, aspiring photojournalists should consider pursuing higher levels of education or training (such as a master’s degree) if they want to enter the profession today. Photojournalists can also broaden their skill set by learning new techniques such as videography, sound recording, and data journalism which will allow them to create multimedia stories that cater to current audience demands.

More Photography Jobs Require Technical Skillsets

In recent years, jobs related to photography have become increasingly technical—for example, Instagrammable photos require an understanding of lighting techniques while photojournalism requires knowledge of drones. As such, aspiring photographers need not only strong creative skills but also technical knowledge so that they can pursue a diverse range of opportunities across several fields including product shots or event coverage like weddings or galas.

How to Become a Photographer

1. Planning Your Career Path

Photographers come in all shapes and sizes, but they all share a few key qualities: creativity, a passion for visual storytelling, and an eye for detail. If you’re considering a career in photography, you should be prepared to hone these skills while keeping an eye on the latest trends in the field.

One of the first steps to becoming a photographer is building a portfolio. This means not only accumulating photos, but also creating captions that are descriptive, concise, and intriguing. In addition to a portfolio, you will also need to consider building a strong social media presence. Your Instagram feed should not only show off your own work, but also the work of other photographers that you admire. When hiring photographers, many companies look at portfolios and social media feeds to determine whether the candidate is a good fit for the position.

2. Writing a Resume

The most effective resumes for photographers highlight their ability to capture a story through images. Since the ability to tell a story is essential for any photographer, it’s important that you be able to discuss your past work in terms of the story you told. You can do this by discussing the emotions or ideas that were conveyed.

In addition to discussing the story, you may also want to talk about how you planned out shoots and what type of equipment you used. The more detailed you are, the better.

3. Applying for Jobs

If you’re thinking about applying for a photography job, use your personal network to make connections with employers. Most successful photographers have established networks they can leverage during job searches. As in most industries, the best way to get your foot in the door is by having a referral. You may also want to contact your local chamber of commerce or other organizations you belong to for leads.

4. Ace the Interview

For a photographer candidate, an interview is the time to demonstrate that you have a solid understanding of your own work. Be prepared to talk about why you use certain techniques and why they work for your photography.

During the interview, be sure to answer questions about how you see yourself fitting into the company and how you would accomplish certain tasks. You will also want to show off some of your portfolio. It is also important that when answering questions or giving feedback on projects, it should be focused on how it was done instead of what was done. This will give more insight into your style as a photographer.


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