Become an Advertising Photographer in 5 Steps

An advertising photographer takes pictures of people and products for promotional use. Learn about education and career options in the field of advertising photography. Schools offering Photography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Advertising Photographer?

Photographers use photographic equipment to capture images. They need to have a good eye and an understanding of how light and different colors can affect an image. They benefit from creativity to get compelling and original shots. Photographers may work in their own studio, or they may travel to a location to take specific types of photos, such as school portraits or wedding photos. Advertising photographers specifically focus on producing photographs that will be used for advertisements. Their work can be seen on billboards, in magazines and in newspapers. They need to combine their understanding of photography with an awareness of the impression the advertisement intends to create and set up a shot that will effectively convey that impression. Advertising photographers may be self-employed or work for an advertising firm. Below, you can read some details about a career as an advertising photographer in the table:

Degree RequiredNone required; Certificate and degree programs available
Education Field of StudyPhotography
Key ResponsibilitiesUse cameras and lighting to photograph various products and people
Job Growth (2018-2028)*-6% decline (for all photographers)
Median Salary (2018)*$34,000 (for all photographers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Research an Advertising Photography Career

An advertising photographer is responsible for taking photographs of an array of subjects, such as nature, food, fashion, architecture and cars for print and digital display. These professionals may work independently or be contracted by corporate clients and agencies. Advertising photographers have an eye for angles, are technically savvy and are comfortable shooting in different settings. An advertising photographer works with clients to produce photographs that satisfy their artistic needs. In order to become a professional advertising photographer, you should gain experience, consider formal education and build a portfolio to build clientele.

Step 2: Select a Specialization

There are many different genres of advertising photography, including pets, editorial, fashion, food and still life. Deciding which category of advertising to photograph is a personal decision based on one's interests. Once a type has been chosen, prospective advertising photographers may seek an apprenticeship with a professional in that category.

Step 3: Explore Education Paths

Although formal education is not always required in this field, earning a certificate or degree in photography or commercial photography can help aspiring advertising photographers gain technical proficiency, learn about business management and get hands-on practice. Commercial photography programs can be found at community and technical colleges and 4-year colleges and universities. Courses in these programs typically cover topics in digital photography, advertising strategies, marketing, commercial photography lighting and writing for the media.

Step 4: Build a Portfolio

The photography field is competitive, so a diverse portfolio can set an advertising photographer apart. Building a photography portfolio takes time, but once it is assembled, it may be sent to agencies and publications to solicit work.

Step 5: Market Yourself as an Advertising Photographer

After gaining some experience in the field and compiling a portfolio, an advertising photographer should develop a marketing plan. Beginning advertising photographers typically promote themselves via a website or by passing out business cards. American Photographic Artists, a membership association, offers workshops, networking opportunities, business literature and a telephone hotline to answer questions as you start your photography career. Approximately 64% of professional photographers in the U.S. were self-employed in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects that jobs in this field will decline at a rate of 6% from 2018 to 2028.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Desktop publishers have some similarities to advertising photographers. They need to understand how to use layout and design features, how to create an overall look that's visually pleasing, and how to incorporate colors into their plan effectively. They typically need an associate's degree to prepare for their career. Film and video editors and camera operators need a bachelor's degree, and they may be involved in filming commercials, television shows, movies or music videos. They also need to understand how the lighting and colors will affect the final product, and consider the background when setting up shots. Reporters often work closely with photographers to ensure they have a visual image that will enhance their news stories. As a result they may develop an understanding of some of the considerations a photographer will make when taking and selecting images for publication. Reporters need a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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