Photographer: Career Definition, Job Outlook, and Training Requirements

Explore the career requirements for photographers. Get the facts about salary, job outlook and education requirements to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Photography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Photographer?

Photographers capture images that record an event or tell a story. As a photographer, you may specialize in advertising, wedding or scientific photography, among other areas. They need strong skills in photographic techniques and lighting equipment, as well as photo-enhancing software. These craftsmen often need to market their services to clients, and therefore, should keep a professional portfolio documenting their work. Read the table to learn about common skills, training options and the career outlook for photographers.

Education Required High school diploma at minimum; bachelor's degree may be required for scientific and industrial photographers
Education Field of Study Photography, photojournalism
Key Skills Attention to detail, artistic ability, customer service, interpersonal
Certification Voluntary
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3%*
Average Salary (2015) $40,280*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Duties as a Photographer?

As a professional photographer, you'll photograph weddings and portraits, create compelling images for advertising and other corporate uses, illustrate scientific journals and instruction manuals, capture images of news events and create art. Your job may require patience and quick reflexes. You'll also need to be an expert with your camera as well as with lighting, angles, technology and other peripheral equipment, including tripods, filters and lenses.

If you decide to use film in your camera, you'll send it away or learn how to use your own dark room to develop negatives. With digital photography, you'll use computer imaging software to enhance your photographs, as well as to scan old photos for restoration and storage.

What Is the Job Outlook for this Career?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 50,070 workers were employed as photographers in 2015. The BLS predicted the number of jobs available in this industry may grow an estimated 3% between 2014 and 2024, although there will be strong competition. According to the BLS, the top paying states were the District of Columbia, New York and Rhode Island.

The BLS noted there is a salary difference of more than $53,000 between the top ten percent and the bottom ten percent of salaried photographers. The average annual salary of photographers was $40,280 as of May 2015. Scientific and technical industries employed more than eight times as many photographers as radio and television industries, which was the second largest employer, according to the BLS.

What Should I Study?

While technical expertise, ability and a quality portfolio can improve job opportunities, you should consider seeking a formal education. The BLS states that many news and scientific photographers are required by employers to have a college degree. A Bachelor of Arts in Photography or a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography can give you the advanced skills needed to properly use photography equipment and to gain the finer artistic, technical and processing skills needed. Business courses are also beneficial if you decide to work as a self-employed photographer.

You may pursue additional training through certification credentials offered by the Professional Photographers of America. You must pass written exams and submit photos to earn certification. You can recertify every five years with continuing education credits.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Desktop publishing is a related career that requires an associate's degree. This job uses computers to design layouts for publications like books or newspapers. Some alternative careers that require bachelor's degrees include those of film and video editors and camera operators, as well as fashion designers. Film and video editors and camera operators work to entertain audiences through selecting and moving the images they see. Fashion designers create designs and oversee the manufacturing process to create clothing and footwear.

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:

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