What Skills Do I Need to Be a Photographer?

Important skills for photographers often include artistic vision, technical knowledge of cameras and an understanding of light and shade. Keep reading to learn more. Schools offering Photography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Skills and Abilities

Anybody can take photographs for fun, but it takes dedication and practice to work professionally as a photographer. If you're interested in this career, there are specific skills you can develop to ensure that you stand out from the crowd. Since photography is both an art and a trade, you'll need a mixture of creativity and technical savvy to succeed.

Important Facts about Photographers

Median Salary (2018) $34,000 per year
Job Outlook (2016-2026) -6% (Decline)
Required Education High school diploma or equivalent
Similar Occupations Craft and fine artists; desktop publishers; film and video editors; camera operators; graphic designers; fashion designers

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics


Since photography is a branch of the wider field of art, you should strive to creatively send an artistic message through your photography. You should have the knowledge needed to properly frame a scene, select a background, and use focusing techniques to make your photos more interesting.

Depending on the type of photography in which you'd like to specialize, you also may have to creatively solve problems while on the job. For example, if you're interested in a career as a portrait photographer, you may need to think of unique and effective ways to get children and adults to relax and smile for the camera. Many great photographs are captured just because the photographer happens to be in the right place at the right time and can recognize the opportunity. A photographer thus must view the world with a creative eye to avoid missing the chance for a good photograph.

Technical Prowess

To be an efficient photographer, you need to identify the different parts of the camera and the role that each technical component plays. You should have a basic understanding of different types of lenses and how to find an appropriate source of lighting for your photo shoot, be it natural light, flashbulbs or reflector screens. You'll also need to quickly change the rates of exposure, determine the shutter speed, and choose an appropriate filter.

With the development of digital photography, many photographers are now responsible for using digital photo editing programs to tidy up or alter an image. Because of these trends, you may want to learn a software program like Adobe Photoshop or Corel PaintShop Pro. If you wish to work in film photography, you'll also need to learn about the different types of films, as well as black room and printing techniques. Learning unusual smartphone camera techniques may be worthwhile if you want to work in freelance photography. Certificate and associate's degree programs in photography are available at many community colleges and can cover the technical aspects of taking professional photos.

Knowledge of Your Subject

Depending on the type of photography career you'd like to have, you may also need to learn about the specific subjects you're photographing. For example, working as a fashion photographer would require you to know about the designers and models, while being a sports photographer would require you to recognize the players and grasp the rules of the game. All photographers should also be knowledgeable about copyright laws.

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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