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Photography Careers

Career Description

A Photographer produces and preserves images that paint a picture, tell a story, or record an event. To create commercial-quality photographs, photographers need technical expertise, creativity, and the appropriate professional equipment.

Common Work Tasks

  • Choose and present a subject to achieve a particular effect, and select the right cameras and other photographic enhancing tools
  • Enhance the subject’s appearance with natural or artificial light, shoot the subject from an interesting angle, draw attention to a particular aspect of the subject by blurring the background, or use various lenses to produce desired levels of detail at various distances from the subject
  • Develop and print photographs in darkrooms
  • Arrange for advertising, schedule appointments,  set and adjust equipment, purchase supplies, keep records, bill customers, pay bills, and hire, train, and direct their workers.
  • Process images, design albums, and mount and frame the finished photographs
  • Publish photographs in books, reports,  advertisements, and catalogs
  • License the use of photographs through stock-photo agencies or market work directly to the public
  • Use digital cameras, film cameras, lenses,  filters, tripods, flash attachments, and lighting equipment
  • Use processing software to crop or modify images and enhance it through color correction and other specialized effects
  • Create electronic portfolios of their work

Other Job Titles

Photographers are also known by other titles, including:

  • Portrait Photographers
  • Commercial and Industrial Photographers
  • Scientific Photographers
  • News Photographers

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
  Entry-level positions in photojournalism or in industrial or scientific photography generally require a college degree in photography or in a field related to the industry in which the photographer seeks employment. Entry-level freelance or portrait photographers need technical proficiency. Some complete a college degree or vocational training programs.

  Photographers need good eyesight, artistic ability, and good hand-eye coordination. They should be patient, accurate, and detail-oriented and should be able to work well with others, as they frequently deal with clients, graphic designers, and advertising and publishing specialists. Photographers need to know how to use computer software programs and applications that allow them to prepare and edit images, and those who market directly to clients should know how to use the Internet to display their work.


The median annual salary for a Photographer is $28,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $60,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $16,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of photographers are:

  • Other Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services- $31,470
  • Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers - $40,070
  • Radio and Television Broadcasting - $40,290
  • Other Personal Services - $31,440
  • Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers- $38,150

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  10%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 13,000
  • Employment 2006 : 122,000
  • Employment 2016:  135,000
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