(Last Updated On: 05/04/2017)

Photographer Job Description

Salary: $20,700 – $43,700 Number of Jobs: 152,000
Hourly Rate: $9.96 – $21.01 Employment Outlook: Normal
Green Job: No Education: Long-term on-the-job training

What do Photographers do?

Photographers take pictures of people, places, events, merchandise, and other subjects. There are many different types of photographers, each with their own areas of specialty.

Here are some of the most popular types of photographers:

Photojournalists. These photographers are employed by news organizations to photograph people, places, and events for publication in a newspaper, magazine, website, or television show.

Aerial photographers. Taking photographs from a moving plane or helicopter can be difficult, and requires a unique skill set. Advanced use of framing techniques and gyrostabilizers (to stabilize the photographs) are required for these positions.

Scientific photographers. If you’ve ever opened up a science textbook and marveled at the photographs of cells or other living organisms, you can thank a scientific photographer. They often use microscopes and advanced lighting techniques to accurately represent their subjects.

Portrait photographers. More photographers specialize in portrait photography than any other specialty. They take pictures of weddings and special events, and often work in studios. They may also find work taking pictures for schools or youth sports leagues.

Commercial photographers. If you flip through a catalog or visit an ecommerce website, you will find many examples of commercial photography. These photographers take pictures of products and merchandise to try an positively impact sales and marketing efforts.

Work Environment and Schedule

The work environment varies greatly depending on the specialty of the photographer. For example, studio photographers spend all of their time at the studio, while wedding photographers split their time between their office and the location at which they’re shooting.

Some types of photography can be dangerous. News and nature photographers sometimes travel to remote and dangerous areas of the earth to photograph their subjects, and spend many months away from home at a time.

Most photographers are self-employed, which gives them some flexibility in their schedules. However, if they are hired to photograph people or events, their schedules are normally dictated by others. Many events take place after normal working hours and on weekends, which can negatively impact time with family and friends.

How to Become a Photographer

Anybody can take photographs, but it takes years of practice to become a good photographer. A good photographic eye takes most people a long time to develop, and achieving a strong technical understanding of cameras, light, and motion requires years of trial and error.

Most photography jobs do not have any formal educational requirements, but there are some exceptions.

For instance, many employers who hire photojournalists prefer a bachelor’s degree in photography — but even then, a strong portfolio of work can more than make up for lacking formal education. Employers want to hire the best photographers they can, and the best don’t always have a degree.

Many photographers learn their trade by working as an assistant to a professional photographer. This gives them the opportunity to develop their skills while building the portfolio they’ll need to further their careers.

Employment Outlook

There are currently 152,000 photographers in the United States, with 4,800 new photographer job openings created each year.

Photographer jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

Photographer Salaries

Overall Salaries

Photographer salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most photographers make between $20,700 – $43,700 per year, or $9.96 – $21.01 per hour.

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