Photographers: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Education Required
Although postsecondary education is not required for most photographers, many take classes or earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field because such an education can improve their skills and employment prospects.
Training Required
Photographers have a talent or natural ability for taking good photos, and this talent is typically cultivated over years of practice. Photographers often start working as an assistant to a professional photographer, learning on the job. This work provides an opportunity to gain experience, build the photographers’ portfolios, and gain exposure to prospective clients. In addition, photographers must be trained on how to use picture-editing software.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: -8% (Decline)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Licenses/Certifications
Photographers who commercially operate drones, or unmanned aerial systems (UASs), must obtain certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). They must fulfill the following criteria:
Median pay: How much do Photographers make?
$34,070 Annual Salary
$16.38 per hour

Photographers use their technical expertise, creativity, and composition skills to produce and preserve images that tell a story or record an event.

What do Photographers do?

Photographers typically do the following:

  • Market and advertise services to attract clients
  • Analyze and plan the composition of photographs
  • Use various photographic techniques and lighting equipment
  • Capture subjects in commercial-quality photographs
  • Enhance the subject’s appearance with natural or artificial light
  • Use photo-enhancing software
  • Maintain a digital portfolio to demonstrate their work
  • Archive and manage imagery

Today, most photographers use digital cameras instead of the traditional film cameras. Digital cameras capture images electronically, so the photographer can edit the image on a computer. Images can be stored on portable memory devices, such as compact disks, memory cards, and flash drives. Once the raw image has been transferred to a computer, photographers can use processing software to crop or modify the image and enhance it through color correction and other specialized effects. Photographers who edit their own pictures use computers, high-quality printers, and editing software.

Some photographers use drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, to capture shots. The drones are equipped with an integrated camera to capture 360° imagery of buildings, landscapes, scenery, or events.

Photographers who work for commercial clients often will present finalized photographs in a digital format to the client. Wedding and portrait photographers, who serve primarily noncommercial clients, frequently also provide framing services and present the photographs they capture in albums.

Many photographers are self-employed. Photographers who own and operate their own business have additional responsibilities. They must advertise, schedule appointments, set up and adjust equipment, purchase supplies, keep records, bill customers, pay bills, and—if they have employees—hire, train, and direct their workers.

In addition, some photographers teach photography classes or conduct workshops in schools or in their own studios.

The following are examples of types of photographers:

Careers for Photographers

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