How To Become A Photographer

The work of professional photographers can be seen everywhere in our world. When we open up a magazine, newspaper, or even scroll through a blog on the Internet, the images that we see were taken by a photographer. Photographers typically have a natural talent in their profession, developing a love of photography at an early age.

Photographers do not need a formal education program in order to enter into the profession. However, many decide to enroll in art programs, vocational programs, or something similar, in order to gain a better understanding of this career path.

Why Become A Photographer

Photography is a popular art form. Many people enjoy amateur photography, taking their cameras and snapping photos of themselves and their friends. Some people may discover that they enjoy photography and they have “an eye for it.” These people may decide to enhance their natural skills by practicing, and many decide to pursue full time careers as professional photographers.

Photographers can be found in a variety of settings. Many photographers have their own studio and work for themselves. In this capacity they may be available for weddings, graduation ceremonies, and other events. They may also do portrait sessions, engagement sessions, and other specialized photography. Other photographers work for a company, doing a specialized line of work. They may work for a newspaper, as a photojournalist. They may work for a modeling agency, helping to do fashion shoots.

Photographers have a strong natural talent and artistic vision. They enjoy photography and helping to capture an experience through photos. As a photographer, you will work in a variety of settings, crafting your art and bringing it to life. This is a good career choice for somebody who enjoys art, is outgoing, has “an eye for photography”, and has a business mindset.

Photographers must possess the following qualities and skills:

Photographer Work Environment

Photographers sometimes have their own studios, where people come in for photography sessions, such as modeling or portrait work. A photographer who works for a larger company will be in a studio a large portion of the time. Photographers travel extensively for their jobs, so that will be a requirement.

They may be attending weddings or events all over the area. Photographers work long hours, starting in the morning and ending in the evening, especially when it comes to attending a wedding or other event. Back at their studio, photographers are involved with post-processing work, which involves editing their photos with various computer software programs.

Photographer Salary

Photographers typically get paid in an hourly rate, rather than an annual salary. In 2016, the median annual rate for photographers was $16 per hour. This equates to an annual salary of about $32,500. Many photographers work for themselves, setting up their own photography studio. In this capacity, photographers are able to set their own rates.

Photographers often charge per session, based on the number of photos they shoot, the type of session it is, the length of the session, and more. There are many variables that go into the packages that photographers offer, so their salaries and wages can vary considerably.

Average Photographer Annual Salary

$41,940

The average annual salary for photographers is $41,940 a year. Salaries start at $19,400 a year and go up to $75,080 a year.

Average Photographer Hourly Wage

$20.17

The average hourly wage for a photographer is $20.17. Hourly wages are between $9.33 and $36.09 an hour.

Stats were based out of 49,320 employed photographers in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Photographers

Top Paying Cities For Photographers


Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Photographer Career Outlook

Employment for photographers is expected to decline by 6 percent from 2016 to 2026, meaning many jobs will be lost within this industry. In recent years, there has been the ability for people to be able to take their own photos, such as purchasing professional cameras themselves, or even with smartphones. Those wanting to work for professional publications as photographers may find the task more difficult.

However, employment for photographers that are self-employed is expected to increase by 12 percent from 2016 to 2026. This includes such activities as wedding photographers, portrait photographers, event photographers, and more. Those who want to freelance may want to consider this popular option.

Photographer Degree

Many community colleges and vocational schools offer courses in photography. There are also art schools with entire photography programs. While these programs are not required to become a photographer, it will certainly help photographers enhance their creative abilities.

Many employers seek out photographers who have had additional training. Below are some examples of classes that students may take in a typical photography course, set at a photography or art school.

Photographer Coursework

There are many photography programs offered across the United States. There are also art programs, and other types of vocational classes. If you are interested in photography, these are good classes to take to enhance your knowledge of the subject. Below we have listed just a few of the classes that students typically take during a formal photography program.

Photography 101: In this course, students learn the basics of photography through both lecture and demonstration. They shoot assignments on location and in the studio. This is a great introductory course to photography.

Vision and Styling: Technique is an important part of being a photographer. In this class, students learn how to take their technical skills and form their own individual style. Vision is a key part of photography.

Museum Tours: In order to get a better understanding of photography, students often take excursions to art galleries and museums to look at art and understand the process behind it. They explore many different kinds of artists and photographers, and their own unique styles.

Photographer Career Path

Career Overview Responsibilities Education Required Benefits
Photo Editor A photo editor works on the editorial side of a publication, such as a magazine. They assign roles for the photographers on their team, hire new photographers, set up photoshoots, and work on the layout of the publication. Bachelor’s degree or graduation from art program. Perfect role for people who would rather work on the editorial part of the industry rather than the photography side.
Freelance Photographer A freelancer photographer owns their own photography business. They are responsible for marketing and advertising their business, utilizing their photography skills at all events, sitting down with clients to discuss details, wants, and needs, and the overall editing process. A background in business is helpful for being a freelance photographer. Being a freelance photographer is a good choice for somebody who wants the flexibility and freedom to work for themselves, decide their own rates and clients, and build their own brand.

Related Photographer Careers

A photographer is a great career choice. If you are interested in becoming a photographer, there are many other careers you may be interested in as well. Below we have listed a few other related careers. Keep in mind that these are just a few careers that you can consider.

Art Director: Art directors are responsible for the overall design of a project. They manage others in developing artwork and layouts.

Graphic Designer: Graphic designers use software to create logos, brochures, posters, flyers, and other materials that capture the vision of what a company is about.

Visual Artists: Visual art forms include painting, drawing, sculpting, filmmaking, and other art forms.

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