Job Description

A photographer records events and tells stories using images. He or she takes pictures of people, places, events and objects.

Photographers often specialize in a type of photography. Portrait photographers take pictures of people in studios or at  weddings or other events. Some take school portraits. Commercial photographers takes photographs that are used in books, advertisements and catalogs.

Scientific photographers uses their knowledge of scientific procedures to take pictures of scientific or medical data.

Photojournalists, also known as news photographers, capture images that are usually used to illustrate stories on television news broadcasts or in newspapers or magazines. Aerial photographers takes pictures of landscapes and structures from aircraft. Fine arts photographers sell their photographs to the public as pieces of art.

Many people who work in this field are freelancers who operate their own businesses. Their job description includes tasks that business owners must tend to. This includes promoting the business to clients, purchasing supplies, hiring and supervising employees and taking care of financial matters related to operating a business.

Employment Facts

There were over 136,000 photographers employed in 2012 with over half of them self-employed. Most work for companies that provide photographic services.

Others work in the television broadcasting and newspaper publishing industries.

While portrait photographers primarily work in studios, they may have to travel to accommodate their clients' needs. Commercial photographers sometimes work in studios but also travel in order to do on-location photo shoots.

Photojournalists also travel, domestically and internationally, and sometimes find themselves in dangerous locales in order to record newsworthy events.

Approximately a third of all photographers work part time hours. Schedules are often irregular and include evenings, weekends and holidays. Some jobs are seasonal, as is the case with portrait photographers who specialize in weddings.

Educational Requirements

While entry-level photojournalists and commercial and scientific photographers usually need a college degree in photography, portrait photographers need only technical proficiency. However a degree can make a job candidate more competitive. Classes in business, including accounting and marketing, can be helpful to those who own their own businesses.

Other Requirements

In addition to technical proficiency, a photographer needs certain soft skills, or personal qualities to be successf

ul. He or she must be artistic and have good hand-eye coordination and good eyesight.

Good listening an speaking skills are also needed. They will allow him or her to understand his or her clients' or employers' needs and wants. One who photographs people needs good interpersonal skills.

Job Outlook

As a career, photography will grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2022. Fewer companies are hiring staff photographers and instead are hiring freelancers to work on a project-by-project basis.


Photographers earned a median annual salary of $29,280 and median hourly wages of $14.08 in 2013 (US).
Use the Salary Wizard at to find out how much a photographer currently earns in your city.

A Day in a Photographer's Life:

These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for photographer positions found on
  • Work effectively as part of team with correspondent and producer under intense deadline pressure to create high quality news coverage, news packages, interviews, live shots and breaking news.
  • Capture and edit visual content for multiple platforms
  • Produce photography in various methods including printed/digital media and deliver final product to various sources including internal and external customers, media, graphic designers and corporate communications.
  • Produce quality images by photographing merchandise and/or people in the studio and/or on location.
  • Perform retouching and image adjustments after shoots.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Photographers, on the Internet at (visited January 30, 2015).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Photographers, on the Internet at (visited January 30, 2015).



item Career: Photographer
Photographer Career
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