Photographers use their technical skills and knowledge to capture images of an event or tell a story visually. They use digital cameras, specialized lenses, filters, and artificial lighting to take photographs, which are then edited using a computer software program. Photographers also work with clients to determine their needs, and they maintain a digital portfolio so they can easily demonstrate their work to new clients. There are many ways a photographer can earn a living. Some work as wedding photographers while others take portraits of groups or individuals in a studio. Others are employed by magazines or newspapers to cover breaking news, or they specialize in industrial photography. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) identifies the following skills as common the photography profession:

  • Taking photographs to tell a visual story or record an event
  • Determining how to compose a subject
  • Using natural or artificial light to enhance a subject's appearance
  • Maintaining a website or digital portfolio to showcase previous work

The BLS anticipates employment of photographers to grow 3%, or about as fast as average for all occupations, from 2014 to 2024. Overall growth is expected despite the increasing number of amateur photographers and the reduction in cost of high-quality digital cameras, which removes the barriers of entry into the profession. This allows people to take their own photos, reducing the need for professional photographers. A decline in the newspaper industry will also impact demand for photographers as media organizations are expected to cut staffers. However, demand for wedding, portrait, and commercial photographers will continue, the BLS reports.

Becoming a Photographer

A college degree is not required for a career in photography. Employers typically place more of an emphasis on a photographer’s skills and creativity than on their educational background. Applicants to photography jobs should then always submit a professional portfolio showcasing their skills and vision. Some employers, such as newspapers or media companies, may prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s in photography. A bachelor’s program typically gives students the opportunity to develop technical photography knowledge and skills in a structured environment. These programs cover lighting, portraiture, digital photography, studio photography, and more.

Budding photographers can also develop their skills in classes offered by junior colleges, trade and technical schools, technical institutes, and art schools. These courses include instruction in the use of equipment, digital editing, and photographic composition. Common assignments may include taking certain types of photographs, such as portraits or landscapes, editing those photos, or building a photo essay that tells a story. Students may also learn about the essential principles of business, marketing, and website design.

To succeed as a photographer you need to have strong customer service, interpersonal, business, and computer skills, as well as artistic ability. There are no license or continuing education requirements for photographers. Photography certificate programs are available for professionals who want to brush up on their skills in a particular area. These programs, offered by trade schools, colleges, and universities, offer several courses in a specific discipline, such as digital or forensic photography.