In a world overflowing with different media platforms (e.g., Internet, television, smart phones) visual media -- including photography -- is in demand. Photographers typically use photographic techniques and enhancing software in their work and build a portfolio to showcase their talents. Prospective photographers may want to specialize and develop a niche. While some photography professionals focus on portraits, others may concentrate in aerial photography or fine arts.
Photographers: specializations and educational requirements
Photographers can pursue a range of specializations, examples of which are listed below:
- Commercial and industrial
- News (also known as "photojournalism")
Although postsecondary education is not a typical requirement for photographers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov) states that many prospective photographers do take college classes or even earn a bachelor's degree in a relevant field in order to enhance their skills and job prospects. Scientific photographers and photojournalists may need a degree.
According to the BLS, prospective photographers often start out as assistants, gaining experience and building their portfolio before establishing their own practice.
Photographers: career and salary outlook
According to the BLS, the advent of digital technology has reduced barriers to entry in photography, making it a highly competitive field with only a 4 percent projected growth rate for 2012-22. The BLS predicts that salaried positions may be especially difficult to attain, since more and more companies are contracting freelancers rather than hiring in-house. However, individuals with skills relevant to editing photos and capturing digital videos may have better job prospects than others.
The national mean annual wage for photographers in May 2013 was $37,190, the BLS notes. The states where these professionals made the highest mean annual wage are listed below:
- District of Columbia: $66,130
- California: $53,280
- New York: $49,480
- Minnesota: $48,760
- New Mexico: $44,720
Working conditions for photographers vary considerably depending on their specialty. For example, while portrait photographers work in studios and travel to client locations, aerial photographers typically work in helicopters or planes. Photojournalists also travel -- sometimes to dangerous locations -- and often work long and irregular hours.
In 2012, 27 percent of photographers worked in photographic services jobs, and about 60 percent were self-employed.
Photographers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/photographers.htm
Photographers, Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes274021.htm