Exploring a career in photography can be a great option for individuals seeking a creative and flexible profession that allows them to express their artistic talents. Photographers have the opportunity to work in diverse environments and settings, which opens up numerous possibilities if you’re considering this career path. Understanding how to embark on a career in photography can help you decide whether this occupation aligns with your personal and professional objectives.

In this guide, we outline the role of a photographer, provide a step-by-step process for pursuing a career in photography, discuss potential earnings and job outlook, and suggest alternative related careers to explore.

What does a photographer do? Photographers capture professional images of various subjects, including events, people, animals, and landscapes. They utilize lighting and artistic perspective to document moments and evoke responses from viewers. While specific responsibilities vary depending on the role, common duties include:

  • Promoting services to attract clients
  • Staying informed about photography trends and techniques
  • Planning and organizing photo shoots
  • Selecting the best unedited photos
  • Enhancing images using editing software
  • Managing and maintaining photography equipment
  • Building and updating a professional portfolio

Photographers may work in a studio setting, capturing images for clients, or collaborate with media outlets such as newspapers or news services. They may also work independently as freelancers or establish their own photography studio. There is a wide range of photography specialties, including wildlife, news, event, wedding, and family photography.

Steps to becoming a photographer

  1. Identify your niche: Photographers often specialize in specific subjects or environments. Consider your preferences and interests when choosing a focus area.
  2. Develop your skills: Gaining technical, artistic, and photography skills can be achieved through degrees or courses. A Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in photography or a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) may enhance your resume.
  3. Invest in photography equipment: Equipment choices depend on the subjects and settings you photograph. Consider digital cameras, lenses, lights, tripods, memory cards, and editing software.
  4. Learn camera and editing software: Familiarize yourself with your camera’s functions and symbols and practice using editing software for quality work.
  5. Conduct research: Explore important photography concepts and stay updated on new technologies and trends.
  6. Take lots of photos: Practice is essential for developing your skills and discovering your preferred photography techniques.
  7. Build a portfolio: Create a collection of your best work to showcase your abilities to potential clients and employers.
  8. Leverage social media: Utilize platforms to market your services, network, and display your work.
  9. Seek employment or freelancing opportunities: With the right skills and experience, pursue job opportunities or start your own freelance business.

Photographer salary and job outlook Photographer salaries vary based on employment type, specialization, and experience. The average annual salary is $43,711, with higher earnings possible for established professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment opportunities for photographers to grow by 17% by 2030.

Related careers If photography isn’t the right fit, explore other creative professions, such as:

  • Video editor
  • Film director
  • Graphic designer
  • Art director
  • Creative director