Photographer Careers


Communication Degree Programs


Photography Certificate Program








$29,000 /yr

$14.50 /hr

All Stats from

A professional photographer takes pictures to record events and market to clients or customers. Becoming a photographer usually involves an in-depth knowledge of photographic equipment and lighting techniques; digital enhancement software; photo editing software; and camera equipment. Most photographers these days use digital cameras, allowing images to be stored and edited digitally.

There are many different specialized careers for photographers, including portrait photographers, wedding photographers, headshot photographers, corporate photographers, photojournalists, and more. As a photographer, your employer may be:

A newspaper. Photojournalists work for newspapers to capture current events in digital image formats. A photojournalist is sometimes called upon to go into dangerous areas to take images associated with war, natural disaster, and other catastrophic events. A photojournalist may work for one newspaper, or freelance for more than one.

Yourself. Most headshot, portrait, and wedding photographers are self-employed. Being self-employed involves more than photography—these photographers must also generate business, manage bills, oversee purchasing, hire staff, oversee financial records, and perform other tasks commonly associated with running a business.

A marketing agency. Marketing agencies hire photographers to take pictures that are used for promotional purposes. The images may appear online or in print, and these photographers also may either work for one marketing firm or freelance for several.

A fashion magazine. Some photographers take pictures of fashion models to promote clothing, accessories, and other products. High-fashion photography may be done on a freelance basis, and this is usually considered the most glamorous type of photography career.

An industrial company. Industrial photographers take pictures of buildings, merchandise, and components to help with engineering and development projects.

A hospital or pharmaceutical company. Research hospitals and pharmaceutical companies sometimes employ photographers to take pictures associated with scientific research. This often involves microscopic images, and these photographers must know how to take a picture through a microscope so that the cells or objects in the image are visually defined.

How to Become a Photographer

Whether or not you need a degree depends on your specialization. Photographers specializing in industrial and scientific subjects must often have a Bachelor’s degree in either photography or the scientific field where they plan to work. Photojournalists seeking employment with newspapers are often expected to have a Bachelor’s degree in photography.

If you want to be a fine art photographer, a wedding or portrait photographer, a headshot photographer, or any other type of photographer working on a freelance basis, your online degree is usually less important than your portfolio. It is usually more important these days for photographers to set up a strong online portfolio of images than to have one in a physical book.

Earning a Bachelor’s degree won’t hurt you in the field, however, especially if you want to develop the technical and software expertise you need. But these skills can also be picked up through hands-on study and classes outside of a full degree program. Many colleges and technical schools offer photography classes. 

Becoming a Photographer With an Online Degree

Online degree programs are usually accepted in this field, and online classes can be a great way to learn more about photography while working full-time. Generally, an accredited online degree in photography will be as accepted as a traditional degree to most employers, especially if you are working as a freelancer. This may not be as true for scientific employers, however.

Photographer Salary

The Occupational Outlook Handbook specifies the median hourly wage for photographers in 2010 was $14. Those earning at the lowest end of the pay scale brought home less than $8.34, while those at the high end earned more than $30 per hour.

Photographer Career Outlook

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, photography positions are projected to grow by 13% within the next decade. The level of growth is expected to be fairly low because barriers to entry in this field are expected to decrease as technology becomes more accessible and affordable. With more amateur and hobbyist photographers out there, demand for professionals is expected to decrease.

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Photographer

Photography can be a fun, glamorous, and creative job—and many people are drawn to it because they love photography as a hobby. However, as with many artistic careers, employment in photography can be unreliable. A large number of photographers work on a freelance basis, and demand can vary considerably depending on the industry and local economic conditions. Some photography work, such as wedding photography, is seasonal.

Many photographers work on a part-time basis, combining photography with other jobs. This can be ideal for those who want the flexibility involved, but not as perfect for those who are looking for a steady, full-time job. In addition, because the barrier to entry in this profession is so low, competition is often cutthroat. The best jobs and pay usually go to those with the most experience and the best portfolios. Skills such as digital video and editing can also increase your value in the marketplace.


Occupational Outlook Handbook: Photographers


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