Photographers use a combination of technical expertise, creativity, and composition skills to produce and preserve images that visually tell a story or record events. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for photographers is expected to increase about 13% from 2010 to 2020 or slightly above average. As of 2010, the average wage for photographers was approximately $30,000 per year and roughly 60% were self-employed. Wages range widely based on experience, specialty, part-time work or full-time employment, and geographic area.
Photographers may specialize in a variety of areas including:
– Portrait photographers. These photographers take pictures of individuals or groups of people and usually work in their own studios. Photographers who specialize in weddings, religious ceremonies, or school photographs often work on location.
– Commercial and industrial photographers take pictures of subjects, such as buildings, models, merchandise, artifacts, and landscapes. These photographs are used for a variety of purposes, including magazine covers and images to supplement analysis of engineering projects. These photographs are frequently taken on location.
– Aerial photographers use planes or helicopters to capture photographs of buildings and landscapes.
– Scientific photographers focus on the accurate visual representation of subjects and limit the use of image manipulation software for clarifying an image. Scientific photographs record scientific or medical data or phenomena. Scientific photographers typically use microscopes to photograph subjects.
– News photographers or photojournalists. These photographers focus on people, places, and events for television, newspapers, or magazines. Photojournalists often work with digital video in addition to still photos. These occupations can be dangerous, especially if a photographer is in a war zone or other dangerous environment.
– Fine arts photographers sell photography as art. Their work is often found at craft shows or on display in local businesses, restaurants, or government buildings. Fine arts photographers typically use traditional silver-halide film, not digital cameras and many have their own studios.
Photographers understand that much of the time, many pictures are taken to get one perfect shot. This is especially true when shooting people, animals, or anything in motion.
Professional photographers no longer spend hours a day in a darkroom developing photos with toxic chemicals. Though there are exceptions, most photographers use digital cameras and view their photos on a computer using specialty software. Modern photographers must be computer-literate and up-to-date on appropriate photo editing software.
Photographers often stand for hours at a time when taking wedding or portrait photographs. Hours must be flexible, depending on the specialty area chosen. Wedding photographers are likely to work long hours during the spring and summer months, often shooting multiple weddings per day. Photographers often carry heavy equipment bags with tripods, lenses, and multiple cameras.
Formal post-secondary education is seldom required. Experience, creativity, and “an eye” for photos are much more important. Photography classes offered at a community college are often enough, though some employers may insist on a bachelor’s degree in fine arts or a related field.
In 2010, over 60% of photographers were self-employed. Many worked part-time or during specific periods (weddings). When self-employed, responsibilities are typical: no work, no pay. A contractor wears multiple hats: accountant, sales, marketing, project manager, and creator. Some of these functions may be outsourced, but at a charge to the bottom line.
Need to Have
An updated computer with large flat screen monitor, Internet access, relevant computer software, and a separate phone line. If you plan to meet with clients in your home, have a dedicated space – built-out basement, extra bedroom, living room – that is clean and professional. If a darkroom is needed, ensure compliance with local laws regarding chemicals used.
Most photographers will work in studios or at specific locations to take photographs. New photographers may need to travel internationally or suddenly to cover a breaking news story. An updated passport is needed for the news photographer.
Photographers should maintain a professional portfolio of previous work and customer references in both digital and hard copy (printed) formats for display and presentation purposes. A good portfolio is often the deciding factor in getting a job or contract.
The photographer needs an updated computer and photography equipment along with a dedicated telephone line, printer, fax, and scanner. A large screen LCD and high resolution monitor is good to have. Zoning laws may apply if clients are seen in the home. Check with local governments. Quiet, dedicated work spaces in the home are useful. This is an ideal, relatively inexpensive position for the self-motivated. Photography is also appropriate for retirees, stay at home parents, and people with physical challenges. Fine arts photographers can work at their leisure and as needed or desired. Nature photography can easily be done from a wheelchair fitted with appropriate attachments.
Start building your writing portfolio as soon as possible. If appropriate, consider an internship or assisting a professional photographer. This helps build a photo portfolio and create a contact and client list. Market yourself by passing out business cards to potential clients; attend industry conventions and chamber of commerce meetings. Maintain a professional website or blog to show off your work. Volunteer your time with non-profit organizations or other worthy causes. If you are a fine arts photographer, research arts and crafts shows, make contacts, and see what’s hot and selling.
This field is constantly growing as the population grows. People get married and have children; many of them want the events documented by a professional. This position is ideal for virtually anyone. It does not require a large start-up investment – especially for fine art photographers. Photos can be sold at shows, online, and post photos on a website like Shutterstock or iStockPhoto and earn royalties for each photo download. Any photos taken of people will require model releases. Those interested can take on extra work to make more money. Fluency in other languages provides opportunities for photographing events for different demographics.
By Dion D. Shaw
Dion D. Shaw is the founder and owner of Homepreneurs
Homepreneurs. New Day. New Opportunity.
Homepreneurs does not endorse nor have any relationships with any of the services listed. Homepreneurs receives no compensation or consideration for its suggestions. Homepreneurs strongly urges all interested parties to conduct research and accepts no responsibility for any losses incurred.
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