By: Sayra Marquez
Annual Salary $74,000.00
Monthly Salary $6,166.67
Savings 10% $616.67
House 30% $1,850.00
Car 10% $616.67
Miscellaneous 40% $2,466.67
Retirement 10% $616.67
Have you always insisted on being the one to take
family photos, or do you find yourself spending a
lot of time setting up that perfect holiday snap?
If so, you may want to consider a career in
Photographers create images that tell stories,
paint pictures, or record events.
To succeed in this highly competitive field, you
need to be able to master both the artistic and
the technical aspects of the job.
Photographers use either traditional cameras that
record images on film that is then developed into
prints, or digital cameras that electronically
record images that can then be downloaded to a
computer and printed out.
Those who use traditional cameras may also
develop their own film, which is a complicated
process involving a darkroom and treating the film
or prints in a series of chemical and water baths.
Others choose to send their film to laboratories
Before they can take a picture, photographers have to make
many technical decisions.
First they must decide what equipment will be needed to
best shoot their subject.
They have to choose the appropriate cameras, lenses,
filters, film stocks, and lighting equipment.
If they have to rely on natural light, as nature
photographers and photojournalist often do, this usually
means positioning themselves in the right place to get the
best effect with the light available, or waiting until the
light is just right.
When they are ready to take the picture,
photographers need to choose what angle to shoot
from, how close to get to the subject, and how to
frame the shot.
Other things they need to think about, and
adjust accordingly while shooting, include the
different camera settings, shutter speeds, and
Their final decision is what method of film
processing to use.
Each of these decisions is made in such a
way so as to give the picture a certain
atmosphere, mood, or concept.
During large, well-financed “shoots,”
photographers may employ whole crews of
technicians, lighting people, models, make-
up artists, and wardrobe experts to help
get the desired “look.”
In addition to using different photography techniques to
create the desired look, photographers can manipulate the
pictures after they’ve been taken.
Using computer software, digitized versions of the
photographs can be significantly altered to make them look
the way the photographer wants them to.
Almost all photographers need to have hands-on knowledge
of computer editing software these days.
There are many different kinds of photographers,
each requiring a slightly different set of skills.
Portrait photographers take pictures of families,
babies, wedding parties, and graduating students.
Fashion or beauty photographers take
provocative, atmospheric photos for
advertisements on billboards or in magazines.
Photojournalists capture newsworthy people and
events, in effect telling stories with their
Other types of photographers include commercial
photographers, who take pictures of cars, computers, food,
and other items for catalogues or advertisements.
Scientific photographers use high-powered lenses to reveal
things, such as cells or molecules, which the human eye alone
can’t normally see.
Fine art photographers sell their photographs as art pieces,
and may choose to focus on just about any subject matter
that inspires them.
There are also photographers who specialize in nature or
Many photographers own their own
In addition to taking the photographs,
business owners have to arrange for
advertising, schedule appointments, and
sometimes mount and frame pictures.
They also purchase supplies, keep records,
bill customers, and may hire and train
Photographers work in a variety of settings,
depending on what’s being photographed.
They may work outside, taking photographs of
landscapes, wildlife, or weddings, or they may do
most of their work in a studio.
Most photographers have to do some traveling,
whether it’s to a school, a private home, or to a
church for a wedding.
Photojournalists may have to travel frequently. Sometimes
they are assigned to distant countries for long periods of
Although this can seem adventurous and exciting, they may
find themselves in life-threatening situations, for example,
if they’re assigned to war-torn or politically unstable areas
of the world.
If they are working for a newspaper or news magazine, they
may witness many upsetting situations and human suffering,
for instance, the scene of an accident. As a result,
photojournalism can be very emotionally draining.
There can also be some physical demands involved
For instance, photographers sometimes need to
assume unusual positions in order to get the
This can involve anything from crouching down or
lying on the ground, to climbing a ladder.
They may also need to carry equipment from place
to place, including cameras, tripods, and laptop
The hours that photographers work vary greatly.
Full-time photographers may regularly work 55
hours a week, while a part-timer may only work a
few weekends a month.
Area of specialization can affect their hours as
well. For example, a studio photographer might
work 8 or 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, while a
photographer who does outdoor “location shoots,”
such as weddings, may work 15 hours a day, but
only 1 or 2 days a week.
Photographers can be full-time employees
of newspapers, magazines, other
photographers, advertising agencies, or a
wide variety of other companies.
However, many photographers work part-
time, or as freelancers, offering their
services to several clients rather than
being restricted to one organization or
Most photographers earn somewhere between $15,000 and
$55,000 a year. The median annual earnings of salaried
photographers are about $26,000 a year.
Those working for newspapers and periodicals tend to make
more than those working for other professional or scientific
services, with a median of about $33,000 a year.
Full-time photographers with lots of experience and good
reputations can make over $80,000 a year.
Freelancers’ earnings vary widely, depending on the success
of their business. They are only assured of a regular income
as long as they are able to attract clients and sell pictures.
In addition, they incur the costs of acquiring and
maintaining their own equipment and running their own
Freelance photographers may also be responsible for
producing cost-estimates and budgets, organizing studio or
location shoots, and hiring the necessary people.
There are no specific educational requirements
for freelance or portrait photographers.
However, in today’s job market, you are unlikely to
get much work without at least some training in
the photographic arts, whether it’s acquired
through a formal degree program, vocational
training, or extensive work experience.
Many photographers benefit from the discipline
and training of a formal education.
Photographers who want to find work as
photojournalists, or in industrial or
scientific photography, are generally
expected to have a college degree in an
area such as journalism or photography.
Degrees in visual arts and communications
may also be acceptable when combined
with a demonstrated proficiency with a
In addition to teaching them about things like equipment,
film processing, and composition, post-secondary programs
usually offer aspiring photographers the opportunity to
build their portfolio.
A portfolio is a collection of samples of a photographer’s
It is evidence of his or her talent and skill, and its contents
are often the deciding factor when potential employers are
deciding whether or not they want to hire the services of
A good portfolio is crucial to finding work.
As digital cameras overtake traditional
ones, the ability to manipulate images using
software packages such as Photoshop has
become extremely valuable to a
Courses are available on these sorts of
Co-op or work-study programs are
Some training in business or law might also
prove useful for freelance photographers,
since they must learn how to market their
work, secure copyright protection, and
negotiate with clients.
To be a successful photographer you need
good eyesight, artistic ability, and good
You should be patient, detail-oriented, and
able to work well with others.
Photographers also need good
communication skills for dealing with
clients and getting their subjects to relax.
Overall, experience is the best teacher.
You don’t need a fancy automatic camera
to take good photographs.
Buy or borrow a camera, even a second-
hand one, and get used to the effects of
manually changing shutter speeds and
Submitting some of your best photos to
competitions is a good way to get feedback from
You can also subscribe to photography
newsletters or join a local camera or photography
club to get valuable tips and experience.
Ask around and try to spend time at a
photographer’s studio. See if you can find a
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