What Photographers Do
Photographers use their technical expertise, creativity, and composition skills to produce and preserve images.
Working conditions for photographers vary by specialty. Some photographers travel for photo shoots, working either indoors or outdoors. Others work in studios; still others work in laboratories and use microscopes to photograph subjects.
How to Become a Photographer
Although portrait photographers are not required to have postsecondary education, many take classes because employers usually seek applicants with creativity and a “good eye,” as well as a good technical understanding of photography. Photojournalists and industrial and scientific photographers often need a bachelor’s degree.
The median hourly wage for photographers was $17.44 in May 2019.
Employment of photographers is projected to decline 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.
Photographers use their technical expertise, creativity, and composition skills to produce and preserve images that tell a story or record an event.
Photographers typically do the following:
- Market or advertise services to attract clients
- Analyze and plan the composition of photographs
- Use various photographic techniques and lighting equipment
- Capture subjects in professional-quality photographs
- Enhance the subject’s appearance with natural or artificial light
- Use photo-enhancing software
- Maintain a digital portfolio to demonstrate their work
- Archive and manage imagery
Nowadays, most photographers use digital cameras instead of traditional film cameras, although some photographers use both. Digital cameras capture images electronically, so the photographer can edit the image on a computer. Images can be stored on portable memory devices, such as flash drives. Once the raw image has been transferred to a computer, photographers can use image processing software to crop or modify the image and enhance it through color correction and other specialized effects. Photographers who edit their own pictures use computers, editing software, and high-quality printers.
Some photographers use unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, to capture shots. The drones are equipped with an integrated camera to capture 360-degree imagery of buildings, landscapes, scenery, or events.
Photographers who work for commercial clients often present photographs in a digital format to the client. Wedding and portrait photographers, who serve primarily noncommercial clients, also may provide framing services and present the photographs they capture in albums.
Many photographers are self-employed. Photographers who own and operate their own business have additional responsibilities. They must advertise, schedule appointments, set up and adjust equipment, buy supplies, keep records, charge customers, pay bills, and—if they have employees—hire, train, and direct their workers.
In addition, some photographers teach photography classes or conduct workshops in schools or in their own studios.
The following are examples of types of photographers:
Aerial photographers travel in planes or helicopters to capture overhead photographs of buildings and landscapes. They often use cameras with gyrostabilizers to counteract the movement of the aircraft and ensure high-quality images.
Commercial and industrial photographers take pictures of subjects such as buildings, models, merchandise, artifacts, and landscapes. They usually go on location to take pictures for magazine covers, engineering projects, or other purposes.
Drone photographers operate unmanned aerial vehicles with an integrated camera to capture 360-degree imagery of buildings, landscapes, scenery, or events.
Fine arts photographers sell their photographs as artwork. In addition to their knowledge of techniques such as lighting and the use of lenses, fine arts photographers need to have creativity and artistic talent.
News photographers, also called photojournalists, photograph people, places, and events for newspapers, journals, magazines, or television. In addition to taking still photos, photojournalists often work with digital video.
Portrait photographers take pictures of individuals or groups of people and may work in studios. Photographers who specialize in weddings, religious ceremonies, or school photographs usually work on location.
Scientific photographers capture scientific or medical data or phenomena. Because they focus on accurately representing subjects visually, these photographers limit the use of software to clarify an image. Scientific photographers who take pictures of objects too small to be seen with the naked eye use microscopes to photograph their subjects.
Photographers held about 133,500 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of photographers were as follows:
|Broadcasting (except Internet)||3|
|Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers||1|
Working conditions for photographers vary by specialty. Photographers may work indoors or outdoors.
Portrait photographers may work in studios, but they also travel to take photographs at a client’s location, such as a school or a home.
News photographers may travel locally or internationally and must be prepared to work in uncomfortable or even dangerous surroundings. For example, a news photographer may be sent to a war zone to capture images. News photographers often work irregular schedules and must be available on short notice.
Aerial photographers work in planes or helicopters to capture a scene, event, or location from an overhead perspective.
Most photographers stand or walk for long periods. They may need to carry heavy equipment.
Some photographers work part time. Hours often are flexible so that photographers can meet with current and potential clients or visit the sites where they will work. For certain types of photographers, workloads may fluctuate with the season. For example, wedding photographers are typically busiest in the summer and fall.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of photographers.
For more information about careers in photography, visit
For more information about testing and obtaining certification to operate commercial drones or unmanned aerial systems (UASs), visit
For more information about university photographers, visit
Related BLS articles
Career Outlook: Careers for people who are creative
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Photographers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/photographers.htm (visited ).