How to Become a Photographer

By
elainejmead
- January 09, 2018

Follow Your Passions to a Successful Photography Career

How to Become a Photographer
DragonImages/iStock/GettyImages

With the rise in different photography social media platforms, it’s never been a better time to get noticed, take your photography skills to the next level, and gain a following of people who like your work. But what does it take to turn those casual social media posts into something more serious that could potentially become a career? The path to becoming a successful photography isn’t an easy one—as mentioned, social media has made it easier but also more competitive.

Photography is an ideal side hustle or part-time role—especially for working parents. You’ll usually get to set your own hours and schedule, which can be beneficial for many parents. Turning your photography hobby into a career is a realistic goal, but it takes time and commitment. It’s not just about having the latest camera equipment—you’ll have to follow client briefs and edit professionally to deliver quality work.

This type of career is suited to detail-oriented people who enjoy working in different environments. You also should have excellent communication and social skills.

Job Description

Photographers take photos of anything from portraits to pets, to hotels to food. This can be for private or commercial clients.

Photographers usually provide their services on a contractual basis. Many specialise in a specific field or niche of photographer such as events, weddings, travel, corporate, fashion or studio photography.

As a photographer you'll be expected to own all of your own equipment that's needed to deliver the results your client asks for, so there can be a large up front fee when seeking to get set up. Most photographers start off small and build their equipment as they build their portfolio and client lists.

Education Requirements

To become a photographer, no strict education pathway or must-have qualifications exist—many photographers are self-taught. But you may want to earn a degree to help when you’re starting out and to develop your technical knowledge. You can earn degrees in photography all the way from an associate’s to a master’s degree. Entry-level programs are available to study photography that vary depending on where you study. Bachelor’s degrees typically take four years to complete, while an associate’s degree can be earned in two years.

Master’s degree courses usually take two years to complete—depending on what and how you choose to study. But if you want to step up into a leadership role within the photography industry, you may want to consider the extra time and investment.

Some of the areas you can focus your studies on include:

  • Foundations of Digital Photography
  • Foundations of Film Photography
  • Nature Photography
  • Travel Photography
  • Studio Photography
  • Events Photography
  • Photojournalism
  • Experimental Video
  • Darkroom Photography
  • Contemporary Photography
  • Lighting Techniques
  • Editorial & Illustrative Photography

Industry

Many photographers, especially if they’re working on a part-time, freelance basis, hire their services out to different marketing and media agencies, such as advertising agencies and newspapers. Some photographers will work within specialized fields such as travel photography or photojournalism. They are often employed full time by a variety of magazines or publications. Events photographers usually work for events management companies or contract out to a number of different venues.

Establishing yourself as a full-time, paid photographer can take some time, and it won’t happen overnight. But if you’re passionate and able to put in the work, it could pay off as a viable career.

Years of Experience

This really can vary for photographers. Some people seem to be naturally talented and start producing high quality photos that earn them a good income within their first year, for others this can take much longer.

Photography is really about how much passion, time and commitment you put into the job and making it work for you as a career.

Salary Expectations

Salary depends on how long you’ve been a photographer, whether you’re working for an agency or studio or freelancing, and the type of photography you pursue. Some photographers charge per hour or per project, and some will stack their prices depending on what their client wants. So, they may charge a set fee for different services, and clients can choose what they want to pay for, such as:

  • Location scouting
  • Photography for the day, such as weddings and events
  • Post-editing
  • Printing and delivery

Job Growth Trend

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a professional photographer is around $30,000 a year. The high end of the salary bracket for this occupation is around $70,000, with the lower end for a full-time photographer around $20,000 annually.

The photography industry has a low job growth rate compared to other sectors. The average job growth expected across most industries until 2022 is 14 percent, but for the photography industry, jobs are expected to grow only 4 percent. This is probably because of the increase in freelancers doing photography part-time.

About the Author

Elaine is a Freelance Careers Writer and Consultant based in Australia. Her writing specialisms stem from an extensive work history in education and careers guidance, and include: youth employment guidance, recruitment ethics, professional development, personal development, careers guidance, CV writing and education development. She is especially passionate about working with young women to help them achieve their professional career goals.