Photographers fall into the Artistic Theme Code Category of the Strong Interest Inventory®. This Inventory sorts careers into six categories based on the personal characteristics and workplace preferences of people who generally hold these careers. People who have a preference for Artistic careers enjoy visual, performing, musical, and culinary arts, both as creators and as experiencers, and benefit from freedom to be creative as they work.
Photographers use digital or film cameras and equipment to take and edit photographs of people, landscapes, merchandise, and more. They identify and determine the desired images and picture composition often working closely with clients to determine project goals and locations. They choose, place, or adjust subjects to be photographed. They also manipulate lighting or background colors to achieve the ideal image, and check and recheck equipment to make sure everything is functioning optimally. Camera settings themselves may also require adaptation. For instance, apertures, shutter speeds, and focus can all affect how a photograph appears after processing, especially if the lighting, field depth, subject motion, and so on, are in flux as well.
Once the photographs are taken, Photographers may have to manipulate or enhance the images. In the case of digital images, this process may involve using specialized computer software, or transferring them from one digital interface to another. For film images, the process involves using chemicals and touch up tools for development. When not actively in a session, photographers may have to perform routine maintenance on their equipment to ensure optimal functionality. They also handle general office duties, especially if they operate their own studio. These may include scheduling appointments, ordering supplies, and keeping books.
Being a successful Photographer involves mastery of many different kinds of tools and technologies, from cameras to flash attachments, strobe flashes, and focus assists. There are also different kinds of lenses and lens filters, each of which can be used to create a specific effect or meet particular environmental concerns. Additionally, light reflectors, and flashes may be used to create the perfect lighting for a specific shot. Most Photographers also use different kinds of software, including photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop, and video creation software similar to Final Cut Pro. Those who do their own books and scheduling may also use Intuit QuickBooks or StudioManager.
The Photographer career requires a solid foundation in the fine arts, sales and marketing, and the English language in order to be successful. Their daily activities bridge all of these different fields. Customer service is also highly important, as a client’s discomfort or tension will often show up on film. In addition, some familiarity with communications and media methods, and web design can help them leverage their artistic talent and skills in ways that will make them more competitive in the job market. As with any office environment, being able to communicate fluently and comfortably in English, and solve complex problems quickly and decisively is important for any Photographer. Nearly 90% of Photographers reported that they communicated via e-mail every single day, and over 70% reported daily telephone communications.
Most Photographers have minimal education with just 28% earning a high school diploma and 16% not having that level of education. Roughly 20% hold an associate’s degree. Many Photographers learn either through apprenticeships, or through trade schools. Nation-wide, the average Photographer salary is $31,710 annually, or $15.24 hourly. However, there is significant variation nation-wide, with the best-paid Photographer salary in New York being over $100,000 annually, and the lowest being just $19,000. The range in much of California and New England is similar, with the mean in Montana and Louisiana under $20,000 annually. Nation-wide, the projected growth rate of Photographer employment is increasing slowly at a rate of 3.1% annually, with nearly 50% of states growing slower. The fastest growth is in Utah and Colorado, with growth rates before 2024 projected to be well over 20%.
Below are some employment trends for Photographers:
- Median Photographer Salary: $18.94/hour; $39,400 annually
- Employment: 125,000 employees
- Projected growth (2014-2024): slower than average (2% to 4%)
- Projected job openings (2014-2024): 34,500
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- Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2014-2022 employment projections Onetonline.org