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Career Profile: Photographers

Photograph people, landscapes, merchandise, or other subjects. May use lighting equipment to enhance a subject's appearance. May use editing software to produce finished images and prints. Includes commercial and industrial photographers, scientific photographers, and photojournalists.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 110,500 people employed as photographers in the United States. The median annual salary is $41,300. Entry level employees earn approximately $22,410 per year and senior employees earn approximately $86,850 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Transfer photographs to computers for editing, archiving, and electronic transmission.
  • Use traditional or digital cameras, along with a variety of equipment, such as tripods, filters, and flash attachments.
  • Manipulate and enhance scanned or digital images to create desired effects, using computers and specialized software.
  • Take pictures of individuals, families, and small groups, either in studio or on location.
  • Enhance, retouch, and resize photographs and negatives, using airbrushing and other techniques.
  • Test equipment prior to use to ensure that it is in good working order.
  • Estimate or measure light levels, distances, and numbers of exposures needed, using measuring devices and formulas.
  • Perform general office duties, such as scheduling appointments, keeping books, and ordering supplies.
  • Review sets of photographs to select the best work.
  • Set up, mount, or install photographic equipment and cameras.
  • Determine project goals, locations, and equipment needs by studying assignments and consulting with clients or advertising staff.
  • Perform maintenance tasks necessary to keep equipment working properly.
  • Select and assemble equipment and required background properties, according to subjects, materials, and conditions.
  • Direct activities of workers setting up photographic equipment.
  • Engage in research to develop new photographic procedures and materials.
  • Mount, frame, laminate, or lacquer finished photographs.
  • Send film to photofinishing laboratories for processing.
  • Develop visual aids and charts for use in lectures or to present evidence in court.
  • Load and unload film.
  • Photograph legal evidence at crime scenes, in hospitals, or in forensic laboratories.
  • Write photograph captions.
  • Set up photographic exhibitions for the purpose of displaying and selling work.
  • Produce computer-readable, digital images from film, using flatbed scanners and photofinishing laboratories.
  • Develop and print exposed film, using chemicals, touch-up tools, and developing and printing equipment.
  • Employ a variety of specialized photographic materials and techniques, including infrared and ultraviolet films, macro photography, photogrammetry and sensitometry.
  • License the use of photographs through stock photo agencies.
  • Adjust apertures, shutter speeds, and camera focus according to a combination of factors, such as lighting, field depth, subject motion, film type, and film speed.
  • Create artificial light, using flashes and reflectors.
  • Determine desired images and picture composition, selecting and adjusting subjects, equipment, and lighting to achieve desired effects.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
110,500
Annual Openings:
12,700
Increase in Openings by 2030:
17%
Annual Salary Range:
$22,410 - $86,850
Education Requirements:
High school diploma