PhotographerJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

Photographers capture and edit images to tell a story, share information, advertise or create awareness for a product, and more. They are experts at framing their subjects to convey a specific point or message to the viewer.

Photographers are not only masters of their craft; they are masters of their chosen tools, with in-depth knowledge of the proper lenses and shutter speeds to capture their subject precisely as they envisioned it. Different types of image capture include lifestyle, portraits, landscape, fashion, product, macro, wildlife, and sports photography, as well as photojournalism. Learning to master these forms of image capture is crucial to a photographer’s ability to land consistent work.

A photographer’s expertise goes beyond operating their camera. Photographers must also rely on specialized equipment to best capture their subjects. This might include lighting rigs for indoor shoots, balancing and reflector cards for outdoor shoots, and various tripods and other stabilizing equipment. Photographers must also be proficient in using photo-editing software to produce the most captivating images possible.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is in search of a talented photographer. This candidate will be responsible for taking clear, dynamic photos according to client specifications. Duties include setting up backdrops, directing models and subjects, editing, communicating with clients to set up a time and place to take pictures, maintaining and managing photography equipment, submitting photos to appropriate persons, and managing sessions. This candidate will be able to work well with a team, be organized, self-motivated, and a critical thinker. Attention to detail is a must, and knowledge of photography and photography equipment is essential. This candidate must have one or two years of experience as a photographer, and the ability to work a camera, direct subjects, and edit photos as needed for print and digital publishing. 

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Work with the Art Director to determine the necessary images
  • Scout locations and contact subjects or clients before shooting
  • Set up the proper photographic equipment
  • Compose and frame the subject
  • Adjust apertures, shutter speed, and camera focus
  • Retouch and edit image files
  • Conduct reshoots, if necessary

Education and experience

This position requires a high school diploma or a GED; preferable is an associate or bachelor’s degree from a college or university.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Strong knowledge of visual design principles
  • A keen eye for detail
  • Expertise in camera operation
  • Critical-thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Exceptional creative-thinking skills
  • Proficiency in photo-editing and retouching software
  • Patience and flexibility
  • Excellent communication and research skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Ability to work independently with strong time management and organizational skills
  • Ability to work various holidays throughout the year
  • Reliable transportation
  • Ability to lift equipment (up to 40 lbs) with frequent sitting, standing, and moderate physical activity

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for a photographer is $55,250 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$54,950$74,350
Los Angeles, California$62,000$83,850
Denver, Colorado$51,650$69,900
Washington, DC$62,950$85,150
Miami, Florida$51,400$69,550
Orlando, Florida$47,450$64,150
Tampa, Florida$47,900$64,800
Atlanta, Georgia$50,250$68,000
Chicago, Illinois$57,750$78,150
Boston, Massachusetts$62,450$84,500
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$49,800$67,350
New York City, New York$65,750$88,950
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$53,550$72,450
Dallas, Texas$52,150$70,550
Houston, Texas$51,650$69,900
Seattle, Washington$60,100$81,350
National Average$46,950$63,550

Typical work environment

Photographers typically work at a designated space with their photography equipment, and a computer or tablet, but some will travel depending on if they are freelance, contracted with multiple companies, or have to travel to specific filming locations. 

Typical hours

Typical hours for this position are from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, in a factory setting. 

Available certifications

Photographers require extensive experience in camera use, editing software, subject posing, and several years of experience. Receiving certifications is typical if a photographer wants to get hired professionally. Here are some popular certifications:

  • Certified Professional Photographer (CPP). This certification is offered through the Professional Photographers of America, and is an online program that helps you master your craft while gaining the knowledge you will need to succeed in this competitive field. 
  • Digital Photographer Certificate Program. eCornell offered a Digital Photography Certificate online through Cornell University. This program will certify you as a professional photographer, while teaching you the fundamentals, mechanics, and digital aspects needed to succeed as a professional photographer.

Career path

The path to becoming a professional photographer can take many different directions.

A photographer’s creative portfolio is the most important criteria for getting hired. An exceptional body of work will more than compensate for lack of formal education. To build their portfolios and on-the-job experience, photographers will often market their services as freelancers. That being said, many professional photographers do earn a bachelor’s degree in fine art or visual media to shore up their knowledge and expand their skill sets. Many also have earned the Certified Professional Photographer designation from the Professional Photographers of America (PPA).

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 27-4021

2020 Employment110,500
Projected Employment in 2030129,400
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 17% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift18,900 increase

The rise of smartphones and social media — placing a powerful camera and internet connection in millions of people’s hands — was supposed to end the modern photographer’s career. All it did was further specialize photographers’ skill set.

Learning how to best use social media platforms, such as learning to write micro-copy and network online, will continue to add value to photographers’ services. Mastering new photo-editing software will also be crucial to staying relevant in our ever-changing, technology-driven world.

Sample interview questions

  • Why do you want to work here? 
  • Who is your biggest influence in photography? 
  • What made you want to become a photographer? 
  • What kind of experience do you have with posing subjects? 
  • What is one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
  • Which lens do you prefer to use and why? 
  • What are your essential items of choice other than a camera and lens?
  • What is your greatest strength? 
  • What is your greatest weakness? 
  • What qualities make a great photograph? 
  • Do you have any formal training as a photographer? 
  • Have you ever worked in a professional studio? 
  • What are your favorite hobbies? 
  • What does your ideal work environment look like? 
  • What kind of research do you perform before a shoot? 
  • What does your scheduling process look like? 
  • What motivated you to apply for this job? 
  • How do you get your subjects to do the thing you want them to, in order to capture the perfect photo? 
  • Do you have a photography portfolio? May we see it?

Photographer Jobs in Ashburn

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