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Career profile Photographer

Also known as Advertising Photographer, Commercial Photographer, Newspaper Photographer, Owner/Photographer, Photo Editor, Photographer, Photojournalist, Portrait Photographer, Sports Photographer


Also known as Advertising Photographer, Commercial Photographer, Newspaper Photographer

Interests Profile
  • Artistic
  • Realistic
  • Enterprising
Pay Range
$22,410 - $86,850 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Active Listening
  • Speaking
  • Service Orientation
Knowledge Areas
  • Customer and Personal Service
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Computers and Electronics
Core tasks
  • 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.
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What does a Photographer do?

Photographers photograph people, landscapes, merchandise, or other subjects.

In addition, Photographers

  • 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.

What kind of tasks does a Photographer perform regularly?

Photographers are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • 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.
  • 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.

The above responsibilities are specific to Photographers. More generally, Photographers are involved in several broader types of activities:

Working with Computers
Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
Thinking Creatively
Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
Selling or Influencing Others
Convincing others to buy merchandise/goods or to otherwise change their minds or actions.

What is a Photographer salary?

The median salary for a Photographer is $41,280, and the average salary is $50,290. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Photographer salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Photographers earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Photographers earn less than $22,410 per year, 25% earn less than $28,530, 75% earn less than $62,440, and 90% earn less than $86,850.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Photographers is expected to change by 17.1%, and there should be roughly 12,700 open positions for Photographers every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$22,410 - $86,850
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Photographers?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Photographer are usually higher in their Artistic and Realistic interests.

Photographers typically have very strong Artistic interests. Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

Also, Photographers typically have moderate Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Photographer tend to value Independence, Relationships, and Achievement.

Most importantly, Photographers strongly value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Second, Photographers moderately value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Lastly, Photographers moderately value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Photographers must consistently demonstrate qualities such as dependability, integrity, and attention to detail.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Photographers, ranked by importance:

Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Concern for Others
Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.

What education and training do Photographers need?

Photographers often have training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.

Photographers usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Photographers

  • 1.9% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 11.5% completed high school or secondary school
  • 22.0% completed some college coursework
  • 11.9% earned a Associate's degree
  • 44.0% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 7.7% earned a Master's degree
  • 1.1% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Photographers

Photographers may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as customer and personal service, sales and marketing, or computers and electronics knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Photographers might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Sales and Marketing
Knowledge of principles and methods for showing, promoting, and selling products or services. This includes marketing strategy and tactics, product demonstration, sales techniques, and sales control systems.
Computers and Electronics
Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
Administration and Management
Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
Communications and Media
Knowledge of media production, communication, and dissemination techniques and methods. This includes alternative ways to inform and entertain via written, oral, and visual media.

Important Abilities needed by Photographers

Photographers must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Photographers need abilities such as near vision, oral expression, and originality in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Photographers, ranked by their relative importance.

Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.
Far Vision
The ability to see details at a distance.

Critical Skills needed by Photographers

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Photographers frequently use skills like active listening, speaking, and service orientation to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Photographers, ranked by their relative importance.

Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Service Orientation
Actively looking for ways to help people.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.