Photographers work across a broad range of industries. These could be anything from advertising, corporate, editorial, fashion or fine art. Some photographers work in other areas, such as weddings, live sports or even for portraits.
What is a photographer?
A photographer takes photographs. They will create visual images for several reasons, including documentation, events and product launches. Photographers are hired by a client and will follow their brief.
There are several different photography types to look into, such as:
- Commercial photography
- Event photography
- Fashion photography
- Freelance photography
- Portrait photography
- Product photography
- Scientific photography
- Stock photographer
- Wedding photography
A large proportion of a photographer’s work is on a self-employed basis. Photographers work for various employers, publishers, agencies, or even as part of the public and education sectors and creative businesses.
A photographer has a wide range of responsibilities. These responsibilities will depend on the project you are working on and the brief you are given by your client.
The most common responsibilities for a photographer are:
- Develop photographs.
- Edit photographs using high-end editing software.
- Prepare work for clients.
- Research and prepare for shoots.
- Sort out lighting arrangements.
- Source any and all equipment needed for a shoot.
- Take photographs.
- Use a range of different equipment.
- Use digital and generic film stock for photos.
- Working to a brief provided by the client.
As most photographers are freelance, you will also have additional responsibilities to consider. As a freelance photographer, you will need to be able to find yourself work, keep detailed financial records and liaise with accountants.
The salary you can earm for a photographer depends on several key factors. Where you work will impact you - those working in London will have a higher earning potential than those working outside. Your portfolio and the quality of your previous work may also be contributing factors. Your experience may also affect how much you can charge for each photoshoot.
If you are self-employed, your wage may increase yearly, and seasonal work may carry you through quieter months. Those who start as assistants and continue to learn photographic skills can expect the national minimum wage.
A photographer's salary in the UK for full-time employment can be around £26,000. Fashion photographers can expect to earn around £35,000. If you gain a strong reputation in your field, you can charge more. Incomes may vary, but there are many opportunities to gain experience and work through weddings, baby photography collections.
A degree is not a requirement for this role, but is highly recommended by many in the industry. An undergraduate or postgraduate qualification will provide you with a good source of industry contacts and will also help when applying for non-freelance photography jobs.
The best subjects to study at university are:
- Art and design degrees
- Digital imaging degrees
- Fashion degrees
- Film studies degrees
- Fine art degrees
- Graphics degrees
- Media studies degrees
- Photography degrees
You will need to explore the modules of each subject before you apply. Some of these subjects will focus on different aspects of art and photography and not all may necessarily be relevant to your future career goals. Make sure you research each course before you apply.
Training and development
Training and development will largely be your responsibility. There are many freelance photography courses and training programmes available for photographers as well as diplomas.
Registration with professional organisations is recommended. Registration with these organisations will allow you to sign-up for training courses, seminars, lectures, networking events and, for those who are studying a continuing professional development (CPD), CPD assistance.
There are several important industry organisations you can register with. Organisations such as the Royal Photographic Society, the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP), the National Photographic Society and the Societies of Photographers are all organisations that offer everything you need in your professional development.
There are several key skills required to be successful in this role. The most common skills for a photographer are:
- An understanding of how cameras, lighting and editing software work.
- Excellent attention to detail.
- Excellent technical skills.
- Meeting deadlines.
- Organisational skills.
- The ability to work in teams.
- The ability to work independently.
- The ability to work under pressure.
These skills can be further honed through training and development.
Work experience is not necessarily a requirement for this role, but is highly desirable. Most clients will want to see a portfolio of previous work, however. This does not need prior work experience but can be projects you have undertaken yourself.
Work experience is still recommended, however. Though companies are unlikely to have any photographer work experience roles available for you, you can still do voluntary work for local companies. It is also possible to contact local photographers and ask if you can shadow them in their work.
Many people join the Association of Photographers (AOP). With a student membership, this organisation will grant you access to networking opportunities, allowing you to find potential photography jobs and photography apprenticeships if they are posted.
One of a photographer's most common career routes is to work in art and design. This is the best sector to work in for this type of career as you will have a more steady stream of work and can take on other responsibilities and roles where needed.
Working as a wedding photographer or as a photojournalist is also a reliable career path. Wedding photographers can charge larger sums than most photographers and can often dovetail their work with videographers. Photojournalism is an excellent path to consider and one that allows you to be in the thick of the action, be it for large-scale political events or live sport.
Not all previous photographers take up jobs in art and design. Many photographers work in museums to catalogue exhibits; others become either a wedding or social photographer or work as part of large organisations, such as local authorities and universities. You can even set up your agency or business or continue to work self-employed.