A professional photographer


Photographers take pictures using digital or film cameras and equipment. Photographers may develop negatives or use computer software in order to produce finished images and prints.

Includes scientific photographers.
Includes aerial photographers.
Includes photojournalist.

Photographers typically do the following:

  • Take the brief to understand specifications and work closely with our art team to develop the concept
  • Capture and process images until you achieve desired results
  • Shoot poses that don’t look posed
  • Constantly improve image quality using various editing methods
  • Use and maintain modern and traditional technical equipment (cameras, lenses etc)
  • Arrange objects, scenes, lighting and background to adhere to specifications
  • Direct participants
  • Archive photographic images and maintain database
  • Maintain an in depth understanding of photographic best practices and procedures

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to photographer:

studio photographer
school photographer
documentary photographer
corporate photographer
sports photographer
video photographer
interior photographer
industrial photographer
press photographer
scene photographer
still shooting photographer
wildlife photographer
still life photographer
art photographer
photography assistant
reportage photographer
photographer retoucher
technical photographer
underwater photographer
photography studio manager
food photographer
architecture photographer
portrait photographer
advertising photographer
product photographer
fashion photographer
photo designer
photography-based artist
graphical industry photographer
photographic artist
aerial photographer
social photographer
illustration photographer
backstage photographer
travel photographer
scientific photographer
event photographer
wedding photographer
landscape photographer
itinerant photographer
culinary photographer
medical photographer
photography technician
commercial photographer
cultural photographer

Working conditions

Working conditions for photographers vary by specialty. Photographers may work indoors or outdoors.

Portrait photographers may work in studios, but they also travel to take photographs at a client’s location, such as a school or a home.

News photographers may travel locally or internationally and must be prepared to work in uncomfortable or even dangerous surroundings. For example, a news photographer may be sent to a war zone to capture images. News photographers often work irregular schedules and must be available on short notice.

Aerial photographers work in planes or helicopters to capture a scene, event, or location from an overhead perspective. They can also use unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, to capture shots. The drones are equipped with an integrated camera to capture 360-degree imagery of buildings, landscapes, scenery, or events.

Most photographers stand or walk for long periods. They may need to carry heavy equipment.

Many photographers are self-employed. Photographers who own and operate their own business have additional responsibilities. They must advertise, schedule appointments, set up and adjust equipment, buy supplies, keep records, charge customers, pay bills, and—if they have employees—hire, train, and direct their workers.

Work Schedules

Some photographers work part time. Hours often are flexible so that photographers can meet with current and potential clients or visit the sites where they will work. For certain types of photographers, workloads may fluctuate with the season. For example, wedding photographers are typically busiest in the summer and fall.

Minimum qualifications

No formal educational credential is required for most photographers. However, many photographers take classes or earn a bachelor’s degree to improve their skills and employment prospects.

Many universities, community colleges, vocational–technical institutes, and private trade and technical schools offer classes in photography. Basic photography courses cover equipment, processes, and techniques. Art school training in photographic design and composition also may be useful.

Photographers’ skill or ability for taking good photos is typically cultivated over years of practice. Photographers often start working as an assistant to a professional photographer, learning on the job. This work provides an opportunity to gain experience, build the photographers’ portfolios, and gain exposure to prospective clients. In addition, photographers must learn to use photo-editing software.

For many artists, including photographers, developing a portfolio—a collection of their work that demonstrates their styles and abilities—is essential. Art directors, clients, and others often review portfolios when deciding whether to hire a particular photographer.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Photographer is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Photographer career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to photographer.

art handler
script supervisor
assistant stage director
camera operator

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of photographer. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of photographer with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

photography teacher
picture editor
drawing artist
digital artist
video artist

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of photographer.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of photographer. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Art collections: The variety of paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings and other works that form collections in a museum and prospective new collections which are of interest for a museum or art gallery.
  • Digital marketing techniques: The marketing techniques used on the web to reach and engage with stakeholders, customers and clients.
  • Landscape architecture: The principles and practices used in the architecture and design of outdoor areas.
  • Social media marketing techniques: The marketing methods and strategies used to increase attention and website traffic through social media channels.
  • Wildlife: Undomesticated animal species, as well as all plants, fungi and other organisms that grow or live wild in an area without being introduced by humans. Wildlife can be found in all ecosystems such as deserts, forests, rain forests, plains, grasslands and other areas including the most developed urban areas, all have distinct forms of wildlife. Handling of wildlife capture equipment.
  • Architectural design: The branch of architecture that strives for balance and harmony in the elements of a construction or architectural project.
  • Brand marketing techniques: The methods and systems used in researching and establishing a brand identity for marketing purposes.
  • Advertising techniques: The communication strategies intended to persuade or encourage an audience, and the different media which are used to achieve this goal.
  • Sporting events: Possess an understanding of different sporting events and conditions that can affect a result.
  • Home decoration techniques: The techniques, design rules and trends applicable to interior decoration in a private home.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of photographer. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Load film: Process images and video footage from photographic equipment.
  • Mount photos: Frame and hang up finished photographs and posters.
  • Set up photographic exhibitions: Make all arrangements needed for a photographic exhibition such as choosing the venue, handling budget, arranging the setting, communicating about the event and so on.
  • Care for food aesthetic: Convey presentation and aesthetic elements into the production of food. Cut products properly, manage right quantities into the product, care for the attractiveness of the product.
  • Edit negatives: Use different software products and techniques to process photographic negatives and adapt the images to the desired specifications.
  • Direct photographic workers: Direct and manage the daily activities of photographic workers.
  • Advise customers on photography: Provide advice to customers on photographic devices and equipment. Help customers choose a photograpic device that fits their need, share information about their functionalities and maintenance. Inform customers about photoshoots and other photography related services.
  • Measure light levels: Perform measurement of light levels
  • Conduct extensive international travel: Conducting extensive travelling around the world to performing business related tasks.
  • Select camera apertures: Adjust lens apertures, shutter speeds and camera focus.
  • Organise product display: Arrange goods in attractive and safe way. Set up a counter or other display area where demonstrations take place in order to attract the attention of prospective customers. Organise and maintain stands for merchandise display. Create and assemble sales spot and product displays for sales process.
  • Develop artistic project budgets: Developing artistic project budgets for approval, estimating deadlines and material costs.
  • Develop educational activities: Develop speeches, activities and workshops in order to foster access and comprehension to the artistic creation processes. It can address a particular cultural and artistic event such as a show or an exhibition, or it can be related to a specific discipline (theatre, dance, drawing, music, photography etc.). Liaise with storytelles, craftspeople and artists.
  • Attend events: Visit shows and/or exhibitions to represent your organisation and see what other organisations are doing to acquire expertise in the sector’s trends
  • Collaborate with a technical staff in artistic productions: Coordinate the artistic activities with others who are specialised in the technical side of the project. Inform the technical staff of the plans and methods suggested and obtain feedback on feasibility, cost, procedures and other relevant information. Be able to understand the vocabulary and practises concerning technical issues.
  • Prepare digital art for master photograph: Assemble, typeset, scan and produce digital art ready to be photographed as a master copy.
  • Research new photographic procedures: Participate in research to develop new photographic procedures and materials.
  • Communicate with youth: Use verbal and non-verbal communication and communicate through writing, electronic means, or drawing. Adapt your communication to children and young people`s age, needs, characteristics, abilities, preferences, and culture.
  • Use photographic equipment: Use analogue or digital camera equipment, along with a variety of accessories such as tripods, filters and lenses.
  • Edit photographs: Resize, enhance and retouche photographs, using airbrushing, editing software and other techniques.
  • Handle art: Work directly with objects in museums and art galleries, in coordination with other museum professionals, to ensure that artworks are safely handled, packed, stored and cared for.
  • Swim: Move through water by means of the limbs.
  • Create infrared imagery: Use an infrared camera to produce imagery displaying the infrared part of the spectrum.
  • Scan photos: Scan images into computers for editing, storage, and electronic transmission.
  • Develop film: Prepare tools and developing and printing equipment. Develop and print exposed film using chemicals.

ISCO group and title

3431 – Photographers

  1. Photographer – ESCO
  2. Photographers : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. Photographer job description template – Workable
  4. Featured image: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Last updated on December 21, 2022

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