Photographers take pictures of people, places, or things in order to sell products, entertain people, report the news, or preserve memories. This profession allows one to work from almost anywhere – whether it be at home, in the local community, or from any particular location in the world. Newspapers and magazines commonly employ photographers. They may also work for advertising or design firms, in camera stores or commercial studios. Some self-employed photographers contract with companies to do individual projects for a set fee, while others operate portrait studios or license their photographs to stock-photo agencies. Freelance photographers may even sell their work directly to the public.
Many photographers specialize in pictures of certain things such as landscapes. Some photographers take pictures only at schools or weddings. Others photograph only cars, clothes, buildings, or animals. Some photographers take pictures to illustrate books. Movie still photographers take pictures on movie sets. Travel photographers and photojournalists may travel far away and they might even work in harsh or dangerous areas. Other occupations such as police investigators, real estate agents, and scientists may take photographs as part of their work.
Photographers should have an artistic eye as well as technical proficiency. They need to know how to choose the right equipment and techniques to give them the best picture. They may use a combination of lights, lenses, and other effects to create a picture. Photographers must buy the gear they need and then keep up with advancing technology. For the most part, film has been replaced by digital cameras, and photographers now edit images on a computer instead of developing them in a dark room.
Photography is not only a highly creative field; it is also a highly competitive field. There are more people who want to be photographers than there is employment to support them. Only the most skilled photographers, those with the best marketing ability and those who have the best reputations, are able to find jobs or attract enough work to support themselves. Persistence comes into play when breaking into the photography business and then once in, photographers must show a willingness to work hard and put in long hours. Photographers often have to work quickly and be available at all times to meet deadlines and please their clients.
Full-time salaried photographers tend to earn more than those who are self-employed. Because most freelance and portrait photographers purchase their own equipment, they incur considerable expense acquiring and maintaining cameras and accessories. Improved cameras and computer software require upgrades and significant additional investment as often as every 12 months. Unlike news and commercial photographers, few fine arts photographers are successful enough to support themselves solely through their art.
Some photographers are self-taught, while others have college training. Photography courses are offered by many universities, community and junior colleges, art institutes, and private trade and technical schools. Entry-level positions in industrial or scientific photography generally require a college degree in photography or in a field related to the industry in which the photographer seeks employment. Young photographers may start out as assistants to established photographers; this will help them to gain valuable experience.
Whether or not one has a formal education, it is important to put together a portfolio of one’s best work for showing to potential clients and employers. Individuals interested in a career in photography should try to develop contacts in the field by subscribing to photographic newsletters and magazines, joining camera clubs, and seeking summer or part-time employment in camera stores, newspapers, or photo studios.