Anyone can take a picture, but professional photographers are paid to capture a mood, a moment, or important details of a scene. While photographers know how to capture just the right amount of light in a photo, they also have talents that far exceed the technical aspects. Whether it's a photo of a wedding or a crime scene, photographers document important moments in time.
The most popular photography degrees
While some photographers enter the field without formal training, a high level of technical skill can help photographers add range to their portfolio and increase their hiring potential. Photographers can seek training through a school's photojournalism program or through fine arts degrees in photographic fields.
Most entry-level positions require a college degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Photographers need to gain a basic understanding of the technical aspects of the field before branching out into an area that suits them. While some might complete a four-year photography degree, others could enroll in shorter vocational programs.
Coursework typically covers areas such as equipment, processes and techniques. Students should understand the basics behind photo design and composition and be able to work with a wide variety of equipment. Programs typically focus on techniques such as black-and-white photography, documentary photography, photographic illustration, wide-format photos and more. Students might also gain skills in specific computer programs and learn about business and marketing in case they ever need to promote their own business.
A photojournalism degree may be needed to work as a photographer for a newspaper or magazine. However, skills gained on the job and substantial clips demonstrating past experience are also essential parts of the hiring process.
Benefits of online degrees in photography
Online photography degrees are another approach to take to learning. Students might find online options through art, design or fashion schools and can use the online format to enhance their skills in a profession that has become primarily digital in recent years.
Logging on to complete photography training can mean getting a chance to work with the software and technology in the career under the supervision of trained instructors. Programs like Adobe Photoshop and other image editing software can be valuable for photographers, and online degrees in photography offer the opportunity to work closely with these important tools.
What it takes to succeed in photography
Professional photographers bring their skills to work every time they step behind a camera. Visual communication and expression are key, as is the ability to express one's talents in a unique way. Basic abilities like visual color discrimination and arm-hand steadiness further help photographers across all genres. Training or mentoring ability may also come in handy, particularly if a photographer becomes successful to the point where he or she wants to hire an assistant.
More than 50,000 photographers were at work in the U.S. in 2010, according to BLS data. More than half worked for themselves and many of these had contracts with businesses such as advertising agencies, magazines, websites and more. Others might run their own portrait studios, provide stock photos for agencies or work for other photographers or photography studios.
Photography at a glance
- Mean annual wages: $35,980
- Percentage of self-employed photographers: more than 50 percent
- Projected BLS growth in the field from 2008-2018: 12 percent
- States with the highest concentration of photography jobs: Hawaii, Indiana and Nevada
- Top-paying industries for photography: the motion picture and video industry followed by aerospace product and parts manufacturing