All You Need To Know About A Photographer Career

You think about becoming a photographer but are still not entirely sure whether this career will be right for you or not?

Great! This article is exactly for you since I will show you everything you need to know about working as a photographer in the following chapters.

Not only will you get information on how much you can make as a photographer, but we will also talk about work-life balance, job satisfaction, duties, responsibilities, future outlook, promotion opportunities and much more.

You will also find an FAQ section at the end of this article where I answer the most common questions about being a photographer for you.

After reading this article, you will have a much better idea of whether you still want to become a photographer or rather want to go for a different job instead.

Table of Contents

What does a Photographer do?

Photographers take nice pictures at birthday parties, weddings and on many other occasions.

They make sure that those unique days are recorded so that people will reminisce about nice memories when they see these pictures.

Responsibilities & Duties of a Photographer

  • Taking pictures of clients at weddings, birthday parties and other celebrations
  • Making sure that people look as nice as possible on pictures
  • Advising people how to dress for pictures
  • Showing people how to pose well
  • Editing pictures to make them look better
  • Making sure that photographer equipment works properly
  • Setting up equipment
  • Framing photographs
  • Reproducing photographs
  • Setting up locations for great images
  • Promoting their business

What a Typical Day of a Photographer looks like?

When photographers start their workday, the first thing they usually do is to communicate with their clients via the phone or email to make sure that events take place as expected and to set up their schedule properly.

After doing some organizational work, photographers get to their actual work and shoot many pictures per day.

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This might include wedding pictures, birthday pictures or also application photos.

Not only will you take those photos, but you will also edit them to make them look as nice as possible.

After working in this style for many hours, you will get home from work and relax so that you are prepared for the next workday.

Photographer Salary 2021

Photographer salary brackets 2021

Salary BracketsSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Top 10 %> $76,000> $37.91
Top 25 %$57,000 – $68,000$28.42 – $33.94
Bottom 25 %$31,000 – $35,000$15.44 – $17.39
Bottom 10 %$23,000 – $27,000$11.38 – $13.48
Range$23,000 – $87,000$11.38 – $43.47
Average (Mean)$43,000$21.46
Median$41,000$20.43

Photographer salary 2021 by expert level

Level of ExperienceSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Entry level$23,000 – $32,000$11.38 – $15.98
Junior$30,000 – $38,000$14.93 – $18.92
Professional$36,000 – $49,000$17.97 – $24.45
Senior Professional$47,000 – $63,000$23.48 – $31.47
Expert$58,000 – $71,000$28.88 – $35.46
Top Expert$67,000 – $87,000$33.46 – $43.49

Photographer salary by state 2021 (average)

StateSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Alabama$41,200$20.56
Alaska$39,900$19.93
Arizona$42,400$21.18
Arkansas$39,300$19.64
California$48,600$24.29
Colorado$42,600$21.27
Connecticut$43,800$21.88
Delaware$40,700$20.34
District of Columbia$41,900$25.92
Florida$43,200$21.53
Georgia$38,700$19.33
Guam$36,800$18.37
Hawaii$42,100$21.03
Idaho$39,400$19.68
Illinois$38,500$19.24
Indiana$42,300$21.12
Iowa$40,700$20.34
Kansas$38,600$19.27
Kentucky$39,800$19.87
Louisiana$41,200$20.56
Maine$39,500$19.73
Maryland$44,300$22.14
Massachusetts$42,100$21.02
Michigan$39,600$19.78
Minnesota$41,400$20.67
Mississippi$37,800$18.89
Missouri$36,700$18.33
Montana$40,900$20.42
Nebraska$38,500$19.24
Nevada$39,300$19.63
New Hampshire$36,800$18.37
New Jersey$43,300$21.64
New Mexico$40,500$20.23
New York$49,400$24.68
North Carolina$39,900$19.94
North Dakota$37,600$18.79
Ohio$38,200$19.08
Oklahoma$41,800$20.87
Oregon$39,900$19.92
Pennsylvania$42,300$21.14
Rhode Island$40,600$20.27
South Carolina$39,100$19.52
South Dakota$41,800$20.88
Tennessee$42,200$21.09
Texas$39,900$19.93
Utah$41,300$20.61
Vermont$38,600$19.28
Virginia$37,800$18.89
Washington$42,900$21.45
West Virginia$39,700$19.82
Wisconsin$38,300$19.13
Wyoming$37,900$18.94

Job Security of Photographers

Photographers have pretty poor job security since many of them work self-employed and even employed photographers are replaceable pretty easily since many people out there are able to do this job.

Consequently, you will have to worry quite a lot about becoming unemployed as a photographer.

Future Outlook of Photographers

Also the future outlook for photographers is not great since an increasing number of people want to work in this industry and educational barriers to entry are pretty low.

Thus, almost everyone can work in this field and competition will become increasingly fierce in the future while salaries will most likely remain low.

Working Hours of Photographers

Photographers have to be quite flexible regarding their working hours.

If you have your own photographer shop, you will usually start your workday between 8 and 10 a.m. and finish your workday between 4 and 6 p.m.

However, you will often also work at special events like weddings or birthday parties where you will have pretty different hours and your schedule may change quite a lot without prior notice as well.

Job Satisfaction of Photographers

Many photographers are not happy with their jobs since they are not able to make good money from what they are doing while they still have to be quite flexible regarding their working hours and also suffer from lots of insecurity related to their jobs.

Promotion Opportunities of Photographers

Photographers have barely any promotion opportunities at all.

While they may be able to make more money while they get more experienced, they will still not be able to climb the career ladder quickly as many other people are able to do in the corporate world.

Career Levels of Photographers

  • Photographer intern
  • Junior photographer
  • Senior photographer
  • Senior photographer with personnel responsibilities
  • Manager of a photographer business
  • Owner of a photographer business

Fields and Types of Photographers

  • Photographer focused on birthday parties
  • Photographer specialized in taking pictures on weddings
  • Photographer focused on baptisms
  • Photographer specialized in application photos
  • Photographer with expertise in the model business
  • Fashion photographer
  • Sports photographer
  • Real estate photographer
  • Food photographer
  • Vehicle photographer
  • Photographer specialized in advertising campaigns

Educational Requirements for Photographers

Photographers don’t need fancy education to be able to work in this field.

Instead of going to college for many years as you would have to do for many other jobs, you will just need to finish high school with decent grades before you are able to become a photographer.

How to become a Photographer

  1. Inform yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of being a photographer
  2. Apply for an internship at a local photographer business
  3. Make a good impression during your internship
  4. Stay in touch with your colleagues
  5. Finish high school with decent grades
  6. Apply for photographer jobs
  7. Master the job interview
  8. Sign your labor contract
  9. Build a strong personal brand
  10. Start your own photography business

Character Traits you need as a Photographer

  • Attention to detail helps you take great pictures
  • Ability to deal with unfriendly comments in an emotionally healthy manner
  • You should be a good communicator
  • Ability to deal with drawbacks in a healthy manner
  • Ability to deal with high levels of insecurity
  • Empathy for clients who are not happy with your work
  • You should be open and outgoing
  • You should be customer-focused
  • Willingness to work rather exotic hours
  • Willingness to work in a low-wage environment

Hard Skills for Photographers

  • Good knowledge of photography equipment
  • Expertise in taking great pictures
  • Knowledge of how to sell things to your clients
  • Good technical skills help you get things done
  • You should know how to set up location for photographer purposes properly
  • Digital marketing skills help to promote your business
  • Knowledge of copyright issues related to photography
  • Knowledge of local rules and regulations
  • Math skills help you run your business properly
  • Knowledge of latest developments in the photographer industry

Soft Skills for Photographers

  • Creativity helps you take unique pictures
  • Good time management skills help you get things done
  • Good communication skills help you gain the trust of your clients
  • Ability to deal with pressure in a healthy manner
  • Passion for photography helps you stay motivated in the long run
  • Ability to work independently or with a team of other photographers
  • You should be a good listener to figure out what clients want
  • Empathy for difficult clients
  • Patience with people who try to bring you down
  • Empathy for people who don’t understand your career choice

Exit Options for Photographers

Photographers don’t have great exit options since they are pretty specialized in what they are doing.

Thus, while you might be able to work as an editor or camera operator, you will have a hard time finding a job in a different industry.

Photographer – Similar Careers

  • Editor
  • Camera operator
  • Artist
  • Painter
  • Photograph processing worker
  • Tattoo artist
  • Makeup artist
  • Digital marketer
  • Architect
  • Graphic designer
  • Sound engineer

Photographer Career FAQs

Is working as a photographer physically demanding?

Working as a photographer is not physically demanding.

While you will have to carry some equipment with you, you will still not have to work in a heavy physical manner as construction workers or welders have to do on a regular basis.

Is working as a photographer mentally demanding?

Being a photographer can be mentally demanding since you will always have to use your brain to get the best pictures possible to make your clients happy so that they will recommend you to their friends and you can stay competitive in the long run.

Is it dangerous to work as a photographer?

Working as a photographer is not dangerous.

Instead, you will work in a rather safe environment and will also not have to work with heavy machines.

Hence, your risk of suffering from serious accidents at work will be rather low compared to police officers and many other people who risk their lives on a regular basis.

How long do photographers stay in their jobs?

Photographers stay in their jobs for many years and sometimes even decades.

Even though many photographers are not happy with their overall working conditions and with their salaries, many of them just lack important skills needed in the job market right now and therefore don’t find a job in a different industry and get trapped in the field of photography.

Is it easy for photographers to find a new job?

Since educational barriers to entry are pretty low and almost everyone can work in this field, competition is pretty fierce and you may have a hard time finding new jobs, especially if you just start out with your career and haven’t built enough contacts and a strong personal brand yet.

Is it hard to switch from being a photographer to another field of work?

Since photographers are pretty specialized in what they are doing for a living, they don’t learn many skills needed in different fields.

Consequently, it is pretty hard for photographers to switch to a different field and many photographers may just get trapped in the photography industry.

Thus, make sure that working as a photographer is really what you want to do for quite a long time to avoid any issues in this regard.

Do photographers have a high social status?

Photographers don’t have a high social status.

While your clients will often really appreciate your work, you will still be belittled by many people out there and you may also have to deal with snarky comments regarding your career choice quite often.

Can you help out your family and friends as a photographer?

As a photographer, you can help out and do good for your loved ones quite often since you can take nice pictures of weddings, birthday parties and on many other occasions.

In turn, your family and friends don’t have to rely on a stranger to do those important tasks and also don’t have to spend lots of money on photographer services.

Can photographers work remotely?

Photographers are not able to work remotely since they have to take pictures in person and this means that you will have to spend lots of time and money commuting to work while many other people who work in classical office jobs will be able to work from home on a regular basis and will be much more flexible to manage their private and professional life at the same time.

Is it easy to find a partner as a photographer?

Finding a partner for a long-term relationship is not that easy for photographers since they don’t make good money and also have to deal with lots of insecurity related to their jobs.

In turn, photographers are not considered good providers and will have a hard time in the dating market compared to dentists or judges who will have a much easier time in this regard.

Do photographers have to work on weekends?

Photographers have to work on weekends quite often.

In fact, many important events like weddings or birthday parties take place on Saturdays and Sundays and you as a photographer will therefore have to work while most other people enjoy their leisure with their loved ones at home.

Do photographers have to work on holidays?

Photographers also sometimes have to work on holidays.

Thus, you should be quite flexible in this regard since your schedule will change rather frequently and if you want to be able to make a living from what you are doing as a photographer, you should be willing to work whenever a client needs your services.

Do photographers have to work at nighttime?

Photographers sometimes also have to work in the evening or at nighttime.

Consequently, you should be quite flexible regarding your working hours and if you want to work in a classical 9 to 5 environment, you should not become a photographer but rather become a compliance officer or work in another office job instead.

Do you have to travel as a photographer?

As a photographer, you will have to commute to many different locations.

However, while many other people are away for business trips on a regular basis, you as a photographer will usually be able to get home after work and to spend your leisure with your loved ones.

Are photographer pensions good?

Since photographers are not able to make really good money from what they are doing, also their pensions are rather poor.

Consequently, many photographers are no longer able to pay their bills once they quit their active careers and retire.

Are photographer salaries going up?

Photographer salaries have not been going up significantly over the past years and this trend will likely continue in the future since educational barriers to entry to work in this field are pretty low and almost everyone can do this job.

Thus, wages are usually pretty poor and it is almost impossible to make a good living from a photography career.

Can you have a positive impact on society as a photographer?

As a photographer, your positive impact on society will be rather limited.

While you can do good for your clients, you will still not have the same high social impact as teachers or professors who can really change the mindsets of people on a regular basis.

How long does it take to become a photographer?

Since you will not need to get fancy education, you can become a photographer pretty early in your life right after finishing high school while many other people have to spend lots of time and money on education to be able to work in their dream jobs.

Is it difficult to become a photographer?

Becoming a photographer is not difficult since you don’t have to look good on paper and also don’t have to get a degree.

However, it can still be hard to become really successful at what you are doing since competition is fierce and only the best photographers are able to make good money from their careers.

Do you need to be smart to work as a photographer?

Since you don’t need a fancy degree to work as a photographer, you also don’t need to be smart.

What’s much more important is that you have a passion for photography so that you spend enough time learning so that you can become a real expert and stay motivated with what you are doing in the long run.

Do photographers have a good work-life balance?

Photographers don’t have good work-life balance since they often have to work on weekends and holidays and sometimes also have to work at nighttime while they are still not able to make good money from what they are doing most often.

Do photographers have to work many extra hours?

Photographers sometimes also have to work many extra hours.

In fact, you should be quite flexible regarding your schedule since in case something unexpected happens, it will be on you to work longer to get things done and to make your clients happy so that they will recommend your services to their family and friends.

How to maximize your chances of becoming a photographer?

The sooner you start practicing photography, the sooner you will get experience in this field and the more value you will be able to provide to your clients.

Thus, to maximize your chances of becoming a photographer, you should work as an intern at a local photography business and you should also practice photography as a hobby so that you already have a good standing in this industry when it comes to making the transition to a full-time business.

Can photographers work part-time?

Photographers are also able to work part-time in theory.

However, since hourly wages are pretty poor, most photographers still have to work full-time to make a living from what they are doing.

Do photographers work indoors or outdoors?

Photographers work indoors as well as outdoors on a regular basis.

Thus, in case of bad weather, you may have a rather poor time at work compared to other people like financial controllers who work in classical office jobs indoors and don’t have to worry about adverse weather conditions outdoors.

What does the workplace of a photographer look like?

As a photographer, you will work in many different locations since your clients will change quite frequently.

You will also be surrounded by lots of photography equipment and will have to deal with new situations on a daily basis.

Thus, you should be a friendly and trustworthy person so that clients feel comfortable and recommend you and you can build a strong customer base in the long run.

Do you have to look good for working as a photographer?

You don’t have to look like a model to succeed as a photographer.

What’s much more important is that you have a passion for what you are doing so that you spend enough time to learn and to hone your craft so that you can provide real value to your clients.

Is a photographer career beneficial for your private life?

Working as a photographer is not greatly beneficial for your private life since you will have to work many weekends and sometimes also at nighttime while you will still not make good money from what you are doing.

Consequently, you will also be away from home quite often and your spouse may start to cheat on you sooner or later.

Do you need a college degree for becoming a photographer?

Working as a photographer can be great since you don’t need a college degree or any other fancy education.

There are no formal requirements to work in this industry and everyone can try to succeed without having to spend many years and lots of money on college education.

Do you need to be certified to work as a photographer?

You also don’t need to be certified as a photographer.

While those certifications may help to gain the trust of your clients, they are not necessary if you provide outstanding work and are able to build a strong customer base.

How much does it cost to become a photographer?

Since you don’t have to spend lots of money on college education and can rather start your photography career right after finishing high school, you can become a photographer at almost no cost and can even start making money from a rather young age.

Is being a photographer a good career?

Since you will have to work many weekends and holidays and you will also have to be quite flexible regarding your schedule while you will not be able to make good money and also have to deal with lots of insecurity related to your work, being a photographer cannot be considered a good career when taking all relevant factors into account.

Is it easy to start your own business as a photographer?

It is relatively easy to start your own photography business since you don’t have to spend lots of money on machinery or land as farmers would have to do.

Moreover, regulatory requirements are also pretty low and almost everyone can therefore start a photography business and try to make it successful.

Can photographers teach themselves?

Photographers are able to teach themselves most things they need to succeed in this industry.

In fact, there are many great free courses and videos out there that show you exactly how to become a great photographer and you therefore don’t have to spend lots of money on education to be able to work in this field.

Do photographers make good money?

Most photographers don’t make good money at all.

In fact, many photographers have a pretty low hourly wage and are barely able to make a living from what they are doing while a small number of photographers are able to live a decent lifestyle and are able to afford some luxury.

Is it ever too late to become a photographer?

Since you don’t have to spend lots of time and money on education and you also don’t have to work in a heavy physical manner, you can become a photographer at any age while you still have to compete for jobs with many young and hungry people in this industry.

Do photographers have to quit their careers early?

Most photographers don’t have to quit their careers early since they don’t have to work in a heavy physical manner and while many other people who work as fallers or roofers often have to quit their career early due to physical health problems, you as a photographer will most likely be able to work in this field until official retirement age or even longer.

What is the hardest thing about working as a photographer?

The most difficult part about being a photographer is that you will have to deal with new clients on a regular basis and your clients will have pretty different expectations and preferences.

In turn, it is pretty hard to make everyone happy and you will also have to deal with lots of critical feedback.

Can you provide for your family by working as a photographer?

It is pretty hard to provide for your family as a photographer since most photographers are not able to make good money from their jobs and your spouse may therefore have to work as well to cover your expenses as a family.

Will photographers suffer from old-age poverty?

Many photographers will suffer from old-age poverty since their pensions will be pretty low and they will also not be able to save enough money during their active careers.

Consequently, once they reach retirement age and quit their active careers, many photographers are barely able to pay their bills anymore.

Can photographers retire early?

Most photographers are not able to retire early since they just don’t make enough money during their active careers and therefore have to work until official retirement age and sometimes even longer in case their pension is not enough to make a living.

Do photographers get a fixed or variable salary?

While employed photographers often get a fixed salary and a small variable salary component, the income of self-employed photographers changes quite a lot and greatly depends on the number and the volume of jobs they have.

Thus, you will have to deal with significant income swings as a photographer.

Can you get rich as a photographer?

Most photographers will never get the chance to become wealthy or even rich.

Therefore, if money and luxury are really important to you, you should not become a photographer but rather work as an investment banker or consultant instead.

Do photographers need a second job?

Many photographers also need a second job to pay their bills since their income from their photography careers will not be enough to cover their expenses.

This is especially true in regions where rents and other living costs are pretty high and the salary of an average photographer will not be enough to make a living.

Do you get continuous training as a photographer?

You will not get extensive training as a photographer.

Instead, it will be on you to hone your craft to get really good at what you are doing so that you can make your clients happy and are able to build a strong personal brand in the long run.

Do you get sick pay as a photographer?

You don’t get sick pay as a photographer most of the time.

If you don’t work, you will just don’t get money and you should therefore build an emergency fund during good times that you can use in case you get sick so that you are still able to pay your bills.

Do photographers have a high level of responsibility?

Photographers don’t have high levels of responsibility compared to other people like doctors whose mistakes could take away the lives of many people on a daily basis.

Can photographers work abroad?

Photographers are needed all over the world.

However, you should still inform yourself about working conditions and salaries in the country you consider living in to avoid any unpleasant surprises in this regard.

Is it stressful to work as a photographer?

Working as a photographer can be stressful since you will often have to deal with many duties and tasks at the same time and good organizational skills are therefore crucial to stay happy with what you are doing in the long run.

However, once you develop a certain routine, your job as a photographer will no longer be that stressful and you can rather spend your workday in a pretty relaxed manner most of the time.

Is it boring to work as a photographer?

Being a photographer is not boring if you are really passionate about taking great pictures and love what you are doing.

Moreover, every client and job will be different and you will never know exactly what will happen during your workday.

Is being a photographer hard?

Working as a photographer is not extremely hard since you don’t have to work in a heavy physical manner and your stress at work will also be rather limited once you get some experience and routine.

Are photographers at risk of burnout?

Since photographers don’t have to deal with extreme levels of stress at work, they are also not at great risk of burnout compared to many other people who have to deal with significant time pressure or emotional pressure at work on a regular basis.

Is there a dress code for photographers?

There is no dress code for photographers.

While you might have to wear fancy suits or dresses if you work in demanding office jobs, you as a photographer can wear whatever you feel most comfortable with.

What kind of photographers are paid the most?

The more experience you get, the better you will become and the more value you will be able to provide to your clients.

Hence, if you want to make good money from your photography career, you should work hard and become a real expert in what you are doing to stand out from the crowd.

What percentage of photographers are women?

While only 23% of all professional photographers are women, around 77% of photographers are men.

Yet, while this industry is still dominated by men, there is still an increasing number of women aspiring to a career in photography and percentages may therefore become more balanced in the near future.

Do I need a mentor to succeed as a photographer?

You don’t need a mentor to succeed as a photographer.

However, it can still help to have an experienced colleague on your side whom you can ask in case you have any technical questions or also questions about your career in general.

Do photographers have a high life expectancy?

Photographers have pretty decent life expectancy since they work in a relatively safe job and are not at great risk of suffering from serious accidents at work.

They also don’t have to risk their lives as firefighters or other people out there have to do on a regular basis.

Do photographers suffer from sleeping problems?

Photographers often suffer from sleeping problems since they have to deal with lots of insecurity related to their jobs and often worry about losing their jobs and about their financial future in general.

What states are best for working as a photographer?

Since you will make pretty poor money as a photographer across states, you should choose a state and region where living costs are pretty low so that your photographer salary will still be enough to make a living from what you are doing and you don’t need to work a second job.

Who do photographers work with?

Photographers work with many different clients on a regular basis.

Hence, it is crucial that you are friendly and competent so that clients recommend your services and you can build a strong customer base to stay in business in the long run.

Is working as a photographer cool?

Working as a photographer is considered reasonably cool by the general public.

However, you should still not choose your job according to what’s cool but rather ask yourself what working in this industry means for your own future.

Can you start a side hustle as a photographer?

You will also be able to start a side hustle as a photographer.

For instance, you could start a YouTube channel or blog where you learn people everything they need to know about photography or you could also start a photo editing business on the side.

Do you have to be creative as a photographer?

Being creative is crucial for succeeding as a photographer since only if you are creative, you will deliver great work and your clients will be impressed by your outstanding photos.

Do photographers suffer from being overweight?

Since photographers often have to carry lots of equipment, they often get sufficient exercise and burn enough calories at work so that they don’t suffer from being overweight that often.

How employable are photographers?

Since educational barriers to entry are pretty low and almost everyone can work in this field, photographers are not that employable and have to deal with fierce competition.

Also their average salary is pretty low and this trend will likely continue in the near future.

Are photographers happy with their jobs?

Most photographers are not really happy with their jobs since they have to be quite flexible regarding their working hours and also often have to work on weekends and holidays while they are still not able to make good money from what they are doing most of the time.

Is working as a photographer exciting?

Being a photographer is only exciting if you have a real passion for taking outstanding pictures.

Otherwise, you may get bored with what you are doing sooner or later since you will do many things over and over again.

Can you have a positive impact on our environment as a photographer?

Since you will mainly focus on making clients happy with your pictures and will not care about making the world a better place during your jobs, you will not have a big positive impact on our environment as a photographer.

What are the pros and cons of working as a photographer?

If you still think about becoming a photographer, you should also have a look at additional pros and cons of a photographer career.

Sources

https://www.statista.com/statistics/242589/american-affluent-household-members-participation-in-photography-as-a-hobby/

https://www.statista.com/forecasts/1014335/photographic-services-revenue-in-the-us

Interviews and own research.

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people about the different career paths that are possible in our current state of the world. In my opinion, people often make the mistake to choose their profession solely based on how much money they can earn from it instead of doing what makes them really happy.

This is quite sad and I just want to give people a more objective picture of how a fulfilling career could look like. I did the same when I started working in consulting after finishing my Master’s degree in Economics. However, I’ve quit pretty soon after that since I haven’t found true meaning in my job.

Now I can do what I really love to do and I want to enable as many other people as well to go this exciting path towards happiness instead of money.

I conducted various interviews with employees to give you a good impression of what working in different fields will look like and that you can make the best possible decision regarding your future career choice.

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