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Explore These Top Photography Careers

Find out what you can earn doing fashion photography, photojournalism, or portraiture and what credentials are required for today's top jobs.

Apply to Jobs Using these Resources

Search for photography jobs on both industry specific and general job boards

Understand Why You Should Earn a Degree

Most photography careers, except for industrial, scientific, and photojournalism fields, do not require a photography degree. However, the lack of degree requirements and the lowering cost of digital camera equipment make for a more competitive job market, since more people have the ability to create and distribute work to the public. Given the tough competition, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree is one of the most important career resources for an aspiring photographer because it distinguishes you as a candidate with formal training.

With a degree, your photographer career options increase exponentially since visual artists are needed across many different industries, including advertising, film, television, fashion, geological surveillance, and architecture. Specifically, careers in graphic design, digital printing, and advertising have modest, but steady job projections. Across all fields, photography jobs are expected to increase by 14 percent by 2020. However, other industries will be unstable, like the newspaper industry, which is expected to hire 30 percent fewer photographers over the same period due to the increased public preference for mobile news apps on handheld devices.

Advertising and Commercial Photography

Average Salary: $51,000-$72,000/year.

Work Environment: Studios, outdoor shoots, editing labs, office settings.

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree recommended.

Job description: Advertising and commercial photographers shoot on location and digitally edit their photos to create promotional material printed in magazines and posted on the web. They have to be business conscious since they consult with marketing executives and renovate the brand and general aesthetic of large businesses and products. They should be prepared to shoot under strict deadlines.

Why would I want to do this? Choose advertising and commercial photography if you would enjoy working with businesses and organizations on creative marketing campaigns. This is one of the most lucrative careers in the field, as many large businesses invest millions of dollars in marketing. These photographers should expect to constantly brainstorm with their contractors to decide how a company or product should be visually represented.

Architecture Photography

Average Salary: $32,000/year.

Work Environment: On-location shooting, office and home settings.

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree recommended.

Job description: Architecture photographers specialize in taking pictures of buildings and landmarks whether for public art projects, urban planning endeavors, or real estate advertisement. These photographers need to accentuate the structural amenities of the buildings they are shooting. Architecture photographers manipulate depth of field and highlight vertical lines in order to maximize the space in the viewer’s eye.

Why would I want to do this? Choose a career as an architecture photographer if you want to pursue a challenging form of photography that requires you to visually characterize a space in only a few frames with unpredictable lighting. These photographers work closely with their employers to choose and post the best images for historical landmark brochures and real estate listings.

Fashion Photography

Average Salary: $36,000/year.

Work Environment: Photography studios, darkrooms, talent auditions.

Entry-level education: Associate’s degree recommended.

Job description: Fashion photographers are responsible for creating a specific aesthetic that matches the brand of the product or service. Fashion photographers work in a variety of settings in metropolitan areas such as Manhattan or Paris. Producing visually provocative ads and photo spreads requires close attention to detail, especially when it comes to color palate, costume design, and model direction.

Why would I want to do this? Choose fashion photography if you are attentive to trends and enjoy creative, free art forms. Fashion photography is a good fit for those who value self-expression as opposed to following strict specifications, as in industrial photography.

Food Photography

Average Salary: $35,000/year.

Work Environment: On-location shooting, studio environments, photo editing labs.

Entry-level education: Like product photographers, food photographers are often required to have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Job description: Food photographers are responsible for shooting food items provided by grocers, restaurants, and fast food establishments. Their chief goal is to accentuate the color and dimensions of food so it appears more enticing and plentiful. This often requires photo editing, color correction, and graphic design skills. They should expect to work with marketing professionals as well as the food preparation staff that maintain the dish before and during the shoot.

Why would I want to do this? Pursue food photography if you are interested in producing highly marketable photographs and practicing photo editing skills. A love of food is requisite in this career, but understand that you will spend most of your time prepping the food for photos and editing your photographs to creative enticing images that appeal to different consumer markets.


Average Salary: $22,600-$55,000/year.

Work Environment: Office settings, fieldwork.

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree.

Job description: Photojournalists communicate political, social, and economic change domestically and abroad. Photojournalists do not always have full camera rigs and lighting set-ups since they need to shoot spontaneously. Photojournalists often travel to politically or socially volatile places and it can be a high-risk occupation.

Why would I want to do this? Pursue a career as a photojournalist if you enjoy capturing images that accurately portray news events. Know that photojournalism can lead to work abroad where you’ll explore new cultures, but expect to begin your career covering local stories for small newspapers and organizations.

Portrait Photography

Average Salary: $32,000/year.

Work Environment: Client homes, photography studios.

Entry-level education: High school diploma; certification from Professional Photographic Certification Commission (PPCC) recommended.

Job description: Portrait photographers strive to capture the essence or personality of a person in an image. Professionals commonly work at religious ceremonies or schools for student picture days. Portrait photographers are charged with taking candid photos of people in natural positions or managing a photo shoot for numerous subjects, like families with children.

Why would I want to do this? Choose portrait photography if you enjoy character observation and assessment. As a portrait photographer, you will have to use your intuition to visually accentuate your clients’ most notable attributes, such as demeanor and smile.

Product Photography

Average Salary: $32,000/year.

Work Environment: Office settings, editing labs, conference rooms.

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree recommended.

Job description: Product photographers follow the technical shooting specs of their clients to create clear images; afterwards they digitally edit their shots, removing unwanted glares and shadows. Unlike many photography positions, this job is office-based and less flexible when it comes to conceptual or experimental photography.

Why would I want to do this? Choose a career in product photography if you would thrive in a position that involves more structure and routine than other photography specializations. Since this is a booming new field, pay is often lucrative and the entry-level job candidate requirements are modest, making it a good position for a new photography graduate. You will need strong organizational skills to ensure that your daily queue of products is shot and edited in a timely manner.

Sports Photography

Average Salary: $35,000/year.

Work Environment: Sporting events, press-heavy venues.

Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree recommended.

Job description: Sports photographers take pictures of athletes and celebrities at sporting events. These photographers are often separated from the fans and are given press passes so they can have an unobstructed view of the game. If you choose this profession, you will be responsible for telling the story of the game through images.

Why would I want to do this? Pursue sports photography if you are passionate about sports and photographing large events. Although you will enjoy field-level access to top athletes and coaches, you will have to remain focused on obtaining optimal shots, which means you won’t be able to enjoy the game as if you were a spectator. You should expect to meet very strict deadlines, specifically shooting and editing shots promptly during halftime and after the game.

Wedding Photography

Average Salary: $1,900/wedding.

Work Environment: Outdoors, festive ceremonies.

Entry-level education: Certification from Professional Photographic Certification Commission (PPCC) recommended.

Job description: Wedding photographers take photos of every participant during wedding ceremonies and the receptions that follow. Wedding photographers need to be direct when managing photo ops and gathering wedding guests for impromptu pictures with family members. The job of a wedding photographer does not stop after wedding day, as you can expect to spend weeks editing and sequencing the proofs, as well as handling album orders.

Why would I want to do this? Choose wedding photography only if you enjoy working with people. Given to the importance of the occasion, you can expect to deal with clients who are stressed, so you will have to take initiative to ensure all shots are taken. Pursue wedding photography if you would enjoy capturing photos of the wedding party and their families and putting together photo packages according to client specifications.

Apply to Jobs Using these Resources

The following list of job resources contains both photography-specific job boards and general job search websites to help you explore both contract work and full-time positions as you prepare for a career in photography.

FlexJobs – This site compiles photographer job listings and helps you identify companies that are well-trusted or well-paying by attaching icons to companies recognized by Forbes magazine and GlassDoor.

Freelancer – This site allows freelance photographers to bid on job posts. Projects typically include small photo editing jobs and wedding photography.

Indeed – This site is a national job board with an abundance of managerial positions in more industrial fields like architectural and advertising photography. Indeed also categorizes job listings by salary estimates.

JobMonkey – This site collects hundreds of photography job posting across the United States and allows you to sort them based on location, employment type, and job description. JobMonkey offers a diverse career list, including videography, baby photography, and product photography.

LinkedIn – This site is a very popular social networking and job-hunting hybrid site. LinkedIn allows past colleagues to recommend you for jobs you are currently applying for.

ScoopShot – This site allows you to create a portfolio of nine photos and list your experience for prospective employers. ScoopShot also allows you to network with users of their mobile service.

SimplyHired – This site is another national job board with a specific section for photographers that categorizes listings by education level, experience requirements, companies, and location. SimplyHired allows you to save your most promising posts and share opportunities with other friends and colleagues.