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Basic Photography Career Profile

Photographers create permanent visual images. Often working to a client’s brief, they control lighting, tone and perspective in their work using a range of photographic equipment, accessories and imaging software. Photographers are valued for their technical understanding of the medium as well as their artistic vision.

Key features of the work include:

  • choosing and preparing locations
  • setting up lighting
  • selecting appropriate cameras, film and accessories
  • composing shots
  • positioning subjects and instructing assistants
    • After shooting, they may process and print images, or view and manipulate digital images using software such as Photoshop. Most photographers are self-employed, so must also spend time on marketing and other aspects of running a small business.

      Photographers usually specialise in one of the following areas:

      General practice or social – offering photographic services for local communities or businesses, with the majority of work being in wedding and family photography.

      Advertising and editorial - expressing a product idea or illustrating a magazine story; usually categorised into still life, food, cars, portraiture or landscape

      Fashion - working with models and art directors in high fashion, or commissioned by catalogues and magazines

      Press and Photo journalism - photographing news stories or personalities to strict deadlines

      Corporate (Industrial and Commercial) - producing images for promotional material or annual reports

      Scientific and Technical - producing photographs for medical reports, research papers or criminal investigations.

      Professional photographers often employ assistants to help shoots run smoothly. Assistant photographers may deal with clients and suppliers; organise estimates, invoices, licences and payments; arrange props; work with photographic labs and stylists and carry out administrative tasks.

      Hours and Environment

      Hours of work vary; they may be long and irregular, including evenings and weekends. Part-time work may be possible.

      Photographers work in different environments, depending on their area of specialisation. In advertising and portrait photography, they are often based in a studio. Other types of work can be in any indoor or outdoor location, according to the brief. Some photographers may spend time developing and processing shots in a darkroom, although the increase in digital technology has reduced the need for darkroom work.

      Photographers may lift and carry heavy equipment. Taking photographs on location can mean spending periods of time away from home.

      Skills and Interests to work as a photographer you should:

      • have the motivation and self-confidence to find work in a competitive profession
      • have good business and organisational skills, as the majority of photographers are self-employed
      • be creative, and have a good eye for visual effect, such as shape, form and tone
      • have technical aptitude, as the work involves using a variety of equipment
      • be ambitious and determined
      • have excellent communication skills and a friendly, open personality
      • have patience, as it can take a long time to get the right shot.
        • Opportunities

          Photography is a competitive and overcrowded occupation, and new entrants need determination to find work. Competition in the fashion and advertising fields is particularly intense.

          It can take time to develop a business and a reputation in photography, particularly in prestige areas, such as high fashion. Some photographers may combine photography with other work to ensure a stable income when starting out.

          Self-employment is common in the industry. Permanent employment is most likely in press, medical, scientific and industrial photography. Press photographers are employed by provincial/national newspapers; medical photographers by hospitals and medical schools; scientific/industrial photographers by universities, industrial firms and the Civil Service. Other employers of permanent staff include HM forces (particularly the RAF) and police forces.

          Annual Income
          Figures are intended as a guideline only.

          Assistant photographers may earn between £9,000 and £11,000 a year.
          Established full-time photographers can earn between £15,000 and £30,000 a year.

          Freelance rates vary widely and may be calculated on a daily or weekly basis. Fees can be negotiated individually. Rates will vary depending on an individual's experience and reputation, the type of shoot and the budget available.

Related Courses

City and Guilds Black and White Photography

On this course, you'll discover exactly why so many great photographers shoot exclusively in black and white.

City and Guilds Basic Photography and Black and White Photography
Aimed at anyone interested in a career in photography, this course combines our City & Guilds Basic Photography and Black & White Photography courses – giving you a comprehensive grounding in a wide range of skills.

Our home study photography courses allow you to study for a City & Guilds qualification without disrupting your current lifestyle. Whether you want to develop your existing photography skills or gain a valuable City & Guild qualification which will further your career prospects, you’ll find our distance learning photography courses are a flexible and cost-effective way of fulfilling your ambitions.

As with all our home study courses, you can work on your distance learning photography course as and when you please, progressing through the course at your own pace and in your own time. To help you earn your City & Guilds qualification, you’ll have a personal tutor to assist you at every stage of your home study photography course, and our dedicated team of student advisors will always be on hand should you encounter any problems.

So if you want to gain a City & Guilds qualification that will put you one step ahead of the competition, sign up for a home study photography course with the UK Learning College