Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone
  • photography career

How to Start and Pursuit a Succesful Photography Career

November 26, 2015
Studied Photography at IED in Milan, Italy. Passionate about art, frequent visitor of exhibitions, Widewalls photography specialist and Editorial Manager.

Let me start this article by imagining a particular kind of reader. Intrigued by its title, a young photography enthusiast who likes to take pictures with their smartphone clicks to find out more on how to turn a passion into a proper photography career. How much do they know about this medium? Maybe a little, maybe a lot, but either way, it all narrows down to just that – photographers take pictures. However, contrary to the popular belief, photography isn’t just a simple click of a button – or a tap on a touchscreen, if we want to be extreme. Truth be told, that one click is never the first and hardly ever the last moment during a typical photographer’s day; rather, it could be described at a threshold within a creative process, a sound which marks that fraction of a second in which an idea, a concept, a vision, become reality. Photography, thus, is everything that happens before and after that threshold, and like in any other type of art, it takes talent and skills in order to make the best out of it. There are many types of photography, based on your interests, so choosing your favourite is probably the best way to commence your photographic journey.

digital film training technical search cameras self available media need commercial equipment courses photographs help good digital design digital arts school programs use photography career photographers job careers education jobs skills professional photographers design business information degree news employment photographers photographers work job careers images people degree photographers work photographers work photographers work photographers photographers photographers
What would you like to photograph?

Types of Photography Career – What’s on the Other Side of Your Lens?

What would you like to take pictures of? People? Landscape? Things? Whether you’re aiming to become a professional or you simply want to upgrade your knowledge, once you determine your favorite subject you can find out more about the kind of requirements there are in relation to a certain area of photography. Portrait photography is one of the most popular types, and it often involves taking pictures of someone’s faces, in order to capture their emotions and expression. If you prefer a wider angle, it could take you towards glamour or fashion photography, where you’d be working with models, designers, hair and make-up artists. For a more static experience, you can become a still life photographer, who creates images of objects for personal or commercial purposes. All these types of photography are usually practiced within a photographic studio, where the photographer is in charge of lighting, equipment and the creation of different scenarios.

If you’re more of an outdoors person, there’s landscape photography, which could also involve architecture and taking photos of urban elements and structures, as well as nature and even wedding photography. One of the oldest genres is photojournalism, shooting pictures of newsworthy events or making a series of reportage images through which you tell a social story. Of course, there’s also fine art photography, a kind of image-making that focuses purely on the aesthetics, free of any barriers. It’s no crime if you try many of these out before you find the right one, or even if you combine two of them or more – practice and creativity make perfections!

Now, let’s assume you’ve made a choice among these. Is an education in photography necessary for the career of a photographer ?

digital film training technical search cameras self available media equipment courses photographs helpdesign digital arts school programs use photography career photographers job careers education jobs skills professional photographers design business information degree news employment photographers photographers work job careers images people degree
A formal education in photography is not necessary, but attending schools might help you understand techniques better

Photography Schools – Are They Worth It?

To put it simply, to become a photographer you don’t need formal education. In fact, many argue that, very often, art schools can have a negative impact on creativity, as they mostly focus on technicalities and do not encourage instinct, which in some cases is crucial to producing the desired image. However, to know the tools you’re working with is vital as well, and as your tool is a camera, you should know your way around it. As photography schools can also be expensive, many turn to courses, workshops and tutorials, often held by those who are photographers themselves. In the internet era, there are also many online photography schools, but let’s try not to be that lazy. As photography is a practical profession, one of the best ways to learn its tricks is to become a photographer’s assistant, an opportunity that allows you to experience everything first hand. Or better yet – let such seemingly complex device that is a photographic camera trigger your curiosity. Don’t be afraid to explore its many options, modes and buttons. Go out, try it out, have fun!

film training search cameras media arts school programs use photography career photographers job careers photographers education jobs skills professional design business information degree news employment photographers photographers work job careers images people degree
The best way to develop your style and career is to start working!

Get Your Work Out There

One of the best ways to keep your inspiration up, but also to raise your prospects of getting hired is to participate in photography contests or to post your work on different platforms which support young talents. By “young” I certainly mean profession-wise, as being a photographer has nothing to do with age. That way, a potential client may notice your work and take you in for a project, or if you’re within an artistic environment, it could be your chance to catch a curator’s eye and end up in an exhibition. If you’re among the luckier ones, you could start your own photography business, in the form of a studio or an agency. In addition to your skills and talent, this kind of work also requires management abilities, as well as marketing and strategy. It is also important to obtain as many contacts as you can, because you never really know who you might bump into – there are ever so many connections that could lead you to success.

Learning about photography means learning how to pick the best point of view, how to “train the eye” in order to choose the right colors, shadows, lights and frame. One’s photography career depends on the way they work the equipment, the photo camera, the lighting, but also techniques like exposure, shutter speed and ISO; how competent they are in Photoshop and other image editing softwares, as this skill is becoming almost more important than image-making itself. On a less related, yet nevertheless important note, a photographer should have great communication skills, reliability, patience and a good business sense.

filmarts school programs people use photography career photographers job careers education jobs skills professional people design business information degree news employment photographers
An interesting set of pie charts showing what it takes to obtain a successful photography career. Image via nutleyschools.org

How Much Does a Photography Job Pay?

In this day and age, it seems like the differences between types of photography earnings-wise barely even exist. For example, a successful fine art photographer could be earning much more than a renowned fashion photographer, as their prints sell more than well at art auctions. Perhaps, though, I should not shoot that far just yet. Average photographers can get paid at an hourly rate or per photograph, have a fixed salary or get the percentage from further sales of their work, depending on the type of job they do and whether they work part time or full time. According to different statistics, the median yearly salary for most photographers amounts to $14 hourly in the United States, or between £12,000 and £22,000 a year in the United Kingdom, for example. Of course, these increase with experience and the quality of one’s work, as well as the strength of their portfolio – a collection of a photographer’s best work in a series of images in physical or digital format. Relying on researchers again, the top four photography careers bound to pay your bills are: portrait, commercial, scientific and photojournalist/news photographer.

There is, however, more than just the photographer career related to photography – is yours perhaps among them?

arts photography career photographers job careers education jobs skills professional people design business information degree news employment photographers photographers work job careers images people degree
Photography prints require its own kind of specialist, an expert in digital printing

A Photography Career, But Not as a Photographer

Did you know? A career in photography doesn’t necessarily require you to be a photographer. There are, in fact, many other professions that could get you involved with the medium, only not through a camera lens. For example, you could be a photo editor within the editorial team of a magazine; a photography historian, critic or professor; an archivist, in both digital and physical sense, within a museum, a gallery or a cultural institution related to photography; a printing lab specialist, as this is one of the important aspects of the medium today, especially when it comes to fine art photography; a retouch artist, if you happen to be a Photoshop guru, as one of the most sought-after professions in the world of fashion and beauty; a writer; a curator or a gallery owner; a stock photo agent; even the manager of a photographic studio or a lighting assistant, roles that often come underappreciated.

With such versatile artistic medium, the possibilities are endless, and once you’ve managed to make your greatest passion a successful photography career through hard work and persistence, then you’ve really hit the jackpot.

Editors’ Tip: Photography Careers: Finding Your True Path by Mark Jenkinson

Explore further how you can start your career as a photographer. This book offers an indispensable guide to beginning a professional career as a photographer. Presenting the variety of career options available inside this competitive and comprehensive world of photography, the author provides insight and advices, including tips from industry mavens. This book will help you find your place in this world, by helping you change the way you evaluate your strengths as an artist. The book features Interviews with successful young professional photographers in a wide range of photographic specialties, tips for how to find unique approaches in a saturated market and best practices for students looking at graduate programs, a budding career, and finding a personal artistic style.

All images used for illustrative purposes only.