Photography Professionals Job, Salary, and School Information

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Photographers

Photography Professionals


Education

What’s Needed:

  • Many photographers work for themselves as freelance professionals for which no formal education is needed.
  • If you want to work for a major corporation media outlet or art institution you will likely need to hold a Bachelor in Fine Arts (B.F.A.) or Master in Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degree in photography or visual arts.

What you study:

You are likely to study all of the following in a photography program:

  • Principles of Design
  • Studio and Lighting Design
  • History of Photography
  • Photographic Methods
  • Introduction to Photoshop


Video Overview

Shows an introduction to the work of a professional photographer. Created for the US Department of Labor.


A Day in the Life

You can work in commercial portrait wedding technical or art photography.

As a professional photographer you have many options in terms of your work environment and the types of photography that you complete. Some photographers choose to work for newspapers and other media outlets as media photographers. Others work as commercial photographers who take photos for businesses and architectural firms. You can also focus on fine art or institutional photography. However the majority of photographers working in the U.S. are special event wedding and portrait photographers.

You’ll be responsible for setting up shoots and designing lighting and sets.

You begin your day by double-checking your schedule. You have two portrait appointments in the morning and a wedding to shoot in the afternoon. Once you’ve confirmed your appointments with a quick phone call you head into the studio to make sure that all of your lighting is working properly. Your first clients want pictures taken of their toddler. You set up props that toddlers like to use so that you can capture the best photos of the child. Working with the parents you pose the little boy and take photos from various angles making lighting adjustments as needed.

You take care of post-processing and image development for your clients.

After you’ve completed work with the little boy you put up your props and get ready for your next appointment. You’re taking a formal portrait for a woman who has just received a major job promotion. You focus on taking professional head shots and 3/4 shots with soft natural lighting. Once the appointment is over you shut down all the lights in your studio and pack your gear bag to shoot the wedding.

At the wedding you’re responsible for both taking candid portraits of the ceremony and reception and for taking posed portraits of the bridal party. You work with an assistant called your second to ensure that you capture all of the important moments on this special day. You use a variety of portable lighting gear to ensure that you’re taking high-quality photos.

Once the reception has wound down you can head home for the evening. It’s been a long day. Tomorrow you’ll begin processing and editing your photos using a professional computer program. Once your edits are completed you’ll make discs containing the photos for your clients. You’ll also be responsible for printing high-quality copies of their photos for display in their homes. You encourage your clients to return to you any time that they need enlargements of their photos made.


Certifications and Licensing

No formal certification is needed to work as a photographer. You may wish to gain designation as a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) in order to attract private clients. If you work for yourself you may need to secure a business license.


Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time:

As a photographer you will have a great deal of control over your own schedule. You are likely to work some part-time and some full-time days depending on the number of clients that you have.

Work location:

The majority of photographic work will be conducted either in the studio or out in the field. However you are likely to spend a great deal of time in front of a computer in your studio or home office for editing purposes.


Recommended Websites

  • Professional Photographers of America: The PPA website provides information about ongoing educational opportunities and contests of interest to professional photographers. Those who are just beginning a career in this field will find information about equipment and indemnity insurance particularly helpful.
  • American Society of Media Photography: ASMP’s website offers video and learning resources to society members. This site is particularly helpful for individuals who want to work as newspaper or digital media photographers.
  • Wedding & Portrait Photographers International: WPPI is the leading international organization for photographers who cover special events and provide portrait services. Information about competitions may be useful to photographers with a depth of experience in this field. Individuals who have just begun careers in this field will find the WPPI blog particularly helpful as it offers a mix of business and technical advice.
  • U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook for Photographers: This Bureau of Labor Statistics publication offers general information about careers in the field of photography. Consult this handbook for information about salary expectations and demand for trained professionals in the field.


Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

0.03%

State City / Region Typical Salary Salary Range Job Count % of All Jobs
AK Anchorage $34340 $18K – $60K 100 0.06%
AL Auburn – Opelika $34220 $31K – $38K N/A N/A
AL Birmingham – Hoover $26220 $17K – $49K 200 0.04%
AL Huntsville $26230 $17K – $42K 90 0.05%
AL Mobile $23810 $18K – $40K 100 0.06%
AL Montgomery $27770 $21K – $51K 100 0.06%
AL Tuscaloosa $28830 $17K – $55K 50 0.05%
AR Fayetteville – Springdale – Rogers $29360 $25K – $39K 80 0.04%
AR Fort Smith $22040 $17K – $30K 40 0.03%
AR Little Rock – North Little Rock – Conway $25310 $17K – $47K 200 0.06%
AZ Phoenix – Mesa – Glendale $32070 $18K – $60K 870 0.05%
AZ Tucson $22570 $17K – $39K 140 0.04%
CA Bakersfield – Delano $25790 $18K – $55K 100 0.04%
CA Chico N/A N/A – N/A 30 0.05%
CA Fresno N/A N/A – N/A 120 0.04%
CA Los Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area) $47320 $26K – $115K 1680 0.04%
CA Modesto $30310 $19K – $79K 100 0.06%
CA Oakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area) $29040 $18K – $54K N/A N/A
CA Oxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura $40610 $22K – $48K N/A N/A
CA Riverside – San Bernardino – Ontario $29900 $19K – $119K 570 0.05%
CA Sacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville $30970 $21K – $101K 220 0.03%
CA Salinas $31210 $18K – $72K 50 0.03%
CA San Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos $32290 $18K – $76K 460 0.04%
CA San Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area) $45650 $26K – $116K 480 0.05%
CA San Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara $35920 $19K – $84K 180 0.02%
CA Santa Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area) $43170 $21K – $89K 420 0.03%
CA Santa Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta $29170 $18K – $90K 60 0.04%
CA Santa Rosa – Petaluma $27840 $21K – $68K 40 0.03%
CA Stockton N/A N/A – N/A 40 0.02%
CA Vallejo – Fairfield $29000 $21K – $95K 40 0.03%
CA Visalia – Porterville $19110 $17K – $36K 40 0.03%
CO Boulder $33530 $18K – $46K 90 0.05%
CO Colorado Springs $21370 $17K – $44K 110 0.04%
CO Denver – Aurora – Broomfield $43310 $20K – $71K 580 0.05%
CO Fort Collins – Loveland $18920 $17K – $34K 60 0.05%
CO Grand Junction $25920 $18K – $48K 50 0.09%
CT Bridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk N/A N/A – N/A 140 0.03%
CT Hartford – West Hartford – East Hartford $58920 $24K – $76K 160 0.03%
CT New Haven $35950 $20K – $71K 90 0.03%
CT Norwich – New London $28490 $21K – $51K 50 0.04%
DC Washington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area) $40490 $19K – $98K 810 0.03%
DE Wilmington (Metro Area) $23200 $17K – $55K 120 0.04%
FL Cape Coral – Fort Myers $27040 $17K – $47K 110 0.06%
FL Crestview – Fort Walton Beach – Destin N/A N/A – N/A 40 0.05%
FL Deltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach $23250 $17K – $47K 70 0.04%
FL Fort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area) $20520 $17K – $68K 420 0.06%
FL Gainesville $27110 $19K – $45K 40 0.03%
FL Jacksonville $29210 $20K – $47K 170 0.03%
FL Lakeland – Winter Haven $19200 $17K – $55K 60 0.03%
FL Miami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area) $19310 $17K – $56K 550 0.06%
FL Naples – Marco Island $19420 $17K – $36K 30 0.03%
FL North Port – Bradenton – Sarasota $37410 $18K – $71K 70 0.03%
FL Ocala $22520 $17K – $45K 40 0.05%
FL Orlando – Kissimmee – Sanford $22080 $19K – $42K 1500 0.15%
FL Palm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville $30250 $25K – $59K 50 0.03%
FL Pensacola – Ferry Pass – Brent $24200 $17K – $40K 80 0.06%
FL Port St. Lucie $19240 $17K – $42K 50 0.04%
FL Tallahassee $19380 $17K – $27K 510 0.32%
FL Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater $21470 $17K – $48K 280 0.03%
FL West Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area) $37060 $19K – $59K 210 0.04%
GA Albany $23910 $18K – $39K 30 0.06%
GA Atlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta $25280 $17K – $59K 1280 0.06%
GA Augusta – Richmond County $29510 $25K – $44K 80 0.04%
GA Columbus $20100 $17K – $45K 60 0.05%
GA Savannah $20370 $16K – $51K 50 0.03%
HI Honolulu $33730 $18K – $64K 370 0.09%
IA Ames $29910 $19K – $63K N/A N/A
IA Cedar Rapids $23480 $17K – $44K 60 0.04%
IA Davenport – Moline – Rock Island $22810 $17K – $38K 60 0.03%
IA Des Moines – West Des Moines $22990 $17K – $56K 230 0.07%
IA Iowa City $19350 $16K – $46K 40 0.05%
IA Sioux City $21990 $17K – $46K N/A N/A
IA Waterloo – Cedar Falls $18490 $16K – $31K 80 0.09%
ID Boise City – Nampa $26600 $18K – $45K 120 0.04%
IL Chicago – Joliet – Naperville (Metro Area) $44040 $19K – $100K 2140 0.06%
IL Lake County – Kenosha County (Metro Area) $34560 $18K – $59K 50 0.01%
IL Peoria $30330 $21K – $71K 70 0.04%
IL Rockford $33970 $21K – $55K N/A N/A
IL Springfield $64220 $20K – $90K 30 0.03%
IN Bloomington $39770 $22K – $48K 40 0.05%
IN Evansville $24020 $19K – $41K 70 0.04%
IN Fort Wayne $23780 $17K – $43K 110 0.06%
IN Gary (Metro Area) $27440 $17K – $45K 120 0.05%
IN Indianapolis – Carmel $24550 $17K – $65K 350 0.04%
IN Lafayette $24680 $17K – $50K 40 0.05%
IN Muncie $33110 $18K – $38K N/A N/A
IN South Bend – Mishawaka $29910 $18K – $58K 60 0.05%
KS Topeka $23070 $17K – $37K 40 0.04%
KS Wichita $22160 $16K – $44K 150 0.05%
KY Bowling Green $23430 $16K – $38K N/A N/A
KY Lexington – Fayette $20720 $16K – $37K 130 0.05%
KY Louisville – Jefferson County $23760 $16K – $63K 320 0.05%
LA Alexandria $25220 $17K – $37K 30 0.06%
LA Baton Rouge $29120 $17K – $58K 90 0.02%
LA Lafayette $28940 $16K – $62K 50 0.03%
LA New Orleans – Metairie – Kenner $23230 $17K – $45K 230 0.04%
MA Boston – Cambridge – Quincy (Metro Area) $42640 $27K – $73K 770 0.05%
MA Framingham (Metro Area) $26950 $20K – $59K 130 0.08%
MA Haverhill – North Andover – Amesbury (Metro Area) $20680 $18K – $35K 60 0.07%
MA Lowell – Billerica – Chelmsford (Metro Area) $32490 $19K – $45K 70 0.06%
MA Peabody (Metro Area) $33400 $21K – $68K 30 0.03%
MA Springfield $30170 $19K – $64K 100 0.04%
MD Baltimore – Towson $22560 $16K – $59K 650 0.05%
MD Bethesda – Rockville – Frederick (Metro Area) $35500 $17K – $57K 300 0.05%
MD Hagerstown – Martinsburg $18080 $16K – $30K 40 0.04%
ME Bangor $26380 $18K – $41K 30 0.05%
ME Portland – South Portland – Biddeford $19920 $17K – $48K 70 0.04%
MI Ann Arbor $29650 $16K – $59K 50 0.03%
MI Detroit – Livonia – Dearborn (Metro Area) $29850 $25K – $48K 250 0.04%
MI Flint $18910 $16K – $28K 50 0.04%
MI Grand Rapids – Wyoming $29390 $18K – $53K 110 0.03%
MI Holland – Grand Haven N/A N/A – N/A 40 0.04%
MI Kalamazoo – Portage $20900 $17K – $38K 40 0.03%
MI Lansing – East Lansing $41660 $28K – $58K 70 0.04%
MI Saginaw – Saginaw Township North $41170 $19K – $55K 50 0.06%
MI Warren – Troy – Farmington Hills (Metro Area) $30480 $17K – $76K 500 0.05%
MN Duluth $28300 $17K – $81K 40 0.03%
MN Minneapolis – St. Paul – Bloomington $39780 $17K – $83K 970 0.06%
MN Rochester $30160 $23K – $59K 50 0.05%
MN St. Cloud $27790 $17K – $56K 40 0.04%
MO Columbia $25070 $16K – $45K 50 0.06%
MO Joplin $19100 $16K – $56K 50 0.07%
MO Kansas City $19930 $17K – $48K 550 0.06%
MO Springfield $36170 $18K – $48K 90 0.05%
MO St. Louis $26100 $17K – $48K 600 0.05%
MS Gulfport – Biloxi $32330 $18K – $49K 30 0.03%
MS Jackson $24140 $16K – $49K 70 0.03%
MT Billings $18980 $17K – $43K 30 0.04%
NC Asheville $27850 $18K – $71K 70 0.04%
NC Burlington $23290 $20K – $38K 100 0.18%
NC Charlotte – Gastonia – Rock Hill $24140 $16K – $55K 350 0.04%
NC Fayetteville $19950 $16K – $34K 90 0.07%
NC Goldsboro $22240 $16K – $41K 40 0.11%
NC Greensboro – High Point $29290 $20K – $54K 180 0.05%
NC Greenville $25830 $16K – $43K 40 0.05%
NC Hickory – Lenoir – Morganton $27240 $21K – $38K 50 0.03%
NC Jacksonville $19140 $16K – $32K 30 0.07%
NC Raleigh – Cary $24680 $17K – $59K 160 0.03%
NC Wilmington $19120 $16K – $45K 80 0.06%
NC Winston – Salem $22750 $17K – $47K 70 0.04%
ND Fargo $26510 $19K – $37K N/A N/A
ND Grand Forks $25640 $18K – $36K 30 0.06%
NE Lincoln $18540 $16K – $34K 90 0.05%
NE Omaha – Council Bluffs $24240 $17K – $36K 310 0.07%
NH Manchester $20560 $17K – $71K 40 0.04%
NJ Atlantic City – Hammonton $29250 $18K – $50K 50 0.04%
NJ Camden (Metro Area) $27050 $18K – $61K 110 0.02%
NJ Edison – New Brunswick (Metro Area) $29080 $17K – $76K 290 0.03%
NJ Newark – Union (Metro Area) $36310 $19K – $84K 470 0.05%
NJ Trenton – Ewing $41400 $26K – $65K 40 0.02%
NM Albuquerque $39080 $22K – $82K 190 0.05%
NM Santa Fe $33780 $21K – $60K 60 0.11%
NV Las Vegas – Paradise $39500 $21K – $86K 540 0.07%
NV Reno – Sparks N/A N/A – N/A 80 0.05%
NY Albany – Schenectady – Troy $33140 $17K – $52K 220 0.05%
NY Buffalo – Niagara Falls $19550 $16K – $79K 210 0.04%
NY Nassau – Suffolk (Metro Area) $19000 $16K – $60K 470 0.04%
NY New York – White Plains – Wayne (Metro Area) $43980 $21K – $96K 3100 0.06%
NY Poughkeepsie – Newburgh – Middletown $18740 $16K – $48K 60 0.03%
NY Rochester $29300 $17K – $54K 200 0.04%
NY Syracuse $34060 $18K – $49K 130 0.04%
OH Akron $29720 $20K – $57K 50 0.02%
OH Canton – Massillon $23180 $17K – $40K 80 0.05%
OH Cincinnati – Middletown $29790 $18K – $121K 460 0.05%
OH Cleveland – Elyria – Mentor $25590 $19K – $66K 400 0.04%
OH Columbus $48240 $28K – $74K 310 0.03%
OH Dayton $24980 $19K – $60K 150 0.04%
OH Lima $20520 $17K – $37K 40 0.09%
OH Sandusky N/A N/A – N/A 50 0.13%
OH Steubenville – Weirton $19420 $17K – $40K 40 0.09%
OH Toledo $22730 $17K – $87K 150 0.05%
OH Youngstown – Warren – Boardman $19370 $17K – $29K 100 0.04%
OK Oklahoma City $26290 $17K – $47K 320 0.05%
OK Tulsa $25140 $17K – $37K 200 0.05%
OR Eugene – Springfield $26200 $19K – $55K 40 0.03%
OR Portland – Vancouver – Hillsboro $32860 $20K – $79K 350 0.03%
OR Salem $22220 $19K – $44K 40 0.02%
PA Allentown – Bethlehem – Easton $29150 $22K – $41K 150 0.05%
PA Erie $25350 $17K – $51K 100 0.08%
PA Harrisburg – Carlisle $36860 $21K – $60K 150 0.05%
PA Lancaster $28240 $17K – $61K 130 0.06%
PA Philadelphia (Metro Area) $27280 $17K – $44K 900 0.05%
PA Pittsburgh $27560 $22K – $48K 550 0.05%
PA Reading $20880 $16K – $41K 70 0.04%
PA Scranton – Wilkes – Barre $30450 $22K – $52K 110 0.04%
PA York – Hanover $18750 $16K – $46K 110 0.06%
PR San Juan – Caguas – Guaynabo $27420 $16K – $45K 200 0.03%
RI Providence – Fall River – Warwick $23550 $19K – $39K 360 0.07%
SC Charleston – North Charleston – Summerville $30700 $18K – $49K 90 0.03%
SC Columbia $19440 $16K – $43K 110 0.03%
SC Greenville – Mauldin – Easley $35670 $17K – $67K 100 0.03%
SC Myrtle Beach – North Myrtle Beach – Conway $29360 $18K – $59K 140 0.13%
SC Spartanburg $39100 $17K – $50K 30 0.03%
SD Sioux Falls $28630 $21K – $45K 40 0.03%
TN Chattanooga $23630 $19K – $30K 230 0.10%
TN Jackson $24170 $18K – $30K N/A N/A
TN Kingsport – Bristol – Bristol $29410 $18K – $46K 50 0.04%
TN Knoxville $25600 $18K – $41K 100 0.03%
TN Memphis $21910 $17K – $49K 170 0.03%
TN Nashville – Davidson – Murfreesboro – Franklin $28840 $19K – $42K 310 0.04%
TX Amarillo $22100 $16K – $30K 70 0.06%
TX Austin – Round Rock – San Marcos $31440 $18K – $44K 340 0.04%
TX Beaumont – Port Arthur $23330 $18K – $39K 50 0.03%
TX Dallas – Plano – Irving (Metro Area) $24880 $17K – $60K 800 0.04%
TX El Paso $28050 $20K – $42K 110 0.04%
TX Fort Worth – Arlington (Metro Area) $27710 $17K – $44K 340 0.04%
TX Houston – Sugar Land – Baytown $24740 $17K – $58K 960 0.04%
TX Killeen – Temple – Fort Hood $21920 $16K – $46K 40 0.03%
TX Longview $19100 $16K – $38K 50 0.05%
TX Lubbock $34380 $21K – $61K 70 0.05%
TX McAllen – Edinburg – Mission $25730 $18K – $49K 80 0.03%
TX San Antonio – New Braunfels $37160 $18K – $55K 230 0.03%
TX Tyler $19800 $16K – $40K 50 0.05%
TX Waco $37760 $18K – $57K 30 0.03%
UT Ogden – Clearfield $30070 $17K – $58K 100 0.05%
UT Provo – Orem $24190 $18K – $69K 110 0.06%
UT Salt Lake City $33070 $18K – $68K 360 0.06%
VA Lynchburg $25610 $17K – $71K 50 0.05%
VA Richmond $37890 $22K – $64K 130 0.02%
VA Roanoke $37250 $25K – $58K 50 0.03%
VA Virginia Beach – Norfolk – Newport News $34020 $18K – $48K 390 0.06%
VT Burlington – South Burlington $36720 $25K – $58K 60 0.05%
WA Seattle – Bellevue – Everett (Metro Area) $22840 $19K – $57K 900 0.06%
WA Spokane $26210 $19K – $57K 90 0.04%
WA Tacoma (Metro Area) $20480 $19K – $78K N/A N/A
WA Yakima $25670 $20K – $36K 40 0.05%
WI Appleton $28500 $24K – $44K 40 0.04%
WI Eau Claire $18960 $16K – $30K 30 0.04%
WI Green Bay $28600 $20K – $61K 110 0.07%
WI Madison $31740 $21K – $58K 230 0.07%
WI Milwaukee – Waukesha – West Allis $27800 $20K – $55K 270 0.03%
WI Racine $23010 $17K – $37K 50 0.07%
WV Charleston $23360 $17K – $49K 140 0.10%
WV Huntington – Ashland $20340 $17K – $27K 50 0.05%
WY Cheyenne $36250 $26K – $46K 40 0.10%

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