Photographer Job Description - Definition, Duties, Requirements and Career

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What Does a Photographer Do?

Photographer job description

A photographer is a person who takes photographs for a living. Photographers use their cameras to record people, places, moments, events and objects, to tell stories and to convey emotions. Their task is to produce high quality photographic images that meet the requirements of their clients, in accordance with the agreed conditions and deadlines. A professional photographer is responsible for all of the various stages involved in producing a professional quality photographic image, from shooting through to developing and printing, including post-production editing and retouching using software such as Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

Photographers work in a wide range of fields, including advertising, media and communication (e.g. as a photojournalist or reporter), and events (event photographer) - especially as a wedding photographer or sports photographer. They may also find work taking photos in amusement parks, in holiday resorts (often seasonal work), as well as in the world of fashion, producing photo books for models, doing fashion shoots and covering fashion shows. Photographers are also employed in TV and cinema, where they have a key role in determining framing and camera angles and selecting lenses, and are also often hired on film sets to shoot production stills. Finally, in the art world, photographers often obtain work taking photos for use in exhibitions or art publications (e.g. books, magazines and catalogues).

The services of commercial photographers are often required by businesses needing shots of their products - e.g. articles of clothing or other items - for use on e-commerce sites or for publication in catalogues, leaflets, brochures or other promotional and sales material (digital or paper). Further work opportunities for professional photographers include shooting exteriors and interiors of houses and buildings for the property market (real estate photographer) and producing commercial or promotional images for marketing and communications campaigns.

Photographer skills and competencies

Photographers are often self-employed, providing their services on a freelance basis or else working on behalf of a photographic agency. They often work in studios, but are equally likely to work on location. Sets for photo shoots can be situated in an infinite variety of both indoor and outdoor locations and may involve travel to a wide range of destinations, based on client requirements.

Photographers have no standard working hours and may be required to work in the evenings and at weekends to meet their deadlines and satisfy a client’s requirements. In order to attract clients and secure photographic assignments, an essential asset for any photographer is a portfolio showing their best work.

Some photographers may have their own photography shop. In such cases, they will typically offer a range of photographic services, including taking photos for passports, driving licenses and ID cards, shooting portraits, providing photographic services for events, anniversaries and celebrations (e.g. weddings, parties, graduations) and producing photographic prints on a range of different media. They may also sell photographic equipment, such as camera, lenses and filters and provide photographic consultancy services.

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Photographer - Duties and Responsibilities

Photographer tasks and responsibilities

The main responsibilities of a photographer include:

  • Creating photographic sets in a studio or at outside locations
  • Producing photos, photo shoots and photobooks
  • Digital editing of images and photo retouching
  • Developing and printing photos

How to Become a Photographer: Education and Requirements

How to become Photographer - Training

There are a large number of photography schools and institutes that teach students the basics of photography, as well as the specialist skills and knowledge needed to become a professional photographer.

Passion and artistic talent are all important attributes for an aspiring photographer, but what is truly essential is to acquire the necessary skills and techniques and to learn to use professional photographic equipment (e.g. cameras, lenses, filters and lighting equipment). Other key skills include the ability to use image editing and photo retouching software, such as Photoshop and Adobe Creative Suite.

Neophyte photographers will benefit greatly from an apprenticeship or internship at a photography studio, as this will allow them to gain valuable real world experience and learn a wide range of different skills. Working as an assistant to a pro photographer is the best way to learn the trade and will stand aspiring photographers in good stead for a professional career.

Main Skills of a Professional Photographer

A photographer needs to have the following skills:

  • Knowledge of photographic techniques
  • Ability to produce professional quality photographs
  • Ability to edit and manipulate photos using image editing and retouching software
  • Creativity and artistic flair
  • Communication skills
  • Willingness to travel based on client / project requirements

Career Path and What to Expect

Photographer career path

Photographers have a vast range of specialist career options to choose from, including wedding photography, industrial photography, photojournalism for TV news programmes, newspapers and magazine, still life and portraits, food photography, sports photography, tourist photography, aerial photography, architectural and landscape photography, advertising and commercial photography for websites, publications and catalogues. One possible course of action is therefore to specialize and attain a high level of expertise in one (or more) of these areas, attending professional training courses for photographers where necessary.

A job in photography does not necessarily mean working as a photographer, of course. There are a number of other related trades, such as photo restoration, for example, or working as a digital assistant, which involves assisting a professional photographer on set and organizing, processing and archiving the images that are produced. Another option is to specialize in post-production, as talented post-production experts have a key role to play in the world of photography. A further alternative is to look for work with a film production company, as a camera operator or editor, eventually progressing to a role as director of photography for TV and cinema.

A final career option for photographers is the possibility of becoming a photography instructor at a school or institute and transmitting their passion for the art of photography to others.

Top Reasons to Work as a Photographer

Many who decide to pursue a career as a professional photographer are guided in their choice by talent and passion. The field of photography offers its practitioners the opportunity not only to produce work that captures, delights and engages the imagination, but also to express themselves and add their own creative touch to a scene or image. The job of a photographer is a varied one. As well as offering a significant degree of freedom and flexibility, it also offers the opportunity to work in stimulating and dynamic environments, meet interesting new people and travel to a range of exciting locations, both at home and abroad.

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