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Photographer Training and Qualifications
Employers usually seek applicants with a "good eye," imagination, and
creativity, as well as a good technical understanding of photography.
Photojournalists or industrial or scientific photographers generally need a
college degree. Freelance and portrait photographers need technical proficiency,
gained through a degree, training program, or experience.
Education and training. Entry-level
positions in photojournalism or in industrial or scientific photography
generally require a college degree in photography or in a field related to the
industry in which the photographer seeks employment. Entry-level freelance or
portrait photographers need technical proficiency. Some complete a college
degree or vocational training programs.
Photography courses are offered by many universities, community and junior
colleges, vocational-technical institutes, and private trade and technical
schools. Basic courses in photography cover equipment, processes, and
techniques. Learning good business and marketing skills is important and some
bachelor's degree programs offer courses focusing on them. Art schools offer
useful training in photographic design and composition.
Photographers may start out as assistants to experienced photographers.
Assistants acquire the technical knowledge needed to be a successful
photographer and also learn other skills necessary to run a portrait or
commercial photography business.
Individuals interested in a career in photography should try to develop
contacts in the field by subscribing to photographic newsletters and magazines,
joining camera clubs, and seeking summer or part-time employment in camera
stores, newspapers, or photo studios.
Other qualifications. Photographers need
good eyesight, artistic ability, and good hand-eye coordination. They should be
patient, accurate, and detail-oriented and should be able to work well with
others, as they frequently deal with clients, graphic designers, and advertising
and publishing specialists. Photographers need to know how to use computer
software programs and applications that allow them to prepare and edit images,
and those who market directly to clients should know how to use the Internet to
display their work.
Portrait photographers need the ability to help people relax in front of the
camera. Commercial and fine arts photographers must be imaginative and original.
News photographers must not only be good with a camera, but also understand the
story behind an event so that their pictures match the story. They must be
decisive in recognizing a potentially good photograph and act quickly to capture
Many photographers have websites which highlight an online portfolio that
they use to attract work from magazines or advertising agencies. For freelance
photographers, maintaining their website is essential.
Photographers who operate their own business, or freelance, need business
skills as well as talent. These individuals must know how to prepare a business
plan; submit bids; write contracts; keep financial records; market their work;
hire models, if needed; get permission to shoot on locations that normally are
not open to the public; obtain releases to use photographs of people; license
and price photographs; and secure copyright protection for their work. To
protect their rights and their work, self-employed photographers require basic
knowledge of licensing and copyright laws, as well as knowledge of contracts and
Freelance photographers also should develop an individual style of
photography to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Advancement. After several years of
experience, magazine and news photographers may advance to photography or
picture editor positions. Some photographers teach at technical schools, film
schools, or universities.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition
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