Employment Prospects


About 50,620 photographers work in the United States, roughly 64 percent of whom are self-employed. Most jobs for photographers are provided by photographic or commercial art studios; other employers include newspapers and magazines, radio and TV broadcasting, government agencies, and manufacturing firms. Colleges, universities, and other educational institutions employ photographers to prepare promotional and educational materials.

Starting Out

Some photographers enter the field as apprentices, trainees, or assistants. Trainees may work in a darkroom, camera shop, or developing laboratory. They may move lights and arrange backgrounds for a commercial or portrait photographer or motion picture photographer. Assistants spend many months learning this kind of work before they move into a job behind a camera.

Many large cities offer schools of photography, which may be a good way to start in the field. Beginning press photographers may work for one of the many newspapers and magazines published in their area. Other photographers choose to go into business for themselves as soon as they have finished their formal education. Setting up a studio may not require a large capital outlay, but beginners may find that success does not come easily.

Advancement Prospects

Because photography is such a diversified field, there is no usual way in which to get ahead. Those who begin by working for someone else may advance to owning their own businesses. Commercial photographers may gain prestige as more of their pictures are placed in well-known trade journals or popular magazines. Press photographers may advance in salary and the kinds of important news stories assigned to them. A few photographers may become celebrities in their own right by making contributions to the art world or the sciences.

Tips for Entry

Begin assembling your portfolio, which should highlight your best work. For portfolio tips, visit Popphoto at

Enter photography contests to gain exposure.

Begin saving money to invest in equipment for your photography business.

If you plan on being self-employed, build a social media presence by creating a Facebook business page, Twitter account, and Instagram page under your business name. Encourage friends and family to share your photos (watermarked to prevent copyright infringement) to spread the word about your business.