Education and Training Requirements

High School

While in high school, take as many art classes and photography classes that are available. Chemistry is useful for understanding developing and printing processes. You can learn about photo editing software and digital photography in computer classes, and business classes will help if you are considering a freelance career.

Postsecondary Training

A college education is not required to become a photographer, although college training probably offers the most promising assurance of success in fields such as industrial, news, or scientific photography. There are degree programs at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's levels. Many schools offer courses in cinematography, although very few have programs leading to a degree in this specialty. Many men and women, however, become photographers with no formal education beyond high school.

To become a photographer, you should have a broad technical understanding of photography plus as much practical experience with cameras as possible. Take many different kinds of photographs with a variety of cameras and subjects. Learn how to develop photographs and, if possible, build your own darkroom or rent one. Experience in picture composition, cropping prints (cutting images to a desired size), enlarging, and retouching are all valuable. Learn how to use digital cameras and photo editing software.

Other Education or Training

Continuing education events, seminars, classes, and other activities are offered by many professional associations, including American Photographic Artists, American Society of Media Photographers, American Society of Picture Professionals, and the Professional Photographers of America. Contact these organizations for more information. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Professional Photographers of America offers certification to photographers who have had their creative work reviewed by a panel of judges and passed a written exam that tests their technical expertise. Visit for more information.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

The best way to gain experience in the field is to work as an assistant to a photographer. Contact photographers in your area to inquire about opportunities. Additionally, obtain as much photographic experience as possible.

Manual dexterity, good eyesight and color vision, and artistic ability are necessary to succeed as a photographer. You need an eye for form and line, an appreciation of light and shadow, and the ability to use imaginative and creative approaches to photographs or film, especially in commercial work. In addition, you should be patient and accurate and enjoy working with detail.

Freelance photographers need good business skills. They must be able to manage their own studios, including hiring and managing assistants and other employees, keeping records, and maintaining photographic and business files. Marketing and sales skills are also important to a successful freelance photography business.