Photographic Laboratory Workers


Employment Prospects


Approximately 11,940 photographic process workers and processing machine operators are employed in the United States. Photographic lab workers work for photofinishing laboratories, portrait studios, and commercial laboratories. Other employers include general merchandise stores and the motion picture, printing, and publishing industries. A small percentage are self-employed or work in the printing industry, portrait studios, and commercial laboratories that provide services to professional photographers.

Starting Out

After receiving a high school diploma or its equivalent, prospective photographic laboratory workers usually apply for jobs at photofinishing laboratories. New employees in photographic laboratories begin as helpers to experienced technicians. As they gain experience, they can start printing and developing pictures on their own. Semiskilled workers usually receive a few months of on-the-job training, while developers may take three or four years to become thoroughly familiar with their jobs.

Advancement Prospects

Advancement in this field is usually from technical jobs, such as film developer, to supervisory and managerial positions. Semiskilled workers who continue their education in film processing techniques may move up to developer, head darkroom technician, and supervisory jobs.

Aspiring young photographers often take jobs in photo labs to provide themselves with a source of income while they attempt to establish themselves as professionals. There they can learn the most basic techniques of color, black and white, and slide reproduction. Those who accumulate sufficient capital may open their own commercial studios.

Tips for Entry

At age 16, you can apply for a photo lab technician job at most film departments at convenience stores such as CVS or Walgreens. This is a great way to gain experience.

Develop your interpersonal and communication skills by participating in extracurricular activities in high school. Such skills will make you a stronger job applicant.

Learn basic photography techniques and skills while you're still in school. Join a school or community photography club.