About 50,620 photographers work in the United States, about 64 percent of whom are self-employed. Most jobs for photographers are provided by photographic or commercial art studios; other employers include public relations and advertising firms, newspapers and magazines, radio and TV broadcasting, film companies, government agencies, and manufacturing firms. Colleges, universities, and other educational institutions employ photographers to prepare promotional and educational materials.
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 publicity 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 photographers may work for a public relations firm, newspapers, or magazine 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.
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. A few photographers may become celebrities in their own right by making contributions to the art world or the sciences.
Tips for Entry
Start developing a portfolio of your work so that you are ready to begin looking for jobs once you graduate. Include only your best work.
Create your own Web site that showcases your photography and advertises your services.
Read industry publications such as ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography (https://www.asmp.org/professional-development/books-business-practices) to learn more about trends in the industry and potential employers.
Join professional associations to access training and networking opportunities, industry publications, and employment opportunities.
Participate in internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office.