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Photographers use a variety of photographic equipment to capture events, people, objects or scenes for records, art or commercial use.

Many photographers begin their careers as photographic assistants, setting up lights and stands, arranging transport and occasionally acting as a 'second shooter'.

What does a photographer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Photographers tend to specialise in one particular area of photography such as press and photojournalism, fashion or scientific and medical photography. Their work typically entails:

  • setting up photographic equipment
  • taking pictures
  • editing and retouching images
  • choosing and setting up locations
  • reproducing and framing photographs
  • promoting their business (especially if self-employed)
  • researching and making contacts
  • general administration.

The majority of their work is undertaken 'on location', so travel and irregular working hours are common features of the job.

Typical employers of photographers

  • Agencies
  • Picture libraries
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Catalogues
  • Advertising agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Medical publishers
  • Museums
  • Art galleries
  • Auctioneers

There are other specialist areas of work such as scientific, aerial and forensic photography.

Many jobs receive little advertising and are filled via personal contacts, so networking, job shadowing and speculative applications are essential – particularly for the most popular areas of work such as advertising, fashion, magazine and newspaper photography.

It is advisable to prepare a relevant portfolio, which can be used to highlight your abilities in speculative applications. Advertised vacancies appear in newspapers and specialist publications such as British Journal of Photography and its respective website.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into photography for both university graduates and school leavers.

Photography, film, art, design or media studies degrees can be advantageous – particularly for technical skills. Alternatively, there are many part-time photography courses, such as City & Guilds and Creative Skillset, which can offer a useful starting point.

To find out how to get into a career in photography via a school leaver route, visit the media section of TARGETcareers, our website for school leavers.

Key skills for photographers

  • Creativity
  • Technical photography skills
  • Patience and concentration
  • Attention to detail
  • Strong networking skills
  • Team working skills

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