Become a Professional Photographer

In order to become a professional photographer, you must be able to take good pictures. While some photographers go to college and actually get a degree in photography or photojournalism, this type of education is not a requirement unless you are looking to work for a top publication like The New York Times or National Geographic. Less prestigious publications may just require an associate's degree while other employers will just want to see samples of your work to make sure you can take clear pictures of interesting subjects or events.

Job Options

If you are a photographer, you have a vast array of job possibilities available to you. First of all, you have to decide if you want to work for someone else or for yourself. If you like to have job stability and a regular paycheck, you might consider working for a photography company or studio. Photography companies often do things like take school pictures and team photos for a wide variety of youth sports teams. Just think about all the various sports young people are involved in, and you will start to get some scope about how big this market is. You might also work at a studio where people come in to have posed pictures made. Many portrait studios exist, some of which specialize in making their subjects look glamorous or in doing black and white head shots for actors. If you want to be a freelance photographer, you could take pictures for special events like weddings, anniversary parties, bar mitzvahs, etc. You might also be hired by magazines to take photographs to go with stories they are running. You can even sell photos you have taken to various publications, including online sites that are always looking for stock footage.

More Information

Depending on whether you choose to work for a company or be self employed, your income as a photographer can vary widely. If you are working for a newspaper or magazine, you can expect to earn between $30,000 - $40,000 a year. However, if you are freelancing, the salary range is much broader - anywhere from $15,000/year - $65,000/year depending on how much business you are able to get for yourself.

As far as work hours go for photographers, if you happen to be someone who takes school pictures, you will probably work from about 7 or 8 in the morning until 4 or 5 in the afternoon Monday through Friday. In addition to taking pictures, you may also have to fill out paperwork and help develop film. Other photographers can expect to work a wide variety of hours including some nights and weekends. If you work for a paper or magazine, you may be required to cover events that happen in the evenings and on the weekends. Also, most sports teams play at night and on the weekends. In addition, the majority of special events like weddings take place on the weekends.

Advancement opportunities are limited for photographers who work for companies, since these businesses usually have salary caps; however, if you work for yourself, how much you make is only limited by how many customers you have and how much work you can handle. The better photographer you are, the more likely you are to get referrals and repeat business, and you are well on your way to making a nice living.