A photographer’s career can take on many different shapes. It’s one of the few life paths that allows for an ever-changing job description. One night you might spend your time snapping shots of the stars, the next photographing scientific discoveries. The success of your career could even be based around snapping pictures of quickly melting ice cream for a new Ben and Jerry’s flavor.
Food, adventure, travel, sex, crime – you can experience it all by accepting photography jobs.
On the flip side, a large variety of directions your career can take means that there’s no set path for which one of the photography careers to take. No one has written a checklist of steps to take or techniques to learn that will guarantee you a comfortable life as a photographer. This lack of guidebook isn’t for lack of trying.
However, every single one of photography careers is different.
Even within a small, specific niche field, there is an array of difficulty levels, education requirements, and skills used. Furthermore, there can be a wide gap in pay for similar work as well based on who you’re doing it for.
If you love a challenge, trying everything once, and being behind a camera, a career in photography could be for you. Keep reading for a list of the growing careers in the photography industry for 2020 and open your mind to the many options available.
“The best career advice I’ve gotten is to stay focused, keep moving forward.” – Tyga
Classic Easy-Entry Photography Jobs
Though not all the most glamorous, photography jobs in these areas are known for a reason – there’s a huge need for their services. Each of these subfields of the photography industry will provide consistent work once you’re good at what you do.
Luckily, these are easy areas to get good at and break into. With a decent camera, some basic knowledge, and a few other equipment pieces, these jobs are a great way to begin your photography career.
Every year, millions of school children will need their class picture taken. Family members treasure the posed, annual images that show a child’s development and growth. A school photographer’s work becomes saved forever in yearbooks, class pictures, and home picture frames.
This photography field is best suited for patient individuals who love interacting with children. If the challenge of snapping a perfect picture while using a puppet with one hand and simultaneously making sure someone doesn’t knock over your precious camera gear sounds like your kind of adventure, you’re set. The hardest part of this niche is the child wrangling and human-interaction factor.
The actual picture composition skills and camera quality requirements for school photography are not advanced. This low cost of entry in materials and techniques makes it an excellent choice for those looking to break into the industry.
The fact that the wedding industry is one of the largest target markets of photography services should surprise no one. Wedding and engagement photographers have levels of work unmatched by any other subfield. If you’re concerned about inconsistent work opportunities, filling the needs of the wedding industry might be for you.
Wedding pictures give photographers opportunities to become creative with the details they catch and the group posing they choose. Even though weddings have many of the same elements across the board, every ceremony and wedding party is different. A different group of people, a different location, different flower choices. For photographers who love details and variety, the job can be quite fun.
The one downside to becoming a wedding photographer is the requirement of interacting with people who are either extremely stressed (the bride leading up to the wedding) or heavily under the influence of alcohol (wedding guests). Anything can happen at a wedding, and you have to both document and manage it.
That said, there is a lot of money in the wedding industry. Becoming the premier wedding photographer in your region will ensure consistent work and a comfortable income.
A much less commonly known area of the field, astrophotography involves taking pictures of planets, stars, and other elements of space. Breathtaking images of the moon or Milky Way have to be created by someone, and that someone could be you.
To get started in astrophotography, you will need the right lenses and other gear, such as telescopes. After your initial investment, you’ll quickly see a return, and the clients will start rolling in. Though everyone loves these type of pictures, there aren’t a lot of people taking them.
The lack of saturation of astrophotographers and the lower skill levels involved once you have the equipment makes this an excellent field for advanced beginners searching for high-income levels.
Jobs with Consistent Work
These jobs require photographers to become the best at taking a particular type of picture. To many, this category of employment can appear mundane or boring. However, if you can find an area that excites you, you’ll be set for your career.
In the following jobs, you’ll find consistent work that pays well – sometimes an elusive combination of criteria in the photography industry.
The subfield of photomicrography involves using a microscope or powerful zoom lens to take pictures of the tiny things. Molecules, bacteria, and viruses need their photos taken too!
This might be the job for you if you don’t mind working indoors every day and loved science class in school. Becoming an expert in photomicrography will create opportunities to be on teams for breaking scientific discoveries. As a bonus, you don’t have to do the experiments – just be there to document what happens.
Stock pictures are available online for writers, advertisers, or journalists who need images to add to their work but don’t have the resources or opportunities to take them. Sometimes, they need a picture to demonstrate a specific emotion – happy, sad, or frustrated, for example. Sometimes they need to write about a season or location they aren’t currently in. It’s hard to take a picture of fall in New England when it’s now summer at the beach.
Stock photo sites create galleries of pictures for any scenario, location type, or situation one can imagine. Taking these photos, and doing them well, can generate residual income streams – a benefit for photographers who value their free time and not working 24/7. Once you’ve taken stock photos, you can see payments for years when people use them.
Real Estate Photography
Real estate agents need pictures of the homes and industrial properties available for sale or lease. They need pictures that make people want to come to see the homes, offices, or shops they represent. Without an enticing image, no one will become interested and make an appointment.
If you love homes and don’t mind taking the same style of picture over and over, real estate photography might be for you. For some people, taking pictures of 15 different bathrooms in a day sounds miserable. However, if you can enjoy the qualities that make each bathroom unique and find pleasure in taking great pictures no matter the available lighting, you might find that real estate photography is a great fit.
Product photographers make a company’s product appear high quality and worthy of purchase. Their pictures make you decide that you must make a reservation at that new restaurant in town or buy that specific pair of boots. It’s a dynamic combination of marketing, psychology, and photography.
It’s common for product photographers to find themselves in long-term contracts with companies. This allows them to know the brand intimately and drive marketing campaigns with consistent images. If you like the idea of a set rate of pay, this can be enticing.
The one downside to product photography is the mundaneness it can bring. Sometimes it might feel that one can only take so many different pictures of a pair of shoes. If you can find joy in the consistent work and creativity challenge, your bank account will thank you in the long run.
Photographer Career List of Jobs That Are Hard to Begin
These photography jobs are filled with variety, excitement, and, often, great paychecks. However, due to the specific skills and more advanced education required, it’s harder to find your first job in these fields. Once you’re in, however, anything is possible.
Not for the squeamish, medical photography involves taking pictures of human bodies – both dead and alive – and their illnesses or injuries. Medical photographers can participate in everything from taking success photos after plastic surgery to helping photograph a body in autopsy for the police.
Most medical photographers have some kind of training in the medical field so that they’ll know what to be looking at.
Fine Art Photography
As with most of the fine arts, fine art photography requires that a strong educational foundation for the work that has come before. Fine art photographers must know the key players of history so that they can take their work and spin it on its head. However, you can’t innovate if you don’t know what you’re changing, so it is good to know how much can your photographer career be paid.
“Fine art is knowledge made visible.” – Gustave Courbet
Most fine art photographers have advanced academic degrees and years of experience in the field before they become successful.
Similar to fine art photography, fashion photography often requires a deep understanding of the foundational and historical elements of the fashion industry. Most fashion photographers began either as fashion models themselves or with a lucky internship. As a highly sought after field, competition is intense.
Intense, Risky Photography Jobs
Photography isn’t easy. It involves bending, climbing, and even lying on the ground to get the perfect shot. Photographers participating in these fields take that challenge even further. Taking one of these demanding photography jobs will require physical strength and skill, along with a little bit of bravery, in addition to what you’ve got behind the camera.
When reading newspapers or watching the news on armed conflict worldwide, it’s rare that we, the viewers, consider who is behind the camera. The photographer is right there in that scary, violent situation. The courage required to enter those zones, let alone risk your life to follow your art and tell your story, is extreme.
Wartime photography involves a connection with groups that will grant clearance. This job often requires special permits or insurance.
As accessible as nature photography is for a beginner, wildlife photography is challenging and extreme. To take great pictures of animals in the wild, one must often find themselves in uncomfortable, precarious situations. If you need a picture of a bear looking the camera in the eye, you must be there, close to the bear, and staring straight towards it. Most wildlife photographers will tell you that the many rewards and beautiful experiences outweigh all the risks, but it’s a career that requires special training in wilderness survival and safety.
Sports photography involves much more than sitting at the finish line of a race. It often consists of attempts to keep up with athletes to get shots at many different angles on different parts of the track or field.
Not only are sports photographers rarely sitting, but they also have a lot of other elements to remain aware of. If the event involves a ball, they need to know where it is to avoid being hit or interfering with the game. Sports photographers also have to be certain they don’t hit, trip or get in the way of any other athletes, spectators, or coaches also in the area.
In addition to everything else, sports photographers also must have an idea of how the sporting event they’re observing works. They need to be able to predict what might happen next and try not to miss any key moments.
Only the truly dedicated sports photographers experience long-term success. However, the opportunities exist for those who want them.
So, What Will It Be?
As you can see, no two paths are the same in photography. We want to know, after reading this list, which direction do you see your photography career path taking?