How To Become a Photographer

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 15, 2022  •  8 min read  •  Creative
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If you want to find out how to become a photographer, it’s important to understand your actual career path. There are many different types of photographers. Along with the different types, this career can take on several different paths.

Some photographers don’t have a college degree, while others do. It’s possible to become a photographer without any education. However, some areas of photography will require a degree.

Before you decide to become a photographer, it’s important to define your career path. Let’s look at the job duties of a photographer, the types of photographers, and how to become a photographer below.

How To Become a Photographer

Job Duties of a Photographer

The job duties of a photographer will vary from one type to another. However, most photographers will be in charge of taking pictures, editing images, and delivering a final product to clients. Whether you work for a magazine or you shoot weddings, you will likely need to take and edit your pictures.

Along with these basic job duties, most photographers will be responsible for maintaining their equipment. This may include cameras, lighting apparatuses, props, and more.

If you work as a freelance photographer or you’re self-employed, you may also have many common business job duties. In this case, you will be responsible for your accounting, marketing, and running your business.

4 Steps To Becoming a Photographer

Step #1 – Gain the Necessary Skills

There is no one-size-fits-all degree or training program for photography. If you want to become a photojournalist, you might need to get a journalism degree. However, if you want to become a family photographer, you don’t need a degree.

Depending on the type of photographer you want to become, you may or may not need a degree. However, you will need to gain skills in photography. Taking courses in different types of photography can help you learn how to become a photographer.

Some specialties will benefit from a degree, however. For example, a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts can help, if you want to become a fine arts photographer. More important than a degree, you should understand the following:

These are just the basics for any photographer. You will likely need specialized training for your specific area of expertise.

Step #2 – Get the Right Equipment

Many photographers work as freelancers. You might be self-employed as a photographer. Regardless, you will need the right equipment.

Your equipment should include a quality camera, backdrops, props, specialty lenses, portable lighting, and potentially a dark room. You might need more or less equipment, depending on the type of photographer you want to become.

Step #3 – Learn Your Equipment

As a photographer, you should be an expert in your equipment. You should know exactly how to use it and get the most out of it. Along with your equipment, you should become an expert in your editing software.

Step #4 – Build a Portfolio

Instead of a degree, many photographers have a portfolio. You want to show off your best pictures and provide a variety of shots in your portfolio. While you may not be trying to impress an employer, the portfolio is the number one marketing tool for most photographers.

Types of Professional Photographers

There are several types of professional photographers. Before you gain education and training, make sure you know which path you want to follow.

1. Photojournalism

If you want to become a photographer for a magazine or publication, you want to enter into photojournalism. This type of photographer will document political rallies, community celebrations, war zones, natural disasters, and all types of breaking news.

2. Fashion Photographer

You can join the exciting world of fashion without becoming a designer. As a fashion photographer, you will likely work with top fashion companies and magazines. You will take pictures of models on the runway, handle catalog photoshoots, and more.

This can be an exciting career option for photographers. You will likely want to work in Paris, Milan, or New York since these are the most popular areas for fashion.

3. Wedding Photographer

If you want to help happy couples capture their big day, becoming a wedding photographer is a great option. You will likely be self-employed. This type of photographer will take pictures of actual weddings, rehearsal dinners, and handle engagement photoshoots.

It’s common for wedding photographers to also provide other services, such as newborn photography and baby photography. They may follow the couple along their journey and provide family pictures throughout their entire life.

4. Travel Photographer

If you love to travel and you want to get paid to travel, becoming a travel photographer makes sense. You can get paid to take pictures while traveling. this could include capturing the landscape, photographing an event, or many other things. Travel photographers often blend multiple types of photography into one.

5. Sports Photographer

If you love sports, you can work at sporting events as a sports photographer. You will take pictures from the sidelines for publications, posters, and even for the teams. It’s common to work in advertising or in news media as a sports photographer.

6. Family Photographer

As a family photographer, you will focus on family portraits and photoshoots. You might also work as a newborn or baby photographer. Many family photographers will provide senior pictures, family portraits, event photography services, and more.

7. Crime Scene Photographer

Maybe you want to go into law enforcement without becoming a police officer. As a crime scene photographer, you will be responsible for capturing evidence, the physical appearance of victims, and more. You will document a crime scene with your camera to help with investigations.

8. Architectural Photographer

If you want to capture beautiful buildings, you want to become an architectural photographer. This type of photographer will likely work for architectural agencies as a freelancer. You will take pictures of buildings to capture the interior and exterior design elements.

9. Product Photographer

Typically, a product photographer will work in advertising. They help companies advertise their products by taking incredible photos of what they have to offer. Within this category, you can specialize in a specific niche, such as food or jewelry.

10. Aerial Photographer

A very popular type of photography becoming more popular by the day is aerial photography. You will take pictures from a drone and provide aerial shots for a variety of clients.

There are many other types of photographers, as well. Figuring out the type of images you want to take will help you choose the right education and training for your new career.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Photographer

How much can I make as a photographer?

The average salary of a photographer is hard to nail down. Many online sources will put it at about $17 per hour, but this is rather inaccurate. With some photographers working part-time, the numbers are not exactly accurate. Plus, the most successful photographers often work for themselves.

If you go into advertising or a specific type of photography, the pay might be much higher too. Many wedding photographers charge as much as $200 per hour. Your salary may range from around $30K per year to more than $250K per year.

Which industries pay the most for photographers?

If you enter into one of the following five industries, you will likely earn more than the average photographer:

Working as a wedding photographer or a family photographer can also pay more if you work for yourself. Any photographer running their own business has the potential to make a large salary.

Can I learn how to become a photographer with online courses?

Yes. There are many online courses to help you learn photography. Depending on the type of photographer you want to become, you may need actual college courses or a degree, however.

What type of hours do photographers work?

Your hours will vary, depending on the type of photographer you become. A traveling photographer will keep very odd hours. If you’re a wedding photographer, you will work many weekends. It’s common for photographers to work long and odd hours.

Since a photographer also has to edit images and create final products, they will likely work long hours. You might spend 10 hours a week taking pictures and another 30 hours or more editing those images. It just depends on the type of photographer you become.

It’s rather common for photographers to work more than 40 hours per week. If you work for yourself, you might have to run your business, as well. This can lead to long hours, especially during busier times of the year.

Becoming a photographer can be a very rewarding career option. You can choose to specialize in many different areas. Now you know how to become a photographer. The next step on this career path is up to you. Choose a specialty and start gaining the necessary skills.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.