Photography is an extremely flexible profession. While most other jobs are limited to a small handful of potential career paths, the world of photography is filled with possibilities. There is a significant and growing demand for photographers as well, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that demand for photography careers will increase by 17% from 2020 to 2030.
Photographers are artists with a talent for framing and capturing the world around them. Some may focus on photos of people, while others make their mark by photographing natural landscapes, wildlife, or any other subject matter.
One draw of these jobs for photographers is that professionals have a lot of freedom in their creative careers. They could work full-time for a photo studio, freelance full-time, or just moonlight as a photographer while maintaining a day job.
Career Options for Photographers
These career options are only a snapshot of all the jobs with photography available. But they’re a good starting point. Some of these may start as fun pastimes, but they can turn into hobbies that make money.
1. Portrait Photography
Creatives with an eye for capturing human personality and emotion on camera may consider portrait photography. As portrait photographers, we could take on a vast number of jobs. One day we could take high school senior photos, and the next we may be taking modeling headshots.
Due to the large assortment of photoshoot types, there is significant demand for portrait photographers. To be successful, we’ll need to have a good understanding of lighting, angles, and atmosphere. Online classes can help us develop these skills and bring our photography to the next level. Portrait photography is an ideal option for freelancers armed with these skills.
2. Commercial Photography
A commercial photographer spends their day taking photos for businesses. This could include taking photos of products or showcasing a company’s services. For example, a company specializing in painting aircraft could hire a commercial photographer to take photos of a shiny new paint job they just completed.
Because commercial photos typically focus on marketing, a commercial photographer should be skilled in taking photos that evoke positive feelings in potential customers. This is one of the jobs for photographers that can have an extremely varied client base.
Photojournalism is one of the most in-demand photography careers. A professional photojournalist takes photos of people, places, and events to accompany news stories. These photos typically appear in newspapers — both print and online — and help give life to news stories.
While it’s possible to work as a freelance photojournalist, most major publications tend to hire in-house photographers.
4. Photo Editor
For those of us who love photography but don’t want to be in the field taking pictures all day, editing may be a better option. A photo editor takes raw images and enhances them using photo editing softwares such Adobe Photoshop. This may be as simple as tweaking the color tone, brightness, and contrast. It could also involve more complex edits, such as removing unwanted background objects and artifacts from photos.
Photo editing is a superb career for freelancers, as they can do it right from their home computers. Many photo editors have other full-time jobs and keep their editing as a side hustle.
5. Wedding Photography
These types of photographers love the glitz and glamour of weddings. Wedding photographers are typically freelancers hired to attend weddings to shoot the bride and groom’s big day. This freelance photography career can be lucrative, especially in the summer months when most weddings occur.
Wedding photography isn’t for the faint of heart, though. Unlike many photography careers where we can take as many versions of a photo as necessary to get it right, we only get one chance with some shots at a wedding since it’s a live event. Wedding photographers also have to get those perfect photos while not interfering with the ceremony.
6. Events Photography
Another option for creatives who enjoy photographing live events is becoming general event photographers. An event photographer documents any type of event. These could include live concerts, corporate holiday parties, and college commencements, just to name a few.
While some studios hire event photographers, most are freelance contractors. Because most public events are in the evenings or weekends, event photography is a good side hustle opportunity for 9-5 workers.
7. Product Photographer
A product photographer is like a commercial photographer but with a focus only on products. The primary goal of a product photographer is to get the perfect lighting and angles to make products look the most desirable to consumers. A product photographer’s work may appear in print advertising, product packaging, or e-commerce product listings.
8. Fine Art Photographer
A fine art photographer’s main purpose is to simply create images with artistic value. This work could include portraits, landscapes, urban scenery, and any other subject matter that may elicit an emotional response. Those who have built a fine art photography career don’t typically work directly for clients, but instead sell their work at art shows or online.
9. Architectural Photographer
As the name suggests, architectural photographers take photos of buildings. While there are freelance architectural photographers, many architectural firms hire in-house photographers to document the creation of their buildings. Photos are taken both inside and out and could be taken before, during, and after construction.
10. Travel Photographer
Travel photographers go to different locations to photograph various subjects. They may travel to take photos of natural scenery or they may visit cities worldwide to document what life is like in these locations. Some travel photographers work for publications to get photos for their travel section, while others freelance. Travel blogs are also popular, so many travel photographers make money by posting photos from exotic locations on their personal blogs, making this photography career both professionally and personally rewarding.
11. Pet Photographer
People love their pets and want photos of them for keepsakes. A pet photographer uses their experience dealing with animals to get memorable images. This job can be tricky, as pets don’t always sit still for long. But a good pet photographer knows all the tricks to get the perfect shots.
12. Sports Photographer
Sports photographers take photos of anything having to do with sports competitions. Typically, this will include photographing athletes during games or practices, but a sports photographer may also find themselves documenting other team-hosted events.
Professional sports teams and news organizations normally hire their own photographers, but there are also some freelance opportunities, especially with high school and some college sports.
13. Aerial Photographer
Aerial photographers take photos of landscapes from the sky. Professionals have traditionally done this with airplanes and cameras, but many freelancers are now using remote-controlled drones to get HD images from above. Due to advancements in drone technology, we can expect the demand for aerial photographers to increase, especially as a type of real estate photography. This type of work is particularly useful in the real estate industry to show a property from above.
14. Documentary Photographer
Documentary photographers are like photojournalists, but their main priority is photographing events or scenes that hold historical significance. A documentary photographer needs to have the ability to tell a story with just a few images.
15. Stock Photographer
Stock photographers take photos for the sole purpose of selling their usage rights. Online magazines, blogs, and advertising agencies often use stock images in their work. This is the market that the stock photographer is looking to serve. Photos can be on virtually any subject and are normally sold online. Stock photographers typically do their work as freelancers.
16. Food Photographer
A food photographer is a specialized commercial photographer that focuses on taking tantalizing images of food. They’re typically hired by restaurants, food magazines, and cookbook publishers to take photos of dishes to publish across various media. A freelance food photographer can carve out a lucrative photography business if they live in an area with many restaurants.
17. Landscape Photographer
A landscape photographer captures the beauty of nature in still images. These photos can be used on websites or in print magazines. Many publications that focus on nature and outdoor topics add landscape photographers to their staff. As a side hustle, landscape photographers can also find success selling their landscape images as stock photos.
18. Real Estate Photographer
Real estate photographers work with realtors to take attractive images of the interior and exterior of homes for sale. Buyers who are shopping for a home rely on quality photos to determine if they want to see a home in person, so the real estate photographer should be skilled at getting just the right lighting to showcase a home’s best features.
19. Newborn Photographer
The birth of a child is one of the most impactful days in a parent’s life. A newborn photographer helps capture that special day by taking photographs for the parents to cherish forever. A successful newborn photographer stages adorable photos, sometimes using props such as stuffed animals. Demand is high for newborn photography, and some hospitals will partner with freelancers or studios to offer services to all mothers in the maternity ward.
20. Still-Life Photographer
Still-life is an artistic style centered around inanimate objects, especially common things like fruit and flowers. While many still-life pieces are usually painted art, some are photographs. Still-life photographers are artists who often make money selling their art online or at art shows. Their pieces may explore color, lighting, or composition.
21. Wildlife Photographer
Wildlife photographers make a career out of taking pictures of animals in their natural habitat. This career can be exciting, as it involves visiting various environments — including forests, deserts, and jungles. In addition to photography skills, a wildlife photographer needs to have an element of stealth to avoid scaring off the subjects of their photos. Some outdoor and wildlife publications will hire in-house wildlife photographers.
22. Family Photographer
A family photographer is like a portrait photographer. Yet instead of photographing individuals, they take photos of families. The required skills are very similar, but the family photographer is also skilled at capturing the spirit of a family’s relationship with one another. Professionals can work either as a freelancer or for a studio. Families will often hire a family photographer to periodically take family portraits, especially to document the changes as the children grow up.
23. Film Photographer
A film photographer works for a movie studio and takes photos during filming. This job requires an ability to showcase atmosphere and liveliness through still images. The film photographer typically creates marketing materials to generate buzz around an upcoming film.
24. Boudoir Photographer
Boudoir photographers take photos of people — typically female — in poses often sensual in nature. this style combines fashion and intimacy, and the images normally generate a feeling of romance. Most boudoir photoshoots aim for a tasteful, intimate feel, and the photographer needs to be skilled in directing the perfect poses to capture this
25. Fashion Photographer
The world of fashion is dominated by images, which means they could use you and your camera. If you want to specialize in photographing models wearing haute couture, you will typically need to work at an agency that has clients in that world. However, young designers are more and more going independent and promoting through social media — an opportunity for a freelancing fashion photographer.
Tips for your photography career or side hustle:
Regardless of the types of jobs with photography we choose, we can all benefit from the following tips:
- Promote the business: Clients won’t find us if we don’t put our work out there. Photographers should create their own websites and social media pages to promote their work. Some even run local paid advertisements through Google Ads. Different types of photographers will have various promotion techniques that work best for them. Trying out a few methods will help determine what promotion works best for the given niche.
- Manage finances: Freelance photographers should consider using accounting software such as QuickBooks. These platforms help with invoicing clients, getting paid, and tracking income.
- Generate sales: When it comes to sales, our methods will depend on the type of photography we do. If we’re selling services, then local advertisements can generate sales. Hand-delivered or mailed flyers offering our services to relevant businesses in our local area can help generate visibility. Google Ads also can also run ad campaigns targeted at our local areas, which can generate sales from those searching for local photographers on Google. Professionals selling stock photography or prints can promote their photos on Instagram or other social media platforms.
- Invest in equipment: Our equipment should fit the type of photography we want to do. For example, nighttime photographers need cameras that excel in low-light situations. Additional considerations include the different lenses and tripods. The equipment doesn’t make the photographer, but quality gear sure helps.
- Always keep improving: Practice makes perfect. Even in our downtime, we can take photographs to develop our technique, play with different lighting, etc. Online photography classes are another fantastic way to develop more skills and pursue one of the many possible photography careers.
- Use freelance contracts: Freelancers should look into developing a standard contract for their clients. While we always want to trust people, we need to protect ourselves and ensure we get paid. The easiest way to do that is with a contract.
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