Have you been told you “have a good eye”? Do your friends always want you to take pictures at parties, or even their weddings? Maybe you went through that photography phase in high school and it never stopped. Or maybe you love the gear – the lenses, the lighting, the filters and other toys.
It’s time to get serious. Everybody and their great aunt thinks they can be a photographer. If you want to break into the field as a profession, you’re going to need some formal training.
Colleges and universities offer career training at the undergraduate and graduate level. A Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Photography is the proper course for bachelor degree programs. If you want to go further into the field, maybe even teach it at the post-secondary level, you will want to pursue a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. Courses in both programs start with the following:
- photography techniques
- studio lighting
- color theory
- graphic design
- digital photography
- artwork critique
Upper division coursework will include more advanced techniques as well as time to develop a portfolio, a useful tool when transitioning to your career as a professional Photographer.
The MFA program focuses more on developing your photography skills and takes an additional 2-3 years of study time. Some of these programs require students to take courses that focus on developing their teaching skills as many go on to become instructors.
Although some photographers work for newspapers and magazines, advertising, or teaching in secondary or post-secondary schools, most Photographers are self-employed – actually, 60%. If the idea of having a boss constantly keeping you in check is daunting, this may be a fitting gig for you. There are many focuses within this world, the most popular are:
- News Photography
- Aerial Photography
- Portrait Photography
- Sports Photography
- Travel Photography
- Wedding Photography
- Commercial/Industrial Photography
- Scientific Photography
- Fine Art Photography
- School Photography
Once you figure out what kind of pictures you want to make, go ahead and figure a way to break into the market. Photography is extremely competitive; you may have to intern or do a lot of networking while still in college, and you’ll spend some time working for free. After that, you’re likely to be freelancing, so keep that camera at the ready. You never know what you’ll catch.
As a photographer, you will need to be familiar with how to:
- use both natural and artificial light
- use photo editing software
- maintain your portfolio and your website
- use a variety of photographic equipment
- market and advertise your services
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for Photographers as reported in May of 2012 was $28k a year. Photography is furthermore projected to grow by 4% between the years 2012-2022. This may be low as digital cameras become available to the public at such reasonable costs. However, some concentrations in the field of Photography will do better than others. For example, quality portrait work is a stable focus, being that it requires a higher skill level and expensive equipment.