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The role

A photographer uses a camera to capture images for a wide variety of purposes. They may work with either a film or digital camera. There are different specialisms within the field of photography.

General photography covers small regular studios or photographers who might take portraits or wedding photos.

Within the realm of editorial and photojournalism, a photographer may take photos of an event as it happens, or shoot the subjects of an article to help illustrate it.

Fashion photography, which could be for magazines, advertising or catalogues, involves taking photographs of models wearing clothes. 

There are many other options to look into as well, from advertising to medical photography.

A photographer will pitch for work, and when commissioned, discuss a brief with the client for a job. They will then choose locations, organise a team for the shoot if one is required, organise and set up their equipment, and take the photos for the job, all the time checking the image quality.

After the shoot, they will retouch images using Photoshop or similar software, before processing and printing the photos.

If a photographer has hired an assistant, they will help the shoot to run smoothly with help in equipment set-up, people management, administrative duties and printing.

How to become a Photographer

There is no formal route into photography, although some photographers choose to take degrees relating to photography, or art with photography modules included.

The accepted way to get into the profession is through experience on the job, working in a studio or as a photographer’s assistant, learning all the required technical and business aspects, and working your way up from there.

As a professional photographer, there are associations that can be joined. The British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP), once it accepts a new photographer, also runs a mentoring service.

With technological advances all the time, it is important to stay up to speed with developments, and courses may help with this.

Skills and knowledge required

  • Knowledge and experience of photography skills
  • Creativity and a good eye for shape, form and colour
  • The ability to communicate your ideas and vision, and to put people at ease
  • Knowledge of programmes such as Photoshop for post-production tweaking of digital images
  • Strong organisation and time-management skills
  • An understanding of business skills and how to market yourself
  • A thick skin when it comes to rejection



Income is hugely variable in this field. A photographer’s assistant earns around £12,000 to £15,000 a year.

Full-time photographers can earn anything from £18,000 to £50,000 and beyond. Freelancers are paid a fee for each job, with rates agreed beforehand. 

The hours

Hours are usually varied and often include evenings and weekends. Sometimes the working day is long, with photo shoots starting early in the morning and going late into the night to get the shots that are required.

The place of work is often changeable as well, with different studios used, and location shoots often required.

Useful websites – British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP) – Association of Photographers

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