Job Description for School Photographers

School photographers are hired by academic institutions to take pictures of people and events during the school year. Taking portraits of students, faculty, and staff is often a part of a school photographer’s job description, particularly if said school has a yearbook. Another element of the position, however, is to fill blogs, newsletters, and press releases with images of events in and around the school grounds or campus. This might include photos of homecoming football games, orchestra concerts, science fairs, musicals, and a whole host of other activities put on by the school.

The Professional School Photographers Association International (PSPA) is a subset of the PMA – The Worldwide Community of Imaging Associations, and an organization dedicated to the advancement of school photographers. Upholding the “time-honored value of capturing memories,” PSPA stands for education and research in the field of school photography in order to advance individuals in the profession and to encourage young photographers to pursue school photography as their line of work.

Degree Path for School Photographers

School photographers need not earn a postsecondary degree in photography to advance in their career, although certain employers may find a bachelor’s or master’s degree attractive on a job application. More important to this profession is an applicant’s creativity as well as his or her technical understanding.

Education Required for School Photographers

Though formal education may not be required of most school photographers, it is not uncommon for people in this line of work to take courses in photography or a related field in order to hone their skills and improve their employment prospects.
Most universities and community colleges offer courses in photography, if not an entire major dedicated to the subject. Coursework in photography may include fundamentals of photography, graphic design, traditional darkroom, digital darkroom, and portfolio and presentation.

Those who wish to pursue advanced degrees in photography may consider the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. MFA programs help photographers further develop their individual vision and learn more about advancing technologies in the field. They also provide photographers with a venue to show their work as well as have it critiqued by other students.

Salary and Schedule for School Photographers

According to the United States Department of Labor, “The median hourly wage of photographers was $14.00 in May 2010…The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.34, and the top 10 percent earned more than $30.48.”

School photographers’ schedules vary depending on the kind of institution that employs them. For example, photographers who are employed by primary or secondary schools often work during regular school hours, whereas university photographers may be expected to cover campus events in the evenings or on the weekends.

Core Skills Needed for School Photographers

The United States Department of Labor recommends the following skill-sets for photographers:

Artistic ability. Artistic ability is an important component of a photographer’s skills and abilities. It is for this reason that photographers are expected to have firm grasp of the elements and principles of art.
Computer skills. Photography has followed the advances of modern technology into the twenty-first century, meaning that computer skills are an essential part of a photographer’s job. Knowledge of how to work complicated equipment as well as photo editing software is a must.
Detail-oriented skills. Photographers must have an eye for detail. Indeed it is precisely their attention to detail that separates professionals from amateur photographers.
Interpersonal skills. School photographers are called to capture the people and places of a given institution in action. The ability to work with people is an absolute must in a profession that requires so much interpersonal interaction.

Types of Employers of School Photographers

Academic institutions ranging from public schools to private and charter schools, as well as universities and community colleges, employ school photographers.