Photography is both an art and a science. As an art, photography is a means of expression for people who wish to bring a particular piece of their world into focus. As a science, photography is the means by which cameras record light and other electromagnetic radiation onto light-sensitive film or digital image sensors. Professional photographers blend art and science together to capture memorable images with their cameras.

Most photographers today use digital cameras. Digital cameras allow photographers to enhance and edit their photography on a computer. It is for this reason that professional photographers often are expected to be able to use processing software to modify raw images. Once an image is complete, professional photographers use high-quality printers to run off their work.

According to the US Department of Labor, the duties of a photographer can be summarized in terms of:

  • Studying the art of photography
  • Becoming familiar with advanced photographic equipment
  • Marketing services to potential clients
  • Capturing images in high-quality photographs
  • Enhancing and editing images with computer programming
  • Uploading work to a portfolio, often online, for clients to see and share with others

Academic Requirements

Most photographers are not required to earn a bachelor’s degree or undergo any formal education in photography to work as a professional photographer. That being said, many enroll in classes or complete a bachelor’s degree in order to hone their skills and improve their chances at finding employment.

Several universities, community colleges, trade schools, and vocational institutes offer courses in photography. These courses typically cover the fundamentals of digital photography, including equipment, techniques, and processes. Additional courses might cover the basics of design and composition, as well as the history of photography as an art form. It is not uncommon for self-employed photographers to take courses in marketing, advertising, business and accounting, as these courses help them to run their own businesses efficiently.
Typically speaking, positions in industrial/scientific photography or photojournalism require a bachelor’s degree in Photography. In addition to photography courses, coursework in the sciences may also be useful for scientific photographers, primarily studies in biology, anatomy, and chemistry.

Work Environment

There are a number of different work environments for photographers. Given that the entire visible world is a potential photograph, photographers may be asked to go just about anywhere. There is, therefore, a lot of walking with heavy equipment involved in professional photography.

As the name suggests, wedding photographers work on location at their clients’ weddings and receptions. They may also work with clients before the big day, taking engagement photos for couples to attach to their wedding invitations.

Portrait photographers work both in and outside of their studio, taking pictures in prearranged indoor settings as well as outdoors at various locations. Depending on the job, they may also be asked to travel to a client’s school, company, or home.

Photojournalist and news photographers travel to various locations where news is unfolding. Traveling both locally and internationally, individuals in this line of work must be prepared to work odd hours and leave at a moment’s notice. The job can also be dangerous, as news photographers in this day and age are called to capture images from wars, natural disasters, and other tumultuous events.

Aerial photographers claim the sky as their working environment, capturing images from airplanes, helicopters, and sometimes even while parachuting.