One of the most attractive and exciting aspects of choosing photography as a career are the many types of photography careers the field offers. Whether you are introverted or extroverted, whether you like to work indoors or prefer sleeping under the stars, there’s a career vector for you in the wide world of photography.
Here’s a quick review of ten common types of photography careers that you have to choose from. Just remember, if you’re considering a career taking photos, there’s more where these came from!
Professional Scope: Fashion photography is one of the types of photography careers that involve mainly indoor, studio-lit shots on high-quality digital cameras with instant lightbox readouts. They work with a lot of people, so you must have people skills and be someone who can work in a team environment. You also have to be able to elicit a “performance” from the models, who are often chosen more for their looks than their ability to emote for the camera – that’s considered your job.
Earning Scope: Anywhere from $50,000 annually to the high six figures, depending on whether you focus on freelance catalog work or aspire to celebrity status.
Costs Involved: While a degree in photography or art (MFA) is not necessary, it is helpful, so tuition and student loan costs should be considered. Maintaining a studio is also generally a requirement.
Equipment Costs: High. DSLR cameras can go as high as $35,000 for the quality required for high-end fashion work, and you must consider lighting equipment, specialized lenses, computer equipment and calibrated monitor as well.
Miscellaneous: Expect to start small and work your way up.
Professional Scope: A landscape photographer generally works solo, out in the unspoiled wilderness, taking photographs of nature in her natural beauty. Most landscape photographers are mobile with limited equipment, and the nature of their work means they have very little “fussing” with a subject – they simply wait for the best light and take photos.
Earning Scope: Very limited! There was a time when magazines, calendars, and coffee-table books offered an opportunity for earning via landscape photography, but today there is too much free stock photography of landscapes. Landscape photographers almost always supplement their income with other work.
Costs Involved: Camera that allows shooting with Aperture Priority, durable tripod, lenses for different lighting conditions. Travel costs can be high.
Equipment Costs: Moderate. A high-end camera with Aperture Priority that allows for ISO control and other fine-tuning will be your main expense, but these vary in price from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Miscellaneous: This is one of the types of photography careers that hardly ever work on contract anymore, so you will likely have to invest your own money into the project with no guarantee of return.
Professional Scope: One of the active and thriving types of photography careers in terms of volume. An Event Photographer is hired to capture an event – typically a wedding, party, or corporate event. These can be interior, exterior, or mixed, and generally will involve a large crowd of people and a mixture of casual and formal shots.
Earning Scope: Medium! High-end Wedding and Event photographers can earn the low six figures in a year. Work can be limited because events tend to take place on weekends, leaving five or six days a week with no earnings.
Costs Involved: Low. Event photographers rarely work in studio and so having two or three cameras for indoor and outdoor shooting is generally sufficient. Travel costs can apply, but travel is generally local. In these types of photography careers, most photographers maintain a professionally-designed web site as their main advertising and marketing asset.
Equipment Costs: Low. At minimum a high-end DSLR camera that can switch between indoor and outdoor shots is required, with two separate and dedicated camera bodies preferred.
Miscellaneous: Many Event Photographers offer a mixture of still shots and video, which often requires hiring an employee.
Real Estate/Architectural Photographer
Professional Scope: A Real Estate Photographer is hired to photograph properties for sale, typically residential but increasingly also for commercial spaces. These types of photography careers provide photographs for listings, brochures, and online advertising of the property, and often also take video for “virtual tours.”
Earning Scope: Limited! Real Estate and Architectural photographers typically earn in the $40,000 – $60,000 range. Many photographers work in Real Estate Photography as a sideline only. Not all real estate listings use photos, and many Realtors take their own photos and video.
Costs Involved: Low. A good-quality camera and portable lighting equipment is typically all that is required. Travel costs may apply.
Equipment Costs: Low. A camera that is capable of high-quality still photos and video plus portable light boxes, filters, and reflectors is typically all that is needed.
Professional Scope: One of the more exciting and fun types of photography careers, a concert photographer is hired to photograph a live music event, typically in a small club or hall but sometimes at larger arena events. It is a difficult job as it involves working with large, unruly crowds, loud, dark events, and subjects who are constantly on the move.
Earning Scope: Low! While high-end concert photographers who work with big-name acts can earn significantly more, the average earning potential for a concert photographer is between $15,000 and $50,000 a year.
Costs Involved: Low. A good-quality camera is often all that is needed. Travel costs can apply – as can a steady supply of earplugs!
Equipment Costs: Low. Transport and a high-quality camera that can handle low-light and complex lighting situations is typically all that is needed. A computer system capable of processing low-light digital photos is also usually necessary.
Miscellaneous: In these types of photography careers, photographers typically start off local and often unpaid, seeking to build a portfolio. Many work concerts on the weekends and pursue other career goals during the week.
Professional Scope: One of the more challenging types of photography careers, a Baby Photographer is a sub-set of a Portrait Photography who specializes in working with very young children. Typically studio-bound, an increasing number of Baby Photographers are making house calls.
Earning Scope: Low-to-Moderate! Typical annual earnings for a Baby Photographer range from $17,000 to $67,000. Most of the professionals in the upper range work for companies as opposed to freelancing.
Costs Involved: Moderate. Maintaining a formal studio is still essential, but many families now expect to have the option of having the photographer travel to them, bringing a portable studio (backdrop, lighting, tripod, props). Props are also a considerable expense as babies generally require stimulation to get good poses, and need props to play with.
Equipment Costs: High. Aside from the typical camera and lightbox equipment, Baby Photographers must maintain a studio space, have transport and portable equipment for house calls, and maintain props and other amenities.
Miscellaneous: It should go without saying that you must enjoy children to choose these types of photography careers.
Professional Scope: One of the more specific types of photography careers, a Food Photographer is typically hired by advertising agencies or restaurants to photograph food dishes professionally for marketing purposes. Occasionally are hired freelance by magazines that publish recipes or restaurant reviews.
Earning Scope: Low! Typical annual earnings for a freelance Food Photographer range from $18,000 to $36,000. However, the very high-end of the scale can reach the mid-six figures, but this is rare.
Costs Involved: Moderate. Food photography requires more than a good camera and lighting equipment. Food dishes must be prepared properly for the camera, so various things must be procured in order to ensure food looks good in the photos. Transport and portable lighting and other equipment must also be secured. While some food photography takes place in the studio, it is often done in-restaurant.
Equipment Costs: High. A full portable studio must be maintained, as well as all the added ingredients used to “coif” the food.
Professional Scope: One of the most romanticized types of photography careers. A travel photographer is hired or works freelance to photograph locations for travel magazines, travel agencies, tourism bureaus, or web sites. They are typically either freelance or hired by companies. In the latter case their travel and accommodations are typically covered as part of their fees.
Earning Scope: Low, but augmented by Stock sales. The average earnings for a Travel Photographer are $28,000 a year. Most augment their earnings with sales of photos to stock agencies and web sites, which typically account for 95% of a Travel Photographer’s earnings.
Costs Involved: High. If freelance, travel and accommodations must be paid for. High-quality outdoor and indoor cameras must be provided, as well as durable equipment such as tripods and mobile laptops of in-the-field processing.
Equipment Costs: In addition to high-end cameras and lenses, typically a Travel Photographer must also possess a high-end laptop for in-field processing.
Professional Scope: One of the few “corporate” types of photography careers, an Advertising Photographer can be freelance or salaried and works with advertising agencies to provide photographs for print and web advertisements. It is predominantly studio work.
Earning Scope: High! The average salary for an Advertising Photographer is $47,000 annually.
Costs Involved: High, unless employed full-time by an ad agency. Otherwise a professional studio must be maintained along with all lighting and camera equipment.
Equipment Costs: High. Most advertising photography is done on high-end cameras with digital lightboxes and extensive and flexible lighting setups. Advertising photography spans a wide range of styles, lighting, and effects.
Miscellaneous: These types of photography careers are very difficult to break into as an older, experienced photographer. Easiest vector into the career is as an intern or assistant to established Advertising Photographer.
Professional Scope: One of the most variable and most unpredictable types of photography careers, a Stock Photographer creates stock images for sale and use through traditional print vendors and websites. It is typically a studio-exclusive career.
Earning Scope: Low! Stock photography is flooded with images on the Internet and collections on DVD, meaning few buyers have to pay more than bottom rates for any image. However, by spreading work across several sites and taking advantage of rate increases tied to earnings (typically, stock sites raise the percentage you earn on each sale when you reach $500, $1000, and $10,000 total sales), you can earn better money.
Costs Involved: Low. While a studio is helpful for stock photography, there is demand for outdoor or “naturalistic” stock photos. Anyone with a high-quality camera can produce stock images that could potentially sell.
Equipment Costs: Low. A camera that is capable of producing print-quality images is all that is needed.
Miscellaneous: Stock photography requires a high volume of high-quality images to generate significant income.
– Photo Wizard