No matter what becomes of the economy in the 2000s, it is likely that photographers will always have work in our visually-oriented society. The occupation is expected to show growth of 13 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Just because photography is a growing field, however, doesn't mean it is for everyone. To be successful, photographers usually have certain personality traits that complement the profession.
Being a photographer usually involves a great deal of interaction with people. Professionals who photograph weddings and events, as well as those who take family photos, find themselves working hard to bring out the best in people. Even photographers who deal primarily in wildlife photography or still lifes must have some people skills, as networking and marketing are important to achieving success in this field. Vic Orenstein, in his book "The Photographer's Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business," points out that every photographer is a businessperson. To be successful, you need to persistently market yourself and your work.
Photographers must be patient, as quality results are often the result of waiting lengthy periods of time for "just the right shot." A wildlife photographer might find himself lying in the mud for two hours while waiting for a turtle to slowly make its way out of the water, for example. When a photographer doesn't get the shot he wants, he must be willing to return and patiently work to get the shot again. Bad weather, poor lighting and many other factors can stall progress, and a professional photographer must be willing to bide his time until the story his camera is waiting to tell is ready to be told.
Photography is a technical discipline. Simply operating an SLR, or single-lens reflex, camera is challenging for people who have little patience for details. To take an outstanding photo, a photographer must be able to pay attention to lighting, shutter speed, lenses, filters and many other factors, as they all work together to create an attractive composition. Once he has taken photographs of his subject, a photographer must then go back and sort through each photo, carefully culling those with technical or aesthetic imperfections. In addition, many photographers choose to work with complex digital photo editing programs before considering their work complete.
In a day and age when owning a digital SLR and photo-editing software can make even photographs taken by novices seem professional, looking at composition in a creative manner will make a photographer stand out from the pack. In the book "Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color and Composition," Bryan Peterson discusses how photographers can use unusual perspectives, lighting and textures to create interesting photographs.
Courage is not an essential quality for every photographer, but for people interested in telling an unpopular story, such as Dorothea Lange when she photographed Japanese internment camps in World War II and faced censure from her employer and the United States government, it is a requirement. The same holds true for people who are interested in photographing wild animals such as bears, raging forest fires, wars and civil unrest.
2016 Salary Information for Photographers
Photographers earned a median annual salary of $34,070 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, photographers earned a 25th percentile salary of $23,480, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $52,220, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 147,300 people were employed in the U.S. as photographers.
- The Photographer's Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business; Vic Orenstein
- Digital Photography School: The Importance of Patience in Natural Photography
- Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color and Composition; Bryan Peterson
- Library of Congress: Women Come to the Front: Journalists, Photographers, and Broadcasters During World War II
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Photographers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Photographers
- Career Trend: Photographers
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.