The global digital photography market is expected to reach $149.98 billion by 2026, growing from $79.12 in 2017. Cameras are getting better, and editing software is getting smarter. The technology is more accessible than it’s ever been, and interest in the medium—and the profession—is on the rise.
According to a 2018 survey by PDN, the highest-earning photography specialties include commercial/advertising, architecture/real estate, corporate, editorial, and multimedia/video, but there are dozens of avenues and niche subjects for the emerging photographer to explore. From the mainstream to the unexpected, here are just seven of the photography jobs available to newcomers and veterans alike—and some tips for getting started.
Wedding photography has come a long way since it first gained popularity in the Victorian era; a recent survey from WeddingWire indicates that photographers are among the top vendors hired for today’s weddings, outranking everyone from DJs to florists.
It’s also a job that offers some flexibility, as every couple has a unique vision for their special day. While formal, posed portraits are still popular, more and more photographers are choosing to take a documentary-style approach to weddings by prioritizing candid shots and spontaneous moments.
Some other trends rocking the industry this year? More couples are interested in videography and aerial drone images, and “first look” photos of the couple are on the rise. Plus, with more couples choosing to go “unplugged,” today’s wedding photographers will have to contend with fewer people snapping pictures on their phones.
According to a survey conducted by Your Perfect Wedding Photographer, the average wedding photographer in the UK books about 29 weddings per year. Many of them book clients through social media, so building an online presence is a great place to start spreading the word if you’re interested in breaking into the business.
Start by documenting weddings for friends and family, and develop a unique shooting and editing style that sets you apart. Many wedding photographers start their own business and work on a freelance basis, but you can also apply to join a larger team. WeddingWire has an extensive directory of more than 40,000 companies around the country; browse the links to see if any in your area are hiring. You can also create a profile on the 500px Directory to help businesses in your area connect with you. Start by offering your services as a second-shooter or assistant as you create your wedding photography portfolio.
We created a wedding photography checklist with photos to consider adding to your shot list for the big day. This checklist was designed to help you make the most of the day, and take the shots your clients want.
Birth photography has been popular for the better part of the last decade; The New York Times first reported on the trend back in 2012. While newborn photography has been around for quite some time, birth photographs document the labor and delivery process, celebrating every step along the way.
Depending on the family, birth photographers cover home births and hospital births, though some hospitals have restrictions on cameras. The job requires sensitivity—and you need to learn how to stay out of the way!—but for most, there’s nothing as rewarding as witnessing this moment in a family’s life and preserving it for years to come.
The International Association of Professional Birth Photographers has tons of great resources for its members, and they host an annual contest every year that gains significant coverage worldwide. All members must follow a code of ethics, which can be found here. Of course, given the sensitive subject matter, it’s important to always be accountable to your clients and never take or share images without their consent.
Real estate photography
Now is an exciting time to get into real estate photography, especially since websites like Zillow and Trulia are always looking for stunning images to promote their listings. According to The Wall Street Journal, buyers spend 60% of their time looking at these photos—and just 20% reading the description—so it’s essential that the photos be beautiful and well-lit.
Today’s professionals are pushing the boundaries and wearing a few different hats; drone photography and videography, for example, are becoming important parts of working in the real estate sector. They’re also comfortable working with natural, artificial, and mixed lighting and can navigate tight spaces to create the images they want.
It’s a competitive industry, but if you have a passion for interior design and can stage and light a home, it might be the route for you. Many real estate photographers get their start by shooting rental properties; if you want to apply to work as a contract photographer for Airbnb, they’re currently hiring. You’ll need an online portfolio to show off your work, so don’t be afraid to do some test shots in your own home and friends’ homes for practice.
Film set photography
You might think that all film stills are made by the same cameras that shoot the film in question, but these are actually the work of dedicated film set photographers, who tackle everything from press photos to movie posters for upcoming releases. They’ve been a part of the entertainment industry since around 1915, and although their job requires they remain largely invisible, they still have a hand in promoting today’s biggest blockbusters.
To get behind-the-scenes access, some work full-time on movies, and others “day-play” part-time. In North America, film set photographers are represented by the International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600). All still unit photographers must join the union in order to work on union productions and studio lots, and it’s a competitive industry to break into.
You can get started working on indie films and smaller, non-union shoots, and once you build a portfolio and a reputation, you can start moving up the ladder. In the end, all that hard work can pay off in spades; not only can you brush elbows with stars on set, but you can also be part of documenting important moments in cinematic history.
Fashion photographers can specialize in a variety of niche subjects, from advertisements and lookbooks for brands to editorial spreads in leading magazines. Some work in-house for department stores or design houses, and others work freelance.
Most get their start by assisting established photographers on-set and in the studio, soaking up inspiration from leading fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and following the work of icons like Mario Testino, Ellen von Unwerth, Lindsay Adler, and Bruce Weber.
The School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City offers a one-year intensive program for emerging fashion photographers. It’s one of the few graduate programs devoted entirely to the field. Another way to break into the business is to apply to an agency; Wonderful Machine has a directory of agents representing fashion photographers in the commercial and editorial sphere.
Before you reach out to any potential clients or agents, team up with emerging makeup artists, stylists, and models who are at the same point in their career as you are. When it comes to fashion photography, creative collaboration is the name of the game. Trade time for prints. Start small with test shoots, and build a network and community. Over time, you’ll build up an online portfolio and a printed book that showcases your ability and demonstrates your voice as an artist.
The history of pet photography is an illustrious one: William Wegman showed us that animal portraits could be works of fine art, and Elliot Erwitt demonstrated that street photography featuring dogs could be just as interesting as it is with people.
And if trending social media hashtags like #TongueOutTuesday and #DogsInBlankets have taught us anything, it’s that pet photography never goes out of style. As a commercial pet photographer, you can capture the special bond between humans and their animals; just remember to make sure the pet is comfortable, and come equipped with treats and toys.
Also, one of the most important things you can do as a pet photographer is to give back to your community. In the United States alone, 6.5 million animals enter the shelter system every year, hoping to find homes. 500px photographers Kaylee Greer and Tammy Swarek volunteer their professional services to local shelters and have had a hand in getting pets fostered and adopted.
Photography can save lives, and having a pro on-hand gives shelters the chance to show off their adoptable animals’ true personalities. Working pro bono for your local shelter is also a great way to develop your skills and build a portfolio that can eventually lead to more jobs. If you’re in the US, visit the ASPCA for help finding your local shelter.
Brands have relied on stock photographers to source high-quality, compelling images for their campaigns for the last century, but the industry has evolved a lot in that time. These days, marketers need images for their print ads, website banners, and social media feeds, and many of them use stock image libraries and agencies.
If you license your photos through 500px, they’ll be distributed through two of the biggest platforms in the world: Getty Images and Visual China Group (VCG). As a stock photographer, your images could be purchased and downloaded for use in everything from magazines to billboards to product packaging. Many of the photos you see on book covers also come from stock photographers; some of the photos on Getty Images, for instance, have been licensed for dozens of book covers over the years.
These days, stock photographers can specialize in everything from documentary and lifestyle photography to fashion and product photography, and it’s a great way to get started in the commercial sphere and grow your portfolio. 500px Licensing Contributors can also participate in Licensing Quests—creative briefs to help you shoot on-demand images for clients around the world. You have the freedom to set your schedule and organize your shoots—and you can earn some passive income while you’re at it.
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