What skills are required to be a photographer?

With high-quality cameras on smartphones, it may seem that paying for photographers is a thing of the past. However, as photography has become more popular, demand has also risen for better quality photography and those that shoot professionally. Weddings, engagements, newborn photography, family lifestyle shoots, and even military homecomings have breathed new life into the professional photography industry.

Photography can be an art, a hobby, or just a way of documenting your own life. For some, photography is a career. Professional photographers work in a variety of fields, from advertising to journalism. They can also work independently, doing portraiture or creating and selling prints for display. Choosing the right wedding photographer in Melbourne to capture every moment on your wedding day.


Photographers typically do the following:

  • Market or advertise services to attract clients
  • Analyze and plan the composition of photographs
  • Use various photographic techniques and lighting equipment
  • Capture subjects in professional-quality photographs
  • Enhance the subject’s appearance with natural or artificial light
  • Use photo-enhancing software
  • Maintain a digital portfolio to demonstrate their work
  • Archive and manage imagery

Nowadays, most photographers use digital cameras instead of traditional film cameras, although some photographers use both. Digital cameras capture images electronically so that the photographer can edit the image on a computer. Images can be stored on portable memory devices, such as flash drives. Once the raw image has been transferred to a computer, photographers can use image processing software to crop or modify the image and enhance it through colour correction and other specialized effects. Photographers who edit their own pictures use computers, editing software, and high-quality printers.

Some photographers use unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, to capture shots. The drones are equipped with an integrated camera to capture 360-degree imagery of buildings, landscapes, scenery, or events.

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Photographers who work for commercial clients often present photographs in a digital format to the client. Wedding and portrait photographers, who serve primarily noncommercial clients, also may provide framing services and present the photographs they capture in albums.

Many photographers are self-employed. Photographers who own and operate their own business have additional responsibilities. They must advertise, schedule appointments, set up and adjust equipment, buy supplies, keep records, charge customers, pay bills, and—if they have employees—hire, train, and direct their workers.

In addition, some photographers teach photography classes or conduct workshops in schools or their own studios.

The following are examples of types of photographers:

Aerial photographers travel in planes or helicopters to capture overhead photographs of buildings and landscapes. They often use cameras with gyrostabilizers to counteract the movement of the aircraft and ensure high-quality images.

Commercial and industrial photographers take pictures of subjects such as buildings, models, merchandise, artifacts, and landscapes. They usually go on location to take pictures for magazine covers, engineering projects, or other purposes.

Drone photographers operate unmanned aerial vehicles with an integrated camera to capture 360-degree imagery of buildings, landscapes, scenery, or events. 

Fine arts photographers sell their photographs as artwork. In addition to their knowledge of techniques such as lighting and lenses, fine arts photographers need to have creativity and artistic talent.

News photographers, also called photojournalists, photograph people, places, and events for newspapers, journals, magazines, or television. In addition to taking still photos, photojournalists often work with digital video.

Portrait photographers take pictures of individuals or groups of people and may work in studios. Photographers who specialize in weddings, religious ceremonies, or school photographs usually work on location.

Scientific photographers capture scientific or medical data or phenomena. Because they focus on accurately representing subjects visually, these photographers limit the use of software to clarify an image. Scientific photographers who take pictures of objects too small to be seen with the naked eye use microscopes to photograph their subjects.

Skills You Need to Be a Photographer

What skills are required to be a photographer?

You don’t need a special degree to become a professional photographer, though an art degree can certainly help you hone your skills. Many photographers develop skills using professional equipment and then begin taking pictures. Many of the top-selling photographers in the world taught themselves.

However, competition can be fierce. The very fact that anyone with a camera can take pictures means you’ll have to be exceptional in some way or another to be noticed.


Since photography is a branch of the wider field of art, you should strive to creatively send an artistic message through your photography. You should have the knowledge needed to properly frame a scene, select a background, and use focusing techniques to make your photos more interesting.

Depending on the type of photography in which you’d like to specialize, you also may have to creatively solve problems while on the job. For example, if you’re interested in a career as a portrait photographer, you may need to think of unique and effective ways to get children and adults to relax and smile for the camera. Many excellent photographs are captured just because the photographer happens to be in the right place at the right time and can recognize the opportunity. Thus, a photographer must view the world with a creative eye to avoid missing the chance for a good photograph. 

Technical Prowess

To be an efficient photographer, you need to identify the different parts of the camera and each technical component’s role. You should have a basic understanding of different types of lenses and how to find an appropriate source of lighting for your photoshoot, be it natural light, flashbulbs or reflector screens. You’ll also need to quickly change the rates of exposure, determine the shutter speed, and choose an appropriate filter.

With the development of digital photography, many photographers are now responsible for using digital photo editing programs to tidy up or alter an image. You may want to learn a software program like Adobe Photoshop or Corel PaintShop Pro because of these trends. If you wish to work in film photography, you’ll also need to learn about the different types of films and black room and printing techniques. Learning unusual smartphone camera techniques may be worthwhile if you want to work in freelance photography. Certificate and associate’s degree programs in photography are available at many community colleges and can cover the technical aspects of taking professional photos.

Photography had been a tech-heavy career field since its beginnings in the 19th century. Whatever camera you use, you will be a better photographer when you know and master all its options – shutters, lenses, flash, everything.

In the 21st century, photographic tech includes software. Editing and cropping photos have always been a way to turn ho-hum shots into something special. Mastering editing software is the way to make the photo you took into the one your customer wants. Like tutorials on taking good photos, there is no shortage of free instruction on how to edit them. You will have to pay for a photo-editing program that is good enough for a pro. We have the best wedding photographer in Yarra Valley to capture your beautiful moments on your wedding day.

If you have to print out photos, you will need to become familiar with how your printer translates digital images. It may take practice before you know whether an image that looks great as pixels will look equally cool in a hard copy.

Knowledge of Your Subject

Depending on the type of photography career you’d like to have, you may also need to learn about the specific subjects you’re photographing. For example, working as a fashion photographer would require you to know about the designers and models, while being a sports photographer would require you to recognize the players and grasp the rules of the game. All photographers should also be knowledgeable about copyright laws.

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A Good Eye

Good photography does not just happen. A successful photographer must size up an event and know what will make a worthwhile photo. They also must frame each scene as effectively as possible: would a close-up of the subject be better or a shot showing them interacting with their surroundings? What shutter speed, what angle, and what depth should the shot have? Does it need front, side or back illumination? There’s no shortage of books and websites to explain the basics. A good photographer practices until the rules become second nature.

25% Hard Skills

The hard skills can be referred to as internal skills because you can improve on these skills by studying and practising on your own. These are very important, but they’re not the sole means to success. Hard skills encompass the technical side and the artistic side and should make up about 25% of a successful photographer.

Hard Skill: Artistic

The artistic side covers the artistic camera, composition, and exposure control, which is discussed in all of the courses listed above. Technical and artistic are two very different hard skills. Think about some of the photographers that you know, or even yourself. Would you classify yourself as a technical photographer or as an artistic photographer? Many incredible photographers are absolutely amazing artistically; they can create breathtaking images, yet they don’t really know much about the technical components of what they’re doing.

On the flip side, do you know photographers that are incredibly technical? They know their lighting ratios, everything there is to know about aperture, maximum dynamic range, optimal shutter speeds, etcetera, yet there always seems to be something missing from their photographs? These are technical photographers. Generally, most of us are going to have a balance between these two, but it might be weighted on one side.

A photographer strives to have a good balance of the technical and the artistic, making up what we call the skilled photographer. It is only a small fraction of what it takes to be a successful photographer. The bulk comes from the soft skills side.

75% Soft Skills

The soft skills are labelled “external skills” because these need to be practised with people. These soft skills are a greater part of the process; therefore, these soft skills are more important and weighted more in the balance of being a successful photographer.

Soft Skill: Understanding

Being able to ask targeted questions is part of communication but a major component of the soft skill of understanding. While communication is about your words, how you speak them and how you communicate your vision to your clients is critical. And understanding involves talking less, listening more and asking targeted questions, so you know what their vision is.

When you seek to understand your client’s wants, needs, and concerns and have the ability to address and resolve those concerns, it will show that you are present in the moment.

Having the ability to communicate clearly and understand people makes you an empathetic communicator, understanding their vision and sharing your own vision effectively.

Education and Training

Although portrait photographers are not required to have postsecondary education, many take classes because employers usually seek applicants with creativity and a “good eye,” as well as a good technical understanding of photography. Photojournalists and industrial and scientific photographers often need a bachelor’s degree.


Postsecondary education is not required for most photographers. However, many photographers take classes or earn a bachelor’s degree to improve their skills and employment prospects.

Many universities, community colleges, vocational-technical institutes, and private trade and technical schools offer classes in photography. Basic photography courses cover equipment, processes, and techniques. Art school training in photographic design and composition also may be useful.

Entry-level positions in photojournalism or industrial or scientific photography generally require a college degree in photography or in a field related to the industry in which the photographer seeks employment. For example, classes in biology, medicine, or chemistry may be important for scientific photographers. Starting to think about hiring a wedding photographer? Check out our range of Mornington Peninsula wedding photography here.

Business, marketing, and accounting classes may be helpful for self-employed photographers.


Photographers’ skill or the ability for taking good photos is typically cultivated over years of practice. Photographers often start working as an assistant to a professional photographer, learning on the job. This work provides an opportunity to gain experience, build the photographers’ portfolios, and gain exposure to prospective clients. In addition, photographers must learn to use photo-editing software.

For many artists, including photographers, developing a portfolio—a collection of their work that demonstrates their styles and abilities—is essential. Art directors, clients, and others often review portfolios when deciding whether to hire a particular photographer.

Job Outlook

The employment of photographers is projected to decline by 6 per cent from 2018 to 2028. The decreasing cost of digital cameras and the increasing number of amateur photographers and hobbyists will reduce the need for professional photographers. Besides, stock photographic services available online give individuals and businesses access to stock photographs for a fee or subscription, possibly dampening demand for photographers.

However, the application of newer technologies, such as drone photography, may contribute to increased demand for these workers. For example, drone photography in the commercial sector enables capturing images and information for agricultural land, real estate, and new construction projects. In addition, drone photography enables the photographer to create visuals of tall structures, such as cell towers and bridges, that are in need of repair. Drone photography at weddings or special events also captures scenic aerial portraits.

The employment of self-employed photographers is projected to grow 10 per cent from 2018 to 2028. Demand for portrait photographers will remain as people continue to want new portraits. Also, corporations will continue to require the services of commercial photographers to develop compelling advertisements to sell products.

Declines in the newspaper industry will reduce the demand for news photographers to provide still images for print. The employment of photographers in newspaper publishing is projected to decline by about one-third from 2018 to 2028.

Job Prospects

Photographers will face strong competition for most jobs. Because of the relative ease with which photographers may enter the occupation, there will be many qualified candidates for relatively few positions.

In addition, salaried jobs may be more difficult to obtain as companies increasingly contract with freelancers rather than hire their photographers. Job prospects will be best for candidates who have a strong portfolio and related skills, such as editing photos and capturing digital video.

How to Apply for Photography Jobs

What skills are required to be a photographer?

Prepare to apply for jobs. 

If you are working freelance and are looking for clients, much of your work may come through networking, and you might not submit formal application materials very often. However, if you are seeking a more traditional job, you will likely need to compile job materials and prepare for an

interview. In this case, knowing the top photography skills will come in very handy.

Create a professional portfolio. 

When applying for jobs, most photographers develop a portfolio—a collection of your photographs—that you can share with potential employers and clients to demonstrate your style and range. After all, your value as a photographer ultimately depends not on your history or equipment but on the type and quality of the images you can produce.

List relevant skills in your resume. 

For example, in your resume, include some of the most important photography skill words in your resume summary and your “Experience” section. You might also create a “Skills” section on your resume and list some of your key photography skills there. You might also list the photographic equipment and software you are familiar with.

Include skills in your cover letter. 

When submitting a cover letter, you can select one or two key skills and provide examples of how you have demonstrated those skills at work in the past. For example, you might talk about how you took a particular photography software course and explain how you have mastered it and used it professionally.

Throughout the entire process, almost every touchpoint will draw on your external soft skills. From understanding the vision, tailoring expectations, proper planning, and exceeding expectations, communication and understanding are required. Only when you get to the shoot execution do you use those external hard skills, but even then, on shoot day, both soft and hard skills are incorporated.

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In the process of creating consistently incredible images with every single client, the vast majority of your interaction and the process itself relies on your soft skills and your ability to communicate and understand, versus your technical and artistic ability. You need both sides and all four skill sets to succeed.