Although postsecondary education is not required for portrait photographers, many take classes because employers usually seek applicants with a “good eye” and creativity, as well as a good technical understanding of photography. Photojournalists and industrial and scientific photographers often need a bachelor's degree.
Although postsecondary education is not required for most photographers, many take classes or earn a bachelor's degree in a related field because such an education can improve their skills and employment prospects.
Many universities, community and junior colleges, vocational–technical institutes, and private trade and technical schools offer classes in photography. Basic courses in photography cover equipment, processes, and techniques. Art schools may offer useful training in photographic design and composition.
Entry-level positions in photojournalism or in 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 useful for scientific photographers.
Business, marketing, and accounting classes can be helpful for self-employed photographers.
Photographers have a talent or natural ability for taking good photos, and this talent is typically cultivated over years of practice. For many artists, including photographers, developing a portfolio—a collection of an artist's work that demonstrates his or her styles and abilities—is essential. A portfolio is necessary because art directors, clients, and others often want to look at one when deciding whether to hire or contract with the photographer.
Photographers often start working as an assistant to a professional photographer. This work provides an opportunity to gain experience, build the photographers' portfolios, and gain exposure to prospective clients.
Artistic ability. Photographers capture their subjects in images, and they must be able to evaluate the artistic quality of a photograph. Photographers need a “good eye”—the ability to use colors, shadows, shades, light, and distance to compose good photographs.
Business skills. Photographers must be able to plan marketing strategies, reach out to prospective clients, and anticipate seasonal employment.
Computer skills. Most photographers do their own postproduction work and must be familiar with photo-editing software. They also use computers to maintain a digital portfolio.
Customer-service skills. Photographers must be able to understand the needs of their clients and propose solutions to any problems that arise.
Detail oriented. Photographers who do their own postproduction work must be careful not to overlook details and must be thorough when editing photographs. In addition, photographers accumulate many photographs and must maintain them in an orderly fashion.
Interpersonal skills. Photographers often photograph people. They must communicate effectively to achieve a certain composition in a photograph.