This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Photographers take photographs of people, places, products or events.
Photographers earn an average of
$41K per year
Source: Statistics New Zealand, ‘2013 Census’, 2015.
Most photographers are self-employed, so their income depends on the success of their businesses, as well as how many hours they work.
According to Census data, the average yearly income for photographers in 2013 was $40,700.
Source: Statistics New Zealand, '2013 Census', 2015.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Photographers may do some or all of the following:
- work out ideas for photo shoots – either their own ideas or specific ideas from clients
- arrange cameras, lights, locations, props and models for shoots
- use digital camera and lighting equipment
- digitally process and edit photos for print or web
- design albums or books for clients
- manage and market their own businesses
- plan, produce and edit video footage.
Skills and knowledge
Photographers need to have knowledge of:
- cameras, flashes, lenses and computers
- how to control light and achieve different photographic effects
- how to process digital images and use software such as Photoshop and Lightroom
- latest photographic methods, equipment and trends.
Self-employed photographers also need small business and marketing skills, along with an understanding of relevant legislation such as copyright and consumer law.
- work regular business hours, or may be required to work long, irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, to fit in with clients
- work in studios, offices, darkrooms, and outdoors in various locations
- travel locally, nationally or internationally to photo-shoot locations.
What's the job really like?
What are the main challenges of being a wedding photographer?
"You have to be able to relate to your client. You have to walk into their home and instantly be able to relate to mum and dad, grandma, the whānau, otherwise you’re not going to get nice photographs.
"They've got all the stresses of the wedding build-up, so there's quite a challenge there. Before a wedding, I'm still feeling sick to the stomach from nerves. You have to take it seriously and be totally focused to do a good job."
How do you keep on top of the challenge?
"Nowadays it's not uncommon to have four parents who are all remarried. Some of them hate each other to death!
"We have check sheets – we know if there are issues within the family, and who the bride and groom particularly want photos of. You need to be professional – otherwise you could be out of business just like that."
What are the best things about your job?
"Sharing the happy times, all the joys of the wedding day. And, being self-employed I can control my hours – every job is by appointment."
There are no specific entry requirements to become a photographer. However, a portfolio of work is essential and a relevant tertiary qualification, such as a Bachelor of Fine Arts, is strongly recommended.
Some new photographers gain skills and experience by assisting a professional photographer.
- Advertising and Illustrative Photographers Association (AIPA) website - information on getting a job as an assistant photographer
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a photographer, but useful subjects include art, computer studies, graphic design, maths and English.
A tertiary entrance qualification is usually required to enter further training. However, you may be able to get special entry into a programme without the usual qualifications if you have a portfolio showing the quality of your photographic work.
Photographers need to be:
- patient and organised
- able to work well under pressure
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- confident and motivated
- creative and artistic
- practical and technically skilled
- good communicators and able to make people feel relaxed and at ease
- good at solving problems.
Useful experience for photographers includes:
- amateur photography
- art experience
- experience with photography editing software.
Find out more about training
- NZ Institute of Professional Photography
- email@example.com - www.nzipp.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Range of ways to increase chances of securing photography work
Opportunities are good for experienced photographers, who have a good reputation in the industry and have a wide range of clients. However, most photographers only work part time, and have to supplement their income with another job.
You can increase your chances of getting a job if you:
- are trained and experienced in using digital SLR cameras
- have a good knowledge and understanding of lighting, both natural and studio
- have good knowledge of computer software packages like Lightroom and/or Photoshop
- specialise in a particular area of photography such as medical photography, engagements, weddings, births or journalism
- belong to, and network with members of, a professional body such as the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography (NZIPP).
Most photographers self-employed
Most photographers are freelancers.
Photographers may also work for:
- photographic agencies
- news agencies
- newspaper and magazine publishers
- shops that offer photo processing
- tertiary institutions that require photography teachers
- hospitals and the police.
- New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography website, accessed April 2016, (www.nzipp.org.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Occupational Outlook, 2016', accessed April 2016.
- New Zealand Advertising and Illustrative Photographers Association (AIPA), 'Getting Started as a Photographic Assistant', accessed April 2016, (www.aipa.org.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Photographers can move between areas of photography – for example, from photojournalism to teaching. Further training may be needed to move into some areas.
Photographers may specialise in a particular area of photography, such as:
- advertising, food, fashion and editorial – for websites, magazines, brochures or newspapers
- artistic – producing photographic artworks for sale, or exhibition in public art galleries
- corporate and commercial – for marketing
- press, sports photography and photojournalism – for recording current events
- medical photography – for use in clinical documentation, research and teaching
- social – including weddings and portraits
- stills photography – working in the film industry taking photos for marketing
- photographic styling – working alongside photographers to create the right look and mood for a photo shoot
- photographic retouching – creating an illusion or enhancing or correcting photographs.
Many photographers need to work in more than one area to make a living.
Last updated 1 June 2017