15 Photographer Skills to Take Your Career to the Next Level

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated September 21, 2022 | Published July 26, 2021

Updated September 21, 2022

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Photographers require a combination of hard and soft skills to enable them to impress their clients and excel in their careers. Good photography skills are critical if you want to pursue self-employment or find work in different organizations such as media firms, publishers and advertising agencies. Whatever path you choose, you need formidable skills to stand out in your field. In this article, we explain what photography skills are, discuss the essential photographer skills for career growth, and explain how you can improve your photography skills.

Related: What Does a Photographer Do? (With Types of Photographers)

What are photographer skills?

Photographer skills enable photographers to record quality pictures of events, people, pets, places or objects. Photographers need hard skills, such as the ability to use camera hardware and editing software, and soft skills, like communication and creativity. These visual artists are often specialists in a particular field of photography, such as commercial photography, portrait photography, aerial photography, fashion, or media photojournalism, among others. Photographers perform similar tasks and play a similar role no matter which niche they focus on. Here are the primary duties and responsibilities of a photographer:

  • Choose a location for photography

  • Set up photographic equipment

  • Capture visual content for their audiences

  • Edit visual content to meet the desired quality of their clients

  • Deliver the final product to their client

  • Reproduce and frame photographs

  • Network and promote their business to clients

  • Maintain photography equipment

More specific photography skills may vary between fields, while other skills are transferable. Improving your skill set increases your employability and earning a higher salary.

Read more: How to Improve Your Skill Set and Keep Skills Current

Essential photographer skills to grow your career

Here are some of the skills every photographer needs to develop in order to grow their career:

1. Attention to detail

To capture memorable, striking images, photographers need excellent attention to detail. They must time their shots and balance the light to avoid producing blurred or distorted images. They also need to be attentive to detail in the post-production stage of editing and retouching images. A photographer with an eye for detail may see their pictures attract a wider audience.

2. Communication skills

Photographers need excellent communication skills to relate with their clients. Communication skills include listening to a client's needs and concerns, asking the right questions, and promptly acting on client requests. Clear written communication is essential to this skill, as clients may not be available for in-person meetings and may rely on email correspondence until the day of the photoshoot. Excellent communication skills enable photographers to earn the confidence of their clients, which is essential to securing future contracts, especially for self-employed photographers.

Related: Which Written Communication Skills Are Important in the Workplace?

3. Artistic skills

To become a skilled photographer, you need artistic skills. You need knowledge of placing and arranging visual elements, controlling the exposure and arranging the subjects in appealing poses. Nature photographers, for example, need to capture natural phenomena and beauty through their lenses. Artistic skills also extend to the editing stage, enabling photographers to bring out the most striking visual elements in the captured images.

4. Time management

Photographers need to hone their time management skills. Time management enables photographers to meet their client's expectations within the stipulated time. For a photojournalist, meeting deadlines is important for the production of print media. Photographers need to plan their time between fieldwork and desk work to enable them to meet strict deadlines.

Related: How to Prioritize Work Tasks

5. Interpersonal and teamwork skills

Photographers need to work with other professionals, such as videographers, photo editors, and crowd control personnel. They need good teamwork skills in order to relate well and work together to produce quality images. Interpersonal skills also play an important role for photographers when working with clients to build rapport.

6. Computer skills

While cameras remain the primary equipment for photographers, computers are also essential for editing and storing images. Photographers, therefore, need to possess excellent computer skills such as photo editing and manipulation, resizing and archiving. Photographers must familiarize themselves with relevant software developments to satisfy their customers' expectations.

7. Understanding of intellectual property

Images may be subject to copyright laws, restricting their reproduction without prior permission from the owner. Photographers need to understand intellectual property laws governing the use of images. This knowledge enables them to protect their images from unauthorized use. Knowing how to protect their work allows photographers to earn income whenever someone uses their images in publications, films, web pages, and other content.

8. Physical stamina

Photographers may need to stand and work for long hours. Nature photographers, for instance, may also need to walk for long distances and in sometimes harsh conditions in order to capture landscapes and other natural phenomena. This requires photographers to have a high degree of physical fitness.

9. Business acumen

Photographers who are self-employed need business skills to enable them to market their venture to potential clients. If you have employees, you need to know how to recruit and motivate them in order to attain your business goals. You can also benefit from developing your negotiation skills to get the best deals from clients and maximize your profits.

10. Customer service

Satisfied customers are important to the photography business, and knowing how to make them happy is crucial. Photographers need to ensure their customers are likely to come back. Happy customers are also likely to refer other clients to the business through word of mouth or positive online reviews.

Read more: Customer Service Skills: Definition and Examples

11. Creativity

Like any other form of art, photography requires a great deal of creativity and imagination. An outstanding photographer needs an eye for the extraordinary. Most photographers create images designed to convey a message or invoke a specific feeling in the viewer.

12. Presentation

Photographers may need to present their work to different audiences, including prospective clients or in art galleries. They, therefore, need excellent presentation skills to convince their audience. Presentation skills may involve the use of computer applications such as slides or virtual presentations. You also need to show confidence, which you can improve by preparing and developing your public speaking skills.

13. Networking

Photographers need to develop a wide network to increase their opportunities. This applies to freelance and self-employed photographers to grow their businesses. Networking helps you build a customer base through referrals and repeat clients. You can grow your network by attending and hosting photo shows to exhibit your photography work and meet like-minded people.

Read more: Top 5 Networking Skills and How to Develop Them

14. Patience

Photographers need patience to get the perfect shot. Despite your best effort and preparation, there may be occasional obstacles to overcome. For instance, natural light may not be forthcoming, the clients could be late, or the weather may change during a natural landscape photoshoot. You need to be patient and ready to make accommodations.

15. Passion

It takes passion to become an outstanding photographer. Capturing great images with passion distinguishes you from amateur photographers. Passion and hard work enable you to learn the art of photography, grow your skill, and get noticed in the profession.

Read more: Improve Your Creativity Skills To Highlight on Your Resume

Tips to improve your photographer skills

Here are tips you can apply to improve your skills as a photographer:

Take a photography course

To become a professional and outstanding photographer, you can enrol in a photography course to advance your skills. Most people start pursuing photography as a hobby or passion project. You can take your passion to the next level by pursuing a relevant course or degree, such as photojournalism. In these programs, you can learn more about photography equipment, maintenance and some helpful tips about how to capture the perfect image.

Choose a niche

There are many areas of photography, such as nature, portraits, aerial and photojournalism. You can choose one area that is interesting to you and invest more time and effort in learning about that niche. It is easier to distinguish yourself as a specialist in a particular field of photography when you are an expert in one or two niches.

Related: How You Can Become a Crime Scene Photographer in 6 Steps

Work with experienced photographers

Work under the guidance of experienced photographers to learn more about how they work. You can learn how they chose the best photography equipment, timing perfect shots, and ideas about how to monetize their skills. Working with experienced photographers also gives you a head start in building your portfolio and networks in the industry.

Related: How to Become a Photographer in 4 Steps (With FAQs)

Practise your shots

Practise taking photos frequently to grow your skills and learn from experience. Compare your shots and see what you need to improve. You can also request feedback from friends and professional photographers to identify your areas of improvement.

Related: 26 of the Best Photography Jobs

Enter photography competitions

As you develop your skills and become an established professional photographer, you can enter your best captures in photography competitions. Entering your work into a competition allows you to share your work within the community. You also get to network with other professional photographers and photography enthusiasts. Regardless of whether you win, there are immense benefits to taking part in photo competitions.

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