Photography is a very broad employment sector with most professional photographers specialising in one area, such as advertising, corporate, fashion, or editorial. An increasingly influential market within this sector is the growth in picture libraries and stock agencies. Whichever area you decide to specialise in there is a good chance you will work in a self-employed or freelance capacity.
Where do I start?
Within the photographic sector you could be looking at a wide range of occupations. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements, career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Jobs roles in this sector include:
- Graphic designer
- Magazine features editor
- Medical illustrator
- Press photographer
- Television camera operator
Jobs where your degree would be useful include:
- Advertising art director
- Digital marketer
- Film/video editor
- Media planner
- Secondary school teacher
- VFX artist
- Visual merchandiser
- Web designer
Remember that many employers accept applications from graduates with any degree subject, so don't restrict your thinking to the jobs listed here.
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on developments in this sector and keep track of any vacancies that are coming up. Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.
- The British Institute of Professional Photography – The qualifying and governing body of professional photography.
- The Association of Photographers – A leading professional association, their website has a news section as well as contract advice for freelancers and a JobShop advertising current vacancies.
- British Journal of Photography – The online edition providing topical content, including news articles, informational resources, community galleries, forums and comment tools.
- ScreenSkills – Industry body which supports skills and training for people and businesses working in the creative industries.
- Creative and Cultural skills – Provides an online hub of advice and opportunities for anyone that wants to work in a creative career.
- Creative Review – Monthly publication covering advertising, design and visual culture.
- Creative Boom – Online magazine and network community that aims to celebrate, inspire and support the creative industries throughout the UK and the rest of the world.
Undertaking work experience is invaluable in developing expertise and all-important transferrable skills particularly in this competitive industry. Putting together a portfolio of your work, as evidence of your skills and knowledge, is essential and will help you demonstrate your motivation and commitment to your chosen area.
Interpersonal skills are critical for photography careers, so any experience which promotes customer service skills will be useful, as is experience at events, particularly social ones, where you can observe structure and organisation, and practise your photography skills.
However, finding experience will take time and effort; employers receive many CVs every week so you will have to work hard to stand out from the crowd. You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV through the Careers and Employability Service website.
The key to success is to prepare thoroughly, do your research and organise your experience in good time. Think about small and medium size companies as well as large organisations.
It is also worth considering the voluntary sector for work experience. Careers and Employability offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located in the Careers and Employability centre.
Tips to build experience
- Explore the various areas within the photographic sector before you apply for work experience; knowing what you want to specialise in will help you focus your research and ensure you gain the relevant skills.
- Get involved in relevant university or external groups. This is a good way of demonstrating your motivation and interest in this area of work.
- Speak to your tutor or other members of faculty staff researching in the areas that interest you as students are sometimes recruited to work on research projects over the summer.
- Be proactive and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively; send a targeted CV and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
- Create a LinkedIn profile to network with sector employers – see our Networking and Social Media section for further guidance.
Finding a job
There are many different areas within the photographic sector and work can be varied. You could get involved in taking forensic photographs for the police (although most forensic photographers start as Crime Scene Investigators or Scene of Crime Officers before specialising in photography and forensic imaging); cataloguing exhibits in a museum or assisting an established local photographer taking wedding or social photographs, so some thought as to which area(s) you are particularly interested in will help you to target your job search. Many vacancies in this sector are never advertised, so it is essential to use speculative approaches and contacts to tap into this hidden jobs market.
Employers who recruit in this area
- Media organisations such as newspapers, magazines, film and television
- Wedding photographers or high street photography companies
- Large organisations such as universities, hospitals or airports
- Cruise liners, holiday companies and theme parks
- The police ('scene of the crime') photography
- Advertising companies
Useful websites to help you start your job search
- Arts jobs – Resource for art vacancies in the UK. You can receive job flashes if there is a job that exactly matches all your criteria for function, sector, location and minimum salary.
- British Journal of Photography – Presents news, job listings, and a discussion forum.
- Arts Council – Essential jobs and news information to professionals working in the UK arts and cultural industries.
- Find a Wedding Photographer – Listing of professional wedding photographers in a wide variety of styles advertises photography vacancies and hosts a forum open to photographers of all levels.
- Creative Review – Useful resource for making speculative job applications.
- Jobs board – You will find graduate jobs across different sectors and locations.
Tips for finding a job
- Keep up to date with photography news and trends by following the professional bodies on Twitter, this information might help you identify opportunities to network and tap into the hidden jobs market.
- Keep your online job search flexible as some employers might use different titles to describe the same job role.
- If you are keen to focus on a specific sector within photography check out the specialist websites for these areas for current vacancies.
- Most companies have a Twitter and/or Facebook account, register with them as this is often a place where new opportunities are posted, and where you can keep in touch with their current activities.
Useful social media feeds
Check out the following social media feeds for news and information about current projects and to tap into the hidden jobs market.
Working as a Freelancer
Freelancers use a variety of means to generate work: some rely on their portfolio, self-promotion and a good contact network, while others use a photographic agent.
- Student StartUp Team – Advice and support to students and graduates at the University of Portsmouth to develop their enterprise skills and set up their own business.
- Creativepool – Online networking site for people working within the creative industries. Provides a platform from which to research and network with relevant companies as well as finding advertised vacancies.
- Artquest – Sharing the resources, networks and opportunities you need to develop your visual arts practice including a range of ‘How to’ guides
- a-n.co.uk – Supporting contemporary visual arts practice including a knowledge bank with expert resources and toolkits.
- Freelance UK – Information for freelancers includes a forum, news and events sections.
The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and covering letters
- Application forms
- Job search
We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.