Photographic Technology Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career in photographic technology? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary information to see if a career in photographic technology is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Photographic Technology

Skilled producers of high-quality still photographs or video images are employed in a variety of industries, including motion picture production, television broadcasting, videography, marketing and advertising, special event photography and scientific photography. Consider the following pros and cons to determine if a career in photographic technology is right for you.

Photographer Film and Video Editor Camera Operator
Career Overview Photographers shoot and edit still photographs Film and video editors fine-tune and produce content for motion pictures, television shows, commercials and other media Camera operators maneuver motion picture or broadcast camera equipment to capture footage
Education Requirements None for most positions; some jobs require a bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Program Length 0-4 years 4 years 4 years
Additional Training On-the-job training On-the-job training On-the-job training
Experience Requirement Several years of training as an assistant Several years of assistant experience Varies, though some job training is necessary
Job Outlook (2012-2022) Below-average 4% growth; 5,900 additional jobs* Below-average 1% growth; 200 additional jobs* Below-average 6% growth; 1,200 additional jobs*
Mean Salary (2014) Roughly $38,350* Roughly $75,000* Roughly $56,500*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Photographer

Professional photographers produce still photographs using technology, composition and creative vision. They enhance visual image quality for product advertisements, portraiture or other means. A growing number of photographers favor digital cameras over traditional film cameras. Digital cameras allow professionals to store and edit photographs, cropping, adjusting lighting or producing other image modifications.

As a photographer, you could work in the field or in a studio. According to the BLS, 63% of photographers were self-employed in 2010. These professionals must be highly skilled in creating a reputation and marketing themselves to potential employers, and a large body of portfolio work of typically necessary to be successful. Be aware that it can be difficult to land a salaried job. While average job growth is projected over the coming years, based on BLS 2010-2020 projections, overall growth may be limited somewhat by the decreasing costs and the ease of use of digital cameras, allowing non-professionals to assume photography duties. Growth will also be affected by sharp declines in newspaper photography.

Requirements

Self-employed photographers rely heavily on their portfolio of work, experience and reputation, with no academic requirements. However, some postsecondary training can be useful. Full-time employment in scientific photography, marketing photography or photojournalism often requires a bachelor's degree or specialized training in the field.

Here are some real job postings for photographers from December 2012:

  • A Rhode Island play company sought a studio photographer to create the look for sets and props, photograph them and edit the images for final use on marketing materials. Requirements included a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in photography or an equivalent amount of experience, 3-6 years of studio experience and appropriate knowledge of digital equipment and software.
  • A daily suburban newspaper in California was looking for a photojournalist to capture images and write about news and sports. The photojournalist would also have creative marketing duties. A degree in journalism or a related field along with 1-2 years of daily print experience were required.
  • A Minnesota photo and video production business advertised for a wedding photographer. Positions were available for lead photographers with extensive wedding experience as well as for associate photographers with some experience in this field of photography.

Standing Out

It could be a good idea to gain some practical experience working as an assistant to a professional photographer, to help you develop a comprehensive portfolio of work and make contacts in the field. Gaining specialized experience in areas such as commercial campaign photography or photography for weddings and other special events can also be useful, since photographers are expected to remain in-demand in these fields. In addition, learning image editing and film shooting may open job opportunities that require employees to be multitalented in imagery and media.

Film and Video Editor

Film and video editors manipulate prepared footage to produce a finished product using editing software and/or traditional splicing, compiling and graphic overlay techniques. They work with directors to complete a creative vision or with clients to meet their special event or marketing needs. You could work on television, music video, sporting event and movie projects. According to BLS, in 2010, 42% of film and video editors were employed by the motion picture industry, while 9% were employed in television broadcasting. Self-employment is also relatively high in this field; in 2010, 35% of editors worked for themselves.

Requirements

Most video editors obtain a bachelor's degree in a field related to broadcasting, film or communications. Knowledge of digital editing software is essential, and you can receive specialized training in video editing through your coursework. After graduating, you'll typically need to gain years of experience as an assistant before you can gain full-time employment as a video editor. As with other careers in this field, video editors must maintain a comprehensive portfolio or video reel of professional work.

Here are some real job postings for film and video editors from December 2012:

  • A major media production label in California needed a video production coordinator to manage production of music videos for contracted artists. Job duties include shooting, editing and delivering video products to various media platforms.
  • An international public affairs organization in Washington, D.C., looked for a video editor and producer. The main responsibility was editing existing content, though some shooting duties were part of the job. Successful candidates would have an extraordinary reel or portfolio, and skills in animation were desired.
  • A Rhode Island digital marketing firm sought a video editor to create product demo videos, advertising campaigns and promotional materials for large global client. Requirements include three or more years of experience with video editing and motion graphics.

Standing Out

In addition to compiling an impressive and diverse portfolio of work, you should gain expertise in using a variety of digital editing software programs, like Final Cut Pro, to increase your job prospects. As an undergraduate, you may be able to gain pre-professional experience in college editing laboratories or campus television or web broadcasting stations. You may also wish to take advantage of internship opportunities with local production studios or marketing firms. Years of video editing experience may allow you to advance to a director or producer position in the motion picture or television industry.

Camera Operators

Camera operators film motion pictures, television dramas, news broadcasts and sporting events. They work with directors to determine the visual objectives of each shoot, and they oversee assistants engaged in setting up and maintaining video equipment in a studio. Camera operators often work in a studio setting, but you may also work in the field with a reporting team, setting up motion cameras to cover live events and the latest news. Some camera operators specialize as cinematographers and are responsible for capturing film for movies.

Requirements

Positions for camera operators generally require a bachelor's degree in a broadcasting or a relevant field plus on-the-job experience gained through internships or entry-level assistantships. Potential undergraduate course topics may include broadcast engineering, video production, sound design, digital photography and news broadcasting.

Here are some real job postings for camera operators from December 2012:

  • A national sports cable network sought a studio operator in Los Angeles. Candidates must be well-versed in using broadcast equipment and technology, including high-definition cameras, robotic cameras, color correction programs, lighting boards and playback devices.
  • A broadcasting company in West Virginia wanted a part-time camera operator to record and direct daily newscasts, operate the teleprompter and prepare online streaming weathercasts. Applicants must possess a degree in communications or a related field. Alternatively, one year of relevant work experience could be sufficient training.
  • A video production studio in New York advertised for a camera operator to use a television production video camera to capture footage and to assist with production and audio setup. Requirements include a degree in communications plus one year of experience in TV production; additional experience working with creative content was ideal. The position was temporary.

Standing Out

While the BLS' 2010-2020 projections indicate below-average job growth over the coming years, due, in part, to technological advances in automatic camera systems, prospective camera operators with varied expertise may have an advantage.

Becoming familiar with a wide variety of technology can open doors in the job market, since requirements vary among employers. In addition to receiving training on using an array of video camera models, you can pursue undergraduate coursework and work experience that involves training with various types of production equipment, like sound and lighting systems. Well-rounded experience may also begin to prepare you for advancement to more lucrative positions in broadcast direction and production.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Film and TV
      • Master of Arts in Film and TV - Producing
      • Master of Arts in Film and TV - Script Writing
      • Master of Fine Arts in Script and Screenwriting
      • Master of Arts in Communication
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Political Communication
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Advertising and Public Relations
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Rhetoric and Public Culture
      • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Strategic Communication
      • Bachelor of Arts in English - Communication
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Communication Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Communication
  • Campus and Online Programs
    3. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Film Production
      • Master of Fine Arts - Media Design
      • M.S. - New Media Journalism
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Film (Campus)
      • BS - Media Communications (Campus)
      • BS - Audio Production
      • B.S. - Digital Cinematography
      • B.S. - Media Communications
  • Online Programs Available
    4. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Communication Studies, B.A.
    Associate's
      • Communication Studies, A.A.
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Communication
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Queens University of Charlotte

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Communication - General
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Integrated Digital Strategy Concentration
      • Master of Arts in Communication - Undecided
  • Queens, NY

    St. John's University

Featured Schools

Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Film and TV
  • Master of Arts in Film and TV - Producing
  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies - Advertising and Public Relations

What is your highest level of education completed?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Communication

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • Master of Science - Film Production
  • Master of Fine Arts - Media Design
  • BS - Film (Campus)
  • BS - Media Communications (Campus)

What is your highest level of education?

American University

  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

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Colorado Christian University

  • Communication Studies, B.A.
  • Communication Studies, A.A.

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Communication

What is your highest level of education?