What Do Professional Photographers Do?

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  • Written By: A.E. Freeman
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Images By: Rafael Ben-Ari, Robhainer, Aleksander, Fovivafoto, Mike, Rachwalski, Deklofenak, Inarik, Goodluz, Magann
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2019
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Professional photographers capture images on camera, either using traditional film or digital technology. They may work for a newspaper or other media outlet, taking pictures of news events, or they may work in a portrait studio, taking pictures of people. Some professional photographers take commercial photographs, such as pictures for advertisements, while others are more artistic and take fine-art photographs. After the photograph is taken, photographers spend time developing and editing it.

A professional photographer who works for a media outlet, such as a newspaper, may take pictures of anything from a local car accident to a war in a far-off country. Being a news photographer, or photojournalist, can be risky, as the photographer may be sent to unstable, dangerous areas or to photograph volatile events. Professional photographers who work in media or news may not work a regular 40-hour week. Instead, they may need to be on-call for whenever a newsworthy event occurs.

Some professional photographers specialize in taking portraits of people, either on location or in a studio. A portrait photographer may take pictures of students for a school yearbook or may be hired to take photographs at a wedding. Many portrait photographers also run their own studio and need to be able to handle the business side of things, such as advertising, paying taxes, and working with employees.


Commercial photographers can work in a variety of industries. They may take photographs of models for fashion catalogs or pictures of food for menus. Professional photographers who work in a commercial industry are usually responsible for taking pictures for print advertisements as well. They may also take photographs of professionals for use in a company's brochure.

Photographers can also specialize in taking fine-art pictures. Being a fine-art photographer requires creativity as well as skill using a camera. Most fine-art photographers sell their work to buyers of art as individual prints. Some may have showings in galleries or museums. It may be more difficult to earn a living as a fine-art photographer than as a photojournalist, portrait, or commercial photographer.

In addition to being able to use a camera, professional photographers need to understand how to use editing software if they use digital film or how to develop traditional photo film. Part of working as a professional photographer is assembling past work into a portfolio to show to potential employers or clients. Many photographers have their portfolios posted on their websites, while some may have physical copies of their portfolio.


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