Each month we take a look at one of the 650 career pathways featured within Indigo. This month we’re exploring the role of a Photographer.

Discover the different pathways into this role with this video career profile from the Indigo Careers module.

So what is a Photographer?

Photographers capture images using technical lighting and equipment. Using your eye for design and knowledge of photographic techniques you will create images for a specific brief.

Many photographers work with digital enhancing techniques to modify and improve, or add interest and illusions to the images they produce.

Hours are likely to be unstable and you may have very variable periods of business.


You will either be based in a studio or work on location.

If you work outdoors you could record images for advertising and photo-journalism. This may require patience if the weather or light conditions are not correct for your shot.

Type of work

In a studio, you could work with still life and portraiture. Lighting equipment can be heavy and the work can be physically tiring as you will be on your feet for long periods.

Things to consider

Lighting equipment can be heavy and the work can be physically tiring as you will be on your feet for long periods.

Irregular work/job insecurity
It takes time in this competitive industry to develop contacts, so you might need a second job to support yourself.

National/International Acclaim
There is the potential for public acknowledgement and personal satisfaction for using your creativity and technical skills to create original images.

Can Specialise
You can specialise in a particular type of photography and market yourself as an expert in that area.

Little progression opportunity
Unless you start your own agency, the main source of progression in this industry is through reputation.

Most people have 3 A Levels and you will need previous experience/passion for the field

There are no set academic requirements to become a photographer but the following courses may be useful to gain relevant knowledge: an A level/H grade in Photography; a City & Guilds Certificate in Photo Imaging and Photography (Levels 1–3); an HNC/HND in Art and Design or a relevant degree. The content of a photography degree can vary significantly, with some having a greater emphasis on artistic aspects and others more focused on commercial concerns. Creative Skillset provides a course accreditation scheme.

Candidates wishing to pursue careers as police, medical or press photographers will need 5 GCSEs/National 5s (C or above, or 4 or above in England), including English and Maths. It is necessary for medical photographers to have a degree or postgraduate certificate in clinical photography and forensic photographers to have an A level/H grade in a science. It is generally accepted that prior work experience is a necessary requirement, with perseverance and patience essential. Visit galleries, volunteer in museums and find any way to get your work published as you will need a strong portfolio comprising between 10 and 15 shots and knowledge of a variety of software packages.

Depending on the area of photography in which you work, your training will vary. Many photographers are self-employed and learn on the job whilst medical and press photographers often follow a recognised training pattern. Press photographers are encouraged to complete the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) Level 3 Diploma in Journalism which has electives in Photography for Journalists and Videojournalism for Online. Medical photographers are encouraged to gain a certificate in clinical photography provided by either Cardiff or Staffordshire University. The British Institute of Professional Photographers (BIPP) provides a variety of courses, workshops and seminars which cover a wide range of photography disciplines and business skills. These may be useful should you choose to become freelance or set up your own photography business.

table showing salary progression of photographer

Salary progression

As an assistant photographer, you can expect to earn between £14,000 and £18,000 a year. Depending on your experience and popularity, this can rise to £19,000–£65,000 once established.

Click here to explore the full library of over 650 career profiles, including multimedia content and LMI data for students to interpret and discuss.