Photographers (NOC 5221)

About this job

Photographers operate still cameras to photograph people, events, scenes, materials, products and other subjects. Photographers are employed by photographic studios, newspapers, magazines, museums and government, or they may be self-employed.

Watch the video below to see what a day in the life of a photographer is like.
Common job titles
  • illustrator, multimedia picture
  • photographer, aerial / fashion / news
  • photographer, chief / senior
  • photographer, commercial / industrial
  • photographer, medical / scientific
  • photographer, multimedia



  • Study requirements of a particular assignment and decide on type of camera, film, lighting and background accessories to be used
  • Determine picture composition, make technical adjustments to equipment and photograph subject
  • May operate scanners to transfer photographic images to computers
  • May operate computers to manipulate photographic images
  • May adapt existing photographic images and create new digitized images to be included in multimedia/newmedia products
  • May use delicate instruments, such as optical microscopes attached to cameras
  • May process exposed film
  • May use airbrush, computer or other techniques to retouch negatives
  • Medical photographers may work closely with medical illustrators.

Special duties

Photographers may specialize in areas such as portrait photography, commercial photography, scientific photography, forensic photography, medical photography, digitized photography, multimedia photography or photojournalism.

Work environment

Photographers may choose from a wide variety of employment options, such as working at portrait studios or photo development labs or for magazines or newspapers, thereby influencing their place of work.

Photographers may work in a studio; however, they also may be required to work at various locations, depending on the requirements of the photographic shoot (i.e., weddings, outdoor settings, etc.) Some photojournalists may also be required to travel, as they may be assigned work in various locations either locally, nationally or internationally. The technical aspects of this occupation are usually undertaken in an office or laboratory setting.

Due to the popularity of digital photography, most photographers are now spending an increasing amount using a computer, either for standard image processing or to undertake digital retouching and manipulation.

Laboratory and studio-based photographers usually work a standard 35- to 40-hour week, which may include working Saturdays. Self-employed or freelance photographers are often required to work evenings or on weekends and frequently work 50- to 60-hours per week.  Time is spent processing images, finding new clients, book keeping, computer maintenance, office upkeep, etc.

Individuals in this occupation may experience wrist and eye strain, as this occupation typically requires workers to spend extended hours using computers. In addition, some workers in this occupational group may have occasional hazardous assignments, such as taking photographs from the air or covering stories in remote locations.

Insights from industry

Industry sources report there is currently an adequate supply of graduates. As such, recent graduates may find it more difficult to obtain satisfactory employment (in the sense of job stability and wages). In addition, highly competitive categories such as commercial photography, portrait photography and photojournalism will be more difficult areas for workers to obtain employment.

Advances in technology have significantly impacted this field of work. Although many professional photographers continue to use traditional film cameras, the majority of photographers now use digital cameras.

Due to advances in technology, photographers now need to be technically competent with computers (i.e., digital media, photographic software, scanning equipment, etc.) in addition to being creative. Self-employed photographers need both technical photographic and photographic manipulation expertise, as well as considerable business-related skills.

Advances in technology in this field are ongoing, and photographers who are able keep their skills current will have an edge.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Recently graduated photographers typically find work as a photographer's assistant at a studio, or printing in a photo lab or other professional setting. Other employment opportunities include wedding and portrait photography.

With experience, photographers may be hired as supervisors or managers of larger photographic studios. They may also become newspaper photographers or fashion photographers.

Photographers with entrepreneurial skills may opt to develop and run their own private business.

Additional resources

  • Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communications