Photographers (NOC 5221)

About this job

Photographers operate still cameras to take photos of people, pets, events, scenes, products and other items. They work for photo studios, advertising and marketing agencies, newspapers, magazines, museums, art galleries, large organizations and government. Photographers may be self-employed, work on contract or freelance.

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


In general, photographers:

  • Review the details of each assignment and choose the type of camera, lighting, background and accessories
  • Set up the shot at the location or studio 
  • Make technical adjustments to the photography equipment as needed at the photo shoot 

In addition, they may:

  • Research and purchase/find props for the photo shoot
  • Direct the person being photographed to take a certain pose or stance
  • Use delicate instruments, such as optical microscopes attached to cameras
  • Adjust images using editing software
  • Use technology and other artistic techniques to retouch images
  • Adapt existing images and create new digitized images for multimedia/digital media
  • Use scanners to transfer images to computers, tablets or smart phones
  • Process exposed film

Photographers may specialize in areas, such as:

  • Portrait
  • Weddings
  • Fashion
  • Fine art
  • Real estate
  • Commercial
  • Scientific, medical, forensic
  • Nature
  • Photojournalism

Work environment

Depending on their area of focus, photographers may work for a studio, wedding planner, advertising or marketing agency, or for large organizations or media outlets. They may work in a camera store or department.

Photographers may work in a studio; however, they often need to work on location, depending on what is needed for the photo shoot. This includes weddings, outdoor events and family gatherings, as well as at corporate offices and art galleries. Some photographers who work in news may be required to travel to cover current events. Photographers who work in medical or science fields may need to work in a lab, hospital or other research facility. Photographers may work in an office or studio to edit images and to manage the administration side of the work, such as ordering supplies. Photographers are also responsible for reviewing the photos and using editing software to remove flaws, adjust lighting and improve other elements in the images before sending them to the client.

Photographers are often self-employed or work on contract or freelance. Some photographers take photos – especially of celebrities – and then sell them to specific media outlets. Social media sites like Instagram give photographers an opportunity to create their own brand and create a community of followers. They can earn money through the advertising allowed on their accounts or through product placement.  

Many photographers work a 35- to 40-hour week, which often include working Saturdays – especially those who photograph weddings, events and news. For photographers who are self-employed or work on contract, they spend time marketing their services, confirming contracts, invoicing and running their businesses.

People in this job may experience wrist and eye strain because they spend hours on their computer editing images. Also, some photographers may be required to go on dangerous or challenging assignments, such as taking photos during protests, in areas that are in conflict, in extreme weather or remote locations or near wild animals in nature.

Insights from industry

This career continues to be competitive. For those starting out, it may take several years before they are firmly established.

There is a growing demand for real estate photographers, especially for higher-priced homes. Also, as more organizations develop content for social media and websites, there is an increased need for photographers who can take photos in corporate settings to work within company brand guidelines.

Advances in technology have a big effect on this field of work. Photographers must be competent with computers and equipment, and still be creative. Digital cameras are the standard, although some photographers – especially those who specialize in fine art photography – use film.

Self-employed photographers must know how to market themselves, run a business and interact with customers.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Photographers starting their careers usually find work as a photographer's assistant at a studio, or make prints in a photo lab or other professional setting. Other employment opportunities include wedding and portrait photography.

Once they have gained experience, some photographers open their own business, specialize in a certain area or work for larger organizations.

Some photographers choose to provide images to image banks. They get paid each time their photos are used by website developers, advertising or marketing agencies. Others may concentrate on social media and building a following online. This allows them to sell originals and prints, as well as earn revenue from digital ads.

Additional resources

  • The Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators