Photographer Skills: Definitions and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated March 2, 2021 | Published October 27, 2020

Updated March 2, 2021

Published October 27, 2020

Photographer skills can help you advance in your career, find new career opportunities, take on more responsibilities or start your own business. Photographer skills include hard skills, like artistic and technical skills, and soft skills, like communication and interpersonal skills. Effectively highlighting these skills on your resume, cover letter and at the interview can give you an advantage over your competition.

In this article, we discuss what photographer skills you need to succeed, how to improve on them, ways to use your skills in the workplace and how to distinguish yourself by highlighting your skills throughout the job search process.

What are photographer skills?

Photographer skills are those skills needed to create high-quality pictures, including artistic vision and technical knowledge of camera equipment and the art of photography. Soft skills are also needed to communicate with clients, effectively network with other professionals and market and promote your talent or business. There's a lot of research, networking, preparation, set-up, break-down and post-production elements that make up the field of photography.

Also, skill sets can change depending on a photographer's area of specialization. Working as a photographer in fashion will look different from working as a photographer for a corporation. Some photographer duties and skills are interchangeable.

Examples of photographer skills

Photography is considered an art, but you don't necessarily have to be an artist to excel as a photographer. Having an eye for the most breathtaking images or an ability to create dynamic snapshots of beautiful moments is only a part of your needed skills as a photographer.

A successful photographer needs to possess the following skills:

Artistic skills

To excel as a photographer, you need to be artsy or creative. You at least need to have an eye for composition and exposure control, which means knowing how the placement or arrangement of visual elements and the lightness and darkness of an image will affect overall photographic quality.

Other things to consider when evaluating your artistic talent behind the lens are how well you can determine visually appealing poses, angles, coloring and still images. What you can capture on film should accurately depict the subjects' personalities, the landmarks' significance and nature's beauty and evoke any emotions a viewer can feel within the context of the photograph.

Technical skills

Highly skilled photographers learn to maintain a solid balance between the artistic and technical sides of working behind the camera. You will need to apply both aspects simultaneously for a flawless photo and to distinguish yourself from your competition.

Technical photography skills include lighting ratios or apertures, maximum dynamic range and optimal shutter speeds. Post-production editing is also an important aspect of showcasing yourself as a skilled photographer. Adjusting color balances, removing flaws and completing other tasks are often required to get your photos to their highest quality. For these steps, you will typically need visual editing software and an understanding of how to use those programs.

Good communication skills

Artistic and technical skills are known as hard skills, while good communication skills are known as soft skills. Soft skills not only include your ability to communicate effectively but other personality traits that make you successful in business. These traits might include positivity, perseverance, patience and understanding. These skills are often just as important as hard skills.

Communication is a must when creating and building relationships with potential clients. Beyond having the skills to start up a conversation, though, really listening to and empathizing with others is what will set you apart in the photography industry.

Examples of effective communication and useful personality traits for skilled photographers might include:

  • Asking the right questions

  • Listening to and understanding your client's wants or needs

  • Remaining positive about the vision and outcome

  • Persevering through changes or setbacks

  • Working well under pressure or meeting tight deadlines

  • Showing patience in your work and with those you are working with

  • Staying dedicated to the project, even when long hours are required

Ability to work well under pressure and meet deadlines

Photographers are sometimes required to work long hours during days, nights or weekends, in varying outdoor climates or weather conditions, under challenging situations or with strict deadlines. It's important that you remain calm under pressure and that your work product and quality stay relatively consistent. You should be the kind of person who frequently pushes through unexpected circumstances.

Patience, dedication and attention to detail

Photography is very detailed work. You need to be able to easily dissect a photo and notice details others would ordinarily miss. To be a successful photographer, you should be dedicated to the vision and artistic process and have the patience to keep trying until you get it right.

Ability to work independently and with a team

Communication skills extend beyond external relationship-building. As a photographer, you will often need to work with a team. Teamwork and collaboration skills are a must for your long-term success in the photography industry. How well you can adopt and implement these skills will also determine your ultimate ability to grow, advance and adapt in a rapidly changing digital/technological world.

It's also important to be dependable on your own. Your clients or employer may ask you to complete tasks independently, and you will need to prove your determination to succeed even when no one is watching. You need to be able to hold yourself accountable for quality and deadlines, especially if you want to start your own business.

Related: 6 Qualities That Make a Great Team Player

How to improve photographer skills

Photographers often acquire and perfect skills on the job. The more experience you get, the more likely you will be noticed. It's a good idea for those hoping to improve on their photography-related talents to recruit several “model” subjects or experiment with some sample shots. You should test different lighting techniques or various editing methods as well.

Here are some more ways to improve your photography skills:

1. Full-time skills training

College or technical school courses can help acquire and advance photographer skills. Degrees in photography, film, digital imaging, fine art, art and design, graphics or media studies can be beneficial in leading up to your career as a skilled photographer.

It's also important to consider specialized areas of photography, such as fashion or photojournalism. These employment avenues might require additional training or degrees. Internships obtained via educational opportunities are a great way to identify your skills and specialty or interest within the industry. Additionally, this is a great way to secure potential future job prospects post-graduation.

2. Part-time skills training

Community colleges or other local academic and continuing education-supportive venues often host part-time photography classes or programs. Options might include:

  • Discussions

  • Seminars

  • Online exhibitions

  • Certifications

  • Workshops

3. Freelance or independent business owner skills training

You might want to consider taking some business courses if you're thinking of freelancing as a photographer or starting your own photography business. There's a lot more to running a business than simply having the skills, equipment and clientele.

You will want to know how to effectively manage your business in the areas of:

  • Marketing and promotion

  • Contracts and copyright laws

  • Licensing and business maintenance

  • Employee management and payroll

  • Basic bookkeeping and financial management, including tracking your profitability and paying taxes

Read more: How To Start a Photography Business

How to highlight photographer skills

Employers looking for skilled photographers will want to see a professional portfolio showcasing your work. You will need to continually update your included samples whether online or displayed in a traditional book format. Networking is also important in the photography industry. Talking to the right people can help land you opportunities such as a volunteer role to add to your portfolio.

Knowing what skills are desirable among recruiters and enhancing that skill set on your resume, in your cover letter and at the interview can help you find a job as a photographer. Here are some tips to get you started:

Photographer skills for your resume

List your photography skills in a designated “skills” section so the employer can readily see them. Also, a summary highlighting your most important or prominent skills is an effective way to instantly attract an employer's attention and let them know why you would be a strong candidate for the job. Lastly, you should include a section that exhibits your experience with various camera equipment and photographic software.

Photographer skills for your cover letter

You can pull one or two skills from your resume to feature in your cover letter. Provide detailed examples of how you've applied each skill professionally to best emphasize your competency as a photographer. You can also use this correspondence to discuss any classes you've completed, the knowledge you obtained and how you might have demonstrated proof of that knowledge within the professional world.

For example, you might write: "In my last position with Larsen Photography, I perfected my composition skills by selecting and setting up props for family photos and senior portraits."

Read more: Photographer Cover Letter Sample

Photographer skills for the interview

At the interview, focus on some of your key photographer skills. Provide examples of specific instances when you used each of these skills to succeed at work or school.

For example, you could say: "In school, I used visual editing software to enhance images I took on campus, featuring the university's unique architectural beauty. Two of those images were featured on the university website and in the school's 2017 new student recruitment brochures. I've included those images in my portfolio if you would like to view them."

The interview is also the perfect time to showcase your soft skills. Make eye contact, smile, remain positive and confident and practice good communication skills, which means listening intently before responding.

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