The State of Photography as a Career

What is the state of photography today?  The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts have good news and bad news for photographers in general.

The BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook projects that the employment of photographers will decline by six percent over the next ten years.  However, that number masks some major variations in prospects that depend on the type of photography.  Demand for portrait and wedding photographers is projected to remain strong, but staff photographer positions, especially in the publishing world, will continue to decline. The Bureau projects that photographers employed by newspapers will drop by a stunning 34% over a decade.  On the other hand, projections show the ranks of free-lance and self-employed photographers increasing by 12%.

“The decreasing cost of digital cameras and the increasing number of amateur photographers and hobbyists will reduce the need for professional photographers. In addition, stock photographic services available online give individuals and businesses access to stock photographs for a fee or subscription, possibly dampening demand for photographers,” says the BLS.

Learn more about the art and business of nature photography, hear from leading photographers, check out the latest gear and services, and connect with fellow photographers at NANPA’s Nature Photography Summit, February 21-23, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Get the “Early Bird” rate and register now!

The outlook for photo processors is even more bleak, with jobs falling by almost 20% in the next decade as ever more people abandon film for digital.

Still, as it looks toward the future, the bureau points to two bright spots on the horizon:

  • New technologies have the potential to open some doors to photographers. For example, advances in drones and the cameras they carry are expected to increase the demand for aerial photographs from businesses and event planners.
  • Photographers with wider skill sets, including capturing and editing video, will find more work. That could also be true of photographers who can both write a story and provide the accompanying images.

Unfortunately for us, the median pay isn’t great and “salaried jobs may be more difficult to obtain as companies increasingly contract with freelancers rather than hire their own photographers.”

The demand for tour guides, in general, is expected to increase by about 10%, leading one to suppose there’s room for photographers offering location workshops and guided tours of popular places.

It’s a tough way to make a living, but a lot of us nature photographers wouldn’t want to do anything else.

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