Picture Perfect Photography Careers

When one thinks of photography careers, two things usually spring to mind: wedding photography and wildlife photography. The photographic industry is far more varied than this, however, with many different safe and exciting careers available.

Let’s start with some of the safe careers.

  • Portrait photography

It doesn’t get much more straightforward than portrait photography. Portrait photography came into being with the first camera. While the basic idea remains the same, it has come a long way since the first stiffly posed daguerreotypes of the 19th century. These days, instead of capturing the way their subjects look, photographers aim to capture their essence. They play around with light, focus, themes, background and the like – not always successfully.

According to Sasha Gitin and Robert Grant, portrait photography comprises eight styles (they say nine, but they managed to misplace #3):

1)     Traditional/Classical: the subject looks straight at the camera to capture the face in all its glory.

2)     Environmental: subjects are photographed in their ‘natural’ environment. A ballet dancer could be photographed practicing at the barre, for example. This helps to capture the essence of the subject.

3)     Candid: spur of the moment photos that catch subjects in the raw. Photojournalists and event photographers take candid portraits. That photo of drunken uncle Arnie vomiting in the plants at the family Christmas dinner – that’s candid.

4)     Glamour: favoured by aspiring models, actors and beauty queens, but growing in popularity among the hoi polloi. After all, who doesn’t want to be immortalized looking elegant and sexy?

5)     Lifestyle: a natural approach to certain types of portraiture, including wedding and family photography. Instead of the traditional posed photos, subjects are encouraged to ‘act naturally’ and the photographer takes pictures of them being themselves. It’s also intended to capture the essence of the subject. It could be argued that the results are also candid.

6)     Surreal: there is nothing candid about this style. Photographers use all the tricks that modern technology allows to create surreal images that still, somehow, represent their subjects.

7)     Conceptual: portraits are layered with hidden meaning using concepts that may or may not flummox viewers.

8)     Abstract: photos are manipulated after the fact to create abstract images. If Picasso had a digital camera and Photoshop, this would be his style.

As you can see, portrait photography may be ‘safe’, but it certainly doesn’t have to be boring.

  • Food photography

This is a great job if you also happen to be a closet (or not so closet) foodie. Someone has to take photos of all that delicious food that ends up accompanying recipes in lifestyle magazines and cookbooks. It might as well be you. Granted, the food is sometimes not entirely edible (according to Wikipedia, burgers aren’t cooked properly so that they retain the right look), but chances are good you’ll get some tasty tidbits – and you’re sure to get great tips from the cooks.

Bear in mind that food photography is highly technically, so you’ll need to find specialist photography courses that will teach you all the tricks of the trade.

And now let’s look at some exciting careers.

  • Combat photography

Combat photography is definitely not for the fainthearted. There are two types of combat photographers: those employed by armed forces and those not employed by the armed forces. Military combat photographers tend to take pictures for operational and strategic purposes, as well as other purposes that could be classified and covert. Non-military photographers are usually, but not always, photojournalists and war correspondents.

Combat photographers intentionally put themselves in harm’s way, so you need nerves of steel and real dedication to the shot. You’ll have to make do with whatever equipment you’ve got, because there isn’t always time to attach a special lens or erect a tripod.

It’s dangerous – and definitely exciting.

  • Travel photography

You can make this as exciting or as safe as you like, really. You can keep it safe by travelling to Blue Star tropical beaches, or you can make it exciting by exploring North Korea. Either way, you’ll meet an eclectic mix of people.

You don’t necessarily need nerves of steel, but you do need to be resistant to homesickness and have a lead-lined tummy so that you can sample all of the local delicacies, no matter where you go.

If you fancy travel photography, but aren’t that keen on all the logistics and details that go with it, you could always become a photographer on a cruise liner. Shipboard photographers travel everywhere from Alaska to Hawaii and from Russia to the Med. You get paid to see the world, your board and lodging is taken care of, and the demands aren’t that heavy. You’ll have to deal with hordes of tourists day-in and day-out, but if you’re a people-person with aeons of patience then the gig is a dream.

The market for wedding photographers might be flooded, and it’s notoriously difficult to get into wildlife photography. Fortunately, there are plenty of other options available. So what are you waiting for? Start flexing your abstract muscles now and you could take the world of portraiture by storm.

About the Author

Jemima Winslow confesses she does not have an eye for photography. Nor does she have a hand steady enough to hold a camera still long enough to get a blur-free picture. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t fancy a freelance photography and travel writing course so she can live the dream.