Design, arts and crafts

Career outlook for photographer

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

In this job you'd use your artistic and technical skills to take still photographs. You'd work with camera equipment and technology such as photo editing software.

There are different areas that you could specialise in, such as:

  • social events or family, for example weddings or newborn portraits
  • advertising and editorial, for adverts, magazines and photo libraries
  • press and photojournalism, for news publications
  • fashion, for magazines and catalogues
  • corporate, producing promotional material for companies
  • scientific or medical, recording research or medical conditions and treatments

You might also specialise in a specific technique. For example, 360-degree photography. This is where you take and edit images that present a 360-degree panoramic view. You could be showing off a street view or leading people on virtual tours through buildings with your images.

People might be nervous in front of a camera. Having social skills to chat to them and help them relax would be another part of your job.

Whatever type of photography you do, you'd:

  • discuss the project with your client and get instructions (known as a brief)
  • choose locations and prepare them for the session (the shoot)
  • select the right cameras, film and accessories
  • set up lighting and equipment
  • compose and take photos
  • check the quality of images
  • retouch images by hand or with digital software such as Photoshop
  • process and print photos

If you are self employed you'd need to promote and run your business. In some cases you might hire an assistant to help with the different tasks you'd carry out at a shoot.

Working conditions


Hours of work can vary and may often include evenings and weekends. As a self-employed photographer, you'd need to be flexible about when you worked. Part-time work might be possible.


Your working environment could also vary depending on the job (assignment). You'd often work in photographic studios but you could also be in various indoor or outdoor locations. Some jobs involve climbing ladders or working at heights. You might also need to lift and carry heavy equipment.


You'd spend a lot of time travelling to assignments, which could be in your local area, around the UK or possibly abroad.

UK employment status





Self employed


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Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Building relationships
  • Verbal communication
  • Working with technology
  • Creative
  • Innovative
  • Researching
  • Attention to detail
  • Developing a plan
  • Time management

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on


You do not need formal qualifications to pursue this career. Most professional photographers have taken a course to develop their skills. You could do this at college or university.

You will not need formal qualifications for some National Certificate or National Qualification courses (SCQF level 5). For most courses, you'll need National 4/5 qualifications (SCQF level 6).

To enter a Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7) or Higher National Diploma courses (SCQF level 8), you'll need both:

  • National 4/5 qualifications
  • one to two Highers or equivalent qualifications

To enter a degree (SCFQ level 9/10), you'll need both:

  • National 5 qualifications
  • at least 4 Higher or a relevant HNC or HND

To enter a postgraduate qualification (SCFQ level 11), you'll usually need a relevant degree.

Useful subjects

  • English (often required by courses)
  • maths (often required by courses)
  • art and design (often required by courses)
  • photography (often required by courses)
  • media (often required by courses) 
  • social studies
  • creative subjects
  • ICT-centred subjects

You will also need

A portfolio of your work when applying to courses and to jobs. 

Experience and personal contacts in the industry are also important for building a successful career.

Helpful to have

Qualifications that show photographic, creative, digital and visual communication skills such as:

  • Skills for Work Creative Digital Media (SCFQ level 4)
  • Creative Industries (SCFQ level 5)

Work-based qualifications such as a Diploma in Creative and Digital Media (SCQF level 7).