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?

You would use your artistic and technical skills to take still photographs at special events or to be used in magazines, books or adverts.

You would normally specialise in one area of photography, such as:

  • General or social, like weddings and portraits
  • Advertising and editorial, for adverts, magazines and photo libraries
  • Press and photojournalism, for newspapers and other news publications
  • Fashion - photographing models and clothing for magazines and catalogues
  • Corporate, producing promotional material for industrial and commercial companies
  • Scientific or medical, recording scientific research, or medical conditions and treatments

You’d use your creativity to visualise and compose the images. People might be nervous so you’d help them to relax so they look good in the photos.

What ever type of photography you do, you would:

  • Discuss the project with your client, or get instructions from them (known as a brief)
  • Choose locations and get them ready for the photography session (the shoot)
  • Select the right cameras, film and accessories
  • Set up lighting and equipment
  • Compose and take the photos
  • Check the quality of the images
  • Retouch images by hand or with digital software such as Photoshop
  • Process and print photos

If you are self employed you would need to promote and run your business.

In some cases you might employ an assistant to help a shoot run smoothly. Assistants set up equipment, prepare sets and props, look after clients, keep records and help with printing and administration.

Working conditions


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


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


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

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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 college or university course to develop their technical skills. 

You can enter some Photography National Certificate or National Qualification courses (SCQF level 5) with no formal qualifications but most courses require National 4/5 qualifications (SCQF level 6).

You can enter a Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7) or Higher National Diploma courses (SCQF level 8) with National 4/5 qualifications and one to two Highers or equivalent qualifications.

To enter a degree (SCFQ level 9/10) requires National 5 qualifications and a minimum of 4 Higher or a relevant HNC/HND.

To enter a postgraduate qualification (SCFQ level 11) will usually require 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).