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Photographers use their skills and artistic talent to capture people, products, events, fashion, landscapes, legal evidence and other subjects on film or digital media.

Also Known As

Camera Operator, Camera Person, Photographer (Action / Aerial / Commercial / Fashion / Forensic / Portrait / Product / Scientific / Wedding / Wildlife), Photojournalist

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used.

Here is how this occupation has been classified over time.

2006 NOC

  • 5221: Photographers

2006 NOC-S

  • F121: Photographers

2011 NOC

  • 5221: Photographers

2016 NOC

  • 5221: Photographers

2021 NOC

  • 53110: Photographers

2023 OaSIS

  • 53110.00: Photographers
Updated May 19, 2021

Most photographers use digital cameras to shoot their subjects. They may specialize in genres such as commercial, fashion, portrait, event, forensic, aerial, or scientific photography, or photojournalism. In general, however, they:

  • Consult with clients or advertising staff and study assignments to determine locations and type of equipment needed
  • Select appropriate equipment (such as lenses, electronic flashes, floodlights, reflectors) and props
  • Test and maintain all equipment
  • Set up equipment and adjust cameras for desired focus, angles, exposure, framing and other settings
  • Set up both in-frame props and out-of-frame lighting, filters, fans, etc. to create the desired result
  • Prepare the subject (such as models or products) for pleasing compositions
  • Hold photography sessions with individuals or groups in studios or on location
  • Shoot to capture as many meaningful images and variations as possible in a set timeframe
  • Use computers with appropriate software to process and manipulate digital images
  • Use various techniques to re-touch images
  • Use specialized printers and paper processing or digital media as appropriate
  • Deliver images to clients either digitally or physically

Commercial photographers may specialize in a number of areas, such as advertising, architectural, corporate, fashion, industrial or product photography. They may take pictures for:

  • Advertising and promotion
  • Public relations
  • Illustrating manuals, brochures, catalogues or flyers
  • Other commercial purposes

They may photograph:

  • Merchandise
  • Industrial products
  • Clothing
  • Food
  • Equipment
  • Buildings

They may specialize in large products, small tabletop work or fashion photography. They must be very versatile, able to shoot almost anything and produce dramatic, quality work quickly. They often work closely with art directors and use computers to digitally manipulate images. Commercial photographers who work for advertising agencies also need graphic design skills. For more information, see the Graphic Designer occupational profile.

Portrait and wedding photographers take pictures of individuals or groups of people or pets, often at significant moments in their subjects’ lives. In small photography studios or department stores, portrait photographers may have a variety of responsibilities in addition to taking pictures. These may include:

  • Arranging appointments and viewings
  • Selling photographic equipment and supplies, images and related products, such as picture frames and albums, or merchandise with selected images affixed
  • Bookkeeping and general office duties
  • Framing and laminating photographs
  • Processing, enhancing and retouching film and digital images

An ability to help people relax in front of the camera is an essential skill for portrait and wedding photographers.

Event photographers attend events such as sports tournaments and large family reunions, take digital photographs and sell images to people attending the event. They may sell print copies of images or CDs of images.

Forensic photographers are members of the police service who use cameras, computers and related equipment to:

  • Record legal evidence at the scene of a crime, in hospitals or in a forensic laboratory
  • Develop visual aids and charts for lectures and for presenting evidence
  • Provide a permanent record of evidence for use in court
  • Provide support for other scientific activities in a forensic lab

Forensic photographers may employ a variety of specialized materials and techniques, including:

  • Infrared and ultraviolet films (to image things not visible under normal lighting)
  • Macro-photography (images of small-scale details enlarged)
  • Photomicrography (images from a microscope)
  • Photogrammetry (images to survey and measure)
  • Sensitometry (measuring the radiation or light-sensitive properties of films or emulsions)
  • Specialized digital imaging techniques(such as using image processing algorithms to enhance details)

Forensic photoanalysts are scientists who use photographic or photo-analytical techniques to examine physical marks and relate materials to each other. For example, microscopic marks on 2 objects may reveal a common source. For more information, see the Forensic Laboratory Analyst occupational profile.

Aerial photographers shoot 2-dimensional or stereoscopic pictures from aircraft for:

  • News
  • Research
  • Town or city planning
  • Rural and urban development
  • Geology, forestry or mining development
  • Cartographic (map-making) purposes
  • Firefighting purposes
  • Military purposes

They may photograph subdivisions of homes or land lots for realtors, industrial sites for corporate brochures or land formations for surveys, for example. They use various types of equipment to produce black-and-white, colour, infrared, 3-dimensional and digital images.

Scientific and biomedical photographers specialize in scientific fields such as medicine. They may:

  • Provide illustration and documentation for scientific publications and research reports
  • Specialize in patient, operating room or laboratory photography
  • Produce images of treatment procedures for medical textbooks

Medical photographers must have a good understanding of human anatomy. They may work closely with medical illustrators and graphic design specialists to prepare presentations for medical lectures or textbooks.

In this highly technical field, scientific photographers obtain information using specialized techniques such as:

  • Ultraviolet and infrared photography
  • Fluorescence
  • X-rays
  • Time-lapse photography
  • Photomicrography
  • Photogrammetry
  • Steroscopic imaging
  • Digital imaging

Photographers in this field often use very delicate instruments such as optical microscopes attached to a camera. Some medical photographers, such as retinal photographers, are highly trained specialists.

Photojournalists (news photographers) are “visual reporters” who take photographs for news outlets and magazines to document and tell news stories about events, people, places and objects. They must be able to recognize a scene or event as important or unusual, make decisions instantly and be willing to capture the moment, sometimes in dangerous circumstances.

They usually use digital cameras and thus are able to transmit pictures electronically to news outlets shortly after taking them. They must stay abreast of changing technology such as high-definition video cameras and multimedia presentations for newspaper websites.

Writing or on-camera reporting may be part of a photojournalist’s assignment. Magazines and newspapers sometimes buy a “picture story,” which includes both pictures and a written narrative. For more information, see the Reporter occupational profile.

Working Conditions
Updated May 19, 2021
  • Strength Required Lift over 20 kg

Photographers may routinely be required to lift equipment weighing more than 20 kilograms. Photojournalists may carry lenses, a laptop computer and extra camera equipment that weigh up to 20 kilograms. Commercial photographers may lift and move lighting cords and stands weighing from 10 to 40 kilograms. Some professional photographers may hire an assistant to help with equipment.

The pressure of having to shoot within strict timeframes and meet deadlines can be stressful. Photographers also may face conflict situations if client’s expectations are not met (for example, clients may expect ownership of the image files).

Other working conditions, especially working environments and hours, vary considerably in this occupation. For example, commercial photographers and portrait photographers may work in well-lighted studios, scenic outdoor locations, clients’ homes, churches or corporate offices. However, photojournalists may work outdoors in all types of weather. Safety training may be required when working in industrial locations, such as construction sites.

Those employed full time may work regular hours, 5 days a week. Freelance photographers often are required to work evenings and weekends.

Photojournalists often work long, irregular hours and may be expected to get to a certain location at a moment’s notice. The scenes to be photographed are sometimes very unpleasant. Some photojournalists travel to various news “hot spots” around the world. Living conditions may be less than ideal, or even dangerous.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.


2006 NOC: 5221

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

Interest in synthesizing information to determine picture composition, technique and special treatment to be used concerning subject to be photographed, and to set up arrangement to conceive artistic or special effect; may adapt existing photographic images and create new digitized images to be included in multimedia/new media products


Interest in speaking to arrange and position subjects; and in loading, exposing and unloading film, and in transporting and setting up equipment at assigned locations


Interest in setting up equipment, in making technical adjustments to equipment and in photographing subjects; may operate scanners to transfer photographic images to computers to manipulate photographic images; may operate delicate instruments, such as optical microscopes attached to cameras; may process exposed film and use airbrush, computer and other techniques to retouch negatives

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 

It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective, and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes for this NOC group is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
Updated May 19, 2021

Photographers need:

  • An appreciation of the power of visual images
  • Artistic ability, including knowledge of composition
  • Manual dexterity
  • A good sense of timing
  • Time management skills
  • Patience and an ability to put people at ease
  • Good eyesight, colour vision, and listening skills
  • The ability to creatively problem solve, using what is available
  • The ability to visualize the finished product before its completion
  • Entrepreneurial and marketing skills, to be successfully self-employed
  • The ability to work accurately with details
  • Computer skills, for image file management and image manipulation software use
  • A willingness to put in long hours honing their skills, developing their own style and keeping up with technological changes

They should enjoy conceiving, composing and capturing interesting pictures, finding creative ways to present ideas and developing innovative approaches to their work.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For


2016 NOC: 5221

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 35 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Jan 18, 2022 and May 28, 2024.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Tasks: Operate computers to manipulate photographic images
Tasks: Study requirements of a particular assignment and decide on type of camera, film, lighting and background accessories to be used
Tasks: Take pictures of individuals, families, groups and public
Tasks: Operate scanners to transfer photographic images to computers
Photographic Experience: General
Tasks: Determine picture composition, make technical adjustments to equipment and photograph subject
Tasks: Adapt existing photographic images and create new digitized images to be included in multimedia/newmedia products
Tasks: Develop and print photographs
Attention to detail
Tasks: Mount and frame photographs
Educational Requirements
Updated May 19, 2021
  • Minimum Education Varies

Photographers may learn by working in related fields, or by taking related workshops or post-secondary education programs. Computer skills are essential for digital photography.

The field of professional photography is very competitive. To stay competitive photographers need:

  • Versatility, which is an often critical element in obtaining work
  • The ability to build a reputation through networking, self-promotion and marketing
  • Small business skills

Post-secondary schools throughout Alberta offer fine art, visual arts, design, communications and journalism programs.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated May 19, 2021
  • Certification Not Regulated

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated May 19, 2021

Photography is a very competitive field. Most photographers work as independent freelancers who specialize in one or more types of genre. Some full-time employment is available in areas such as forensic, medical, aerial or scientific photography. However, these are very specialized jobs and limited in number. Department stores and retail chains offer some full-time positions in portrait photography.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 5221: Photographers occupational group, 86.3% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 5221: Photographers occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.7% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 65 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Related Alberta Job Postings
Wage & Salary
Updated May 19, 2021

Talent, reputation and experience determine how much freelance photographers are able to charge for their services.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.


2016 NOC: 5221
Average Wage
Per Hour
Average Salary
Per Year
Average Hours
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 5221 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production), and other forms of compensation.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

C: Lower Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lower Reliability, represents a CV of between 15.01% and 33.00% and/or if fewer than 20 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 33% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $16.00 $37.51 $24.15 $17.31
Overall $16.00 $48.46 $26.88 $17.31
Top $17.31 $48.46 $28.29 $20.00

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

Health Care & Social Assistance

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
Vacancy Rate
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
Other Sources of Information
Updated May 19, 2021

Canadian Association for Photographic Arts (CAPA) website:

News Photographers Association of Canada website:

Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC) – Alberta Chapter website:

The Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators (CAPIC) website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2021. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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