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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.

  • Avg. Salary $61,006.00
  • Avg. Wage $35.10
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed 2,900
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Aerial Photographer, Camera Operator, Commercial Photographer, Forensic Photographer, Portrait Photographer, Scientific Photographer

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: Photographers (5221) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Photographers (F121) 
  • 2011 NOC: Photographers (5221) 
  • 2016 NOC: Photographers (5221) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift over 20 kg
Interest Codes
The Photographer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).

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

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 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 More

Updated Mar 31, 2017

Most photographers use digital cameras to shoot their subjects. They may specialize in fields such as commercial, fashion, portrait, event, forensic, aerial, scientific or multimedia 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
  • set up equipment and adjust cameras for desired focus, exposure, composition and other settings
  • hold photography sessions with individuals or groups in studios or on location
  • test and maintain all equipment
  • use specialized printers and paper processing or digital media as appropriate
  • use computers with appropriate software to process and manipulate digital images
  • use various techniques to re-touch images
  • 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
  • public relations
  • illustrating manuals, brochures, catalogues or flyers
  • other commercial purposes.

The 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. 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, 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
  • 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 computers, cameras 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
  • macro-photography
  • photomicrography
  • photogrammetry
  • sensitometry
  • specialized digital imaging techniques.

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 pictures from aircraft for:

  • news
  • research
  • town planning
  • rural development
  • cartographic (map-making) purposes
  • military purposes.

They may photograph subdivisions of homes 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, infra-red, 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, photographers obtain information using specialized techniques such as:

  • ultraviolet and infrared photography
  • fluorescence
  • X-rays
  • time-lapse photography
  • photomicrography
  • photogrammetry
  • 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.

Multimedia photographers produce and manipulate images to:

  • illustrate web pages or sites and support e-Commerce
  • enhance multimedia presentations
  • store, retrieve and transfer electronic image files.

They may use a wide variety of devices including digital cameras, film recorders, dye-sublimation printers and flatbed, film and drum scanners.

Photojournalists (news photographers) are “visual reporters” who take photographs for newspapers and magazines to 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 carry a camera, sometimes in dangerous circumstances.

They usually use digital photography and transmit pictures electronically, and must stay abreast of changing technology such as high-definition video cameras and multimedia presentations for newspaper websites.

Writing 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 Mar 31, 2017

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.

The pressure of having to 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. Safety courses 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 be at 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.

  • Strength Required Lift over 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 31, 2017

Photographers need:

  • an appreciation of the composition and feel of visual images
  • artistic ability
  • manual dexterity
  • a good sense of timing
  • patience and an ability to put people at ease
  • good eyesight, colour vision, and listening skills
  • the ability to visualize the finished product before its completion entrepreneurial skills, to be successfully self-employed
  • the ability to work accurately with details
  • a willingness to put in long hours honing their skills, developing their own style and keeping up with technological changes.

They should enjoy composing and arranging innovative pictures, and working with digital and computer equipment and software.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2017

Photographers may learn by working in related fields or by taking related 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.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

Grande Prairie Regional College

Grant MacEwan University

Keyano College

Mount Royal University

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Thompson Rivers University

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2017

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

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2017

Photography is a very competitive field. Most photographers work as independent freelancers who specialize in one or more types of work. 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.

In Alberta, 84% of people employed as photographers work in the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services [pdf] industry.

The employment outlook [pdf] in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions)
  • size of the occupation.

In Alberta, the 5221: Photographers occupational group is expected to have an average annual growth of 1.9% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 58 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

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

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2017

Talent, perseverance, reputation and experience determine how much freelance photographers earn.

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.00 $37.51 $30.49 $33.00
Overall $19.23 $48.46 $35.10 $35.00
Top $20.00 $48.46 $36.81 $36.00

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.

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.

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 Mar 31, 2017

Canadian Association for Photographic Arts (CAPA) website:

Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC) 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, 2017. 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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