Photographers take photographs of people, places, products or events.
Photographers earn an average of
$41K per year
Source: Stats NZ, ‘2013 Census’, 2015.
Most photographers are self-employed, so their income depends on the success of their businesses, as well as how many hours they work.
According to Census data, the average yearly income for photographers in 2013 was $40,700.
Source: Statistics New Zealand, '2013 Census', 2015.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Photographers may do some or all of the following:
- work out ideas for photo shoots – either their own ideas or specific ideas from clients
- arrange cameras, lights, locations, props and models for shoots
- use digital camera and lighting equipment
- digitally process and edit photos for print or web
- design albums or books for clients
- manage and market their own businesses
- plan, produce and edit video footage.
Skills and knowledge
Photographers need to have knowledge of:
- cameras, flashes, lenses and computers
- how to control light and achieve different photographic effects
- how to process digital images and use software such as Photoshop and Lightroom
- latest photographic methods, equipment and trends.
Self-employed photographers also need small business and marketing skills, along with an understanding of relevant legislation such as copyright and consumer law.
- work regular business hours, or may be required to work long, irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, to fit in with clients
- work in studios, offices, darkrooms, and outdoors in various locations
- travel locally, nationally or internationally to photo-shoot locations.
What's the job really like?
Taaniko and Vienna Nordstrom talk about how they created Soldiers Rd Portraits - 6.04 mins
Taaniko Nordstrum: Parumm pum pum pum. Yeah.
Vienna Nordstrum: Settle down.
Taaniko: Like her hair?
First thing, thank you very much for having us.
Johnson: So how does this process work? All I know is that I’m a canvas and that’s all I know really.
So what happens from here?
Taaniko: So usually I’ll get a little sense of what you’re like and then I’ll have a look to what I think you might wear and then I’ll start styling.
Johnson: I might need to look at the size of the clothes in case I can’t fit them.
Taaniko: We’re pro-brown people here so it’s one size fits all.
I'd say I'm fun energetic and probably positive. I feel like I’m definitely an optimist.
Vienna: Yeah, I’m amazing.
Taaniko: Fricken awesome. Sorry.
Vienna: I am ah, probably the more awkward one of us. More of an introvert, so yip, she’s the yin and I’m the yang.
Johnson: Can you tell me how how this all started? How did the business start?
Taaniko: Oh my god, I totally can. Actually I went to New York and to the Smithsonian Museum and they had these exact Native American images that I had seen in my home but the actual photos and I was like Johnson I should do something like that for Māori people.
Then I got back from New York and I was broke so I did nothing about it. I had to get a job and then found this bad boy at an op shop and give it a couple of other things my mum worked up some korowai and and yip Bob’s your uncle.
I rang my sister-in-law she had no idea – she hadn't done it before or she’d only seen some of the mock images I'd done but she is a photographer and I am not and I was like hey I’ve got this real
She'd never done a portrait before she wasn't even a portrait photographer she was like a landscape photographer eh, Vi? And so the first portrait – Soldiers Road portrait – we ever did together was actually the first customer which is a very like I think a very kiwi Māori attitude, oh we’ll give it a crack, we’ll give it a go.
And we were charging $10 a picture and then it ended up being huge … we did…30?
Vienna: Yeah, I think close to 40.
Taaniko: On the first day of ever doing Soldier’s Road as an idea we did 40 portraits.
Vienna: So how does she stay organised? She stays with me.
Taaniko: So, like, we’ll go into a room, and I’ll be like, we’ll pack up and I’ll be like…
Vienna: Ooh a butterfly.
Taaniko: Or I’ll be like ‘Has anyone seen my sour worms?’ and like totally forget my wallet and phone. And then Vi will be like ‘I’ve got your wallet and phone in my bag’. Yeah, and I’m like ‘Thanks Vi’.
So, I’m like a crazy tornado and Vi like calmly goes and cleans up all the mess.
Once a month I’ll think ‘I'm going to get a normal job. Oh, this is too hard or I need some regular income or whatever.
Johnson: What keeps it going?
Taaniko: People – people like you. People like, the people that come and we meet. Oh, ‘I've been waiting for a whole year to save up to come and get my portrait’ or ‘I really want one for my nanny before she passes away.’
And you think like, yeah, we’re going to have to keep going at this. This is something that wow, we’re gonna do, we’re gonna do it.
Tip number one? Be grateful. Vibes of gratitude and the energy of gratitude you end up always getting back as well. It's a great way to attract the type of things you want by showing gratitude. Show gratitude.
Vienna: Tip number two. Be a yes-Johnson or woJohnson. Having a give-it-a-go attitude can lead to great success when you're stepping outside your comfort zone.
Taaniko: Tip number three. Prepare to hustle. Having your own business isn't easy most of the really exciting stuff happens because you hustle hard.
Anything worthwhile takes a bit of grind. If it's not hard to get it's probably not cool.
Vienna: Tip number four. Be kind – you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. You don't have to be hard to successful.
Taaniko: Tip number five is be yourself. Be the most authentic version of you in whatever form that is even if somebody else says they don’t like it it doesn't matter because there's no one else that's as good as being you as you are.
Be yourself and then you attract the most relevant things to you.
Vienna: And tip number six. Don't compromise your values, hold on to what you believe in and make sure that everything works around those.
Vienna: That’s how we’re so successful.
I’m so not grateful. Nah, joking.
Johnson: Thank you very much for watching another Oompher video now for more videos click here and to check out some cool stuff on our Facebook page click here.
There are no specific entry requirements to become a photographer. However, a portfolio of work is essential and a relevant tertiary qualification, such as a Bachelor of Fine Arts, is strongly recommended.
Some new photographers gain skills and experience by assisting a professional photographer.
- Advertising and Illustrative Photographers Association (AIPA) website - information on getting a job as an assistant photographer
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a photographer, but useful subjects include art, computer studies, graphic design, maths and English.
A tertiary entrance qualification is usually required to enter further training. However, you may be able to get special entry into a programme without the usual qualifications if you have a portfolio showing the quality of your photographic work.
Photographers need to be:
- patient and organised
- able to work well under pressure
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- confident and motivated
- creative and artistic
- practical and technically skilled
- good communicators and able to make people feel relaxed and at ease
- good at solving problems.
Useful experience for photographers includes:
- amateur photography
- art experience
- experience with photography editing software.
Find out more about training
- NZ Institute of Professional Photography
- firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nzipp.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Range of ways to increase chances of securing photography work
Opportunities are good for experienced photographers, who have a good reputation in the industry and have a wide range of clients. However, most photographers only work part time, and have to supplement their income with another job.
You can increase your chances of getting a job if you:
- are trained and experienced in using digital SLR cameras
- have a good knowledge and understanding of lighting, both natural and studio
- have good knowledge of computer software packages like Lightroom and/or Photoshop
- specialise in a particular area of photography such as medical photography, engagements, weddings, births or journalism
- belong to, and network with members of, a professional body such as the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography (NZIPP).
Most photographers self-employed
Most photographers are freelancers.
Photographers may also work for:
- photographic agencies
- news agencies
- newspaper and magazine publishers
- shops that offer photo processing
- tertiary institutions that require photography teachers
- hospitals and the police.
- New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography website, accessed April 2016, (www.nzipp.org.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Occupational Outlook, 2016', accessed April 2016.
- New Zealand Advertising and Illustrative Photographers Association (AIPA), 'Getting Started as a Photographic Assistant', accessed April 2016, (www.aipa.org.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Photographers can move between areas of photography – for example, from photojournalism to teaching. Further training may be needed to move into some areas.
Photographers may specialise in a particular area of photography, such as:
- advertising, food, fashion and editorial – for websites, magazines, brochures or newspapers
- artistic – producing photographic artworks for sale, or exhibition in public art galleries
- corporate and commercial – for marketing
- press, sports photography and photojournalism – for recording current events
- medical photography – for use in clinical documentation, research and teaching
- social – including weddings and portraits
- stills photography – working in the film industry taking photos for marketing
- photographic styling – working alongside photographers to create the right look and mood for a photo shoot
- photographic retouching – creating an illusion or enhancing or correcting photographs.
Many photographers need to work in more than one area to make a living.
Last updated 4 April 2019