How to Become a Fashion Photographer
Fashion Photographer Careers & Degrees

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If you enjoy photography and art, have a good sense of style, and enjoy fashion then you might like to become a fashion photographer.

A fashion photographer completes shoots for fashion magazines, clothing designers, and advertising companies that fit into the theme of fashion.

Most of the time, they will feature models and designer clothing.

Fashion photographers need a wide range of photographic skills.

They need to be able to take a great portrait shot, but also to be able to capture their subject in a landscape or on more creative shoots.

They also need to be able to come up with ideas for shots, to be able to position models, and work well with other creative types.

Fashion photography is a competitive field, and there are many people who want to work in this glamorous industry.

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Education Requirements to Become a Fashion Photographer

Many people believe you need to go to a fine art school to become a fashion photographer.

This simply isn’t the case.

The majority of fashion photographers are self-taught.

It’s never too early or too late to start your training.

To become a fashion photographer, you will need to gain photographic skills and techniques.

A great place to find this is the internet.

There are thousands of articles and videos on the subject of photography and there are also plenty of magazines and books dedicated to the subject.

The key to becoming a great photographer is plenty of practice.

You can complete a course in photography at community college.

You could also choose to complete a photography degree at a four year college.

Concentrate on developing a strong portfolio, as this will be important in securing a job later.

You’ll also need to know about fashion.

Again, the best way to learn is to teach yourself.

Read fashion magazines like Vogue, and learn about industry events through the many blogs and websites dedicated to the subject.

If you follow your favorite designers and models, you’ll learn plenty along the way.

Fashion Photographer Job Description

A fashion photographer shoots photos that will appear in a fashion magazine, or will advertise a fashion brand.

They also select things like lenses, make decisions about lighting, settings, and direct models in the shot.

They may later develop a photo the old fashioned way, or digitally retouch it.

If you want to become a fashion photographer, you will need to learn the art of self-promotion.

Networking within the fashion industry is important.

Most photographers are self-employed and rely on contract work, and your reputation can make or break you.

Here are some of the tasks a fashion photographer could complete:

  • Taking photos
  • Selecting a camera and lens
  • Choosing lighting
  • Developing a photo
  • Choosing a setting
  • Retouching a photo
  • Directing models
  • Working with other people
  • Self-promotion

Fashion Photographer Salary and Career Path

Most fashion photographers are self-employed and get paid on a per job basis.

This can mean you get a lot of money for one particular job, but also you run the risk of going some time without work.

You are also responsible for your tax in most instances.

A small portion of fashion photographers are employed directly by magazines.

Many photographers will supplement their income with other work.

For instance, they may shoot pictures for stock photography, work as an image editor, or do similar work to fill the gaps in between jobs.

Be prepared for a few slim years when you first begin working as a fashion photographer.

On average a photographer will earn between $30,000 and $60,000 a year.

The most highly sort after photographers have the ability to earn more than this.

It will take years of hard work to build up this kind of reputation.

Here are some similar roles to that of a fashion photographer:

If you’re a creative personal and you love fashion, then you might like to become a fashion photographer.

It’s a competitive industry, but working in an area you are truly passionate about is a great reward.

Those who work hard and have a talent for what they do have the opportunity to make a good income from this role.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$89,310
New Hampshire$39,210
New Jersey$42,990
New Mexico$54,880
New York$65,070
North Carolina$34,790
North Dakota$40,590
Rhode Island$58,460
South Carolina$42,040
South Dakota$31,840
West Virginia- NA -
Puerto Rico$31,270

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $89,310.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $89,310
New York - $65,070
Minnesota - $60,410
Massachusetts - $59,060
Rhode Island - $58,460
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Photographers, OCC Code 27-4021, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a fashion photographer do?

Fashion photographers create photo stories and highlight such things as shoes, clothes, accessories, models or celebrities.

Generally, fashion photographers do not just create the photograph; they also work with the editor or advertiser to come up with an idea for the photoshoot.

The job is not just glamorous, it requires hard work, a lot of training and dedication.

In case you want to become a fashion photographer, the competition is going to be extremely high.

A professional has to be flexible and be able to travel to different parts of the world; fashion photographers should also possess great organizational and communication skills and, of course, an artistic eye.

QuestionHow much do fashion photographers make?

The salary of a fashion photographer would certainly depend on the company or the client he or she is working for.

A beginner might be taking photos of clothing items for catalogs and department stores, while professionals can be working with world-famous models and brands.

According to BLS, the average annual salary for a fashion photographer is a little over $34.000.

You can earn anywhere between $23.500 and $52.000 or more.

The more experience you gain in the industry, the higher your hourly rate should become.

Bear in mind that the average salaries differ in various geographical areas and that larger stores or magazines have higher budgets to pay better salaries.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a fashion photographer?

In case you want to obtain a degree in fine arts or photography, a year in a public school will cost you around $8.000-$20.000 (depending on whether you are an in-state student or not).

The annual cost of a degree in a private school can cost anywhere between $14.500 and $28.500 (depending on the prestige of the school).

A 2-year associate’s degree might cost you $6.000 in total.

The perfect camera with a lens can cost up to $5.000.

You might want to invest into additional camera equipment, a license and a membership in a trade association.

QuestionWhat is the demand for fashion photographers?

According to BLS, fashion photography jobs were expected to decline by 6% (2016-2026).

It is a highly desirable field with plenty of aspiring photographers looking for the best job opportunities.

However, there is a relatively small number of open positions in the sphere.

As the whole world is moving towards digital technology, online fashion is going to become more and more popular, while the printed world will continue to lose its popularity.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a fashion photographer?

A degree in photography or fine arts can help you stand out from the crowd.

An associate’s degree can be earned in only two years, while a bachelor’s degree will take you four years to obtain.

There are plenty of online courses available today, some of those are free.

A degree is not a necessity in fashion photography, however, you would certainly need a portfolio that can take you quite a while to form.

To gain a few years of experience in the field, you might want to consider becoming a photographer’s assistant.

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