According to the Department of Labor, employment of photographers is expected to grow by 6 percent through 2028. The demand for photographs is expected to increase during that period, but the business of photography is now and will remain extremely competitive. There are far more people who want to be, and claim to be, photographers than there are positions available. In addition, continual improvements in digital photography lower the barriers for entry to the field: More people than ever before are now able to produce, store, and access photographic images. Only those individuals with the best skills, training, and business acumen are likely to succeed in the field as salaried workers or independent contractors.
Demand for wedding and portrait photographers will remain strong. Corporations will also continue to need commercial photographers to help them create advertisements for products and services.
The future doesn't look bright for news photographers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of photographers in newspaper publishing will decline by about one-third through 2028. News photographers with knowledge of digital processes will have better odds of finding work, although the competition will be fierce. Book, magazine, journal publishers, and Internet businesses will also need digital images, offering some employment opportunities to news photographers as well. Employment is also expected to decline for photographic equipment repairers and photo processing workers, due to the move toward digital processes.
Photography students need to study digital processes or they will be at a disadvantage in the job market when they graduate. Study of traditional photography is still recommended, but because film-based photographs are commonly scanned, it is also necessary to study digital photography.
The coronavirus pandemic dealt many industries a blow in 2020, and the photography industry was no exception. Social distancing requirements to protect people from the virus forced many photography studios to close, either temporarily or permanently. Many of the activities and celebrations that photographers were hired to capture were postponed or cancelled during the pandemic, including weddings, school portraits, conferences, sports events, and more. As described in a PetaPixel article, nearly all photographers saw a decrease in bookings in 2020, and the global photography services market was projected to drop from $36.9 billion in 2019 to $36.1 billion by the end of 2020. The research group IBISWorld predicted that revenue for the overall photography industry in the U.S. would drop by 12.3 percent in 2020. The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 will help the photography industry rebound, as more events will be scheduled and demand will grow for professional photography services. The increase in mobile Internet connections and decline in marriage rate may pose threats to the photography industry. In general, however, the photography industry is anticipated to have steady growth through 2026.
Overall, employment opportunities will be best for freelance photographers with multiple skills, including editing and retouching photographic images and capturing digital video. Those with experience with drone photography will have improved chances of finding work in the commercial sector, capturing images and information for real estate companies, construction projects, and agriculture. Wedding and special events photographers who use drone photography will also be in demand.