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Photography and photo imaging covers a wide range of activities, from press, fashion and portrait photography to managing image libraries and archives or selling on photography and images for project work.

As with so many of the creative industries, that makes it difficult to quantify accurately.

The big picture 

Most people working in photography and photo imaging fall into one of four categories: 

  • photographers 
  • photo retailers 
  • picture libraries and agencies  
  • manufacturing and support services 

It’s estimated that 43,000 people work in the industry across the UK, with around 5% of that number — about 2,000 people — in Scotland. By far the majority operate on a freelance basis, but there are employers out there looking for people with photography-related skills.  

Working in photography and photo imaging 

As well as freelancing, photographers work for the press, corporate organisations, medical and scientific institutions, the police and the film and television industries. On the technical side, photo imagers manipulate and manage images for printing or archiving.  

Lab and machine print operators create hard copy images from clients’ files. Photo librarians maintain image collections and archives and manage sales. The list goes on — there’s a wide variety of jobs available to those with the right eye for detail as well as the technical skills necessary to translate that into outstanding images.  

In most cases, the highest level of qualification held is around foundation degree/higher national diploma/national qualification Level 4, which means people working in the industry have very specific skills. There are shortages, however, in terms of business and strategic management, as well as distribution, sales and marketing. Perhaps surprisingly, shortages have also been reported in art and design and in production.  

Developing skills gaps in these areas are quite significant, and they’re also seen in the ability to use specific software packages and in other technical skills.   

Developing your skills  

The British Association of Professional Photographers offers a tiered qualification structure that’s recognised all over the work as a mark of excellence and is available to photographers earning money from their work.  

Stills: Centre for Photography, based in Edinburgh, offers subsidised training in all areas of photography and digital media. The courses are led by professionals working across photography, digital media and lens-based arts.  

The Picture Research Association offers both full-time and part time formal courses for those working in picture research and supply, as well as short courses that help keep industry and practice knowledge up to date.

Funding and support  

The Royal Photographic Society, as well as offering help with professional development, also operates a range of bursaries from £1,000 to £6000. These are tied to specific projects focusing on areas like environmental awareness and cinematography. 

The Firecracker Photographic Grant is an annual award providing funding for a female photographer, designed to help with the completion of a documentary photographic project. It offers a minimum financial contribution of £1,000, plus £1,000 credit of professional printing, mounting and framing services from Genesis Imaging. 

The Jerwood/Photoworks Awards offer UK-based artists and photographers in their first ten years of practice the opportunity to approach photography in new ways. They offer three artists £5,000 in funding and a year of critical and practical support, as well as access to a production fund that supports the making of new work for a national touring exhibition. 

Looking for sound advice and/or a sounding board?

Contact us to organise a meeting with one of our experienced and friendly creative industry advisors.