Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

Occupation Outlook | Main MBIE Site


Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Chances of getting a job as a photographer are average due to a stable number of people graduating with photography qualifications each year competing for a stable number of jobs.

Photographers tend to be self-employed, so income depends on how successful the photographer’s business is, and how many hours they work.

Increasing numbers of photographers work part-time while also working at another job, at least at the start of their career.

How to become a photographer

What they do

Photographers take photographs of people, places, products or events.

Their tasks may include:

  • consulting with clients to determine objectives of photographic assignments
  • studying requirements of assignment and selecting type of camera, film, filter and lighting
  • working from a studio, and transporting and setting up equipment at assigned locations
  • measuring light levels and determining exposure
  • adjusting camera angles, aperture settings and subjects to achieve desired composition
  • adjusting lighting and filters to accentuate highlights and colours
  • mixing photographic chemicals, processing film and developing prints
  • manipulating images using digital imaging techniques and creative darkroom techniques such as adjusting exposure and development times
  • making enlarged prints, and mount and frame prints.

Qualifications needed

Photographers do not need qualifications to succeed, although they can be useful as a stepping stone into the industry.

Many tertiary institutions offer qualifications that can provide you with photography skills – for example, certificates or diplomas in photography, or degrees in graphic design specialising in photography. Note that gaining a qualification in photography will not guarantee you a job in the occupation.

Business skills are also seen as being key to successful self-employment as a photographer.

Cost of study

Bachelor of Fine Arts in PhotographyDiploma in Photography
$19,500 over three years $6,600 over one year


Average costs in 2018 for a domestic student. Costs vary between institutions. First time students may be eligible for  fees-free tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to Further costs include materials, textbooks, and accommodation.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services: 

Professional membership

One way to improve your chances of being employed as a photographer is to join a professional body such as the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography (NZIPP).

To apply for qualified professional status at NZIPP, you must submit a body of work for assessment. The NZIPP website provides more details. 


Where to study

Photography courses are available at a range of tertiary institutions throughout New Zealand. Evening classes are also run at some community education centres.

Completed qualifications

The number of students completing photography qualifications has remained at around 340 - 350, with the level 5, 6 and 7 certificates and diplomas becoming more popular. The number of graduates has continually outstripped the number of new jobs in this occupation, meaning that many graduate photographers find work in other areas or travel overseas to find work.

Qualification completions chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


Photographers are often self-employed, and work on a pay per-photograph or per-day basis. Their incomes depend on the success of their businesses as well as how many hours they work.

In 2018, the average income for photographers is estimated to be around $43,400.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index.

Employment and skill shortages

Photographers’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
1,752 2,112 2,480 2,740
  2.7% 2.7% 1.7%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Growth projections are for the broader category “Arts Professionals”.

The number of people employed in photography rose steadily over recent years. Because the supply of graduates is larger than demand, some graduates struggle to find relevant work. Employment is expected to grow in the broader arts professionals category, but it is not certain that this will extend to photographers.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
8% 56% 7% 60% $34,000

Source: Tertiary Education Commission
*Three years after completion of L4 Certificate - Photograaphy.

Most graduates were in employment three years after completing a Level 4 Certificate in Photograaphy.  Some were in further study, while quite few were overseas. The median salary was around $34,000 at that point.

Photographers are not on Immigration New Zealand’s Skill Shortage Lists.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies


Photographer vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites, as well as The Big Idea website, which specialises in jobs in the creative industries.

However, many photography jobs are not advertised and are filled through a photographer’s contacts.

Trade Me Jobs: 
The Big Idea:

Career path

One way to start as a photographer is to work as a photographer’s assistant (usually at minimum or close to minimum wage).

Photographers may start their own photography business. They often specialise in a specific type of photography, such as weddings, portraits, or commercial.

People with experience in photography can move into many other occupations, such as a graphics designer, digital film technician, photojournalist, fine art photographer, photo retoucher, event photographer, videographer or gallery curator.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry level photographers.

  • Fashion Photographer
  • Graphic Designer
  • Journalist
  • Medical Photographer
  • Photographic Developer
  • Photographic Printer
  • Photojournalist
  • Technical Photographer

Other information


More information on photographers is available on the Careers New Zealand website.

Careers New Zealand:


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of photographers has been coded to the following ANZSCO codes for the purpose of this report:

2113 – Photographers
7114 – Photographic Developers and Printers