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What does a Photographer do?

Photographers use their technical expertise, creativity and composition skills to produce and preserve images of people, places, events and objects. These images are captured using digital or film cameras and equipment, and visually tell a story or record an event. Many photographers specialise in portrait, commercial or scientific photography or photojournalism. Working conditions for photographers vary considerably depending on their specialty. Some travel for photo shoots; others work in their own studios. Still others work in laboratories and use microscopes to photograph subjects. The tasks of a photographer may include:

  • determining desired images and picture composition
  • selecting and adjusting subjects, equipment and lighting to achieve desired effects
  • creating artificial light using flashes and reflectors
  • testing equipment prior to use to ensure that it is in good working order
  • performing maintenance tasks necessary to keep equipment working properly
  • using traditional or digital cameras, along with a variety of equipment such as tripods, filters and flash attachments.

What qualifications do I need?

Entry-level photographers need only technical proficiency and experience to work in their field, though doing a short course or diploma is beneficial. Entry-level photojournalists and commercial and scientific photographers usually need a diploma or degree in photography, but, either way, practical experience is highly important. Some of these qualifications involve doing an internship while studying the theoretical aspects of photography. In many cases, a National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a diploma or degree course is a prerequisite.

What subjects do I need?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Visual Arts
• Mathematics
• Physical Sciences
• Design


Where can I study?

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
National Diploma: Photography

Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma/Bachelor of Technology: Photography

Durban University of Technology
National Diploma: Photography

National College of Photography
Higher Certificate: Professional Photography

Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography
Various Courses

Cape Town School of Photography
Various Courses

College of Digital Photography
Various Courses

Prestige Academy
Diploma: Professional Photography

City Varsity
Diploma: Professional Photography

Central University of Technology
National Certificate: Photograghy

Cape Town School of Photography
Photographic Course

INTEC College
Certificate: Photography

Certificate: Photography

College SA
Certificate: Digital Photography

Where can I get more info?

Photographic Society of South Africa – www.pssa.co.za
Southern African Freelancers’ Association – www.safrea.co.za


Interview with a Photographer




What’s your job all about?
The type of work I do varies: from working as a stage manager at public events, to coordinating photo shoots, to taking photos of events, people or products.

Why did you choose this profession?
I chose to do photography as I have been passionate about it from the age of 17, and had the good fortune of being asked to do a photo essay for a magazine called Design Indaba. This made me realise that I could do what I love to earn money.

Did you undergo training?
I got my first camera when I was 17, and instantly fell in love with photography, so I just kept on taking photos until my friends helped me to see that I needed to take my photography to a more serious level. Two years ago I got a bursary to study documentary photography in Berlin. I had a really fantastic time exploring and photographing the city and its diverse people.

What makes a ‘successful’ photographer?
Photographers differ in so many ways, but when one goes slightly deeper, one realises that what all the really good ones have in common is that they are very skilled at their craft, and they are good at listening, so they can translate their clients needs into visual images. It doesn’t hurt if one happens to be friendly, though it is important to be able to deal with people professionally.

Describe your typical day
It all depends on what one is shooting. Here’s an example of shooting models on location: The day usually starts early, depending on what kind of light is required, with meeting the clients to reconfirm the brief. Everyone gathers, then moves to the location together. The models are made up, and the lighting set up. The models are directed to assume different poses and the actual photography starts. Sometimes there is more than one location, which means that the whole process takes place again.

Another type of shoot is one where I have to document an event, or an area with its people. This is my favourite kind of shoot, which basically involves being ‘submerged’ in a community, area or event, and watching for a moment that will tell the story.

What do you love the most about your work?
The opportunity to meet new and different people, as well as getting to see things that I would not normally see. For example, one job had me taking a helicopter ride at 4am to a rig out at sea, then photographing the workers from the bottom to the top of this amazing structure. I like doing different things.

What advice would you give to someone starting off?
Work hard, take lots of pictures, and be excited and inspired.

Your job in three words
Exciting • Inspiring • Rewarding