Unit Group 5221

Skill Type: Occupations in Art, Culture, Recreation and Sport

Type of work

Photographers operate still cameras to photograph people, events, scenes, materials, products and other subjects.

For the full and official description of this occupation according to the National Occupational Classification, visit the NOC site.

Examples of Occupational Titles

  • aerial photographer
  • commercial photographer
  • forensic photographer
  • industrial photographer
  • photographer
  • photojournalist
  • portrait photographer
  • scientific photographer


Job prospects in this occupation are limited.

(Update: June 2015)

The number of photographers has decreased significantly over the past few years. The positive effects of the growing use of audiovisual media have not been enough to offset the negative effects of the development of image banks and the appropriation of photographers' work by members of other occupations. As these trends are likely to continue in the next few years, the number of photographers is expected to continue to decrease significantly.

Sources of employment

Openings will primarily come from positions vacated by photographers who leave the occupation for some other type of job or to retire. Opportunities for promotion are rare and then only due to photographers who leave to set up on their own or who can sometimes get contracts as directors of photography on feature films. Experience as a photographer, especially for those who work with computerized equipment and who have development contacts with the multimedia publishing sector, can help to provide access to positions as graphic artists and graphic designers (see 5223 and 5241).

Labour pool

The few job opportunities available will be for people who hold a vocational diploma (DEP), and especially a diploma of collegial studies (DEC) in photography. Other jobs will be filled by experienced photographers who are unemployed or by self-taught photographers. These candidates also face competition from immigrants who meet the occupational requirements. In 2011, the percentage of immigrants in this occupation was slightly higher than in all occupations (16% compared with 14%, according to National Household Survey data). Whatever their training, people who are persistent, who know how to set themselves apart by the quality of their work and who have established solid contacts in the field will have a definite advantage over the others.

This occupation attracts a large number of candidates. So many people want to work in this field that the proportion of students who have completed vocational or technical training in photography working in jobs related to their training is much lower than the overall rate for graduates, according to the provincial government Relance survey. In addition, many of these related jobs are not photography positions, but rather jobs that are peripheral to this occupation, especially film and photograph developers (see 9474) and sales clerks (see 6421). Another indication of the number of people wishing to work in this occupation is that many people who start working as photographers change careers after a few lean years. According to National Household Survey data, the average employment income of the 40% of photographers who worked full-time and full-year in 2010 was only $29,291, which is very low considering the training, experience and investment required to become a photographer. The average employment income of those who did not work full-time and full-year came to $15,774.

Lastly, it should be noted that the labour market status of graduates of the photography Attestation of College Studies (AEC) is even poorer than that of DEC and DEP graduates. Only a small minority of them find a job in their field, still less join this occupation.


According to National Household Survey data, in 2011 approximately 75% of all photographers worked in photography studios. A significant number were also found in the newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers (4%).


The largest market segment for photographers, with an estimated 40% of sales, is portrait photography (passports, identification cards, etc.) and weddings. Slow demographic growth, the aging population and the decreasing percentage of partners who marry do not point to growth in this sector. Furthermore, technology is increasingly enabling people to dispense with photographers' services for identification photographs except for passport photos. Only some diversification in the types of events that use professional photographers, such as wedding anniversaries and family reunions, will help to halt this downward trend.

On the other hand, the development of audiovisual products is promoting a demand for images in general and for photographs in particular. These images are intended to accompany and enhance the visual presentation of hard copy documents and, increasingly, electronic products (software, compact disks, Internet sites, video games, etc.). This market should usually result in some growth in the demand for photographers. Nonetheless, this potential growth is offset because consumers of this type of image do not require exclusive use of photographs. They thus often make use of images straight from image banks published on compact disks or from the Internet. Photographs from image banks sell for much lower prices than those on the regular market but some photographers may earn residuals for their most popular pictures. Collection of copyright royalties may prove to be a problem in light of the ease with which images and photographs can be copied from the Internet.

The improvement of digital techniques changes the photography market considerably. Digital equipment helps to speed up taking photographs considerably since photos can be retouched by computer using image processing software. Although this is expensive to buy equipment to open a photography studio, these techniques allow a number of traditional employers to entrust photographer's duties to employees from other occupations. As such, a number of newspapers, communication agencies and other employers will no longer replace photographers who leave or retire. Newspapers, for example, frequently assign these duties to journalists; in multimedia, photographer's tasks may be given to members of the production team.

In some cases, advertising for example, some photographers specialize and become recognized in a specific area such as car, clothing or food photography.

Considering all these factors, the number of photographers should decline significantly over the next few years.

Employment characteristics

According to census and National Household Survey data, women held about 38% of the jobs in this occupation in 2011, a percentage that has been rising significantly since 1991 (21%).

Education and Training

Candidates can become photographers without any specific training. According to 1996 census data, less than 40% of people in this occupation are post-secondary graduates in Visual and Performing Arts, field that includes photography. Nonetheless, a vocational diploma or a diploma of collegial studies (DCS) in photography are an advantage. The bachelor's and master's degrees in Fine Arts with a photography option offered by Concordia University prepare students for art photography. There is also an attestation of collegial studies (AEC) in photography.

The Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communications (CAPIC) and the Quebec Corporation of Master Photographers Inc. provide development workshops.

Applicants and freelancers are often asked to present portfolios of their work.

Useful References

Important Considerations

This occupation will only provide a few job openings over the next few years. Competition for these positions will be stiff.

Despite the unprofitable work and the few available positions, this occupation attracts a large number of candidates.

Statistics 5221 - Photographers

Main Labour Market Indicators

In the following table, indicators such as the growth rate, yearly variation in employment, yearly attrition and total annual requirements are forecasts generated by economists from Service Canada, Quebec region. The data source for employment is Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. The volumes of unemployment insurance beneficiaries come from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)’s administrative data. All of the data are rounded.

  Unit Group 5221 All occupations
Employment, average 2011-2013 5,250 3,990,050
Employment Insurance claimants in 2013 15 80,700
Average Annual Growth Rate 2014-2018 -1.2% 0.7%
Annual Employment Variation 2014-2018 -60 26,500
Annual Attrition 2014-2018 90 74,300
Total Annual Needs 2014-2018 30 100,800

Employment Distribution

The data from the following employment distribution tables come from Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).

  Unit Group 5221 All occupations
Employment by Gender
Males 62.0% 51.9%
Females 38.0% 48.1%
Employment by Age
15 - 24 years 11.4% 13.3%
25 - 44 years 45.6% 42.7%
45 - 64 years 40.3% 41.1%
65 years and over 2.7% 2.8%
Employment by Status
Full-time 63.2% 81.2%
Part-time 36.8% 18.8%
Employment by Annual Income
Full-time, full-year 40.1% 54.8%
Annual Average Income $29,300 $50,300
$0 - $19,999 42.4% 13.3%
$20,000 - $49,999 46.7% 48.0%
$50,000 and over 11.0% 38.8%
Employment by Highest Level of Schooling
Less than high-school 3.1% 12.1%
High-school 20.5% 20.3%
Post-secondary 56.5% 44.2%
Bachelors 19.9% 23.4%
Others Employment Distribution
Self-employment 63.2% 10.7%
Immigration 15.8% 13.7%
Employment by Region
Region Unit Group 5221 All occupations
Abitibi-Témiscamingue 0.7% 1.8%
Bas-Saint-Laurent 0.9% 2.3%
Capitale-Nationale 8.3% 9.4%
Centre-du-Québec 2.1% 2.9%
Chaudière-Appalaches 4.5% 5.5%
Côte-Nord / Nord-du-Québec 0.0% 1.6%
Estrie 2.9% 3.8%
Gaspésie–îles-de-la-Madeleine 0.9% 0.9%
Lanaudière 4.5% 6.1%
Laurentides 4.1% 7.3%
Laval 5.4% 5.2%
Mauricie 3.1% 3.0%
Montérégie 15.9% 19.2%
Montréal 40.9% 22.9%
Outaouais 3.8% 4.9%
Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean 2.1% 3.3%

Main Sectors of Employment

The data of the following table were prepared by economists from Service Canada, Quebec region. The data source is Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).

Sector Unit Group 5221
Other Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (Photographic Services included) 77.0%
Information and Cultural Industries 5.4%