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: February 2013)

The number of photographers has decreased slightly 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 slightly.

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 2006, the percentage of immigrants in this occupation was slightly higher than in all occupations (14% compared with 12%). 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 Quebec Department of Education, Recreation and Sport's 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 census data, the average employment income of the 47% of photographers who worked full-time and full-year in 2005 was only $29,008 in 2005, 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 $13,987.

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 census data, in 2006 approximately 81% of all photographers worked in photography studios and about 9 % as independant photographers. A significant number were also found in the newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers (7%).


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 new 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 slightly over the next few years.

Employment characteristics

According to census data, women held about 33% of the jobs in this occupation in 2006, 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

Main Labour Market Indicators Unit Group 5221 All occupations
Employment, average 2009-2011 4,150 3,905,700
EI Claimants in 2011 15 92,650
Average Annual Growth Rate 2012-2016 -0.7% 0.7%
Annual Employment Variation 2012-2016 -30 27,050
Annual Attrition 2012-2016 80 72,750
Total Annual Needs 2012-2016 50 99,800

Employment Distribution by Gender

Employment Distribution by Gender Unit Group 5221 All occupations
Males 67.2% 52.7%
Females 32.8% 47.3%

Employment Distribution by Age

Employment Distribution by Age Unit Group 5221 All occupations
15 - 24 years 7.2% 14.1%
25 - 44 years 52.5% 45.1%
45 - 64 years 36.7% 38.8%
65 years and over 3.6% 2.0%

Employment Distribution by Status

Employment Distribution by Status Unit Group 5221 All occupations
Full-time 68.3% 79.2%
Part-time 31.7% 20.8%

Average Annual Employment Income

Average Annual Employment Income
(Full-Time, Full-Year)
Unit Group 5221 All occupations
Full-time, full-year 47.4% 53.2%
Average income 29,008 45,157
0-19999$ 41.5% 16.5%
20000-49999$ 43.2% 52.4%
50000$ and over 15.4% 31.1%

Employment Distribution by Highest Level of Schooling

Employment Distribution by
Highest Level of Schooling
Unit Group 5221 All occupations
Less than high-school 3.0% 14.1%
High-school 23.2% 21.9%
Post-secondary 56.5% 43.1%
Bachelors 17.3% 20.9%

Employment Distribution by Region

Employment Distribution by Region Unit Group 5221 All occupations
Abitibi-Témiscamingue 1.0% 1.8%
Bas-St-Laurent 0.8% 2.5%
Capitale-Nationale 8.6% 9.1%
Centre-du-Québec 2.4% 2.9%
Chaudière-Appalaches 4.3% 5.4%
Côte-Nord-Nord du Québec 0.0% 1.7%
Estrie 3.3% 3.9%
Gaspésie-îles-de-la-Madeleine 0.4% 1.1%
Lanaudière 3.7% 5.8%
Laurentides 5.5% 7.0%
Laval 4.5% 5.0%
Mauricie 1.4% 3.1%
Montérégie 11.2% 18.7%
Montréal 46.8% 24.1%
Outaouais 5.1% 4.7%
Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean 1.0% 3.3%


Employment Distribution Unit Group 5221 All occupations
Self-employment 62.4% 11.2%


Employment Distribution Unit Group 5221 All occupations
Immigration 13.9% 12.2%

Main Areas of Employment

Main Areas of Employment Percentage
Other Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (Photographic Services included) 80.6%
Independent Artists, Writers and Performers (Independent Photographers included) 8.5%
Newspaper, Periodical, Book and Directory Publishers 7.0%
Other Personal Services (Photo Finishing Services included) 2.8%