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Career profile: So you want to be a Photographer?

Photographer holding money and taking picture.

Photographer holding money and taking picture.

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Photographers use subjects to create stories and artwork. They also document important, memorable, and special events. Photographers demonstrate creativity by positioning the subject in a unique way and making their subjects ideas come to life in picture form. Photographers have to take the picture at the right time, with the right lighting, and right position. They’re expected to capture the “perfect” moment, regardless of the obstacles. In Morton East, you could see the work of photographers within the hallways. You could also see photography done by students who could be interested in becoming a Photographer on the 4th floor.  

WHO can do this?   Someone who can function cameras and technology. To be a Photographer, they need to know how to make certain adjustments to their camera to get the best picture. This also includes knowing how to function photo editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop. This app allows you to adjust certain things such as color, brightness, and levels. A Photographer should also be creative in their angles, lighting, and backgrounds.  
WHAT does it take?   To be a Photographer, you would need a high school diploma, 2 years of community college or technical training, and 4 years at a college or University. 
WHERE can you get it?  You can do a photography program at a community college for 2 years, then transfer to a 4-year University.  
WHEN can you do it?   Right after you get your high school diploma, you can go straight to college. Whether you go to a community college or a University is up to you. Ultimately, you could be a practicing “professional” within 6 years after high school. It all depends on if you decide to take a semester/year off and if you decide to be a part-time or full-time student.  
WHY should you do it?   As a Photographer, you get personal benefits such as bringing awareness to something you feel strongly about. If you are the type of person who would like to travel in the future, another personal benefit of being a Photographer is they do travel frequently. They go to different towns, cities, states, and countries. You also get the privilege of capturing an important day/event in somebody’s life. Other benefits include social benefits which would be interacting with different people and ethnicities. You could expand your horizons and woke with people who live in a different continent.  
HOW much will you make?   The entry wage of a Photographer is $12.22 an hour or $25,420 annually. If you are a full-time Photographer, you could make $34,000 annually. Some Photographers make over $100,000 annually. It all depends on how frequent you work and the experience you have taking pictures.  


Alonso Balderas is a Photographer Educator. He currently works at Morton East high school. He teaches Digital Photography and AP Photography.

Did you get your degree or certificate?  

I have two degrees. I have my Bachelors in Art and Humanities, I got that in Theater Arts with a teaching certificate. That made me eligible to teach right away and not be an education major. I have a masters of Arts from Governor State University which allows me to teach photography.  

How long did it take you to be a photographer?  

That’s a good question, when does someone become a photographer? Is it when they’re finally getting paid, or when they start taking pictures? So, I think it’s when they start taking pictures. I started taking pictures probably when I was early twenties. This was before cell phones, cell cameras, and camera phones. We actually had to have a physical camera. I received one for Christmas from my wife, and I have been taking pictures ever since. 

Is this something you have always been interested in?  

Yes, something about always being able to look back at the past. What did people look like, what did we look like from years ago. I think that since we have such easy access to cameras and photo sharing, I think that kind of takes away some of the value of what I always thought photography was. 

Did you end up with a lot of student loans? 

Yes, I don’t remember the exact amount. My biggest problem was I was a very big procrastinator and I didn’t fill out the financial aid papers my first year, until May, maybe even June. I did not receive too much government assistance because I was just so late in turning in the financial aid papers. I took out loans, which were the subsidies, which means the interest starts accumulating right away. Thankfully, it was easier the second year and my last 3 years, I received a minority teachers institute scholarship from ISAC. That allowed me to do was I had obligation to teach one year at a school with a twenty percent minority rate for every year that I received a scholarship. My last two or three years were pretty much taken care of between financial aid and that scholarship. I don’t know if it’s still offered, but to become a teacher just to pay off your loans, I always wanted to be a teacher, so I knew I was going that route anyway.  

What would you say is the most affordable education route? 

It depends what is best for you. I am a bigger believer of going to junior college first, then transferring. That will save you a lot of money. If schools are willing to give you scholarships, just as long as the money you have to pay is the lowest amount. I was talking to the parents of a high school student yesterday, and he got accepted to high name schools, but he’s going to the school that’s offering him the most. To me, that made the most sense. 

Did you go to a community college first? 

No, I wanted to have the college experience, I wanted to go away and see what that was like. It was very, very difficult for me. I didn’t know anyone, I knew one person that went to the same college as I did, Eastern Illinois University. Eventually, everybody’s in the same boat, same place. You start figuring it out, you’ll meet people at first and then find out that “that’s not really who I am”. You’ll start to move on to people who you can relate to.  

What would you say is the hardest thing about your job? 

I really love my job, so this is a hard question to answer. I have to look at, if it’s so difficult, what am I doing that could make it easier. I think the hardest part of the job is student motivation. I would love to say that I’m a teacher that can convince kids that they can tackle on the challenges that I place in front of them. Students think they have all the time in the world.  

What is something I should know before going into this field?  

Know that you are really going to have to sell yourself. You’re really going to have to show people what you can do. You’re going to receive more rejections than you are jobs, so you have to just keep taking that and know it’s part of the job. I read an article recently that said eighty-five percent of the time is used for promotion. You’re constantly trying to promote yourself. Give out business cards, social media, keep telling everyone what you’re doing. They will come to you. I would do a few projects for free, just for practice, but don’t let anybody start thinking that that’s something that you do. There are a lot of people who are like “Hey, take pictures of my band”, or “take pictures for my menu, you’ll be able to use it for your portfolio”. Know how much you’re worth. I would shadow another photographer for a month or two, just to kind of get your hands into the business. Starting out, when you charge someone for something, you want to keep yourself competitive. You don’t want to seem like it’s a giveaway.  

What were some struggles you’ve faced in school? 

Time management was really, really bad. I would say now I’m better at time management than I have ever been. What would happen to me is, I would have an assignment and would turn it in right at the deadline. I know I didn’t give it a hundred percent, I would end up getting a “C” on it. Had I taken a little more time, I could’ve gotten an A. As long as I got a B, I was fine. I set my standards really low for myself too, which was another thing. Other struggle would be missing my friends and family. I did grow a lot my first year however.  

If you could go back, what is one thing you would change about going into this field? 

Nothing, education is always something I have dreamed about since my sophomore year in high school.  

Are you ultimately happy to be a photographer?  

Of course, it is a passion, and a pleasure. I really, really enjoy it. 

What are the benefits to this job?  

The creative aspect. I always like to think of myself as a creative person. I started with art when i was in second grade, I always like drawing, and painting. When I found something that combines the creativity and my passion for capturing an image, I was pretty much hooked.  

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6 Responses to “Career profile: So you want to be a Photographer?”

  1. Abigail Villasana on May 7th, 2018 8:43 am

    I think that photography is amazing for a career. The amount of work that photographers put in for just one picture is phenomenal, with the multiple components involved such as lighting and scenery, it’s a wonder how their wages are lower than I expected. A friend of mine wants to be a photographer, she’s so dedicated that I can clearly see how much work she puts in when she shows me her photos.

  2. Efren Avitia on May 7th, 2018 9:51 am

    What would be some of the cons of being a photographer? also what some of mr.Balderas favorite pictures that he has taken in his lifetime? what are some of his favorite events or places he has gone.this is a very good article. the information is very detailed and seem accurate.

  3. Cris on May 7th, 2018 2:04 pm

    This is great, shows amazing tips and the questions being asked help me understand what I have and don’t have to take on this career.

  4. Ulises castillo on May 7th, 2018 2:19 pm

    Being a photographer seems like something that even i would be interested in doing. After reading how they can travel and go to places to photograph it seems like an experience. Although it seems like a photographer does not make a whole lot of money, it seems perfect for something to do on the side or to try.

  5. Lynette Carbajal on May 7th, 2018 2:38 pm

    I really enjoyed this article and i found it very informative because of the requirement that must be meet in order to be a professional photographer. Personally, i find this job very entertaining and i can see why many people choose this to be their career. In addition, i enjoy taking pictures of everyday life and find that the job of being a photographer to be fun but i also feel like it can become challenging in some aspects because you have to come up with innovative and creative ways to take pictures in order to please the costumer and your personal goals.

  6. Erika Rizo on May 9th, 2018 1:57 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this article because it was very interesting and me personally, I have Mr. Balderas as a teacher at the moment and he’s an amazing teacher. I love photography and I agree 100% with everything he said. I know this will help me later in the future just in order I want to be a photographer later on in the future. I think I willenjoy it.

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The student news site of Morton East High School
Career profile: So you want to be a Photographer?