Careers advice

What options exist for photography jobs in NZ?

Turn your passion into a profession.

Last updated: 15 December 2023

For many, photography is a hobby, not a career. But what happens if you know that you’re good enough to turn this passion into a profession? We’ll be honest, it’s not easy. As with any desirable career, there’s a lot of competition. And the rise of AI generated imagery means that some paths, such as stock image photography, are under greater pressure than ever.

Should any of this stop you pursuing a job as a photographer in Aotearoa New Zealand? Absolutely not. It’s just good to be aware of the sector, so you can establish your niche and strategy.

To give you something to go on, here are some of the most common career options open to photographers in this country. It’s good to bear in mind, however, that many professional photographers blend many of these together in order to support themselves, at least in the beginning. So, while your ultimate aim might be to be a wildlife photographer, you may wish to consider moonlighting as a stock image photographer to get some money coming in and to increase your professional portfolio.

1. Portrait photography

Specialising in capturing people in various settings, portrait photography is a popular avenue. From individual portraits to family, school shoots, or corporate headshots, this is typically one of the most reliable avenues that professional photographers in this country can go down.

2. Wedding and event photography

Wedding photography is another bread and butter route that many professional photographers will dip into in at least one stage of their career. Similarly, event photographs, whether for individuals or organisations, draw on a similar skill set.

Documenting these important moments requires a blend of artistic flair, technical skill, and the ability to capture emotions and fleeting moments in time. Of course, there’s a fair bit of pressure when it comes to wedding photographers, as the bride and groom won’t thank you if the shots of their special day are out of focus or poorly lit.

Wedding photography is a staple for many professional photographers.

3. Commercial and advertising photography

Entering the realm of commercial photography involves working with businesses and brands to create images that promote products or services. This niche requires a keen understanding of marketing concepts and the ability to translate a brand's message into captivating visuals.

Real estate photography is a particularly good example of this. If you want to get an idea of what this can look like, check out the beautiful image of homes you’ll find on Trade Me Property listings. As well as traditional photos, drone images and videos are becoming very popular among real estate agents, so being able to broaden your skill set to take advantage of this ever-improving technology will be a considerable asset.

4. Fashion photography

Fashion photography is synonymous with creativity and style. Collaborating with designers, stylists, and models, fashion photographers create visually stunning images that showcase clothing, accessories, and trends, often contributing to magazines, advertisements, or online platforms.

5. Wildlife and nature photography

For those captivated by the beauty of the natural world, wildlife and nature photography offer an avenue to capture stunning landscapes, exotic creatures, and the intricate details of flora and fauna. This field requires patience, dedication, and a deep appreciation of the environment.

But how do you monetise this? There are a number of possibilities here. One option is to try and sell your images to bodies like Tourism New Zealand, or relevant national and international publications like National Geographic. Some respected NZ photographers also make money by selling things like calendars or postcards that use their imagery.

6. Photojournalism

Photojournalists document current events, telling stories through powerful images. They work for newspapers, magazines, or online publications, covering news, social issues, and human interest stories. Their photos aim to evoke emotions and create awareness through their photographs.

All of those images in the likes of Radio New Zealand, Stuff and NZ Herald came from the lenses of hardworking photojournalists. And, what’s more, working in this arena will be fast-paced, and can often get you access to people and events that most of us only observe from afar.

7. Sports photography

Obsessed with the All Blacks, Silver Ferns, the Black Caps or the Warriors? Sports photography might be the choice for you.

Sports photography is all about freezing action-packed moments in sporting events. Whether capturing the intensity of competitive sports or the camaraderie among athletes, this field demands quick reflexes, technical expertise, and a passion for the game. It’s helpful if you have relationships with the players too.

Again, you’ll likely have close access to sporting greats, the opportunity to be pitchside with your camera and potentially the ability to travel with the teams as they embark on overseas campaigns.

Sports nut? Sports photography jobs will get you cloe to the action.

8. Fine art photography

Everything we have discussed so far has really been about photography for the sake of the subject matter – a headshot, sports event or property.

However, there’s still plenty of room for photography for photography’s sake – as an art form. Fine art photographers express their creativity through visual artistry. They create images that evoke emotions, convey messages, or challenge perceptions. Exhibiting in galleries, museums or selling prints are common avenues for showcasing fine art photography.

9. Scientific photography

In scientific fields like astronomy, microscopy, or medical imaging, photographers play a crucial role in documenting scientific discoveries and phenomena. Their images contribute to research, education, and public understanding of complex scientific concepts.

10. Education and instruction

Sharing knowledge and expertise with aspiring photographers is another avenue.

This could be in a formal teaching setting, such as an arts college or a university setting, or outside of dedicated educational institutions. For example, photography is a popular evening course for hobbyists to take, or you could look at publishing educational videos online on sites like Udemy.

Another avenue for teaching photography is as a photography guide. Organisations like the Zealandia ecosanctuary in Wellington employ photographers to take tourists on guided walks and offer tips and tricks for capturing the native flora and fauna surrounding them.

11. Freelancing and entrepreneurship

Embarking on a freelance career or starting your photography business offers freedom and flexibility. You can choose your projects, set your rates, and build a brand around your unique style and vision.

You can also take photos for stock image websites such as Getty and Shutterstock. Often it takes some time before you start to see real revenue coming in from this, but plenty of photographers in Aotearoa New Zealand use these sites to make money from their images.

Remember that each professional option in photography presents its own challenges and opportunities. Your journey in this field will likely involve a combination of specialties or evolving interests over time. It's not merely about taking photographs but also about storytelling, creativity, technical skill, pitching ideas and business acumen.

Developing a niche or a unique style can set you apart in a competitive industry. Building a strong portfolio showcasing your best work is crucial to attracting clients and opportunities in your chosen niche.

Networking in the photography community, engaging with peers, seeking mentorship, and continuously honing your craft through workshops, online courses, or self-directed learning are vital for your growth as a photographer.Moreover, embracing technological advancements in photography, such as new camera gear, editing software, or digital platforms for showcasing work, can significantly enhance your professional capabilities and reach.

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Al Hall
Al Hall

Al Hall is a regular contributor at Trade Me Jobs and Trade Me Property. He’s dedicated to helping people succeed in their aspirations to find their dream job and place to live.