Photographic Process Worker

Job Duties

Photographic process workers, sometimes known as digital imaging technicians, work with computer images of conventional negatives and specialized software to alter photographs by removing unwanted background, varying the contrast, or combining features from different photographs.

Today, much of this work is completed using computers and digital software, some workers still use old-fashioned methods, performing many specialized tasks by hand directly on the photo or negative. Airbrush artists use airbrushes to restore damaged or faded photographs, or to color or shade drawings to create photographic likenesses. Photographic retouchers accentuate the subject of a photograph by altering negatives, prints, or images. Colorists improve the lifelike appearance of photographs by adding oil colors. Photographic spotters work with photographic prints and images to remove imperfections.

Job Skills

Photographic process workers need to possess good manual dexterity, due to the high percentage of their jobs spent working with their hands. They must have excellent vision, including normal color perception, because of the visual nature of the work. In addition, they should have highly-developed hand-eye coordination.


In 2002, photographic process workers earned a median hourly wage of $9.72. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $6.79, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $17.43. The median hourly wage was $9.75 in photofinishing laboratories, the largest employers of photographic process workers.

Training and Education

Employers of photographic process workers usually prefer to hire high school graduates or experienced workers. Photography courses that include instruction in film processing can be advantageous, as can the ability to perform simple mathematical calculations. These types of courses are offered by high schools, vocational-technical institutes, private trade schools, and colleges and universities.

Photographic process workers typically receive on-the-job training from their companies, manufacturers’ representatives, and more experienced workers. New employees gradually learn to use machines and chemicals. On-the-job training usually lasts from a few hours to several months. Some workers update their skills by attending periodic training seminars.

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In 2002, photographic process workers held about 28,000 jobs. 25% were employed in photofinishing laboratories and 1-hour minilabs. 1 in 6 worked in portrait studios or commercial laboratories that specialize in processing the work of professional photographers for advertising and other industries.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, the number of photographic process workers is expected to increase more slowly than the average. The main cause of this slow growth is the increased popularity of digital cameras. Consumers who own digital cameras and technology will be able to download and view pictures on their computer, as well as manipulate, correct, and retouch their own photographs.