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3 best alternative careers to commercial photography

It's 2021 and humanity has attained achievements that our parents might not have ever dreamed of. Said that we are living in an era that is a blessing and a disguise.

Myself being in the industry of traditional photography as an advertising professional and coming from an era of analogue photography which gradually shifted to digital and beyond in the past 15 years now (keeping in mind I started my journey in 2006), have gained the needed knowledge to share it with you all.

Every month, I do receive emails and DMs over my social accounts where people are looking for internships (5 major reasons why your emails are not effective). This reminds me how famous and lucrative traditional photography does still sounds to many. The truth is, traditional photography as a mode of earning a living is a dying business adding to it there are way too many people competing for the same thing. Commercials involved are being slashed and the bitter truth is that less and fewer authorities are concerned with quality, it is more about meeting the target to help raise their sales, welcome to The World of Imagery Business!

Now the question that arises is what are the best substitutes to Photography or how to add value to your present skill keeping the former as a base and how to make a living out of your Passion!

TO NOTE: These are mere alternatives, not shortcuts, they all involve years of dedication and similar efforts to reach out to the right people, market themself in the right manner and make a living out of it and the mentioned below do applies in small and big scale commercial movies but due to my personal lack of exposure in that industry the article is restricted to Print campaigns and Television Commercials.



Executive | Assistant

(ONLY Still shoots and TVC)

Role: To organize and execute commercial assignments ranging from pre-production to post-production (stills and Television Commercials).

Expected Salary: Ranging from 5000.00 INR to 1,00,000.00 INR an assignment | Day | Month (It varies depending on the quality and quantity of assignments, whether you are a freelancer or In-house and the kind of experience you carry with yourself)

3 amazing alternative photography jobs, Producer

Mode of learning: Internship or apply as a fresher. There are no schools as such in India that helps you get acquainted with the basics though joining a production house and digital or mainline marketing agency is what I will suggest you get started.

Responsibility: An experienced producer can make and break a deal for any visual artist be it a photographer, director or the client itself. He/She is responsible to get the needed team under one roof (it involves Talents like a model, an actor, a makeup artist, a stylist, hospitality services, procurement of digital equipment and lights, studio or outdoor space availability, assistants or spot boys, sanitization services, travelling, lodging if needed, post-production artist and more depending on the need of the creative), at times a photographer, director, cinematographer and negotiate respective fees keeping the budget in mind.

Unlike film producers, you are not asked to invest in any and number of days to complete the project may range between a week to a month.

Additional Perk: You get to travel and meet a lot of people, Networking! haha...




(ONLY Still shoots and TVC)

If your parents think those extracurricular activities you did in your schools like drawing, painting, origami, planet making projects, science experiment, cooking and more was a waste, I guess one has to rethink. Every high budget and demanding project queries I have received and came across demands an art director.

3 amazing alternative photography jobs: Art Director | Stylist

Role: A person with experience in and around setting up a product or food in an aesthetic manner for the photographer and the director.

Expected Salary: It can range between 10,000 INR or a little less to 1,00,000 INR a day | assignment. The quality and quantity of assignment will determine the above and it also depends on how experienced you are.

Mode of Learning:

Food styling: If you are planning to get into food styling as a stylist or a technician, a course in and around hospitality, hotel management or home science will come in very useful.

3 amazing alternative photography jobs: Food Stylist

Product styling: As of now there are no courses available in India which can help you with the same. I will suggest involving yourself in small workshops and courses available in your city by the very underrated aunties, didi, bhaiya or even a carpenter and more.

Attending workshops in and around various craft related skill helps you get your base strong. It can range from paper art, interior styling, water-colour painting, tabletop styling, wall painting and whatever which move in and around space.

Giving yourself a project to run, a blog | vlog over various platforms helps you to learn and reach out to people at the same time. SKILLSHARE and YOUTUBE comes incredibly useful.

It is always a good way to assist someone or a production house (not an agency in this case) to gain access to the must need knowledge of how to deal with people and other business-related aspects.

It is always a great idea to keep visiting store and places which showcases and sells | rent it out props and more.



As I mentioned above in general an ambitious project always demands an art guy who helps me to bring the concepts into reality.

If you have come across those mouth-watering food commercials and surreal spaces like Alice in wonderland, an art director or a stylist are the people involved in BTS

He/She will even be asked to set up composition as small as a plate on the table, to design a blank space into an ever-living guest bedroom. It can involve skills from procurement of props like cutlery, background, furniture, appliances and more.

You are also responsible to transport the needed and bring it back to the vendor.



(ONLY Still shoots and TVC)

3 amazing alternative photography jobs: Retoucher

There is a huge difference between photojournalism and commercial arts. They both fulfil the need to create an urge in the mind to do something both in the form of buying a service or product or influence one to make the world a better place to live.

Commercial business is the art of turning your dreams into reality, sadly the reality is far away from our imagination hence we all need to seek help from applications to stitch it all up for us. That is how and why professional retouchers and manipulation artist comes into the scene. If you have wondered about models flying in the air with many things around, fear not it is not any magic moment but a pure form of digital manipulation or if we come across a beauty campaign with skin so smooth and flawless that it is indeed not anywhere close to reality.

Role: He/She/It needs to be well versed with editing | manipulation applications like Photoshop, Illustrator, After effects, Final Cut Pro, Cinema 4D and many more photo, video editing software along with other CGI wonders. (3 best alternatives to your favourite and expensive graphic software)

Expected Salary: It is one of the most lucrative business to be in and the best way to enhance your photography skill. A person can expect to earn 1500 INR to 30,000 INR and more per image or concept.

On average, a person can deal with 10 images from a campaign to 100 images for a stock service.

Mode of Learning: To add there are no good institutes in India at present and the ones there are not valid from an educational point of view. Which will leave you to be a self-learner and in case your pocket permits you can opt for something abroad (a wise decision).

There are many quality online platforms available to gain access to the information needed at the comfort of your space. Please check the links below (they do provide both free and subscription-based membership)

PHLEARN, DOMESTIKA, LYNDA, BLENDER GURU and the best YOUTUBE (It is free and I personally feel there are so many talented people sharing the best of education)

3 amazing alternative photography jobs: 3D artist

It is better to invest in the best graphic system configuration like RAM, Graphic Card, SSD and a good graphic tablet if you can afford it (I personally own Wacom and iMac).

As like above, you are not needed to assist someone, though productive feedback is critical and takes you a long way. Social media platforms are the best place to share and promote your services.

To note: Always use images with complete rights to work with and sharing the before and after with your viewer helps you gain the much-needed brand trust.

Responsibility: It is one of the most stressful jobs to have besides it can be quite lucrative too. Timelines are very short and changes can be endless unless you don't charge for something more than agreed on. You can be involved in aspects as minor like correcting colour balance and removing minor details to beauty retouching, cleaning up and manipulation and creating a 3D environment to set the protagonist into it. The automobile is the most demanding sectors to be a part of.

Video editing is a vast industry that is just more than stitching the clips. It does range from sound editing, colour correction, rendering, graphic overlays and CGI | Greenscreens and more.


As we come to the end of the article, a few heads up!

In all the above situations, there will always be a time constraint and having things confirmed in a pre-production meeting over a contract or mail leads to a minimum of confusion and changes if need on the day of the shoot. One is indeed responsible to be in touch with the head of the creative (agency, client, photographer, director) and the producer to be on the same page.

For all the Indian residents: Mumbai has been the epitome of the entertainment industry even before the independence and it is one of the best places to get your journey started, though never underestimate the other upcoming sectors like Tollywood, Trollywood and more. To add opportunities exist all over the world and if you have access to work overseas don't be scared to take a chance.

To sum up it all, they all require years of practice along with good presentation skills both online and offline, which will lead you to get connected to the right people. The above goes hand in hand if you are a photographer or planning to be one.

TO NOTE: If you are wondering in case I can share few details about production houses and agencies, sadly I cannot take any guarantee hence mentioning anything can be misleading. I will request you to kindly look over Google and connect them to know more about vacancies and opportunities. Good Luck!



I am Shovona Karmakar, an #advertising #commercial #photographer | #productstylist | #cinemagraph artist, presently based in #Mumbai, India. It has been a long long road to be where I am now and I sincerely feel it is very important to share whatever I have to offer. I have been fortunate to make a living out of my skill to be creative and have had worked with various national and international brands, corporates and agencies. Cadbury, TATA, Morningstar USA, Parachute, Future Generali to name a few.

Ping me for any work-related queries and will be happy to jump into the pool to make the much-needed party happen.

Thank you for reading!


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