Chris Harper works at a photographic shop - one of around 4,000 min-labs across the UK. Many technicians work for companies that manufacture cameras and other photographic accessories, but Chris enjoys the retail side of working in a High Street shop.
How would you outline your role?
My job involves developing films, printing photographs, and serving customers.
What are your main responsibilities?
My main responsibility is operating the mini-lab printer. I load the films, process the negatives, and then print the number of pictures I require. Scheduling the work can get tricky when we're busy because we offer both a half-hour and one hour service. The process is done automatically but I load new rolls of photographic paper and change all the chemicals regularly.
What about digital cameras?
In addition, we have a system for digital cameras, where customers select and print the pictures they want. I'm there to advise people if they get stuck. I do some digital restoration too, for customers who bring in old photos, and generally serve in the shop, selling albums and films and advising people on what cameras to buy.
Do you get to take any pictures?
I take passport photos for customers using a digital camera. Sometimes we're asked to photograph a local event such as a ball or dinner. We do it all digitally so that we can pop back to the mini-lab, print them up, and then go back to the venue and sell the pictures.
What hours do you work?
Normally 8.30am to 5.45pm, five days a week – which includes Saturdays, so I get a day off during the week.
What is your working environment like?
It's a modern shop but there are some health and safety issues. Although the chemicals for the printer are pre-mixed and well-labelled, I still need to wear goggles and a lab coat when I'm pouring them into the machine.
What special skills or qualities do you need to be a photographic technician?
You have got to be patient and diplomatic with customers if they start complaining that their pictures haven't come out very well, even if it's not our fault. You need to be organised because you're often working on lots of things at once, and you have to double check everything when you're matching up the prints with the negatives.
Accuracy is important when you are retouching work and you also need good colour vision. It does help to have an interest in photography so you can advise people about their photographs.
What training have you done?
I've done a lot of on-the-job training, and shadowed more experienced technicians. Some of our product manufacturers also run short courses. I'm also working towards my Certified Photographic Consultant (CPC) qualification that covers working in a photographic shop.
Do you use any tools or equipment?
The mini-lab sounds complicated but it's quite straightforward. Because of digital cameras, I've never had to learn how to use a darkroom.
What do you like about your job?
I love the variety. If I spent all my time doing one thing I'd get bored. It's certainly different from working for one of the big developing houses where you have little or no contact with the public – because they're often tucked away on an industrial estate.
How do you see your future?
I want to do an A level in photography. I'm also a keen photographer and have taken pictures at a couple of weddings, so ultimately I'd like to become a freelance photographer.
Chris's route to his job as a photographic technician
- Work experience which led to a Saturday job.
- Left school with GCSEs.
- Began working full-time at the shop.
Chris's photographic tip
- This job is more abut customer care and retailing than it is about photography, but it can lead to other opportunities in photography.
Photographic technician related jobs
- Cinema projectionist
- Laboratory technician
- Machine printer
- Stores assistant
- Store owner/manager
Salary of a photographic technician
- New technicians working on a full-time basis can earn between £10-£12,000, rising to around £20,000 depending on experience and taking on additional responsibilities, such as managing a shop.
- There are no set entry requirements although GCSEs/S grades in technical and scientific subjects are an advantage.
- Before looking for a job, some people complete a full-time course such as a BTEC National Diploma in Photography and Photographic Processing.
- Various photographic qualifications are available such as NVQs/SVQs in Photography, Photographic Processing and Digital Photography and Imaging, as well as apprenticeships (Skillseekers in Scotland) in both Photo Imaging and Photographic Processing.
Did we help you? Please help us by telling us about your experiences e.g. interview questions and answers.