The position of photo specialist does not usually require any previous experience or education, but it pays significantly more than other entry-level jobs. Trained photo specialists have a specific and marketable skill, so landing a job as a photo specialist and learning photo processing will help ensure that you always have a job.
Photo specialists are the technicians who operate the photo processing machines that print photos from negatives or digital image files.
Photo processing machines are usually found in department stores or drug stores. The photo specialists who run the machines are employees of the store they work in. Photo specialists work within the photo processing area of the store and, unlike other retail employees, have specific duties and are not normally called upon to fill in for other areas of the store.
Job responsibilities vary by store, but in general, photo specialists are responsible for negative processing, opening and transferring digital files, photo printing, maintaining the printer and processing equipment, monitoring paper and ink supply levels, taking and organizing orders, answering customer questions and working the photo lab cash register.
Nearly all of the companies that employ photo specialists do not require any prior experience in photo processing, but they are looking for applicants who are technically minded and have a general understanding of industry terms and procedures. Photo specialists are provided with on-the-job training before they are given any processing responsibilities. The majority of companies seeking photo specialists do not have any educational requirements, but many will not accept applications from individuals under the age of 18 years.
The hours of a photo specialist vary depending on the store they work in. Some stores have strict business hours for their photo department, while others are open 24 hours and never close their photo center. Retail stores are typically open on weekends and holidays, so photo specialists can expect to be working those days as well.
Most major retail stores offer benefits packages to their employees. This includes health insurance, dental insurance and retirement savings plans. As an employee of the store, a photo specialist would qualify for any benefits package that is given to the rest of the store employees.
The pay rate for photo specialists varies between companies and states. SalaryExpert lists the average salary for a photo specialist in Chicago at $23,864 ($11.47 an hour), while photo specialists in Charlotte, North Carolina, earn closer to $28,000 per year ($13.46 an hour.) Experience is also a factor, as companies will generally pay employees with experience more than they will new trainees.