There are fewer than 5,000 camera and photographic equipment repairers working in the United States. Job growth expectations over the next decade suggest a rapid decline of 15 percent. This is in part due to the increasingly lower prices manufacturers are able to place on their products as technology improves; for many consumers, it is cheaper, and therefore more sensible, to simply purchase new photographic equipment in the event of a malfunction. Additionally, as new cameras and video recorders arrive in the marketplace, their capacity to do more tasks with far lighter weight and smaller bodies continues to increase; this means many consumers prefer to invest their money in new, superior equipment rather than repair older equipment.
The decline in employment opportunities over the next ten years means there will be greater competition for fewer jobs. Most camera and photographic equipment repairers will work for manufacturers repairing malfunctioning digital or film cameras, video recorders, or other optical equipment while it is under warranty. Employers will look for job candidates with a good basic knowledge of electronics. While some employers may not require more than a high school diploma or GED, others may prefer applicants who have completed some college, including classes in electricity and electronics, physics, and basic math. Strong English and reading skills are also required, as technicians will consult manufacturer specifications or manuals to make some repairs. Job applicants with an associate’s degree will most likely be the first hired for open positions.
Camera and photographic equipment repairers return malfunctioning cameras or other optical devices to working order. Because a great number of inexpensive cameras are available, in many cases it is best for the repairer to suggest the camera be replaced rather than repaired, as it will cost less. Complex repairs, as well as repairs of expensive cameras, are usually handled by either the manufacturer or by a fully stocked repair center. Diagnosis typically involves dissembling small components to reach the source of the problem. Defected parts must be replaced or, if cost efficient, repaired. If the issue involves electronic circuits, the repairer must have familiarity with electronics.
Maintenance is another task of camera and photographic equipment repairers. Evaluating optical devices for damaged or worn parts and replacing them should always involve cleaning the device, lubricating gears, and ascertaining that it is in good working order.
In addition to knowledge about electronics and mechanical aptitude, camera and photographic equipment repairers need considerable manual dexterity. The parts and precision tools used to repair or replace them can be minute. A steady hand is essential. As well, repairers must have the ability to create replacement parts or locate them in cameras that are kept for parts. If new parts must be machined, the repairer might use a lathe, grinding wheel, cutters, and other tools for metalwork.
Digital camera repairs share a number of similarities with those who repair conventional ones. However, because there is no need to rewind film, digital cameras have fewer moving parts. Lens repair must be carefully calibrated using a computer and specialized software. More and more, camera repair shops are turning their focus to digital cameras.
New hires are typically trained at work. First they are assigned one simple product to work on over a two-week span of time. Once that product has been mastered, increasingly more difficult products are assigned. Their work is evaluated by a mentor or senior repairer and necessary corrections explained. After six to twenty-four months, most camera and photographic equipment repairers are considered well trained and qualified to take on repairs independently.
Camera and photographic equipment repairers will need to be able to read and interpret schematic diagrams of electronic structures, as well as have an understanding of technical terms. Manual dexterity is important, as some of the components technicians will work with are delicate and small.
The median annual salary for camera and photographic equipment repairers is around $35,000.