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Photographic Processor

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to November 2018: < 5,000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: Varies greatly to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2014
Brief Imagine if there was no way of creating lasting images of the special occasions that occur in our lives? Fortunately, photographic processors (photographic developers and printers) can help us capture and retain these moments of magic.

There are currently around 230 photographic developers and printers employed in South Australia. Over half are employed full-time and most work in the personal and other services industry. Over half of persons in this occupation are female and most are employed in the Adelaide metropolitan area. This occupation has a younger age profile with only around a fifth of workers aged 45 years or older.

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Photographic processors develop photographic film and make prints by hand or by operating fully automated machines. Once upon a time, photographs had to be developed one at a time by hand, in a darkroom. While some self-employed photographers continue to develop and print their own photographs this way, the invention of mini labs has seen the developing and printing process become fully automated and the procedure taken care of mostly by photographic processors. The developing and printing process begins with the development of a set of negatives (these are prints of the original photograph) which are then printed onto a piece of paper film.

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Education Requirements

Of those currently employed there are13% who have a not defined Certificate, 12% have either an Advanced Diploma or a Diploma, 10% have Bachelor Degrees, 6% have either a Certificate III or IV and 59% have no post school qualifications.

There are no educational requirements needed to become a photographic developer and printer, however, because there is a heavy sales component to this occupation, it may be advantageous to have a retail sales qualification behind you. TAFE SA offers the Certificate I and II in Retail Services, Certificate III in Retail Services or Retail Operations and Certificate II and III in Customer Contact.

Career Path

Most of the photographic processors are employed by film manufacturers, large wholesale laboratories and mini retail labs, camera shops and pharmacies. This is a small occupational workforce with a moderate turnover, so employment opportunities are relatively limited. In addition, advancements in technology may see a gradual decline in the need for photographic processors.


Retail Trade


To be updated.

Nature of the Job

When negatives are produced, they need to be individually examined and judged to determine whether their quality can be improved. Do they need more or less exposure for instance? Once the negatives are produced, it is time to print the images onto paper. Again, the negatives would be inserted into a special printing machine by the processor - and voila, you have your photographs.

Thousands of prints can be made from a negative, but there can only be one 'original' negative photograph actually exposed inside the camera. So, take care of your negatives because they are literally one of a kind. The manager of a local photographic developing store says that when the store's photographic processors receive a customer's roll of film, it is loaded into a C41 developer. The fully automated machine takes approximately one hour to develop a 12, 24 or 36 roll of film. This particular outlet only develops colour film but another model of the C41 can be used for black and white film, by using different types of chemicals. More advanced versions of the C41 are used in large department stores such as Woolworths and K-Mart. These machines are capable of producing huge quantities of photos.

Typical Physical Working Environment

An eye for detail and good colour sense in case any photographs require colour corrections is an important attribute for photographic processors to have. You need to be accurate and able to work well under pressure. You also need to be able to make good judgements. A keen interest in photography may also make the job more enjoyable. Because photographic processors constantly deal with the general public, it's also very important for them to demonstrate excellent customer service and communication skills and to be generally friendly, patient and observant. The ability to follow instructions from customers and management is also very helpful.

Typical Occupational Example

Photographic processors also enlarge or reduce photographs. According to Sharen, processors use an everyday computer installed with a specific program able to do these functions. In recent times there has been a huge shift to the use of digital photography. To do this, processors would remove the computer chip from a digital camera and download the stored image on the chip onto a computer. The computer then prints the photograph. Another common request among today's customers is to have their photographic images burnt onto computer discs. Despite the shift to more advanced technological photographic processes, learning about new related technologies can be learned on the job.

Once the developing and printing process is over, photographic processors give their work a final inspection. The photographs are then sorted and packaged (negatives are stored in their own sleeve) for customers. Details of each photographic processing job are also recorded by the processor. The various equipment used for photographic processing must be cleaned for later use and maintained when necessary. Photographic processors use film processors, film printers (optical or digital), photographic chemicals and paper, negative cutters, negative sleeves (to store negatives in) and occasionally, a dark room.

Earning Potential

The starting salary is about $20,000 per year and this may go up to $30,000 for someone in a managerial position in this occupation.

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online