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Photographic Process Workers and Processing Machine Operators
SOC Code: 51-9151.00

Perform work involved in developing and processing photographic images from film or digital media. May perform precision tasks such as editing photographic negatives and prints.

Sample of reported job titles: Digital Printer Operator, Film Processor, Film Technician, Lab Technician, Photo Lab Manager, Photo Lab Specialist, Photo Lab Technician (Photographic Laboratory Technician), Photo Printer, Photo Specialist, Photo Technician


  • Select digital images for printing, specify number of images to be printed, and direct to printer, using computer software.
  • Create prints according to customer specifications and laboratory protocols.
  • Produce color or black-and-white photographs, negatives, or slides, applying standard photographic reproduction techniques and procedures.
  • Set or adjust machine controls, according to specifications, type of operation, or material requirements.
  • Review computer-processed digital images for quality.
  • Operate scanners or related computer equipment to digitize negatives, photographic prints, or other images.
  • Fill tanks of processing machines with solutions such as developer, dyes, stop-baths, fixers, bleaches, or washes.
  • Measure and mix chemicals to prepare solutions for processing, according to formulas.
  • Load digital images onto computers directly from cameras or from storage devices, such as flash memory cards or universal serial bus (USB) devices.
  • Operate special equipment to perform tasks such as transferring film to videotape or producing photographic enlargements.
  • Examine developed prints for defects, such as broken lines, spots, or blurs.
  • Read work orders to determine required processes, techniques, materials, or equipment.
  • Load circuit boards, racks or rolls of film, negatives, or printing paper into processing or printing machines.
  • Insert processed negatives and prints into envelopes for delivery to customers.
  • Reprint originals for enlargement or in sections to be pieced together.
  • Clean or maintain photoprocessing or darkroom equipment, using ultrasonic equipment or cleaning and rinsing solutions.
  • Monitor equipment operation to detect malfunctions.
  • Maintain records, such as quantities or types of processing completed, materials used, or customer charges.
  • Operate machines to prepare circuit boards and to expose, develop, etch, fix, wash, dry, or print film or plates.
  • Immerse film, negatives, paper, or prints in developing solutions, fixing solutions, and water to complete photographic development processes.
  • Examine quality of film fades or dissolves for potential color corrections, using color analyzers.
  • Thread filmstrips through densitometers or sensitometers and expose film to light to determine density of film, necessary color corrections, or light sensitivity.
  • Examine drawings, negatives, or photographic prints to determine coloring, shading, accenting, or other changes required for retouching or restoration.
  • Place sensitized paper in frames of projection printers, photostats, or other reproduction machines.
  • Upload digital images onto Web sites for customers.
  • Dry prints or negatives using sponges, squeegees, mechanical air dryers, or drying cabinets.
  • Produce timed prints with separate densities or color settings for each scene of a production.
  • Set automatic timers, lens openings, and printer carriages to specified focus and exposure times and start exposure to duplicate originals, photographs, or negatives.
  • Splice broken or separated film and mount film on reels.
  • Apply paint, using airbrushes, pens, artists' brushes, cotton swabs, or gloved fingers to retouch or enhance negatives or photographs.

Technology Skills

  • Data base management system software - MongoDB
  • Data base user interface and query software - Microsoft Access ; MySQL
  • Desktop publishing software - Adobe Systems Adobe InDesign ; Microsoft Publisher
  • Graphics or photo imaging software - Adobe Systems Adobe Photoshop ; Camera Bits Photo Mechanic; HeliconSoft Helicon Focus; Phase One Capture One (see all 5 examples)
  • Office suite software - Microsoft Office
  • Presentation software - Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Spreadsheet software - Microsoft Excel
  • Word processing software - Microsoft Word

Tools Used

  • Air brushes - Photo retouching air brushes
  • Bar code reader equipment - Barcode scanners
  • Camera lens - Contrast filters
  • Cathodes or emitters - Silver recovery systems
  • Clock timers - Darkroom timers
  • Colorimeters - Color testing equipment
  • Densitometers - Darkroom densitometers
  • Developing tanks - Photographic developing tanks
  • Developing tongs - Film processing tongs
  • Developing trays - Developing spirals; Film developing trays
  • Digital cameras
  • Dye sublimination printers - Thermal dye sublimation printers
  • Film driers - Drying cabinets
  • Film splicers - Cement splicers; Daylight splicers; Tape splicers; Ultrasonic film splicers
  • Flash memory storage card - Secure digital (SD) cards
  • Flowmeters - Water flow meters
  • General purpose refrigerators or refrigerator freezers - Film refrigerators
  • Handheld thermometer - Darkroom thermometers
  • High capacity removable media drives - MultiMediaCard storage devices; Universal serial bus USB flash drives
  • Hot air blowers - Mechanical air dryers
  • Hydrometers - Darkroom hydrometers
  • Inkjet printer for commercial printing applications - Photo printers
  • Laboratory beakers - Darkroom beakers
  • Laboratory graduated cylinders - Measuring cylinders
  • Laboratory mixers - Hand mixers; Power mixers
  • Laboratory stirring rods - Chemical stirrers
  • Laminators - Mounting presses
  • Laser printers - Laser photo printers
  • Light enhancing cameras or vision devices - Infrared goggles
  • Offset darkroom equipment - Film pickers; Film winders; Leader cards
  • Offset film processors - Automatic photo printers; Digital minilabs; Roller transport film processors; Rotary drum processors (see all 6 examples)
  • Paint brushes - Artists' brushes
  • Personal computers
  • Photo cutters or trimmers - Photo scissors
  • Photographic enlargers - Photographic print enlargers
  • Printing guillotines - Paper cutters
  • Printing plates - Film plates
  • Reflectometers - Sensitometers
  • Scanners - Drum scanners; Flatbed scanners
  • Squeegees or washers - Photo drying squeegees
  • Thermal transfer printer for commercial printing applications - Solid ink printers
  • Thermographs - Infrared scanners
  • Ultrasonic cleaning equipment - Ultrasonic cleaners
  • Water pumps - Water recirculation pumps


  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • Computers and Electronics - Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
  • Production and Processing - Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.


  • Operation Monitoring - Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Quality Control Analysis - Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Service Orientation - Actively looking for ways to help people.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Complex Problem Solving - Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Monitoring - Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Operation and Control - Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Time Management - Managing one's own time and the time of others.


  • Near Vision - The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Visual Color Discrimination - The ability to match or detect differences between colors, including shades of color and brightness.
  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Arm-Hand Steadiness - The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.
  • Control Precision - The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
  • Deductive Reasoning - The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Flexibility of Closure - The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
  • Information Ordering - The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  • Selective Attention - The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
  • Inductive Reasoning - The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Manual Dexterity - The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.
  • Perceptual Speed - The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
  • Problem Sensitivity - The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  • Speech Clarity - The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • Visualization - The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.
  • Category Flexibility - The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
  • Finger Dexterity - The ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.
  • Speech Recognition - The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
  • Written Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.


  • Interest code: CR
    • Conventional - Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.
    • Realistic - Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Work Context

  • Face-to-Face Discussions - 88% responded “Every day.”
  • Telephone - 73% responded “Every day.”
  • Contact With Others - 64% responded “Constant contact with others.”
  • Indoors, Environmentally Controlled - 72% responded “Every day.”
  • Deal With External Customers - 43% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Exposed to Contaminants - 33% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Time Pressure - 59% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Spend Time Standing - 58% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls - 48% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Work With Work Group or Team - 32% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Importance of Being Exact or Accurate - 32% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Structured versus Unstructured Work - 55% responded “Some freedom.”
  • Freedom to Make Decisions - 44% responded “Some freedom.”
  • Spend Time Walking and Running - 26% responded “About half the time.”
  • Responsibility for Outcomes and Results - 36% responded “High responsibility.”
  • Level of Competition - 29% responded “Highly competitive.”
  • Physical Proximity - 34% responded “Slightly close (e.g., shared office).”
  • Letters and Memos - 35% responded “Never.”
  • Degree of Automation
  • Exposed to Hazardous Conditions - 24% responded “Never.”
  • Frequency of Decision Making - 63% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Importance of Repeating Same Tasks - 17% responded “Important.”
  • Spend Time Making Repetitive Motions - 41% responded “About half the time.”
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety - 24% responded “High responsibility.”
  • Electronic Mail - 28% responded “Never.”
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People - 25% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
  • Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results - 41% responded “Moderate results.”
  • Spend Time Bending or Twisting the Body - 40% responded “Less than half the time.”


Percentage of RespondentsEducation Level Required
84%High school diploma or equivalent
8%Some college, no degree
5%Bachelor's degree

Work Styles

  • Attention to Detail - Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
  • Dependability - Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
  • Independence - Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
  • Self Control - Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
  • Cooperation - Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
  • Integrity - Job requires being honest and ethical.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility - Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
  • Analytical Thinking - Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
  • Initiative - Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
  • Concern for Others - Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
  • Stress Tolerance - Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.
  • Innovation - Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
  • Persistence - Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
  • Leadership - Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
  • Social Orientation - Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
  • Achievement/Effort - Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.

Work Values

  • Support - Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
  • Independence - Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.
  • Relationships - Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.

Wages & Trends

  • Median wages (2017)
    • $13.21 hourly, $27,480 annual
  • Employment (2016)
    • 27,000 employees
  • Projected growth (2016-2026)
    • Decline (-2% or lower)
  • Projected job openings (2016-2026)
    • 3,300

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