How Much Do Photographers Make on Average (Salary)

How much do photographers make? Photographers frequently specialize in a particular kind of photography. Portrait photographers shoot people in studios or on location at different places. Photographs taken by commercial photographers are used in publications, advertising, and catalogs. Photojournalists, often known as news photographers, take pictures that are used to illustrate stories on television news shows, in newspapers, and in magazines. Aerial photographers use airplanes to capture landscapes and structures, whereas fine arts photographers sell their images to the general audience as works of art.

photographer salary

In 2016, 147,300 individuals were employed in this field. Over half of all photographers work for themselves as freelancers. Others work for photographic studios, broadcasting businesses, and publishing houses.

What is a photographer?

Photographers convey tales with the photos they record with their cameras, and they use their art to communicate their personalities and points of view.

Photographers can display their artistic skill in a number of photographic areas, including fashion, studio work, travel, journalism, and nature.

What does a photographer do?

A photographer is usually self-employed and contracted for specialized projects by a variety of customers. A customer who hires a part-time/freelance photographer is responsible for implementing the client's requests down to the smallest detail, as well as putting up a business strategy that makes pricing and alternatives plain and accessible.

Photographers are in charge of the digital or physical creation of their photographs, as well as some or all of the post-production editing. Simple cropping, adding/changing colors and shading, altering sharpness and lighting, or eliminating items to tidy up the image are all examples of editing.

There are a variety of photographic genres in which one might specialize, including:

Wedding photography

Wedding photography is a very specialized field. The wedding day is usually one of the most important and memorable days of a person's life, and it will be remembered for a long time. As a result, most couples will not be satisfied with ordinary pictures. Professional wedding photographers are engaged to preserve a couple's priceless moments throughout the wedding ceremony and celebration by capturing innovative, candid, and gorgeous photos.

Before photographing a wedding, the photographer communicates with the clients for months, if not a year or two, prior to the wedding day. It's critical to get to know the customers and learn their likes, dislikes, and ultimate goal so that on the wedding day, the couple feels at ease enough to allow their genuine personalities to shine. After the specifics have been agreed upon, the bride and groom-to-be, as well as the photographer, sign a typically written agreement.

The photos are processed as fast as possible after the event, the wedding photographer and couple meet to go over the images, and order details are confirmed. After the event, excellent customer service is equally as essential as it is before it; solid customer connections can lead to future family pictures and portraits of their children.

Fashion photography

Fashion photographers work with hairstylists, fashion stylists, makeup artists, and fashion designers to shoot clothes, accessories, and models, as well as collaborate with hairstylists, fashion stylists, makeup artists, and fashion designers. A fashion photographer might work for a fashion designer, a fashion newspaper, a fashion house, an advertising agency, or a fashion/beauty magazine as a freelancer or as an employee.

Fashion photographers are able to create an aura and define what beauty and style are via their photos. Setting up and directing photo sessions, interacting with make-up artists and fashion designers to best reflect their vision, and editing the pictures are all common responsibilities.

Real estate photography

Real estate is a cutthroat business, with ambitious brokers vying for the next big deal. Setting yourself apart from the competition while selling real estate is one of the ways to do so, and one of the ways to do so is by taking stunning and captivating photographs of a home for sale. Real estate photographers specialize in this type of photography, providing images for real estate agents and their property listings on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) (Multiple Listing Service).

This style of photography lacks the majority of the artistic flexibility that other types of photography provide. Real estate photographers are a much-needed service in a business that moves at a breakneck pace. Because the photographs are just transitory and have no sentimental value, the photographer can focus on creating a high-quality product that can be replicated from one photo shoot to the next.

photographer salary

Travel photography

Travel photography is capturing photographs that reflect the people, culture, customs, scenery, and history of a location. Travel photography, on the other hand, is more difficult to commercialize than other genres of photography such as fashion, wedding, or real estate photography. Stock photography, blogging, commercial ventures, and teaching are all becoming more popular methods for photographers to make a career.

Travel photography careers are as diverse as the places they serve. Using social media marketing, content development, negotiation, and sales to make a profession out of this sort of photography is a significant part of it. However, the first step is to just get out there and shoot some photos; in this area of photography, having a strong portfolio is essential.

Photojournalism

A photojournalist captures, edits, and presents photos to tell a narrative visually. They are photojournalists that specialize in understanding and communicating events through photos. The topic matter might range from the social upheaval in a distant nation to challenges and events taking place on a local level.

Photojournalists might work for photo agencies, publications, or local newspapers as freelance photographers. The internet, print, and television are all places where people can work.

photographer salary

Architectural photography

An architectural photographer takes photographs of buildings and structures with the goal of correctly depicting them. This might be the inside or outside of any construction, from a single-family house to the world's tallest skyscraper. The majority of people believe that architectural photographers simply shoot buildings. Other buildings, such as bridges, monuments, towers, and windmills, fall under the architectural umbrella.

One of the most difficult aspects of this style of photography is correctly arranging a shot. Technical issues must be resolved, such as determining the optimum viewpoint point for depicting mass and shape or determining the best method for depicting spatial depth and clarity.

Food photography

Food photography is a subset of still life photography that is used in cookbooks, blogs, magazines, social media, advertising, and packaging. The 'essential element' is to capture the visual in such a way that the viewer's mouth waters. This is accomplished by the photographer's comprehensive knowledge of light, color palettes, and current fashion trends.

Working in this sector necessitates a thorough grasp of the food being photographed, as many food products can quickly melt or wither, making things difficult.

Art directors, directors, food stylists, prop stylists, and assistants are common collaborators with food photographers. Food photographers, like any other type of photographer, should always have a print and digital copy of their best work on hand to show potential customers.

photographer salary

How much do photographers make?

The bulk of freelance photographer salaries now vary between $45,500 (25th percentile) and $72,000 (75th percentile), with top earners (90th percentile) earning $78,000 per year in the United States. The typical salary for a freelance photographer ranges widely (up to $26,500), implying that there can be several chances for growth and higher income dependent on skill level, location, and years of experience.

Average photographer salary by state

How much photographers make in each state, on average:

  • Alaska: $42,160 per year.
  • Alabama: $34,931 per year.
  • Arkansas: $28,380 per year.
  • Arizona: $36,817 per year.
  • California: $48,253 per year.
  • Colorado: $31,230 per year.
  • Connecticut: $43,210 per year.
  • District of Columbia: $84,720 per year.
  • Delaware: $31,810 per year.
  • Florida: $39,990 per year.
  • Georgia: $36,670 per year.
  • Hawaii: $42,025 per year.
  • Iowa: $29,448 per year.
  • Idaho: $31,117 per year.
  • Illinois: $41,374 per year.
  • Indiana: $38,125 per year.
  • Kansas: $33,607 per year.
  • Kentucky: $35,650 per year.
  • Louisiana: $30,220 per year.
  • Massachusetts: $46,770 per year.
  • Maryland: $35,670 per year.
  • Maine: $30,980 per year.
  • Michigan: $31,351 per year.
  • Minnesota: $47,810 per year.
  • Missouri: $36,470 per year.
  • Mississippi: $43,330 per year.
  • Montana: $23,110 per year.
  • North Carolina: $26,400 per year.
  • North Dakota: $35,140 per year.
  • Nebraska: $29,820 per year.
  • New Hampshire: $34,020 per year.
  • New Jersey: $27,570 per year.
  • New Mexico: $32,300 per year.
  • Nevada: $29,820 per year.
  • New York: $43,210 per year.
  • Ohio: $29,920 per year.
  • Oklahoma: $31,330 per year.
  • Oregon: $29,750 per year.
  • Pennsylvania: $32,509 per year.
  • Puerto Rico: $28,840 per year.
  • Rhode Island: $55,990 per year.
  • South Carolina: $42,090 per year.
  • South Dakota: $29,420 per year.
  • Tennessee: $28,530 per year.
  • Texas: $28,100 per year.
  • Utah: $27,000 per year.
  • Virginia: $32,820 per year.
  • Vermont: $43,230 per year.
  • Washington: $44,180 per year.
  • Wisconsin: $29,360 per year.
  • West Virginia: $29,480 per year.
  • Wyoming: $35,360 per year.

Per hour wages

The national average salary is $28 per hour.

Per week wages

The national average salary is $1,111 per week.

Per month wages

The national average salary is $4,817 per month.

By job title

Fashion photographers, medical photographers, product photographers, and wedding photographers are among the highest-paying photography jobs.

  • Wedding photographer: $104,417 per year.
  • Fashion photographer: $41,352 per year.
  • Freelance photographer: $57,806 per year.
  • Medical photographer: $44,193 per year.

By seniority

Average photographer salary by experience level.

Top-level photographer earnings begin at:

$32.04 per hour, $66,651 per year.

Senior-level photographer earnings begin at:

$24.52 per hour, $51,012 per year.

Mid-level photographer earnings begin at:

$18.22 per hour, $37,900 per year.

Junior-level photographer earnings begin at:

$13.54 per hour, $28,158 per year

Entry-level photographer earnings begin at:

$10.36 per hour, $21,551 per year.

Highest paid photographers

High-end professional photographers charge between $250 and $500 per hour or $200 to $1200 each image. Depending on their area of specialization, these elite group of photographers can be paid up to $10,000 per day for their work.

Average annual salary of a full-time photographer can vary based on their photography pricing, demand, and experience-level.

Student photographers (beginner photographers), on the other hand, earn anywhere from $50 to $100 per hour on average.

Job market outlook

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (source), the job outlook for photographers is a -4% drop through 2029, which is slower than the average for all occupations. The sluggish rise is due to falling digital camera prices and an increase in amateur photography enthusiasm.

Work environment

A photographer can be required to work in a variety of locations and circumstances. Working in luxurious studios in a major metropolis or in the freezing forests of a distant nation are examples of this. A photographer is one of the few professions where you can wear shorts and t-shirts one day, a tuxedo the next, and a winter coat and boots the following.

photographer salary

Most photographers who are serious about their profession will have a home office or studio where they can work on digital or physical pictures for development and/or editing purposes.

Common questions

Questions from photography job seekers and freelancers:

How much does a freelance photography business earn?

Photographers working out of home studios kept an average of 25% of their gross revenues, compared to 19.33% for photographers working in retail studios. In terms of yearly profits, photography studios earned $129,394 on average, whereas retail studios earned $238,689.

Why do photographers open their own photography business?

Many photographers want to become freelance or start their own photography business so that they can establish their own prices and have unrestricted revenue. It's fantastic to have control over your job, but it can also come with a lot of responsibility.

What does it take to practice professional photography?

Practice and patience, like with other occupations in the artistic world, are the greatest methods to improve and keep being employed as a professional photographer. Whether it's for small weddings or huge professional sporting events, practicing your skill is critical to obtaining any job. Of course, attending photography classes to improve your skills is also a good idea.

photographer salary

Furthermore, rather than investing hundreds of dollars on cameras, software, and equipment that you're unfamiliar with, the easiest way to get started is to use what you already have. Before going on to bigger and more costly items, some of the finest photographers discovered their love and aptitude with the simplest of cameras and gear.

A professional photographer must also have an acute sense of when and where to set up and/or shoot the greatest photographs. Knowing where to set up lighting or position oneself to take advantage of the available natural light is one of the most significant distinctions between an amateur and a professional photographer, and it can be the difference between being employed on a one-time basis or on a regular basis. Photographers are in charge of preserving memories and moments in time, and there is minimal space for error, therefore every aspiring photographer must have a strong focus and the capacity to work under pressure.

In today's world, it's becoming increasingly important for photographers to have a working knowledge of computers and computer software, and taking photo-editing software classes is one of the best ways to ensure that you're on top of your game and able to meet the industry's increasingly demanding standards.

photographer salary

What skills are required to have a photography career?

Photographers require some personal traits and talents in addition to technical ability.

Photographers are artists who must be able to use their imagination to come up with new methods to communicate tales via photographs. They must have a keen sense of color, light, and composition.

  • Interpersonal skills: You must be able to comprehend the requirements of the people you're photographing, interpret their body language, and coordinate your activities with theirs, whether it's the individuals you're photographing, your clients, or your coworkers.
  • Communication skills: You'll be able to understand what others are saying and explain things to them if you have good listening and speaking abilities.
  • Customer service: Freelance photographers, in particular, must give outstanding service to their clients in order to succeed.
  • Business skills: Self-marketing abilities are essential for those who work for themselves. They need to take care of bookkeeping and maintain track of their costs and revenues. They must also be aware of legal problems, such as obtaining a signed model release form if taking photographs of people for commercial purposes.

If you want to consistently generate only the finest quality photographs, you can't afford to overlook any details.

photographer salary

How can I increase my earnings as a professional photographer?

Many photographers prefer to outsource picture editing since it is a time-consuming and difficult process. There are a number of websites where editing pros can look for work. Working as a part-time editor for other photographers will not only boost your overall profits but will also enhance your editing abilities and open up new photo chances.

Boost your business acumen

Self-employed photographers run their own businesses, so making good business decisions can help them earn more money overall. Knowing how to promote oneself and having a thorough understanding of the local market will almost certainly result in the acquisition of higher-paying clients. Being aware of different legal concerns, such as trademark and copyright regulations, will also assist you in avoiding any potential legal costs.

photographer salary

Take up additional work out of your expertise

Working only in your chosen field is a wonderful way to build a reputation and long-term success, but branching out into other areas of photography on occasion might potentially broaden your customer base and improve your earnings. Some fields complement one another, such as a wedding photographer who also specializes in newborn infant photography. Others require comparable abilities and equipment, such as wildlife photographers with experience shooting fast-moving objects having the potential to be effective sports photographers.

Work as a part-time freelance editor

To meet specific quality requirements, most pictures require considerable editing and post-processing. Many photographers prefer to outsource picture editing since it is a time-consuming and difficult process. There are a number of websites where editing pros can look for work. Working as a part-time editor for other photographers will not only boost your overall profits but will also enhance your editing abilities and open up new photo chances.

photographer salary

Improve your communication skills

As a photographer, you are frequently need to collaborate with others. Understanding your clients' wants and wishes and proactively offering the best solutions for various difficulties will certainly increase your reputation and long-term potential revenue. Similarly, while shooting people, having the right interpersonal skills to communicate with the models will result in higher-quality photos, which will lead to more profits over time.

Take on freelance work

The job market for photographers is expected to decline by 6% through 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, over the same time period, the job outlook for freelance photographers is expected to improve by as much as 12%. As a freelance photographer, you'll have greater freedom to pursue high-paying projects and broaden your portfolio. This implies that instead of working for a single customer, you can be employed by a number of people or businesses who want excellent photography.

photographer salary

What other types of photographers are there?

  • Aerial photographers: Capture landscapes, buildings, and events from the air using aircraft, helicopters, and drones. They usually need specialist equipment, such as gyrostabilizers, which assist in steady photos even while the aircraft is moving. Cameras having 360-degree views are typically placed on remote-controlled drones and utilized for aerial images in drone photography.
  • Portrait photographers: Are usually employed to shoot individuals or groups of people at specific times in their life or for a variety of purposes. They can work in their own studio or go to other sites for different occasions including weddings, school events, and ceremonies.
  • Scientific photographers: Photographs are used by scientific photographers to correctly document diverse occurrences or scientific data. Because of the necessity for a clear visual depiction of the subject, photo editing is usually minimal or non-existent.
  • News photographers: Media outlets, such as newspapers, television stations, magazines, and journals, hire news photographers or photojournalists to capture newsworthy people, places, and events. The majority of news photographers can also record videos.
  • Art photographers: Create unique photos that are then sold as works of art. Art photographers, like other photographers, require originality and creative flair in addition to competence and technical abilities.

photographer salary

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), NCDA Certified Career Counselor (CCC), and general career expert. Patrick has completed the NACE Coaching Certification Program (CCP). And has been published as a career expert on Forbes, Glassdoor, American Express, Reader's Digest, LiveCareer, Zety, Yahoo, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, SHRM.org, Process.st, FairyGodBoss, HRCI.org, St. Edwards University, NC State University, IBTimes.com, Thrive Global, TMCnet.com, Work It Daily, Workology, Career Guide, MyPerfectResume, College Career Life, The HR Digest, WorkWise, Career Cast, Elite Staffing, Women in HR, All About Careers, Upstart HR, The Street, Monster, The Ladders, Introvert Whisperer, and many more. Find him on LinkedIn.

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