How Much Do Photographers Make?

photographer job descriptionPhotographers use technical know-how, skills, creativity, and expertise to create images. This encompasses a range of different types of image, recording events and moments that tell a story afterwards.

The working conditions for a photographer can be vary. Some photographers have their own studios and allow subjects to come to them, other travel for photo shoots, some spend their time outside looking for photo opportunities, and other work in laboratories developing film.

Because there is a high degree of creativity to photographing, formal education is not always required. It is desirable however, and professions like scientific photographers or photojournalists require degrees. Learn more about becoming a photographer here.

Photographers Salary

So, how much do photographers make? Well, it’s typical for photographers to get paid hourly more so than monthly salary. The average photographers’ hourly wage is $16.35, which equals to $34,000 per year. This is calculated by taking the median point, looking at how much half the workers were earning more than, and earning less than.
photographer salaryWe can also determine a photographers starting salary by looking at the lowest 10%. The lowest 10% earn less than $9.54, while the top 10% are above the $36.71 hourly wage. A fairly wide margin, determined by a number of factors from geographic location, type of photography, and skillset.
About a third of all photographers work part time. Being hourly paid brings a lot of flexibility, but also a degree of uncertainty. There are also large seasonal trends, such as demand increasing in summer due to wedding and flower photographers being needed.
Photographers earning the highest hourly median wage are in the District of Columbia, with a reported $31.93.

Top 5 Paying States

FlagStateEmployment per 1000 JobsHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
New York FlagNew York 0.49$25.98$54,030
California FlagCalifornia 0.44$25.36$52,750
Hawaii FlagHawaii 0.79$22.95$47,740
New Mexico FlagNew Mexico 0.32$22.22$46,220
Minnesota FlagMinnesota

Top Paying Industries

IndustryPercent of industry employmentHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
Aerospace Parts Manufacturing 0.01$36.58$76,090
Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories $33.28$69,230
Motion Picture and Video Industries 0.28$32.29$67,160
Scientific Research and Development Services 0.02$30.54$63,530
Information Services 0.15$29.37$61,090

Photographer Job Description

what does a photographer doIf you are considering the profession you’ll need to know the answer to, what does a photographer do?

There is a lot a freedom involved in this profession, and it’s also a profession that is popular as a hobby or interest. So it has lower barriers to entry than many other profession, but requires a great deal of skill.

Photographers create visual images using their creative and professional expertise. There is no limit to the subjects that can be photographed, and this profession can offer a great deal of variety. Most photographers will need to be proactive individuals, and able to manage their own time and schedule.

A professional photographer may work freelance, taking photos to sell to clients that can use them. Or, they may be working to a brief as set out by a client. Some image content for example includes; family portraits, environmental images, food, weddings, public events, and much more.

In most cases a photographers career will specialise in a certain area. They may end up specialising in fashion, editorial, celebrity, or fine art for example. Seeing as about half are self-employed there is the capacity to peruse a desired area. Others will work for business producing stock photographs, working for agencies, or work in the public sector.

Some of the typical skills and activities a professional photographer will require include:

  • Working closely with clients to achieve their goals
  • Communicating with clients and individuals to achieve the best images
  • Seeking out good opportunities to find new photographic subjects
  • Researching a shoot beforehand and turning up prepared
  • Being tech savvy with a range of technical equipment
  • Understanding how to use natural and artificial lighting
  • Working with other professionals and owners of galleries
  • Processing and amending images digitally
  • Preparing some images and proofs for approval with clients
  • Promoting yourself as a business and winning contracts
  • Developing and putting together a portfolio of work

As you can see from the above, there is a lot of autonomy involved with being a photographer.

They are responsible for capturing the right images, and sometimes are time pressured to catch the right moment. It’s a job with some risk, but a great deal of reward and satisfaction.

Photographer Salary by State

FlagStateEmployment per 1000 JobsHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
Alabama FlagAlabama0.308$17.16$35,690
Alaska FlagAlaska0.41$19.61$40,800
Arizona FlagArizona0.434$17.74$36,890
Arkansas FlagArkansas0.333$13.31$27,690
California FlagCalifornia0.436$25.36$52,750
Colorado flagColorado0.433$16.83$35,010
Connecticut FlagConnecticut0.383$21.45$44,620
Delaware flagDelaware0.2$21.73$45,190
Florida FlagFlorida0.541$14.41$29,970
Georgia FlagGeorgia0.364$18.14$37,740
Hawaii FlagHawaii0.791$22.95$47,740
Idaho FlagIdaho0.268$15.09$31,390
Illinois FlagIllinois0.389$17.13$35,640
Indiana FlagIndiana0.441$14.41$29,980
Iowa FlagIowa0.39$13.44$27,950
Kansas FlagKansas0.313$14.27$29,680
Kentucky FlagKentucky0.338$14.08$29,290
Louisiana FlagLouisiana0.242$13.79$28,680
Maine FlagMaine0.253$17.32$36,020
Maryland FlagMaryland0.357$18.07$37,590
Massachusetts FlagMassachusetts0.386$21.39$44,480
Michigan FlagMichigan0.329$17.73$36,880
Minnesota FlagMinnesota0.289$22.08$45,930
Mississippi FlagMississippi0.223$14.02$29,150
Missouri FlagMissouri0.503$16.01$33,290
Montana FlagMontana0.341$11.61$24,140
Nebraska FlagNebraska0.454$12.78$26,590
Nevada FlagNevada0.594$18.06$37,560
New Hampshire FlagNew Hampshire0.357$14.49$30,140
New Jersey FlagNew Jersey0.321$17.03$35,420
New Mexico FlagNew Mexico0.319$22.22$46,220
New York FlagNew York0.489$25.98$54,030
North Carolina FlagNorth Carolina0.466$13.39$27,850
North Dakota FlagNorth Dakota0.258$16.12$33,540
Ohio FlagOhio0.391$16.35$34,010
Oklahoma FlagOklahoma0.453$16.12$33,530
Oregon FlagOregon0.223$19.18$39,890
Pennsylvania FlagPennsylvania0.356$14.52$30,200
Rhode Island FlagRhode Island0.547$21.30$44,290
South Carolina FlagSouth Carolina0.316$16.26$33,830
South Dakota FlagSouth Dakota0.28$15.32$31,870
Tennessee FlagTennessee0.306$15.19$31,590
Texas FlagTexas0.296$16.06$33,400
Utah FlagUtah0.551$16.20$33,700
Vermont FlagVermont0.371$18.28$38,030
Virginia FlagVirginia0.266$18.63$38,760
Washington FlagWashington0.388$15.63$32,500
West Virginia FlagWest Virginia0.203$15.86$32,990
Wisconsin FlagWisconsin0.338$18.42$38,310
Wyomin FlagWyoming0.272$14.11$29,340

Top paying metropolitan areas

AreaEmployment per 1000 jobsHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
Los Angeles / Long Beach / Glendale – CA – Metropolitan Division 0.66$31.81$66,160
New York / White Plains / Wayne, – NY/NJ – Metropolitan Division 0.62$28.46$59,190
New Haven, – CT 0.23$26.64$55,420
Honolulu, – HI 0.85$24.96$51,920
Wilmington – DE / MD / NJ – Metropolitan Division 0.17$24.19$50,320

Top paying non-metropolitan areas

AreaEmployment per 1000 jobsHourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
Northwestern Virginia – nonmetropolitan area 0.32$23.33$48,530
Southern Vermont – nonmetropolitan area 0.39$21.10$43,890
East – Central Pennsylvania – nonmetropolitan area 0.16$20.00$41,600
Western Colorado – nonmetropolitan area 0.64$18.50$38,480
Capital – Northern New York – nonmetropolitan area 0.26$17.73$36,880

Job Outlook

The growth projected for photographers between 2016 and 2026 is expected to be -6%. Which means that this profession is in decline, however, this shouldn’t put you off of pursuing your dreams, there’s always a demand for good photographers. The project growth (decline) is considerably slower than the average of all professions, and there are a few reasons for this.

The cost of digital cameras has decreased dramatically over recent years, and is expected to carry on for the foreseeable future. This has increased the accessibility for amateur photographers and people doing so as a hobby.

Ever improving technology also reduces the barriers to entry for people picking up a camera for the first time, allowing more consumers to take, produce, alter, and work with their own high-quality images.

Decline of employment of self-employed photographers is also expected to be -6% for the same time period. Growth will always continue while the demand is there for new portraits and images. Likewise there will always be demand for compelling images used in advertising and marketing campaigns.

Photographer Career Video

Noel Griffith, Ph.D.
Noel Griffith is a Doctor of Philosophy with a strong interest in educational research. He has been an editor-in-chief of since 2014. Noel is an avid reader (non-fiction), enjoys good food, live theatre, and helping others make wiser career decisions.

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