Over the next ten years, the number of photographers is expected to grow by 17%, more than double the average growth rate for all industries, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
These numbers suggest that the demand for photographers is still strong and growing, especially after the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But how much do photographers actually earn? Here’s everything you need to know.
How much does a typical photographer earn?
So how much does the typical working photographer in the United States make? Well, that depends on who you ask.
According to the BLS, there were 110,500 photographers employed in the United States in 2021. The median hourly wage for photographers was $18.73 in May 2021, which roughly translates to an annual salary of $38,950 per year.
When the wage is median, however, it means the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and the other half earned less.
According to the BLS, the lowest 10% earned less than $11.80, giving an annual salary of $24,540 per year, while the highest 10% earned more than $37.38, or about $77. $760 a year, about 15% more than the median US salary. for all workers, or $45,760.
However, Salary.com, which collects data from employer surveys, puts the figure a bit higher. According to salary.com, the medium a photographer’s income is $56,168 per year.
Meanwhile, employment website, Indeed.com collected data from over 6,300 photographers and estimated the average salary of a photographer in the United States to be just under $51,946 per year. .
The website glassdoor.com, where current and former employees review companies anonymously, estimates the average base salary for a photographer at $46,922 per year, ranging from low-end $24,000 to $91,000 at the top of the scale.
The BLS estimates that over 64% of photographers in the United States are self-employed. Considering this fact, the salary range for a freelance photographer could probably be much wider and vary widely depending on their skills, experience, and schedule capacity.
In another survey on glassdoor.com, the website estimated that the average freelance photographer’s salary was over $52,138 per year – and that freelance photographers could earn up to $390,547 per year.
Read also: How a photographer turned a $45,000 investment into a $177,000 annual career
Freelance photographers can also supplement their salary with other sources of income. The State of the Photography Industry Survey, which surveyed 3,300 photographers worldwide in May 2021, found that more than 35.1% of respondents also offered video services, often considered a segment growing business. However, the majority of survey respondents (64.5%) stick to photography full-time.
Summary: The average salary for photographers in the United States is probably between $45,000 and $55,000.
Where do photographers earn the most?
The latest data reveals that where a photographer lives in the United States is likely to have a significant impact on how much they earn. According to the BLS, the state with the most jobs for photographers is California with over 5,220 photographers.
New York State ranks second with over 3,390 employed photographers, with the New York metropolitan area home to 3,260. Florida ranks third with 3,070 photographers, while Texas follows closely with 3,060 employed photographers. In fifth place is Illinois, which has 1,730 salaried photographers, more than 1,390 of whom are based in Chicago.
But if photographers are particularly in demand in these five states, that does not mean that they are necessarily the best paid in their profession in the United States.
The highest paying territory for employed photographers is the District of Columbia (DC) with an average hourly wage of $40.67, which translates to an average annual salary of $84,590.
Photographers working in the state of Connecticut are the second highest paid in the United States with an average annual salary of $66,580, while photographers residing in New York State earn an average of $66,580 per year . Georgia is another state that pays the most for employed photographers with an average annual salary of $59,420, while photographers in Washington earn an average annual salary of $59,180. Minnesota stands out as being a lucrative location for photographers despite not being a coastal state like other top earning regions.
If you want to go beyond the states and take a closer look at the highest paying metropolitan areas for photographers in the United States, those employed in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area of the state of California win the most average in the country, with an average annual salary of $76,810.
The average annual salary for photographers in the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area of Connecticut is $71,160 while photographers employed in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria area centered in Washington, D.C. have an average annual salary of $70. $440.
Summary: US coastal states tend to have above-average photographer incomes, with Minnesota being an exception.
What types of photographers earn the most?
According to Climb — which collects data from various salary aggregation websites, including ZipRecruiter, Indeed.com, Salary.com, and Glassdoor — wedding photographers rank among the highest-paying photography jobs in the United States. They earn between $36,758 and $126,379, with an average salary of $67,751.
Fash, an online service that connects clients with local professionals in the United States, estimates that the top 10% of professional photographers on their website earn $6,400 per month or more, especially wedding photographers.
Fash says average wedding photography prices on the website range from $1,500 to $3,500, while a professional destination wedding photographer might start their price at $10,000 for a photoshoot. TheKnot, Brides, and WeddingWire agree with these numbers, stating that the average cost of wedding photography in the United States is between $2,500 and $4,000.
ZipRecruiter’s list of average wedding photographer salaries by US state shows that Hawaii is the most lucrative place to start your business as a wedding photographer, with an average annual salary of $135,215. The least? Louisiana, with an average of $88,780.
The data also suggests that event photographers and real estate photographers earn more than those working in other niches. Climb places the annual income of an event photographer between $36,758 and $87,470, with an average of $59,525, while real estate photographers earn between $45,000 and $82,157, with an average salary of $62,309 .
Commercial photographers can also earn a relatively high salary compared to photographers in other industries. According to Climb, commercial photographers can earn between $36,758 and $97,600, with an average salary of $61,988.
It should be noted that most photographers in these aforementioned industries will generally be freelancers. However, photographers traditionally employed in “Senior” roles also earn above average salaries. Climb estimates the salary of a senior photographer in the United States to be between $49,957 and $79,310, with an average salary of $65,583.
Summary: Wedding, event and real estate photography tend to generate above average income compared to other niches.
What does the earning potential look like for photographers of the future?
The Institute for Economic Research estimates that the average salary of photographers in the United States will increase by 11% over the next five years.
The State of the Photography Industry Survey, conducted in May 2021, found that 57% of photographers felt “good” about 2022 and expected business to pick up after the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. 32% of respondents thought activity would remain at current levels, while a minority of 11% expected a decline.
This optimism about the future of the industry seems to be backed up by data. According to the BLS, about 12,700 photographer openings are expected each year in the United States, on average, over the next decade – with employment of freelance photographers expected to increase throughout the decade.
Demand for portrait photographers as well as commercial photographers is expected to remain strong. Although the BLS speculates on whether the falling cost of digital cameras and the growing number of amateur and amateur photographers may reduce the need for professional photographers.
General employment trends slightly favor freelance photographers over those who get traditional full-time jobs, so if you’re considering becoming a professional photographer, now seems like the best time to take the plunge.
Picture credits: Pictures from Depositphotos