How Much Does a Photographer Make a Year?

By Jacqueline DeMarco · April 02, 2024 · 6 minute read

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How Much Does a Photographer Make a Year?

The median pay for professional photographers is $40,170 per year, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That said, there is a broad range of earning possible, depending on what kind of photographer a person is and where they live.

Photography may become a more in-demand skill in the future, given what a visual culture exists today. Over the next decade, it’s anticipated that photographers will see job demand increase by 5% between 2022 and 2032, which is greater than the average for all professions.

Read on to learn more about the salary and other facets of a career as a photographer.

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What Are Photographers?

A photographer combines technical expertise with creativity and composition skills to produce photographic images. Photographers can get paid to take wedding, family, or pet portraits; cover news events; work for businesses and brands shooting products; or create art — among many other types of photography work.

Many photographers are also skilled in editing photos. If a photographer works for themselves, they can also be responsible for running their business and everything that entails, from advertising to accounting to operations. There are so many directions a photographer’s career can take. Some photographers also teach the art of photography, help plan creative direction for photo shoots, or use drone technology to capture shots from the sky.

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How Much Do Starting Photographers Make a Year?

When they are earning an entry-level salary, how much money a photographer makes is typically on the low end of the spectrum. Their earnings will likely grow as they gain skills and experience and make connections in the industry.

The lowest 10% of photographers earn less than $12.98 per hourly pay. That may be a good starting point if you are wondering about starting salaries.

Keep in mind that photographers in different locations and areas of focus will make an array of salaries. For instance, someone who takes baby portraits for new parents in a small town will likely never earn as much as a high-fashion photographer in a major city who is being paid by corporate clients. The latter could make $100,000 a year or considerably more.

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What is the Average Salary for a Photographer?

The average salary for a photographer can depend a lot, as already noted, on where someone lives. While the median annual income for this role is $40,170, the following table illustrates how the state a photographer chooses to work in can impact their potential earnings and determine if it’s a high-paying job.

What is the Average Photographer Salary by State for 2023

State Annual Salary Monthly Pay Weekly Pay Hourly Wage
Oregon $48,870 $4,072 $939 $23.50
Alaska $48,629 $4,052 $935 $23.38
North Dakota $48,622 $4,051 $935 $23.38
Massachusetts $48,041 $4,003 $923 $23.10
Hawaii $47,595 $3,966 $915 $22.88
Washington $46,501 $3,875 $894 $22.36
Nevada $45,979 $3,831 $884 $22.11
South Dakota $45,953 $3,829 $883 $22.09
Colorado $45,377 $3,781 $872 $21.82
Rhode Island $45,265 $3,772 $870 $21.76
New York $43,131 $3,594 $829 $20.74
Delaware $42,656 $3,554 $820 $20.51
Vermont $42,118 $3,509 $809 $20.25
Virginia $42,039 $3,503 $808 $20.21
Illinois $42,025 $3,502 $808 $20.20
Maryland $41,311 $3,442 $794 $19.86
Nebraska $40,429 $3,369 $777 $19.44
Missouri $40,178 $3,348 $772 $19.32
California $40,067 $3,338 $770 $19.26
South Carolina $39,831 $3,319 $765 $19.15
Pennsylvania $39,512 $3,292 $759 $19.00
New Jersey $39,430 $3,285 $758 $18.96
Oklahoma $39,153 $3,262 $752 $18.82
Maine $39,132 $3,261 $752 $18.81
Wisconsin $39,049 $3,254 $750 $18.77
North Carolina $39,009 $3,250 $750 $18.75
New Hampshire $38,424 $3,202 $738 $18.47
Idaho $38,328 $3,194 $737 $18.43
Texas $38,071 $3,172 $732 $18.30
Kentucky $37,948 $3,162 $729 $18.24
Wyoming $37,814 $3,151 $727 $18.18
Minnesota $37,716 $3,143 $725 $18.13
Michigan $37,565 $3,130 $722 $18.06
New Mexico $37,504 $3,125 $721 $18.03
Indiana $37,314 $3,109 $717 $17.94
Ohio $36,661 $3,055 $705 $17.63
Arizona $36,543 $3,045 $702 $17.57
Connecticut $36,357 $3,029 $699 $17.48
Mississippi $36,102 $3,008 $694 $17.36
Iowa $36,056 $3,004 $693 $17.34
Montana $35,992 $2,999 $692 $17.30
Arkansas $35,860 $2,988 $689 $17.24
Alabama $35,543 $2,961 $683 $17.09
Utah $35,026 $2,918 $673 $16.84
Tennessee $35,001 $2,916 $673 $16.83
Kansas $33,992 $2,832 $653 $16.34
Georgia $33,110 $2,759 $636 $15.92
Louisiana $32,930 $2,744 $633 $15.83
West Virginia $30,515 $2,542 $586 $14.67
Florida $29,303 $2,441 $563 $14.09

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Photographer Job Considerations for Pay & Benefits

While photographers can often choose to set their own rates, they are also usually self-employed and therefore responsible for securing their own benefits. For instance, they won’t have access to an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan or healthcare benefits. There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if a photographer works for a large corporation or photo studio, they may receive access to traditional employee benefits like paid time off and a retirement plan contribution match.

Other considerations can be how a career as a photographer can impact your lifestyle. If you are a news photographer, you may find that you have to be available for extended periods, whenever a situation comes up that needs documenting. If you are a travel photographer, which can sound like a dream job, you likely won’t have a typical week-to-week schedule. And if you are a wedding photographer, you will likely be spending many weekends shooting ceremonies vs. kicking back with your family.

There are some photography jobs, such as taking pictures of a product, that may not involve that much social interaction, but many kinds of photography careers do involve working with people non-stop. For this reason, it may not be the best job for antisocial people.

Pros and Cons of Photographer Salary

The main advantage of a photographer’s salary is there is no real cap on how much they earn. For example, in-demand wedding photographers or photographers who license their images for products can all demand high rates for their work. On the flip side, their salaries are often not consistent, which can be very stressful. Also, when you are self-employed, taxes can take a bite out of your earnings.

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The Takeaway

Working as a professional photographer can be a creatively fulfilling, fun, and lucrative career. Worth considering, though: How much a photographer stands to make depends a lot on their specialty, where they live, and their level of experience.

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Can you make 100k a year as a Photographer?

It is possible to earn $100,000 or more a year as a photographer — the sky really is the limit when it comes to income potential in this field. However, the median annual income for this role is $40,170, but photographers can earn more over time as they gain experience and a strong reputation in their industry.

Do people like being a photographer?

Many people who pursue a career in photography do so because it is a creative pursuit they are truly passionate about. Many positions can provide flexibility and fun experiences (say, if you are a travel or wedding photographer).

Is it hard to get hired as a photographer?

It can be very hard to find a job as a photographer if you don’t have the skill set required to get the job done well. Taking some time to build a strong portfolio of your work and then marketing your business can make it much easier to get hired.

Photo credit: iStock/ivan101

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Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.


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