Photographer Salaries and Job Prospects
Photographer Salary Details
As with many occupations, salaries for photographers can vary by industry and location. Some photographers earn less than $20,000 a year, while others make close to $70,000 annually. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for photographers is $30,490, or $14.66 hourly. The top 10 percent earn $68,930, or $33.14 hourly, and the bottom 10 percent earn $18,120 annually, or $8.71 hourly. However, salaries vary from industry to industry. Also, some states and metropolitan areas pay more than others.
These are the 5 top-paying industries for photographers:
|Industry||Annual/Hourly Mean Wage|
|Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing||$76,090/$36.58|
|Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories||$69,230/$33.28|
|Motion Picture and Video Industries||$67,160/$32.29|
|Scientific Research and Development Services||$63,530/$30.54|
|Other Types of Information Services||$61,090/$29.37|
These are the 5 top-paying states for photographers:
|State||Annual/Hourly Mean Wage|
|District of Columbia||$66,410/$31.93|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Photographer Salary Comparison Tool
Photographer Job Growth
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 136,300 photographers in 2012. From now through 2022, the Bureau projects 5,900 new jobs will be added to the market, which represents a 4 percent job growth rate. This is slower than the 14 percent growth rate predicted for other types of jobs.
The slow growth rate is the result of several factors. The price of digital cameras has dropped significantly, and advances in technology make photography easier than ever. As a result, more amateurs and companies feel comfortable producing their own photos. A decline in newspapers also reduces the need for news photographers. However, portrait photographers are still needed for weddings, school photos and other religious and social events, and corporations are still projected to hire commercial photographers.
Top 10 states with the highest growth, 2012-2022
Select a state to see more on employment and job growth for photographers.
These are the 5 industries with the highest levels of employment of photographers:
|Other Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services||32,870|
|Radio and Television Broadcasting||3,820|
|Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers||3,530|
|Motion Picture and Video Industries||1,060|
|Other Personal Services||960|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Steps to Becoming a Photographer
Choose the Right Education
There are photography programs designed to match each student’s career goals and level of educational commitment. Photography programs are available from the certificate all the way to the master’s level.
Choose a Focus
There are several types of photography specialties to choose from. Students usually choose to focus in one area, such as:
- Portrait photography
- Commercial photography
- Scientific and industrial photography
- Aerial photography
- Fine art photography
Internships provide students an opportunity to engage in photographic workshops and fieldwork to explore the technical, creative and logistical aspects of photography both in a studio and on location.
Take Exams for Certificates
There are numerous certifications available for photographers, some of which are offered by the Professional Photographers Association. Examples of certifications include:
- Certified Professional Photographer
- Certified Forensic Photographer
- Registered Biological Photographer
Land an Entry-Level Job
Most schools have a career center that can assist with job interview tips and help students write effective resumes and cover letters. Students should leverage this resource to find a job.
Return to School for Continuing Education or an Advanced Degree
Each educational level provides more academic training and instruction, which also makes the applicant more desirable to potential employers or to possible clients. Even students who don’t wish to obtain another degree can benefit from non-degree continuing education options.
Photography Degrees and Specializations
Zooming In: Photography Degrees by Level
Just as there are various types of schools in which to pursue a photography degree, there are also many degree levels.
Photography certificate programs vary by school and can either be offered as entry-level programs requiring anywhere from six to 10 classes or as four-year programs. Associate degrees in photography usually take two years to finish and are roughly 90 credit hours. They provide a stronger photography and arts background than certificate programs and are more technical in nature.
Bachelor’s degrees are four-year programs of study and average 173 credit hours. They provide more in-depth knowledge and can give job candidates a competitive edge in the marketplace. A master’s degree program is typically a two-year program that includes 36 credit hours. It is an advanced program that can lead to management positions such as art director or senior photographer.
Photography certificate programs, which are usually offered at community colleges, can often be completed in just a few quarters, allowing students to learn the basics of photography to enter the field as quickly as possible. Below are examples of actual photography certificate classes and the skills and knowledge that students gain at this level.
Students explore the basic principles of photography in this introductory course.
- Students learn to use image-making techniques and applications.
This course examines ways for photographers to acquire and manipulate images.
- Students learn how to use standard photography software, such as Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.
This class covers the historical development of photography.
- Students learn the creative and commercial evolution of photography.
This course explores how film is developed.
- Students learn how to operate in a chemical darkroom.
An associate degree in photography is usually offered as an Associate of Arts in Photography or an Associate of Science in Photographic Technology. These degree programs are offered at community colleges, art schools and some four-year universities. Associate degrees in photography prepare students for entry-level positions as photographers and generally take two years to complete, or the equivalent of 90 credit hours. The coursework is technical in nature, and students in an associate degree program learn the many types of photography and techniques used in the profession. Below are examples of actual associate degree photography classes students can take at this level and the skills and knowledge they might be expected to gain.
This course examines color photographic theory and aesthetics.
- Students learn how to use transparency and negative film materials.
Students explore principles of photography in natural environments.
- Students learn specialized techniques in field settings.
This class provides an introduction to making photographs in studio settings.
- Students learn how to use tungsten light and electronic flashes as creative lighting tools.
Students in this course look at ways to make photographs suitable for newspapers, magazines and other publications.
- Students learn how to utilize lenses, film and digital media in visual communication.
The Bachelor of Arts in Photography, which may also be called a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography, is typically a four-year, 173-credit program offered at a university, art school or design institute. At this level, students explore more in-depth concepts and theories, and also learn how to refine their creative eye.
Students in a bachelor’s degree program are usually required to take approximately 36 hours of general education courses. This includes such classes as English composition, art, algebra, political science, economics and physical science. Below are examples of actual bachelor’s degree photography classes and what students can expect to learn in each.
This course examines late 20th and 21st century movements in photography.
- Students learn issues and ideas relative to contemporary image making.
Students explore various lighting strategies in the editorial, advertising and fine arts genres.
- Students learn how to use different types of lighting in the studio and on location.
This class emphasizes photography in narratives and documentaries.
- Students learn how to develop, research and execute story ideas.
Students in this course develop an understanding of historical and contemporary issues in illustration.
Skills & Knowledge Gained
I’ve been thinking about the best ways to support our Year 10 photography students with their sketchbook work. It’s something that has become more of a concern: timetable adjustments mean that, sadly, we will be losing 1/6 of our teaching time in Year 11. I’m not sure that the usual approach – allowing plenty of time for valuable mistakes in Year 10 and blitzing all the coursework in Year 11 – is going to cut it; the path to grade success might need to be more direct.
It’s a shame, Year 10 is such an important time for creative development. In sketchbook terms it’s often the bridge between those hard to shake, childhood elaborations (I’m talking patterned borders, bubble writing, and dare I mention, glitter) to the emergence of a more mature and subtle style of working.
The examples above and below, from Lizzie’s 6th form sketchbooks, show that keeping things simple and letting the photos do the work can be most effective. Her page layouts allow her high quality prints to breathe. As her understanding developed she revisited these pages and added further notes.
Perhaps by asking the following questions it might help our GCSE students to progress further:
1: Is a sketchbook really for you?
Sketchbooks are not for everyone. Students have the choice of how they would like to collate and present their photography work – folders, display boards, installations…whatever appeals. Most opt for sketchbooks or blogs, which truth be told, we actively encourage. Both methods have proven successful and, from a teacher’s perspective, blogs or books are easier to manage (and not least, store). Choosing between them comes down to personal preference, once some of the pros and cons have been carefully considered :
|Good reasons to use a sketchbook for GCSE Photography||Good reasons to use a blog for GCSE Photography|
2: What is a photography sketchbook for?
For Photography lessons, ‘sketchbook’ might be a misleading term. You don’t have to sketch in it (although you can, if you wish – when relevant). It’s also important to know there’s not just one way to do things: Some students might be very ordered in their sketchbooks, others more experimental. The challenge is to find your own way – the one that presents your work and ideas most effectively.
Rosie’s book is busy to the eye, yet still maintains a strong sense of order. Importantly the emphasis remains on the work in progress – a series of ideas rather than one dominant image. This is achieved through images and blocks of text being similar in scale, and by limiting the additional colours to black and white (the occasional flash of a red tab, provides additional insights). The photos are good quality prints, cut and mounted cleanly. The titles are not overbearing and her handwriting is neat and ordered.
To keep all my classwork and homework in…?
Not necessarily. If you want to make a photobook, film, animation, sculpture, installation…then brilliant. No need to wait to be asked either, initiate those conversations to get things going. Think beyond ‘classwork’ and ‘homework’; the boundaries should blur as your independence grows. Your book is just one potential tool to document your ideas and experiments. But it is important. It needs to be looked after and will be submitted as coursework.
These pages from Hannah’s sketchbook show the lead up work to an installation. The right hand page shows her exploring a potential 3D response. There was no need to mount these up or have over-elaborate titles or explanations. It was more important for Hannah to keep making and experimenting.
To experiment within and make mistakes…?
Yes, definitely. However, mistakes – like feedback – should be valued and acted upon. It is not sufficient to say a photo that you took didn’t work. Why didn’t it work? Try to unpick your errors and highlight learning. What were your intentions? How could it be improved? And then, importantly, IMPROVE!! Show progress in a new way, or ask for further help if unsure.
Francis worked predominantly in film for this project. He used his sketchbook, with accompanying DVDs, to explain his development work. By taking screenshots of the the editing processes he could emphasize some of the subtleties that he was addressing, which might have otherwise been overlooked when assessed.
To present my photography in a creative and imaginative way…?
Not necessarily. And certainly not with bells and whistles attached. Your sketchbook can be a straightforward, ordered presentation of your work, research and insights: Let your images do the impressing. Overly designed pages can often take too long and be a distraction to the viewer. Either way, you’ll need to carefully consider the flow of your book: How do the pages – and images upon them – connect and contrast? How might you engage and ‘play’ with the viewer to provoke thinking?How can you lead the viewer’s eye to the strongest work or ideas, yet still include the important developmental stages? There are lots of challenges here, and plenty of creative fun to be had; no glitter required.
About The Author
Senior Leader Teacher of Art & Photography @DevNicely