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Photographer Salary

Photographers in the United States can expect to earn an average of $14.94 per hour. Overall incomes of Photographers — including $3K bonuses, $8K profit sharing proceeds, and $21K commissions on the more lucrative end — generally ranges between $20K and $88K. The most influential factor affecting pay for this group is the specific employer, though the particular city and years of experience have a (lesser) impact as well. Job satisfaction is high and work is enjoyable for most Photographers. Unfortunately, some people in this line of work are without benefits — slightly less than one-half lack coverage. On the flip side, a little over a half have medical insurance and more than a third receive dental plans. Men make up a slight majority of Photographers (52 percent) who responded to the survey. The figures in this rundown are based on the results of PayScale's salary questionnaire.
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$24,480 - $74,337
(Median)
$24K
$41K
$74K
MEDIAN: $41,393
10%
50%
90%

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$8.93 - $50.75
(Median)
$8
$15
$51
MEDIAN: $14.00
10%
50%
90%

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National Salary Data (?
XAll compensation data shown are gross, national 10th to 90th percentile ranges. Pay can vary greatly by location. To view local data, take the PayScale survey.
)
$0$30K$60K$90K
Salary
$24,480 - $74,337  
   
Bonus
$0.00 - $3,027  
Profit Sharing
$15.21 - $7,891  
Commission
$15.00 - $20,750  
Total Pay (?
XTotal Pay combines base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, overtime pay and other forms of cash earnings, as applicable for this job. It does not include equity (stock) compensation, cash value of retirement benefits, or the value of other non-cash benefits (e.g. healthcare).
)
$20,284 - $88,367  
Country: United States | Currency: USD | Updated: 16 May 2015 | Individuals Reporting: 697
National Hourly Rate Data (?
XAll compensation data shown are gross, national 10th to 90th percentile ranges. Pay can vary greatly by location. To view local data, take the PayScale survey.
)
$0$17$34$51
Hourly Rate
$8.93 - $50.75  
   
Hourly Tips
$0.00 - $12.58  
Overtime
$9.60 - $49.59  
National Annualized Data (?
XAll compensation data shown are gross, national 10th to 90th percentile ranges. Pay can vary greatly by location. To view local data, take the PayScale survey.
)
$0$50K$100K$150K
Bonus
$0.00 - $3,027  
   
Commission
$15.00 - $20,750  
Profit Sharing
$15.21 - $7,891  
Total Pay (?
XTotal Pay combines base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, overtime pay and other forms of cash earnings, as applicable for this job. It does not include equity (stock) compensation, cash value of retirement benefits, or the value of other non-cash benefits (e.g. healthcare).
)
$20,284 - $88,367  
Country: United States | Currency: USD | Updated: 16 May 2015 | Individuals Reporting: 750
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Job Description for Photographer

Photographers capture moments in time with the use of a camera and are able to distinguish the various qualities of the photograph for the purpose of both conveying as much information as possible as well as being aesthetically pleasing to the viewer. Photographers are generally concerned with the aesthetic quality of still images. Photographers are called upon to work in myriad environments and are often compelled to work for hours or even days to capture enough sufficiently significant pictures before they return home. Depending on the job, photographers can have a great variation in the number of hours they are requested to work. A staff photographer is required to put in time every day at their place of employment whereas a freelance photographer can work virtually any time they wish. Regardless of the photographer's job description, they will almost invariably find it necessary to familiarize themselves with a great number of photography tools such as lenses, tripods, secondary flashes, portable light sources and of course, the camera itself. Photographers must commit themselves to carefully considering the minutia of their pictures, poring over things such as depth of field, banding, saturation, bokeh, light volume, conveyance of motion and even wind direction. To this end, it is helpful if a photographer has formally studied photography at a college or university, but it isn't always required. It is very good practice for photographers to maintain a close and communicative relationship with their clients, making every effort to ensure that the aesthetic vision of the photographer and the desire of the client line up to create an image that satisfies the needs of both.


Photographer Tasks

  • Review sets of photographs to select the best work.
  • Operate various types of photographic and computer equipment to create photographic images.
  • Use creative knowledge to compose photographs.
  • Take pictures either in studio or on location.
  • Work with clients or workplace teams to create photographic images.

Common Career Paths for Photographer


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Though not the most common occurrence, Photographers sometimes become Senior Photographers, where the average income is $59K per year. As Photographers progress in their field, many go on to become Commercial Photographers. In fact, this transition is more common than anything else, and pay for the position is usually $41K per year. Another common career choice for Photographers is to move into a Graphic Artist & Designer role. Typically, Graphic Artists & Designers get paid $36K.

Photographer Job Listings

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Popular Employer Salaries for Photographer


Employees of Self-Employed can expect to make the most, with the company offering a median salary of $66K; however, pay is widely dispersed from bottom to top, ranging from $17K to $362K.

Popular Skills for Photographer


Survey takers working as Photographers report using a large range of professional skills. Most notably, facility with Apple Final Cut Pro, Adobe Lightroom, and Video Editing are correlated to pay that is significantly above average, leading to increases of 29 percent, 9 percent, and 6 percent, respectively. Those listing Customer Service as a skill should be prepared for drastically lower pay. Portrait Photography and Sales also typically command lower compensation. Those educated in Adobe Photoshop tend to be well versed in Graphic Design.

Pay by Experience Level for Photographer

Median of all compensation (including tips, bonus, and overtime) by years of experience.


In general, experience and pay appear to be strongly linked; those with more experience usually bring in higher incomes. Salaries of relatively inexperienced workers fall in the neighborhood of $32K, but folks who have racked up five to 10 years see a notably higher median of $40K. Photographers claiming one to two decades of experience make an estimated median of $47K. Photographers who have stuck around for more than two decades see earnings that are only slightly higher than those of folks who have worked for 10 to 20 years; the more senior group makes around $50K on average.

Pay Difference by Location


Photographers will find that New York offers an impressive pay rate, one which exceeds the national average by 47 percent. Photographers will also find cushy salaries in Dallas (+32 percent), San Diego (+31 percent), Washington (+30 percent), and Denver (+29 percent). Compared to the national average, Baltimore Photographers have considerably lower salaries, 20 percent below the national average to be exact. Location appears to be a major driving force in pay for those in this profession. Below-median salaries also turn up in Philadelphia and Chicago (10 percent lower and 5 percent lower, respectively).

Photographer Reviews

What is it like working as a Photographer?

Photographer in Seattle:
"Awesome Work."
Pros: I love the atmosphere, the people, the fashion.
Cons: Terrible management. Zero support, zero employee validation.

Related Job Salaries

United States (change)

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Comp Managers: Start Here »

Experience Affects Photographer Salaries




National Average
$38,000


Skills That Affect Photographer Salaries

Apple Final Cut Pro
up arrow 29%

Adobe Lightroom
up arrow 9%


Product Photography
up arrow 4%

Adobe Photoshop
up arrow 3%

National Average
$38,000

Graphic Design
up arrow 3%

Photography
up arrow 8%

lighting
up arrow 9%

up arrow 16%

up arrow 21%

Portrait Photography
up arrow 25%

Customer Service
up arrow 37%

Job Satisfaction

Extremely satisfied
Rated 5 out of 5
based on 254 votes.

Gender

Female
48 %
Male
52 %

Years of Experience

Less than 1 year
4%
1-4 years
40%
5-9 years
26%
10-19 years
18%
20 years or more
13%

Common Health Benefits

medical benefits Medical: 52% dental benefits Dental: 37%
vision benefits Vision: 28% employee benefits None: 47%
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