Photographer Salary

Photographers in the United States take home an average $15.02 per hour. Total cash compensation for Photographers runs from $20K to $89K depending on bonuses that can occasionally exceed $4K and profit sharing that can reach almost $8K. The particular firm is the main element affecting pay for this group — geography and experience level are driving factors as well. Job satisfaction is reported as high by the vast majority of workers. Male Photographers are just a bit more common among those who completed the questionnaire than females ones, with male workers composing 52 percent of the field. Not all workers are lucky enough to have benefits; in fact, a little less than half are without coverage. Medical insurance is claimed by roughly one-half and dental insurance is reported by over a third. The data for this synopsis comes from respondents who took the PayScale salary survey.
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$24,467 - $74,305
(Median)
$24K
$41K
$74K
MEDIAN: $41,357
10%
50%
90%

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$8.98 - $50.82
(Median)
$9
$15
$51
MEDIAN: $15.00
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
$24,467 - $74,305  
   
Bonus
$0.00 - $3,630  
Profit Sharing
$15.32 - $7,830  
Commission
$-0.50 - $18,422  
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).
)
$20,296 - $88,556  
Country: United States | Currency: USD | Updated: 20 Jun 2015 | Individuals Reporting: 728
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
$8.98 - $50.82  
   
Hourly Tips
$0.00 - $12.42  
Overtime
$9.76 - $49.18  
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 - $3,630  
   
Commission
$-0.50 - $18,422  
Profit Sharing
$15.32 - $7,830  
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).
)
$20,296 - $88,556  
Country: United States | Currency: USD | Updated: 20 Jun 2015 | Individuals Reporting: 769
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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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While not commonly seen, Photographers who transition into a Senior Photographer position may see a rise in pay. The median salary for Senior Photographers 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


Self-Employed pays the most with a median salary of $66K, though with a large amount of variation, going from a low of $17K to a high of $362K.

Popular Skills for Photographer


Photographers report using a large range of skills on the job. 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, 10 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. Most people skilled in Adobe Photoshop are similarly competent in Graphic Design.

Pay by Experience Level for Photographer

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


Photographers with a lot of experience tend to enjoy higher earnings. Respondents with less than five years' experience take home $32K on average. In contrast, those who have been around for five to 10 years earn a noticeably higher average of $40K. Photographers with one to two decades of relevant experience report an average salary of approximately $47K. Individuals who report more than two decades of experience seem to make only slightly more than folks in the 10-to-20 year range; the more senior group sees median earnings in the comparatively modest ballpark of $50K.

Pay Difference by Location


New York is home to an above-average pay rate for Photographers, 47 percent higher than the national average. Photographers can also look forward to large paychecks in cities like San Diego (+32 percent), Dallas (+32 percent), Washington (+30 percent), and Denver (+29 percent). Philadelphia is the lowest-paying area, 9 percent south of the national average. Not at the bottom but still paying below the median are employers in Houston and Chicago (4 percent less).

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

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Experience Affects Photographer Salaries




National Average
$39,000


Skills That Affect Photographer Salaries

Apple Final Cut Pro
up arrow 29%

Adobe Lightroom
up arrow 10%


Adobe Photoshop
up arrow 3%

Product Photography
up arrow 3%

National Average
$39,000

Photography
up arrow 1%

Graphic Design
up arrow 4%

up arrow 9%

lighting
up arrow 9%

up arrow 21%

Portrait Photography
up arrow 26%

Customer Service
up arrow 37%

Job Satisfaction

Extremely satisfied
Rated 5 out of 5
based on 250 votes.

Gender

Female
48 %
Male
52 %

Years of Experience

Less than 1 year
4%
1-4 years
39%
5-9 years
26%
10-19 years
18%
20 years or more
13%

Common Health Benefits

medical benefits Medical: 51% dental benefits Dental: 37%
vision benefits Vision: 28% employee benefits None: 47%
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