Photographers' Employment Outlook

Competitive industry with varying pay

Photography is a desirable career, which is why there is so much competition for the few jobs available. Although there will be an average increase in openings, there will also be so many graduates that getting a job or finding steady freelance work won't be an easy task.

Over half of photographers are considered self-employed. Most work as freelance professionals, contracting out their services to various magazines, newspapers, businesses and private citizens or selling large amounts of images to stock photo agencies. Other self-employed photographers run portrait studios.

Photographers who are not self employed may find work with an agency or with professional media companies.

Where photographers will find jobs

Photographers who work as full- or part-time employees work in portrait studios or for commercial photography companies. The more the population increases the more portraits will be requested. They also get hired by media companies such as advertising firms and newspapers.

An increase in online news outlets will mean more opportunity for photographers in staff and freelance positions. Photographers' websites will also make it easier for them to seek out and deal with their customers, making self-employment potentially more lucrative.

As digital cameras and photography equipment become more accessible and easy to use, photographers may be required less, or it may encourage even more to enter the profession.

Some photographers will find jobs in rural areas, although those on salary generally must relocate to cities. Photography jobs at newspapers in small communities can be a good opportunity for those who also possess writing and reporting skills.

Photographer wages (salary)

Photographers who occupy salary positions generally earn more than self-employed or freelance professionals. It is costly to purchase and maintain equipment, which salaried workers aren't responsible for.

Fine arts photographers don't often earn enough to qualify as a full-time job. Many must have second careers.

  • Median annual earnings - $26,080
  • Middle 50 percent - $18,380 to $37,370
  • Top 10 percent - over $54,180
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $15,000

Earnings by industry

  • Newspapers and periodicals - $32,800
  • Professional, scientific and technical services - $23,100

To find out more about your potential photography career ask for information from schools in our directory of photography schools.

Statistics courtesy the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2004

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