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How Much Does a Photographer Make? (2024 Update)

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male photographer using canon dslr

Before you invest in a ton of equipment and money, you want to know how much you can make in the photography field. While the average photographer makes $38,950 a year, focusing only on that number can cause you to miss a ton of important details.

Is the career field growing, how much can you make, and how much will you likely make when you’re first starting out? We break it all down for you here, so you know exactly what you expect if you’re looking to become a professional photographer.

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How Much Does a Photographer Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average photographer makes $18.73 per hour. However, it’s important to realize that this is the median pay. The lowest 10% of earners earn about $11.80 per hour, while the top 10% earn about $37.38 an hour.

That leads to a $50,000-a-year gap between the top and bottom percentage of earners, which is significant and makes it hard to figure out exactly how much you’re going to earn if you get into the field.

However, when you’re new to the field, there’s a good chance that you’re going to be on the lower end of the spectrum, which means making less than $25,000 a year while trying to pay off the equipment that you bought to get started.

male photographer taking photos at the lake
Image Credit: Nathan Anderson, Unsplash

Is It Hard to Make Money as a Photographer?

It comes down to your level of skill and ability to promote yourself. The average photographer makes just under $39,000 a year, although that number can jump to over $77,000 for the top 10% of earners.

So, your income comes down to your level of skill and marketing ability. Take an honest self-assessment if you’re not bringing in what you think that you should, and take the necessary courses to improve your abilities to grow your business!

Is Photography a Good Career in 2024?

Since photography is a growing career field, it’s an outstanding choice to get into this year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that about 12,700 new photography jobs will be created each year between now and 2030, creating plenty of new opportunities for new photographers.

However, keep in mind that while there are plenty of new job opportunities, there is a lower limit on the income potential. Furthermore, since you need relatively expensive equipment to enter the field, you’re likely not going to make a ton of money if this is the career path that you choose.

female photographer in the studio
Image By: Szabo Viktor, Unsplash

Do Photographers Need a Degree?

By and large, photographers don’t need a degree. What they do need is a top-notch portfolio to attract customers and the ability to take and edit photos.

It’s a career field where you make money based on your ability to perform, and the results are relatively easy to see, so a degree might not do much for you.

However, getting a degree or even taking a few photography courses at your local college can help you improve your photography skills, and this can make a huge difference when you’re trying to build your portfolio and land clients.

Is Becoming a Photographer Hard?

It depends on how good you are at business management. Most photographers are self-employed and run their own businesses. So, if you want to get clients, you’ll need to attract them yourself.

It’s crucial to have solid business sense in the photography field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that there are roughly 110,500 photography jobs out there, but only 38,420 of those jobs are through traditional employment.

That means 65% of photographers are self-employed. If you’re looking to get into photography, be ready to start up your own business.

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Final Thoughts

While photography is a fast-growing career field, it’s not the most lucrative option out there. Be sure to go into it with eyes wide open and the ability to make honest self-assessments about the quality of your work and the future of your business.

If you can do that and keep improving day after day and month after month, there’s no reason that you can’t be a successful photographer!

You might be interested: How to Become a Crime Scene Photographer (Step-by-Step Guide)

Featured Image Credit: Samuel Rios, Unsplash

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.