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how much do photographers make

How Much Do Photographers Make?

14 min read

Photography is a hobby that many people are able to turn into a career or source of secondary income. The barrier of entry for certain types of photography is relatively low. Becoming a successful self-taught professional photographer is a viable option, thanks to the wealth of resources available online.

But if you’re considering becoming a photographer, you likely have one important question: How much do photographers make a year? The answer to that question depends on several factors. The first is how much time you put into your photography career. Part-time photographers will obviously make considerably less than full-time photographers. But the type of photography you choose to pursue can also make a big difference.

Some of the different paths photographers can take include sports photography, wedding photography, and wildlife photography. The average rates and yearly earnings of each type of photographer are different. In addition, expenses for things like equipment and travel will cut into earnings and can also vary.

Here is an overview of the average yearly earnings for some of the most common types of professional photography.

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How Much Do Professional Photographers Make? Breakdown by Category

Before diving into the different subcategories of professional photography, we can quickly look at the average earnings for all photographers. In America, the average yearly salary for photographers is around $41,000.

However, most photographers do not do photography full-time and make less than that. But even a part-time photographer can make between $20,000 and #30,000 per year.

The earnings potential for photographers also varies by state, in addition to the type of photography. For example, the average salary for a photographer in New York State is just above $50,000. Meanwhile, the average salary for a photographer based in Wisconsin is around $35,000.

Cost of living and opportunity are the main determining factors when it comes to regional salary differences.

Now here is a look at the average annual salaries of some of the different types of professional photographers.

How much do freelance photographers make?

Working as a freelance photographer is a good way to get started in the photography industry. Freelancers are able to choose their projects according to their preferences and availability. This also means it’s a preferred option for most part-time photographers.

Freelance photographers can also fit into many of the different categories mentioned below. “Freelance photography” does not cover any particular type of photography but applies to the photographer’s contractual status instead.

Freelance photographers can usually set their own hourly rates. However, the national average rate for a freelance photographer is $33 per hour. Yearly earnings for freelance photographers vary immensely between full-time and part-time photographers. Earnings can range anywhere from $19,500 to over $100,000.

Freelance photographer expenses also vary considerably. A high-quality professional camera and lenses will usually cost at least $3000. But this is not a continuing investment, and it can quickly pay off for freelancers.

How much do wedding photographers make?

Wedding photography is one of the most high-demand categories of professional photography. Everybody wants high-quality, professional photographs to commemorate the special occasion of a wedding. As a result, this is often a preferred career option for photographers.

The trade-off for this is that wedding photography is a more competitive field in most regions. However, successful wedding photographers are able to make excellent money for just a few hours of work.

The average rate for a wedding photographer is between $50 to $55 per hour. With most weddings lasting between four and five hours, most wedding photographers can make over $200 for a day’s work. How much you make per year as a wedding photographer depends primarily on how many weddings you work.

While wedding photography does not require as much equipment as other photography types, photographers still want high-quality cameras. A standard camera for wedding photographers costs anywhere from $800 to $1000.

How much do real estate photographers make?

Real estate photography is a smaller niche within the larger photography industry. But real estate agencies are always in need of photographers to capture and highlight their property listings.

On average, real estate photographers make less per hour than some other types of photographers. The national average hourly rate for real estate photography is just $17. However, the daily work for a wedding photographer is relatively quick and easy, and work is always in-demand.

A typical real estate photography session will last only up to two hours, making it possible to perform multiple shoots in one day. The average annual salary for real estate photography is just under $35,000. Most real estate photographers do not rely exclusively on real estate photography for their income.

Whether it’s a side job or one of many photography services they offer, real estate photography is a reliable source of supplemental income.

Real estate photography also requires some additional equipment, like a tripod and lighting gear. Equipment expenses for real estate photographers are typically between $5000 and $8000 as one-time expenses.

How much do wildlife photographers make?

Wildlife photography can be one of the most exciting options for a professional photographer. It can also be a good source of income in the right region and with the right opportunities.

The national average rate for wildlife photography is $21 per hour, with photographers earning an average of $43,000 annually. However, wildlife photography also has a higher barrier of entry than most other photography types.

Becoming a successful wildlife photographer requires an in-depth understanding of wildlife behavior. This means knowing how to find animals in the wild and how to capture images without disturbing them.

Wildlife photography equipment can also be expensive, costing up to $20,000 for top-level gear.

You may also be wondering, “How much do National Geographic photographers make?” National Geographic is a publication known for its stunning photography of wildlife, nature, and people across the globe. National Geographic typically pays its photographers about $500 per day to capture stunning images all over the world.

How much do sports photographers make?

Sports photography is a fairly unique niche within the photography industry. The potential earnings of a sports photographer vary greatly based on region and job opportunities. At the highest level, sports photographers for professional leagues and teams can make very good money in a limited time.

For instance, an NFL photographer can make over $3000 per month. While that may seem low, an NFL photographer will typically only work four games per month (one game every Sunday). Additionally, a work day for an NFL photographer is usually about four to six hours, including pre-and post-game work. Photographers for other professional sports, like baseball or basketball, will work longer hours when photographing events.

Professional sports photographers at the highest level can usually make over $50,000 annually. There is considerable variety based on the types of events being photographed, however.

But sports photography for youth, high school, amateur, and college sports is also an option. These levels of sports photography earn photographers less money than professionals. But even a part-time sports photographer can make $10,000 annually in the U.S.

Sports photography requires some unique frames and equipment in order to capture high-resolution images of fast-moving objects. Sports photographers should expect to spend at least $1,500 on basic equipment.

How much do travel photographers make?

To some people, travel photography sounds like a dream come true. As a travel photographer, you can get paid to travel to exciting and exotic places and take pictures. But how much do travel photographers make during their travels?

Most travel photographers work as freelancers, giving them some flexibility over their work. The average rates for travel photography can range anywhere from $17 to $22 per hour. However, travel photography rates can vary depending on the region the work takes place.

The earning potential for travel photographers also depends largely on travel expenses. Most employers will cover at least some of the travel expenses for their contracted travel photographers. However, the exact amount varies from client to client.

Typically, a travel photographer can earn over $100 in a day’s work. The average annual salary for travel photographers ranges from $35,000 to $39,000 annually. Typically travel photographers offer other photography services in addition to travel photography.

Travel photography does not have a high barrier of entry and requires minimal professional gear. However, travel photographers should expect to spend at least $1000 on a good camera, lenses, and carrying case.

How much do drone photographers make?

Drone photography is potentially a highly lucrative career option for those with the gear to do it. Drone photography is quite a bit different than other types of photography, of course. Rather than operating a handheld camera, drone photographers must operate an airborne drone with a camera attached.

As you might expect, the expenses to start a drone photography business are considerably higher than other types of photography. But the uniqueness of the images drone photography is able to capture makes it a highly rewarding field to get into.

Most drone photographers earn at least $20 per hour. The quality of the drone and equipment can affect a drone photographer’s earning potential significantly. Some drone photographers are able to charge north of $100 per hour, for instance. Annual earnings for drone photographers range anywhere from $17,000 to $100,000. However, the national average is around $41,000 per year.

Drone photography expenses can also vary greatly. A low-level professional camera drone will cost between $300 and $500. Higher-priced drones can cost $1000 and up.

How much do fashion photographers make?

Fashion photography is a potentially lucrative niche for professional photographers to pursue. Fashion photographers can be hired by bloggers, fashion designers, and retailers to photograph new fashion items and capture trends.

Fashion photographers are constantly in-demand, and the market has less competition than other photography niches. As a result, fashion photographers can make a better hourly rate than other types of photographers. The average rate for fashion photographers is $27 per hour. Fashion photographers can typically make between $45,000 and $50,000 annually.

Expenses for fashion photographers are fairly standard relative to other types of photographers. A top-quality camera for fashion photography will cost between $3000 and $5000, but lower-cost cameras can also work. Lighting equipment is also very important for fashion photographers and can cost a few hundred dollars as well.

How much do product photographers make?

Product photographers are hired by companies to take marketing photographs of their merchandise and products. This is another high-demand niche that professional photographers can break into with relative ease.

Companies always need product photography services for new marketing and advertising content. The camera equipment required for product photography is fairly standard as far as professional photography goes.

Product photographers can usually earn at least $20 per hour, if not more. The average annual salary of a professional product photographer is just over $40,000. However, full-time and high-level product photographers can make over $50,000 annually.

Entry-level product photography equipment should cost at least $1000, including a camera, lenses, and lighting gear. However, higher-quality equipment will cost around $3000 to $5000 for product photography.

Build a Professional Website for Your Photography Business

Choosing the right gear and niche is only half the battle when it comes to running a successful photography business. Establishing a credible brand reputation can also make a huge difference, as it can attract many more clients to your business. In today’s market, having your own website is one of the best ways to stand out and grow your brand. Having a website makes it easy for potential clients to browse your work and get in contact. It is also a place to market your services, share content, and stay organized.

With Ecwid, creating your own professional ecommerce store is easier and more affordable than ever. Ecwid is a free ecommerce platform that allows entrepreneurs and small business owners to build custom websites and manage their businesses online.

Read about getting started with Ecwid to learn more about building a website for your photography business.


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About the author

Max has been working in the ecommerce industry for the last six years helping brands to establish and level-up content marketing and SEO. Despite that, he has experience with entrepreneurship. He is a fiction writer in his free time.

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