Average Salary: $51,300
Expected Lifetime Earnings: $2,142,000
Cinematographers can make anywhere from a few thousand to a hundred thousand dollars for any given job. Unlike other positions in filmmaking, like acting and directing, the million-dollar paydays are rarely a possibility. Even when the big paydays do exist, they're reserved for the top two or three DPs in the field.
The median yearly salary for a DP is just about $49,000 (source), meaning roughly fifty percent of cinematographers make more and fifty percent make less than that. But that doesn't tell the whole story.
The lower end of the spectrum is at just under $30,000 per year, but the higher end reaches up north of $120,000. So, many cinematographers are in that $30,000-$50,000 range, but just as many are making much more—sometimes two or three times more.
Most DPs just have to hustle to snag as many jobs as possible, working sixteen-hour days on one project just to roll into seventeen-hour days on the next—with little to no rest in between. Compounded with the time spent tracking down jobs, interviewing, sprucing up your reel (a video of some of your best work), and networking, there's not much free time at all.