We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

Salary

Average Salary: $31,200

Expected Lifetime Earnings: $1,302,538


A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it's certainly not worth a thousand bucks. Or not usually, anyway—not unless you capture Brangelina in a car wreck, or Snooki in a business suit, or any other moment of hugely unlikely circumstances. If you're just snapping pictures for a portrait studio or trying to earn a living on freelance work, you're looking at an average of about $31,200 per year (source). 

 
Not the best way to make friends. (Source)

Sadly, the easiest way for photographers to make any real money is to be a paparazzo. A pap with a great run of photos can make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. It's not "wealth" by normal business standards, but it's a decent living—assuming you can continue feeling good about yourself when you're trying to be the one to snap the coveted first photo of Beyoncé and Jay-Z's next child.

There are staff jobs as well, in the form of shooting for newspapers, television production companies, and news feeds like the Associated Press that syndicate or sell your photos to a thousand publications around the world. A senior photographer in a top-notch gig like that can make a hundred grand or more per year. 

It's decent work that depends entirely on what you're doing with your camera. In a war zone? In a football end zone? In a calzone? The job's rewards largely revolve around how you do what you do.