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Thursday, June 01, 2006

How Much Do Photographers Earn?

by Ken Tanaka
Coincident to the T.O.P. post "Photography as an Occupation," I just received the current (June, 2006) issue of PDN which reports on this very subject of income for photographers, photo editors, art directors, etc.

Of 1,040 self-employed photographers responding to their survey the median annual income is $57,500 and the mean is $95,000.

They have the data presented by specialty, and you'll have to buy the mag to see it all. But some highlights ($K median/$K mean) are:

----------Advertising: 100/151.8
----------Fine Art: 20/48.5
----------Stock: 87.5/125.4

In the advertising category 18 photographers reported income of $500,000 or more and 18 reported $20,000 or less. In fine art only 1 reported $200,000-$300,000 while 9 reported $20,000 or less.

As in nearly every business it's far more lucrative to sell talent, or sell to talent, than to have it. Jonathan Klein, CEO of Getty images, earned $950,000 in salary plus $691,000 in bonus in 2005. Bill Allen, the (former) editor of the National Geographic Society earned $570,000 in salary plus $48,000 in "benefits" prior to his 2004 retirement. David Trust, CEO of the PPA earned $172,925.

Posted by KEN TANAKA


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The competition is tough because everybody and his dog is a "photographer". Nevertheless, it is what you make of it (or don't).

7:47 AM  
Blogger Dwight Jones said...

There probably is some sample bias here. The survay doesn't take into account those who didn't make it. That average income would be much lower if they were included.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These CEO's mentioned clearly make chump change compared to what an average Fortune 1000 corporation CEO makes.

I feel for them.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dwight, I suspect that the sample bias isn't too bad. The survey probably includes photographers who are having trouble making it and who probably won't make it. These folks would already be bringing down the average.

As to everybody and their dog--yeah, that's true. I'm most definitely an amateur, but even I'd like to sell enough photos to keep myself in camera toys.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 'Mean' income for stock photographers is $125,000??? Yeah right! The percentage of people that make 6 figures at all in America is fairly small, and the number of photographers in that percentage must be a significantly smaller percentage.

I suspect that the numbers actually reflect the money that passes through a photographer's pockets (gross income) before the expenses of being an independent contractor. Once you subtract transportation, equipment, printing costs, computers, storage , advertising, etc, etc, etc, plus hired help if you are doing any kind of volume work then the income must be significantly smaller for all types of photographers.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

A very good point. Photography has long been tagged as a glamorous profession because photographers dissemble about the distinction between gross and net income. In my best year as a photographer, I "earned" $75k. But what I always seemed to leave out when bragging about what I did for a living was that I didn't even get to keep half of that.


3:41 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Just out of college, I considered being a professional photographer. I can still remember what a job counselor told me: "Don't be a photographer-- anyone with a camera can be a photographer." My comeback was going to be "So anyone with a typewriter can be a best selling author?" But the important thing at that point was mainly the perception on his part that anyone can be a photographer. I realized that many folks don't have much respect for how hard it is to be a GOOD photographer. I know this job counselor was wrong, but he had a good point -- that if I were to become a photographer, I would constantly be battling the perception that photography is easy -- and who wants to pay someone big bucks for something that appears to be easy?!

6:24 PM  

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