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Photography Question 
Amberly Hope Smith

photography salary

how much does a photography make in a years time? it does not have to be exact just and extimate.

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4/30/2007 9:50:38 AM

John P. Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/8/2001
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  Not enough. Note how many photographers write books, teach online courses, work at large camera stores like B&H Phot.

It's a very tough field. Digital cameras have hurt the professionals seriously. Check out these ads for DSLRs that say, "Now, you can take pictures like a pro!"

Well, sure you can - you can use the same make camera. But, you don't have the pro's eye, or his/her feel for making that great image. But, folks can have the same camera.

Check out several of the BP threads on wedding photogrpahy. One includes a comment by a pro that he can charge as much a $17,000 for a wedding. I'm reasonably confidant he's one of the few that can make that kind of buck.

Pete Turner, one of the commenters on BP said he shoots as many as 200 images a day. I don't know how many he sells, but he has the expertise and the customers, obviously, to allow him to shoot that many pictures. Getting the gig is the key.

And, remember - one assignment a year won't put food on the table, even for a fee of several thousand dollars.

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4/30/2007 12:20:56 PM

Jerry Frazier   I don't know what commercial photographers make. I don't know what nature photographers make. I don't know what industrial photographers make. All I know is a very small specialty called weddings. That's what I do.

In general, a professional wedding photographer keeps about 1/3 of what they charge. The rest goes into marketing, new equipment, insurance, taxes, products, etc.

So, if you charge around $3,000, let's say. That means you will keep $1,000 per wedding for you to spend on groceries and bills and such. The rest is for the business.

So, the more weddings you shoot, the more you make. In general, most wedding photographers agree that shooting more than 30/year is hazordous to your health, both mental and physical. Of course, what happens, is most beginners think that's ridiculous, so they go out and do it, and in a few years, start understanding why. But, no one ever believes it at first, including me. So, take it for what it's worth.

That means that, $30k/year is what you will make IF you can charge $3k. Now, you also have to take into account cost of living in your area. In some places, $3k is the cost of the whole wedding, so you will be looking at much less if you can only charge $1000, for instance. You might be looking at only keeping a few hundred dollars. Now, keep in mind, I am talking about running a legitimate business, not about just booting legging it, and skipping out on paying taxes and all that. If you want to cheat, you can profit more, but watch out. The locals around you who are legitimate and are paying taxes will find out, and will rat you out to the authorities.

The world of wedding photographers is very, very small. It seems like there are alot of us, but we all know each other and we all seem to know what each other are doing. The network is key. I believe this is the case in ANY specialty of photography.

Many wedding photographers, eventaully, teach seminars, and work hard to sell other products and services. You can do well selling prints, which can add a lot to your bottom line if you are really good, and people HAVE to buy the images. But, with all the free CD giving these days, most people are slitting their own throats. I'm not bitter, just stating a fact.

Most photographers that I personally know, do not make a very good living at it. But, they are happy because they are doing something that they love to do, and they get by OK. So, you have to make a decision. If you want to have money and be well off, then do something else.

It's funny, the other day my wife said that we should start training our son to shoot. And, I said, "Why? Do you want to raise him into a life of poverty?" She just smiled. But, it's kind of true.

You can make it. I know a few photographers who make very good money. They shoot $10k weddings and do 45 or so of those a year. But, that's very rare. And, again, they spend an enourmous amount of money on marketing...not on traditional channels, because those channels don't work for that level of clientele, but in other ways. You have to have to goods to show someone. Say Tom Crusie or Jennifer Lopez walks into your house or studio for wedding photography, think about what they expect to see; the presentation, the furniture, the car parked outside, all of it. So, while they make good money, they spend it all too. It's becomes a show.

There are others I know who are very successful who have set up a multi shooter studio where they might have 5 or 6 phtoographers working for them, and they all shoot, he pays them, and they don't have to market or anything.

There are ways to make it. But, none of the photographers that are successful worry much about their ability to be photographers...they are all extremely saavy with business. They could just as well be selling Real Estate for Donald Trump. It's not really about photography, it's about business.

Most artists go into photography thinking that it's about the art. It kind of can be, if you want it to be. But, in general, it's not about that at all.

Good luck.

The best know how to balance both sides of the art and business.

The ones I respect the most, though, are not really the money makers, but produce amazing work consistently year after year.

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4/30/2007 12:52:59 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  "Digital cameras have hurt the professionals seriously. Check out these ads for DSLRs that say, "Now, you can take pictures like a pro!"..."

That's wrong. They just borrowed that line from film camera ads. Auto focus has negated more of the skill to it than anything.
If you need a figure, try $50,000 for a good sized, stable newspaper if you've been there a while. That's an area where you can get a salary that's like yearly and you'll know what you'll make. So many other areas are dependent on how much you work, what kind of jobs you get. Commercial, weddings, art, fashion etc... you can have moments of higher paying jobs, times when you have many jobs and slow periods. And like an actor, you make a name for yourself(as in Mark Seliger, Michael Grecco, Patrick Demarchelier) people come to you and you can up your fees.

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4/30/2007 10:34:48 PM

Jamie M. McCoy   I don't believe the Digital age has hurt the professional at all.

As far as auto-focus. My mom bought a 35mm film camera over 10 years ago (I think it was Nikon) with Auto Focus.

A Professional Photographers salary does not always come from his/her ability to take wonderful photos.
The Salary depends a lot on you business ethics and attitude.
If you conduct yourself in a professional manner, you will be treated, and paid, as a professional.

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5/1/2007 5:30:18 AM

Jerry Frazier   "If you conduct yourself in a professional manner, you will be treated, and paid, as a professional."

Not really true. Getting paid like a pro means you'll be eating top ramen and peanut butter sandwiches for the rest of your life. If you want to eat sirlion steak every day, you need to look, act, and think like a corporate CEO, NOT like a photographer. It's a business.

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5/1/2007 9:00:19 AM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2005
  My first year, I made a loss

Second year, I made about $5,000.00

Third year, I've made about $10,000.00

Hopefully it will keep going up.

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5/1/2007 10:21:24 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  I'll agree with Jerry on this one as far as wedding shooters go..His analysis are the reason I don't do weddings anymore, not too mention the grouchy people one deals with...Yeesh! LOL
..but God Bless the wedding shooters; a difficult job and even more difficult to do well.

Amberly, your question is very hard to answer with any real degree of accuracy...Kinda' like asking what doctors earn..a GP earns maybe 140K, a general surgeon around 200-400K, a specialty surgeon, over a million.

..and again, I have to echo what Jerry has stated, it is a business!

Most amateurs who feel their work is great feel this is sufficient to propel them into photo-shooting success as a paid pro. Then; someone like myself comes along and bursts their bubble in saying "Your photographic skills have little to do with the money you will make."

I am NOT the best shooter around..BUT, I do know how to get AND keep clients.
I spend more time in the sales and marketing area than I do shooting.
Some say once you move from hobby shooter to the pro ranks, the fun goes out of it. I suppose that is partially true, but depends on who you may work for. Magazine shooters are always under dead lines, and the pressure can be unreal!

I love this old story of a football player talking to his coach after his first time in a game..."Man coach, they don't look so big from the sidelines."

So, if you want industry averages, here ya' go.

Newspaper: 35K-70K
Glamour : 5K-the sky's the limit.
Wedding : 1,000-20K

A very good friend of mine shoots full time for National Geographic; his salary is 172K plus expenses. He has been with them a long time, so I'm not sure what a new hire will make..probably depends on how often the editor will use his work.

I don't disclose my earnings to the general public; but will say I am comfortable with what I earn..and we all know it's not about how much you earn, but how much you keep. ;)

All the best,


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5/2/2007 5:18:43 AM

Jamie M. McCoy   Pete said he knows how to get and keep clients.

It is my opinion that the knowledge to get and keep clientel is the key to success in any self-employed business.

It's hard. But it can be very rewarding.

You simply have to know how to present yourself, and hold your confidence level well, as well as knowing how to please your client-base, and attract new clients.

But even saying all that, as a photographer I know that quality photos are a must but you should never display a "doubt in the qaulity" of your work in front of nor around your clients.

You can influence your clients opinion of your work.

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5/2/2007 6:03:07 AM

Ronald H. Musser
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2006
  the first year I barely made enough to pay for equipment. I do mostly portrait photography but have branch out and do weddings products, glamour, maternity and senior. The second year I made $25,000.00. I provide my client with special items.
canvas wall portraits, for weddings,portraits and materniy and newborns. Calendars, posters, photo boxs for Glamour, and for seniors I offer and incentive for every new client reffered to me. Service, Service and More service is the only way to make it in todays market

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6/5/2007 8:25:23 PM

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