Is Photography One of the Worst Jobs in the US Right Now?


Just kidding. But not really. But seriously. But not really. But seriously.

Here’s an article I stumbled upon this morning:

Photography isn’t a “money-making, get rich” business, just straight up. It can be if you shoot a lot of weddings, but even then, you’re doing an incredible amount of work in relation to the money you’re making.

That’s not to say, if you have a job or other source of income, photography on the side can be incredibly profitable.

Granted, there’s a lot of data missing from this report. If it includes all photographers doing paid work today (although I don’t know how it’s even possible to calculate that level of data) than the average income of $34,000 should be much, much lower. Photographers come and go every day. The average lifespan of a photographer in my experience is probably about 24 months.

That said, wedding photography is still one of the most reliable ways to make a living as a photographer today, and some wedding photographers manage to make quite a bit of money that I’d imagine would raise the overall average. So there’s a lot of data that could change this study in a big way.

Photography “jobs” as in employment opportunities are almost totally non-existent, and freelance is probably the best way to make good money as a photographer if you have what it takes. Freelance opportunities, however, are no doubt shrinking as well. I believe this study is specifically speaking to “employment opportunities” which would actually make the $34,000 figure higher than I would have guessed, since those jobs are basically left to small newspapers, school photographers, and some real estate photo companies (most of those are contract at this point I believe though).

Also, there’s an age limit on photographers for sure, and I’ve watched successful photographers transition into a new line of work time and time again around the age of 35-40. Photographers like Chase Jarvis and Jeremy Cowart are prime examples, but I know extremely successful photographers personally that have moved to a more reliable line of work after a very successful career. Of course, being a freelance photographer and retiring at old age can be done, but the industry changes so quick that it only gets harder and harder to keep up with it. Personally, I don’t plan on doing freelance forever either, and I’m always working on ways to take my skills to something much more sustainable in 15 or so years.

There’s a lot of factors that reinforce this study and a lot that can show it could potentially be proven wrong. But, mostly, from what I know, the basic facts of the decline or changes of the photography industry are generally hard to argue with.

I recorded a podcast on this very topic, so you can hear my voice actually discuss this as well as the story of my photography career. I have a brand new guest coming on the podcast later this week, so stay tuned for that as well! You can subscribe to Out of Focus here or on your favorite podcast app.