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Old 03-05-2008, 06:08 AM   #1
MarkBarbieri
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How much do photographers make?

No, I'm not thinking about a career change. I'm just curious. How much do wedding photographers, landscape photographers, corporate photographers, etc make? Not the extreme cases (although that would be interesting too). How much does a typical photographer of each type earn in a year? Is it enough to live comfortably? Is it a better profession for someone married to an income earner? Is it a fun way to get rich?
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Old 03-05-2008, 07:22 AM   #2
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easch type of photographer would make a totally different amount. With wedding photography they intial payments are larger but it takes a lot more time to go through all the pictures and do what you gotta do and get it done. So they average a lot less per hour than the rest although total hours are more.

Portrait photographers make not as much but it doesn't take as long for pictures. You also have to think about high costs of lighting, studio rental, cameras, memory cards, and evrything else that is needed. Backgrounds for portraits can be anywhere from $50 on Ebay to a few thousand for each one.

The only you are getting rich as a photographer is if you don't pay taxes on anything, get paid in all cash, and use someone elses equipment for everything.

So if someone bought me evrything for the wedding, paid me cash, took care of the pictures at the end and handled everything else too then maybe I could get rich. But otherwise, not gonna happen. I know I wouldn't be able to do it without my DH working. I currently have 3 jobs besides my DH's well paying job so I can support my photography habit, er... I mean business.

As a freelance newspaper photographer, I make $10 an hour with no guaranteed hours and not even the guarantee it will take me an hour.
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Old 03-05-2008, 08:24 AM   #3
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My gut instinct is that photographers (for the most part) do not make great amounts of $. I think they do it because they love it - it's an art form and unless you are very very very lucky and extremely talented - most artists don't make large amounts of money.

Another thing to think about - is the economy and how it will affect professional photography. When people are scraping the bottom of the barrel to put food on the table and gas in their cars - paying someone to take a professional family photo or paying a premium for a very good wedding photographer may not be a priority.
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Old 03-05-2008, 08:37 AM   #4
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paying someone to take your picture, there is always money for that. You will find some of the poorest people spend the most on photo's of their kids and family.
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Old 03-05-2008, 08:41 AM   #5
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Well, starting this weekend I am venturing into the realm of getting paid. I am going to do action shots for the local baseball league. What I am honestly hoping is for it to be able to pay for my toy's. I still have a couple of lenses I would really like to have, and if I can make enough to pay for them I'll be very happy with it.

I think there are a few out there that make a very good living at it, but there are a lot more that are just doing it out of the love of it.
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Old 03-05-2008, 10:40 AM   #6
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Well Mark, I imagine they make tons of money, especially wildlife and sports photographers. Look at all the gear they they tote around. I am an IT manager and will never be able to afford some of those lenses.
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Old 03-05-2008, 11:08 AM   #7
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Nah - they just purchase all their gear on credit.
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Old 03-05-2008, 11:17 AM   #8
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My sister works in the industry (although as a certified photoshop expert), and she says that photographers rent their equipment from shops because it's way too expensive, and they need different lenses, etc for different things.
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Old 03-05-2008, 11:51 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DueyDooDah View Post
Well Mark, I imagine they make tons of money, especially wildlife and sports photographers. Look at all the gear they they tote around. I am an IT manager and will never be able to afford some of those lenses.
Heh, I've been told that the guys really the really, really nice equipment are usually dentist and doctors that do photography on the side. The pro's buy their hand-me-downs.

I'm an IT manager as well and I have some relatively nice photo gear. It helps, though, that I work in the oil bidness. Things are good for us right now. It also helps that I'm really cheap in most other areas (like driving a car worth less than my camera).
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Old 03-05-2008, 12:08 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkBarbieri View Post
Heh, I've been told that the guys really the really, really nice equipment are usually dentist and doctors that do photography on the side. The pro's buy their hand-me-downs.
Based on my involvement on a few photography/Nikon forums, and knowing a few professional photographers, I would concur. I know two guys who both went out and bought new D3's (AND D300's for backups!) as their older D2's and D200's were "obsolete" - they are both photo enthusiasts and both have day jobs in other fields. My friend who is a pro, on the other hand, has a second-hand D2 that has DUCT TAPE on the pentaprism housing because he dropped it and can't afford to get a new one. He puts the majority of his money into his digital photo lab (multiple computers, wide roll-fed printers, servers/storage, etc.). His lenses and tripod are beat, but function fine.

Look at the folks who drive real nice dualie pickup trucks with all the chrome, running boards, and such; half those trucks never even SEE rain, let along a bed full of dirt! On the other hand, the contracters that I know have 10+ year old F150's that can barely make it to the job and back!
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Old 03-05-2008, 12:30 PM   #11
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I don't have any facts or figures to really back this up (73% of all quoted statistics are made up on the spot anyway), but it seems to me that with the growing popularity of dSLR cameras that your average wedding/portrait/family photographers are making less now due to the increased number of people trying their hand at it (greater supply equals lower prices).

With the cost of film/processing not a factor anymore, and the price of dSLR's more and more affordable, the barriers of entry for a beginning photographer are coming down. National Geographic or Sports Illustrated quality photographers will always be worthy of a premium price, but if you want someone to provide you a CD with some basic shots of your daughter's second wedding or some photos of you and your family in the park for your annual Christmas card, those types of photographers are a dime a dozen.

And if you are one of those wedding/portrait/family photographers I'm talking about, this post is in no way meant as any disrespect, its a lot of hard work. I'm just making the observation that you have a whole lot of competition now and as a result, the price you can charge has taken a hit.
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Old 03-05-2008, 12:31 PM   #12
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So would you recommend to a student that has a passion for photography that they make it a career? Or would you recommend that they get a more reliable and renumerative job and make photography a hobby?
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Old 03-05-2008, 01:02 PM   #13
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I did a 2 year course and then became a photolab manager for 7 years and weddings were my sideline.

Almost all the people I went to school with either work in labs or have gotten out of the business completely. I now own a motel and chalet business and have not done a wedding in 4 years as they all fall within my busy season.

There are so many goofballs out there with no photo education (either a course, apprentice with a qualified photog or even a great passion to improve themselves and their art) that are ruining it for people with TRUE passion. Almost anyone can call themselves a photographer these days.

Heck, I have met some people who I consider my photography superiors that have NEVER taken a course in photography but they have PASSION for it and they have taught themselves a great deal. For all of those people, there is more than one idiot who picked up a DSLR and a white sheet to use as a backdrop, who go out and charge people $$$ for awful shots that are ruining it for others.

I got out because the $$$ was not very good and the overhead was crazy. You can still do it but during hard economic times, photog suffer greatly. I loved it but even my friends who still do it for a living are saying that the glory days are over.

If I ever won the lottery, I would become a photographic artist. I would spend my days shooting large format, old medium format film, slides, B&W, polaroid transfer and printing in my own darkroom...I would LOVE IT.
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Old 03-05-2008, 01:21 PM   #14
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I just sold a print for $12.

Since it only took me 1/250th of a second to take the shot per the EXIF data I am going out on a limb and saying I make $180,000 per hour.

But I think I will keep my day job just the same.
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Old 03-05-2008, 01:36 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkBarbieri View Post
So would you recommend to a student that has a passion for photography that they make it a career? Or would you recommend that they get a more reliable and renumerative job and make photography a hobby?
You know, people are always saying that you need to find a way to get paid for doing what you love to do (unfortunately I can't find anyone to pay me to sit around and surf the internet while eating girl scout cookies). I tried that--I love to travel, and my first job out of college was as a tour director for a private travel club (I stayed with the guests at various international destinations and took care of all their whining and griping). There are certainly worse ways to make a living, but it did take some of the fun out of it for me. And since I was gone so much of the time, I didn't feel much like traveling when I wasn't working.

I have a neighbor who is a very successful and talented professional photographer who seems to be in a similar boat. She makes a nice living (I can't believe what she charges for a wedding ) and does absolutely beautiful work, but she's so busy that she doesn't have time to enjoy it anymore. Our kids are friends, and she used to take pictures of them frequently when they were playing, but it's been a couple of years since she's done that. She's told me that she just can't bring herself to get out her camera unless she has to. The moral of this story is be careful what you wish for.

I'm thinking of returning to work part-time after having been home with the kids for a few years, and some of my friends and relatives have suggested that I pursue a career in photography, but I'd prefer that it remain a hobby. Unless of course I can find someone to pay me to travel the world with my family taking pictures. Then I might try the "do what you love" route again.
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