2007 Income Survey Results

Posted on 10/14/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (6)

Selling Stock’s self-employed photographer income survey received 238 responses from around the world. Gross income reported was $33,741,722, and 60% ($20,284,081) came from stock sales. Almost all (90%) respondents earned some revenue from licensing rights to stock images.

Average income from stock was $94,242. Though nine respondents (less than 0.5%) earned over $500,000, 78% earned less than average: 29% earned less than $10,000 from stock sales; 19% earned between $10,000 and $30,000; and 30% earned between $30,000 and the $94,242 average.

Of those earning some revenue from stock, 71% (152 photographers) hail from 37 U.S. states. Best represented in this survey are California, Washington and New York.

State Number of respondents Gross income Net income Net income from stock Stock income average
California 33 4,835,480 3,065,996 3,166,729 95,961
New York* 16 1,350,700 720,973 680,395 42,524
Washington 19 2,541,515 1,592,192 1,895,005 99,737
*One New York respondent's earnings were excluded from this comparison as non-representative (abnormally high).

U.S.-based photographers earned $22,789,407 in gross income, with 62% ($14,157,239) generated by stock licensing. Non-U.S. respondents—who spanned 19 countries and included six photographers from Canada, 19 from the U.K. and 30 from other European countries—reported a similar percentage of stock-licensing revenues (61%).

To help measure how representative the survey results might be, responders were asked to indicate their affiliation with trade associations. Approximately a third (34%) of respondents did not belong to any such group, while 63 belonged to organizations other than the choices provided in the survey.

Association Number of respondents Gross income Stock income Stock income average
Association of Photographers (AOP)* 6 $1,993,120 $901,854 $150,309
Stock Artists Alliance (SAA) 37 $4,913,133 $3,050,531 $82,446
American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP) 17 $1,411,513 $976,998 $57,470
American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) 62 $8,091,047 $3,305,104 $53,308
Editorial Photographers (EP) 25 $2,925,300 $877,215 $35,088
Advertising Photographers of America (APA)* 9 $1,526,850 $208,629 $23,181
Professional Photographers of America (PPA)* 7 $538,700 $89,690 $12,813
Other 63 $6,226,333 $3,158,900 $50,141
None 81 $7,197,999 $4,493,508 $55,475

It is not surprising that editorial photographers earn less than members of members of the American Society of Media Photographers: editorial users tend to pay less than commercial customers, and many ASMP members produce images for commercial sales. The fact that members of the Stock Artists Alliance earn more than ASMP members highlights that the SAA is heavily populated with Getty Images’ photographers.

Over three quarters (76%) of respondents said self-employed photography was not their only source of income. This suggests that, in the face of declining pricing and revenue percentages, many photographers have found new ways to supplement their freelance income. Some may have staff photography jobs and freelance on the side. A growing number work in a similar or allied field, such as graphic design, or even hold a totally unrelated job of real-estate agent, teacher or flight attendant.

Copyright © 2008 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of www.selling-stock.com, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


  • Paul Melcher Posted Oct 14, 2008

    but who is the happiest ?

  • Greg Ceo Posted Oct 14, 2008
    OK, but how about a comparison table to past years??? Lets get some averages from the last 5 years to get a sense of where the industry is headed. Are photographers making more than last year? Or two years ago? Or three years ago?

  • Joseph Sohm Posted Oct 14, 2008
    I think it's important to know what the highest and lowest are as all Bell Curves need reference points. It's helpful to know what the highest income earners produce, as over $500,000 does not say what the highs are. Are they $1 million or more?

  • Don Farrall Posted Oct 14, 2008
    Why were only photographers from these three states included. I do not recall being asked to participate. State of residence seems totally irrelevant.

    Don Farrall, Lincoln, Nebraska, a spot on the map between NYC and California. Being here has not been an issue with regard to being a serious player. www.donfarrall.com

    To the person who asked, year over year revenues are down, across the board, at least for those from the middle up. This is true for me and every serious (non-micro) stock producer I know.

  • Tim Mcguire Posted Oct 14, 2008
    Don and others,

    If revenues are down, is that because of less volume (# of licenses), less revenue per license (lower license amounts), less production (lack of confidence in the business), or a combo of these factors. Any specific info is always helpful and appreciated.

    For me, compared to 2 years ago, from an all RM stock income my stock business is down 10% in volume and down 10% on the average license amount (all RM). I also have not produced a lot in the previous two years because of low confidence in the stock business climate (the ability to cover production expenses and make profits). It hard to know how much effect the lack of new production has had. I'm sure it plays a substantial role but I get slightly mixed reviews from other photogs. Some are up who are still producing, some are holding steady, and the majority are down, whether producing or not.

  • Don Farrall Posted Oct 15, 2008

    Volume, number of sales, is down, if you don't count Getty Premium Access sales, which doesn't count for anything because it is a joke. My actual sales dollars, per sale, are as high as they have ever been, no complaints there, except for Premium Access. I continue to produce, if anything, I am producing more. Clearly some of my simple images are no longer selling at all because of microstock competition. These images used to help balance out some of the complex work that didn't always pay enough to justify the labor / expense involved. Now that balance is gone. It is more difficult now to justify investing in stock production, the gamble factor has been raised, raised a lot.


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