Median Photographer Salaries $28,860 In U.S.

Posted on 2/5/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

In January the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a report on Media and Information that provides some interesting insights into the photography business.

The BLS looked at average wages for selected media-related occupations in May 2011.

  Still Camera Operators Editors
  Photographers TV, video and Film & Video
    motion picture  
25th percentile $20,270 $27,590 $36,030
50th percentile      
(median) $28,860 $40,170 $52,940
75th percentile $44,340 $59,430 $81,210
Employed 54,410 16,270 20,730

Over the 2010–2020 period, the number of photographers is projected to increase by 17,500 or 32%. This is the largest increase among media-related occupations.

However, before you start cheering consider the following:
  • The above figures “do not include the unincorporated self-employed.” A huge percentage of the photographs used in media-related occupations are freelancers, many of them working part-time. If their businesses are not incorporated then their revenue is not counted. This could mean that the number of photographers earning some money from their work is much higher, and the true average revenue is much lower.

  • It is generally believed that in the next decade people will get much more of the information they need online and they will tend to want that information in a visual form rather than primarily text. Less text and more pictures. But the pictures will have to supply important, relevant information, not just be beauty shots. To the degree that text is still required the photographer may be given the responsibility of producing it. Where there is increasing use of photographers, it seems likely that they will also have to be good at identifying a story, reporting, interviewing and delivering a complete package, not just taking pictures. Full-time employed photographers in 2020 may have a much wider range of skills than most photographers today.

  • The number of producers and directors is projected to increase by 13,500 over the same period, while the number of writers and authors is expected to increase by 9,500, and the number of editors should remain little changed. It is expected that there will be 3,900 fewer reporters and correspondents in 2020 than there were in 2010.
Employment in the information industry as a whole peaked in 2000 and 2001 at 3,629,000 employees. In 2011 there were 2,659,000 employees, a 27% decline.

The number of establishment in newspaper publishing was in the range of 9,300 from 2001 through 2007, but then it started dropping and by 2011 was down to about 8,300 almost an 11% decline. The number of employees in these establishments dropped from about 400,000 to about 235,000.

The number of Internet publishing jobs has risen from a little over 70,000 employees at just under 6,000 establishments to about 105,000 jobs in over 9,000 establishments in 2011.

Annual spending per consumer unit for newspapers and magazines has dropped from about $100 to $50 between 1999 and 2011. Meanwhile, annual spending per consumer unit for Internet access has risen from about $50 to over $300.

For more details see the full report at

In an effort to get even more granular information about the photography industry in the U.S. the American Photographic Artists (APA) is inviting all working pros to complete its 2013 Photography Industry Survey. The survey is only open to U.S. photographers and random participants will share $2,500 in prizes.

Copyright © 2013 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, 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:  


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