Photographer Listed as One of the Worst Jobs in the US

Photographer Listed as One of the Worst Jobs in the US

Being a professional photographer is certainly a lovely career if you can make it work, but it's not an easy field in which to be successful. That seems to have been confirmed by a recent report that names photography one of the 25 worst jobs in the country. 

The study was conducted by 24/7 Wall Street using data from Career Cast and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their methodology used things like median income and future job growth as parameters to determine the rankings. The median wage for photographers came in about 10 percent under the overall median wage in the U.S., while photography jobs are expected to decline by 5.6 percent between 2016 and 2026, as opposed to an overall expected growth of 7 percent. This might not surprise you, as smartphones continue to enable non-photographers to get shots that are "good enough" in many circumstances. Further decline can be seen in the unfortunate trend of companies letting go of salaried employees in favor of hiring freelancers, a trend that goes far beyond photography, reaching into academia, the medical industry, and more. Of course, that's not to say one shouldn't go into the field, but it's certainly something worth considering carefully.

Lead image by Andre Furtado.

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22 Comments

Andy Day's picture

Five reasons why you'll never earn good money as a photographer. 😞

https://fstoppers.com/originals/five-reasons-why-youll-never-earn-good-m...

And also this: https://fstoppers.com/node/358848

I think most offering photography service freelance is doing that on the side. That’s the best option even if that also is one reason why it’s hard to make money.
On the other hand it has never been cheaper and easier to market yourself.
Those who, like the Northrop’s was talking about, works towards businesses and social media, and have other skills to, might do well.
Get a bad payed job doing boring stuff as a photographer, forget it.

Spy Black's picture

Unless you're rather entrepreneurial, I think that, like playing in a band or being a DJ, doing photo gigs needs to be a part time job and you need a "day job"...

Rob Mitchell's picture

Hell of a lot of posts lately about doing it all wrong, not enjoying, doubting, not making enough money.

What's going on? Some of us just get on with it, love what we are doing, know we won't retire with an island, boat and 6 supercars.

All of the posts make me think of 2 things.

1:Stop comparing.
2:Have your exit plan ready.

Now if I can just pad out those 2 points into a 4 hour audiobook and get booked to give motivational speeches. I'm onto a winner.

Joshua Kolsky's picture

You forgot to say "coming to you from" or have you finally moved on from that?

Alex Cooke's picture

Never! That’s just for videos. 😊

stevepellegrino's picture

That's the only way so many in photography can make money now.

stevepellegrino's picture

What has happened to other careers has caught up to photography. There is more supply than there is demand and the tools have made it easier.

I've been through this before when I was a website developer. 20 years ago I could make several thousand dollars developing a relatively simple website. Over ten grand for e-commerce. But every year prices went down, fewer new clients called and eventually, it was no longer a sustainable business.

I started when you had to know how to read and write HTML, CGI, PERL and could develop MySQL databases, but that was replaced by WYSIWYG editors like Dreamweaver and Frontpage. Those were replaced by easier web solutions like we see today with WordPress, SquareSpace, PhotoShelter, etc.

When you look at it from the perspective of another profession that has already gone through this, you see that there's not a lot of hope that it's going to turn around.

Scott Mason's picture

Good to see it from another industry's viewpoint. It makes me realize I need to suck it up and deal with the change!

stevepellegrino's picture

It's inevitable that things change, especially with technology. Imagine being in the neon business in Las Vegas. You would think you had it made because of all the neon signs. It's a tradition. But the sign industry is changing and moving away from neon to LED lights.

I'm sure there's still going to be a few neon sign makers around making a living. But you wouldn't want to be in your 20's or 30's, just starting out and looking forward to a long career in neon.

user-233725's picture

The economic law of supply and demand comes to mind. Photography isn't immune to market conditions. If you are doing the same thing as everyone else, you aren't going to have much value in the market.

If you're in it for the money, no matter what it is, you're not ever going to be happy.
Hoarding money is like any other addiction.
Whatever you have is never enough.
Let's be real.
There has never been a time when there was more demand for content.
Seriously, one of the worst jobs?
Give me a break.
Whoever wrote that never had to clean public toilets, or empty trash cans, or any of the other really worst jobs.
Photography is never going to be one of the worst jobs.
It's too much fun and too rewarding.
I've been a photographer since 1968.
I've been getting paid for it since 1989.
I'm making more money now than I ever have.

stevepellegrino's picture

It's all relative. There are people who clean toilets and empty trash cans who make better money than a lot of photographers. They own a house, have health insurance and aren't thousands in credit card debt. They have a secure future because there is always going to be a demand for empty trash cans and clean toilets.

There's always going to be photographers who can make a living. Based on your post I'm guessing you're older and have established clients and contacts. I know several photojournalists who are in their 60's & 70's who are in a similar situation. But it's not a situation that is easily replicated.

It's not encouraging if you're in your 20's, just out of journalism school and looking forward to a 40+ year career.

Sure there's a demand for content, but people no longer have to pay a photographer top dollar to get it.

Very few people ever got top dollar and that's no different today.
What you're talking about is security.
If that's what you need then Photography may not be the ideal line of work for you.
Nobody starts out in this business with enough work, or money.
If it's what you really want to do, over time you can build a sustainable living.
I work for a very large corporation. I have security, but in exchange I've given up a lot of creative control. I still get to play with cool toys and get paid to do it.

Scott Mason's picture

I think your quality of living as a photographer is what you make of it. I know photographers who make 6 figures and get flown around the world, and many others who are employed and struggling, barely scraping by.

The former are business owners, and the miserable, low-paid ones are always employed. This is why I chose to freelance. The data on photography salaries is always skewed low because it seems to sample employed photographers (people who are employed by used car lots, newborn/portrait companies, etc.).

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I would have liked to see the difference between part time and full time. My clients are available 8-5 and if I was part time with another income, I would probably never been able to build the relation I have with my long time clientele. Say if I was doing weddings to supplement my income, I would consider that service part time despite being a commercial photographer, because it would not be part of my standard income and not something I would want to do regularly.

El Oh El

Jim Wilson's picture

When I started my commercial photography business over 40 years ago I was discouraged listening to the "pro's" that hung around the lab complaining that there was no work in Dallas. Like every other business there are those that succeed and those that don't. I decided to be the former, and to see about the business climate myself. I've spent four decades working hard, living a career that has been a dream, doing assignments that I couldn't have imagined for a client list that I wouldn't have dared to imagine at the outset. Yup, horrible line of work, I suggest that all photographers find something else to do............but on the way out the door could you email me your client list.........? :)

Duane Klipping's picture

There is far more to life than money and the pursuit of it. Enjoying what you do is far more important and brings one happiness and peace and that is priceless.

Robert Nurse's picture

Probably because of the some of the clients you'll run into and corporate cretins who will steal your work.

Kirk Darling's picture

PPA business data indicated over a decade ago that the modal net income for SUCCESSFUL full-time portrait photographers was only $20,000 annually--"successful" meaning they were busy most days of the week.