While the stereotype of the starving artist will always exist, photography is one art form with plenty of jobs to go around. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, has predicted that available jobs for photographers will grow 13 percent between 2010 and 2020. The BLS reports that the average median salary for photographers was $29,130 in 2010. If you're looking to put your degree to work with a camera in hand, a variety of career options populate this diverse field.
Studio and Portrait Photography
If your technical skills and eye for detail are matched by your drive and desire to run a business, a career in studio and portrait photography might be for you. From documenting a newborn's first days of life, to capturing a high school senior's photo for the yearbook, your work as a studio and portrait photographer will allow you to capture many different milestones and memories. You can open your own studio and run your own business, or find employment in an established portrait studio.
Weddings, graduations and anniversaries are all special occasions people want to remember, and as an event photographer, you forever immortalize such events on film. Like studio and portrait photography, event photography provides you the ability to be your own boss as a small business owner. You can run your own company or work for an established event photographer to further hone your skills after earning your degree. According to the BLS, the demand for wedding photographers in particular is expected to rise steadily, though business may be slow in the fall and winter, the off-seasons for weddings.
When a company needs a product image that's sure to appeal to consumers, an advertising photographer brings their ideas to life. Your photography will be featured in advertisements, brochures and other publications, and your job is to make people want to buy the things featured in your pictures. Typically, your work will be freelance, though you might find long-term opportunities to work directly for marketing or manufacturing companies.
From snapping photos on the runway at Fashion Week to capturing pictures of a model wearing a new lip gloss, commercial and fashion photographers work with all things fashionable and glamorous. You will take pictures of models for magazines both in studio and on location. You may work freelance or for a modeling agency, fashion designer or fashion magazine.
If you love visiting exotic locations and dream of traveling the world, you might enjoy a career in travel photography. Your work will bring you to destinations around the globe where you will document landmarks, attractions, foods and people with your camera. Typically freelance work, your photos might appear in travel publications, newspapers, magazines and more.
Photojournalists chase after big news stories and take photos to accompany articles in newspapers and magazines. These photos are meant to tell a story and accurately capture a moment in history. If you love cultural events and are constantly staying on top of breaking news, photojournalism is a career route to consider. However, it is important to note that the BLS expects employment opportunities in newspapers to decline 30 percent between 2010 and 2020.
If your taste in photography is a bit more abstract and artistic, you could pursue a career experimenting behind your lens and showing your work in galleries. This isn't necessarily the easiest way to make a living in photography, but for creative-minded individuals it might be worth the struggle.
Photography teachers share their skills with students to create the next generation of great photographers, and if you have a passion for helping others and want to share your knowledge, this could be the career for you. You can find work in high schools, colleges and private studios. To work in public schools, you will need to earn a teaching certificate in addition to your photography degree. Teaching can be the most stable career option in photography. The BLS reported that post-secondary art teachers, including photography teachers, received a median salary of $62,330 as of 2011.
2016 Salary Information for Photographers
Photographers earned a median annual salary of $34,070 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, photographers earned a 25th percentile salary of $23,480, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $52,220, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 147,300 people were employed in the U.S. as photographers.