Photography can yield you an income if more than $65,000 annually if you are among the top 10 percent in earnings, according to May 2011 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But you'll need to use your artistic flair, interpersonal skills and business acumen to get to that level. Your opportunities as a photographer are boundless. You may choose to do portrait or wedding photography, or traipse the planet as a news journalist. Be sure to purchase some comfortable shoes for the latter.
Average Income & Benefits
Your average earnings as a photographer would be $36,580 per year, according to the BLS. If you fall in the middle half, you would make between $20,270 and $44,340 annually. Early on, you may find yourself among the lowest 10 percent, until you build your clientele. These folks made less than $20,270 per year. Odds are that you will be self-employed as a photographer, as 63 percent of them are. That means you better put some money aside for benefits. If you work for someone, especially a large employer, you may receive benefits like health insurance, paid time off and a retirement savings plan.
Income by Industry
You stand to earn the highest annual income working for an aerospace & parts manufacturer. They made $65,190 per year, according to the BLS. This doesn't mean a junket to Mars is in your future, but you better have the ability to shoot pictures of large items: space vehicles and rocket boosters, for example. If you like movies and videos, these artists earned the second-highest pay of $63,710 per year. And you would make $40,940 annually as a photojournalist.
Salary by State/District
You would earn the highest income in the District of Columbia as a photographer. They earned $64,350 per year, according to the BLS. If you can picture yourself following politicians around all day, this may be the perfect fit for you. You would earn $59,470 annually in Connecticut and somewhat less in Illinois: $44,820 per year. Expect even less in Indiana and Missouri at $29,030 and $27,150 per year, respectively.
Education & Training
There are no specific educational requirements for most photographers. However, you need a bachelor's degree in photography if you work in journalistic or scientific photography, according to the BLS. Chances are you'll start out working with an experienced photographer, learning the technical aspects of the trade. You can then build your portfolio to sell clients on future assignments.
Jobs are available in photography but you'll need to hunt for them. The BLS projects a 13 percent increase in jobs for photographers between 2010 and 2020, which is about average. Opportunities for the self-employed will grow at a 15 percent clip. Digital cameras have made it easier for people to photograph their own events. Your best opportunities will lie in wedding or portrait photography. Corporations will also need photographers to shoot their wares for sale in brochures and on websites.