If you’ve been enjoying your career as a high-earning photographer, reports are suggesting that you could be an exception to the rule. In fact, it’s important to keep in mind that most people who get into the business while leaving their day job know nothing about the actual business side of things. I mean, God forbid you need to pay a photographer so that they can eat, pay their bills, and have a comfortable life. With the proliferation of so many images on the web these days, people often forget that they need a professional photographer in order to achieve the best results and have the most pleasant experience. Along with that comes a host of things–and perhaps that’s part of what makes being a photographer one of the worst jobs in the US.
Targeted job opportunity website CareerCast ranked over 200 careers in 2018 to put together a report on the worst jobs in the U.S. based on income, overall quality of work environment, stress levels, occupational outlook. Photographer is listed as the 25th worst profession. Further, a USA Today report, 23 out of the 30 worst jobs in the country have a median annual wage of less than $50,000. For photographers, this is at around $34,000 — slightly under the median wage of $37,690 for all jobs in the U.S.. While it’s possible to live comfortably on this income in many parts of the country, those who are based in major cities may find themselves stifled by the higher cost of living. As a Catch 22, you often need to live in these big cities to get a lot of gigs. While an employment growth of 7% is seen for the average job in the U.S. from 2016 to 2026, photographer employment is expected to plummet over 5% in the same period. Reports have cited smartphone photography as the primary culprit for this, as it has allowed some aspects of photography to be more accessible for non-professionals.
• Median annual wages: $34,000
• Projected job growth, 2016-2026: -5.6%
• Total employment: 49,560
Photographers earn a median wage of $34,000 per year, slightly below the median wage for all U.S. jobs of $37,690. The average U.S. job is projected to have employment growth of 7% from 2016 to 2026, but photographers employment is projected to decline more than 5% in that same time frame. Thanks to camera-equipped smartphones some aspects of photography are more accessible for nonprofessionals. Other photography jobs could be eliminated as companies choose to hire freelancers rather than keeping salaried photographers on their payrolls. – Quote from USA Today
There’s also the growing possibility of photography jobs being phased out as more companies and publications choose to hire freelancers for project-based work instead of keeping photographers on the payroll. Add a high stress level and very poor projected growth and the photography profession suddenly doesn’t seem promising in the years to come. But, since photographers are often a creative bunch, many are also experimenting with print sales, exhibits, and workshops to supplement their income. In the age of automation — which definitely won’t be kind to many unskilled professions — creativity and skill may very well be the ones to keep the photography profession afloat. Now, if we could also get rid of the ugly practice of clients offering to pay photographers with exposure instead of cash, and services that trick photographers into giving up all their image rights.