How Much Money Does a Portrait Photographer Make?

Portrait photographers mostly work in studios
Portrait photographers mostly work in studios (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Portrait photographers capture images of people for a variety of occasions, including graduation and proms, family reunions, and baby pictures. Typically, portrait photographers work for studios or themselves and seldom work freelance, though they may shoot photos on location. Portrait photographers' salaries can be low and varied depending upon title and experience.

Average Pay states that the average pay for portrait photographers is between $8 and $10 per hour. In a look at the salaries of portrait photographers for some of the most prominent studios, says Lifetouch Studios pays an average $9.26 per hour compared to $8.36 per hour for The Picture People Photographers. Photographers for Sears earn $7.26 per hour while JCP Portraits photogaphers earn $8.67 per hour.

In Other Jobs

Because portrait photographers often work for studios and companies, they may perform dual roles as photographers and managers or photographers and sales representatives. Salaries are higher under these circumstances. Portrait photographers who also serve as sales reps earn as much as $41,000 annually at Lifetouch Studios. Assistant managers for The Picture People earn $11.53 per hour and a studio manager earns between $14 and $16 hourly. Managers are often required to take photos.


Portrait photographers may work freelance at wedding and religious ceremonies and may be hired privately by individuals to shoot photos on location. Wedding photographer Eliot Khuner states on his website that wedding photographers can earn between $950 and $10,000 per wedding. Wedding photographers typically work between May and October. Of the 152,000 jobs held by photographers in 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that more than half of this number were self-employed.

By Cities

Portrait photographers in major cities such as New York City, Chicago and Phoenix earn annual salaries of $54,000, $47,000 and $42,000 respectively according to Salary Expert as of 2011. Photographers in other cities such as Orlando, Miami and Atlanta earn $20,000, $32,000 and $27,000. These figures compare favorably to the BLS report that the average salary for photographers was $29,000 in 2008.

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