The Average Salary of a Freelance Photographer

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Freelance photographers earn variable pay, depending on experience.
Freelance photographers earn variable pay, depending on experience. (Image: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images)

A freelance photographer isn’t usually going to make as much money as a photographer working on a regular salary. Nevertheless, freelance photographers have more freedom to take pictures wherever they want and license or sell them to whomever they prefer. In addition to variable pay, a freelance photographer will also generally have to buy his own equipment and travel on his own dime.

Average Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says photographers make an average of about $29,440 per year as of 2008. The lowest ten percent of all photographers earned less than $16,920. However, Simply Hired says a freelance photographer can earn an average of $40,000 as of June 2011, based on the job listings on their site. This depends, of course, on the company, the location and the experience of the photographer.

Highest-Paying Cities

According to the Salary Expert website, Los Angeles, California is the best place to be for a freelance photographer. It’s no secret why, due to the opportunities in the arts found there. Expect to make an average of close to $60,000 a year depending on the company you work for and your experience. The New York City area has the second-highest salary, at an average of $53,939 a year.

Lowest-Paying Cities

The lowest-paying cities for a freelance photographer are in the southern United States. Salary Expert lists Orlando, Florida as the lowest with an average of $20,250 a year. Atlanta, Georgia is the second lowest at $27,147 per year.

Prospects of Photographer Jobs

Collegeboard.com reports that government figures show freelance photographers having a high degree of demand through 2018. But because this is a popular field and competition will be fierce, it’s best to develop your own individual photographic style so you can stand out from the crowd. This is most important for a freelance photographer who depends on pay from selling his own work and doing his own marketing.

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