Salary of a War Photojournalist

Famous names in war photojournalism include Don McCullen and Larry Burrows.
Famous names in war photojournalism include Don McCullen and Larry Burrows. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

War photojournalists act as spectators in the heart of the action. Working alongside military personnel, often in dangerous combat situations, they try to convey the reality of war through the medium of photographic images, often using their pictures to tell a story. Salary levels for the role are comparable to those of other photographers.

Average Salary

During its May 2010 survey of employment throughout the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics placed war photojournalists in a category with other professionals using the photographic medium. It calculated that the mean yearly salary across the professional field was $35,980, with top earners (the highest 10 percent) likely to earn in excess of $63,400, and their counterparts in the bottom 10 percent receiving less than $17,350. At the time of writing, wage comparison website placed the average annual wage for a photojournalist at $35,000.

Salary by Industry

Most photographers, including war photojournalists, work within a sector of the industry labelled by the bureau as professional, scientific and technical services. This is likely to mean that an individual works either as a freelance photographer, selling images to publications and accepting one-off assignments, or as part of a photographic agency that does the commerce on their behalf (Magnum being a famous example). The mean annual wage within this sector was given by the bureau as $32,630. A photographer contracted to a newspaper, periodical, book or directory publisher was likely to receive a mean wage of $40,580 per annum.

Salary by Industry, having conducted a survey of wages for photojournalists based in several major metropolises, reported that at the time of writing pay levels were highest in New York City, averaging $51,691. Boston and Los Angeles completed the top three at $49,252 and $48,343, respectively. At the other end of the scale, Phoenix was listed at $42,118 and Orlando at $40,514. The bureau reported that photographers of all kinds were likely to receive the highest mean salaries in the District of Columbia and Connecticut -- $56,110 and $53,810, respectively – while, in contrast, those based in Indiana received a mean of $27,680 and in Missouri $26,310.


The bureau expects the employment market for photographers of all kinds to increase by around 12 percent between 2008 to 2018, faster than the entire country's growth, which is posited at between 7 and 13 percent over the same period. Demand for visual imagery will increase as outlets for publishing them – particularly on the Internet – proliferate. This should mean that salary levels for photographic professionals remain high, although competition for employment is likely to be keen.

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