Five reasons you’ll never make a lot of money as a photographer

The annual income of the typical photographer in the United States is 20% lower than the national average. There are both good and bad reasons that photographers don’t earn a living wage and you might want to think about these five reasons if you want to survive as a creative image maker in the modern world.

1. Short-term commitment

Careers have changed dramatically over the past fifty years. Globalization, technology and the emergence of service industries have transformed the way we work. You no longer receive a luxury watch after thirty years of dedicated service to one company. Instead, you’re much more likely to have four or five different careers in your lifetime.

Due to the transitional nature of the vocation, many in the industry switch from photography before their business has matured to a stage where they can charge more respectable fees. The same could be said for many careers, but it makes more sense when you combine it with the other reasons listed below.

2. Denigrate momtographs

If you’ve ever used the word “motographer” to sniffly express your distaste for this new breed of photographers, you might already be in trouble. The rapid growth and democratization of technology has made photography more accessible and continues to drive down the prices of certain services, from weddings to real estate. If you’re feeling threatened by a stay-at-home mom who can buy herself an entry-level Canon and photograph engagements and newborns to earn a little extra cash, then it’s time to ask yourself what you are. done.

Rolling your eyes and calling them derogatory terms won’t change the fact that the momtographs aren’t threatening to undermine your business: it’s you. Times are changing and we must react. If you don’t know how to add value to your customers, find different markets, or establish alternative revenue streams, be prepared to fight and rest assured that name calling is the first step to your inevitable failure. We may have our eyes clouded over those golden years when photography was incredibly specialized, but the world is now a different place and getting angry with amateurs and microstock isn’t going to help. Nobody’s going to hire you to throw a baby shower for the same reason I can’t hail a horse and cart to take me across Manhattan anymore.

3. Death and taxes? Alright, just taxes

Oddly enough, this is one of the few bright spots on this list. Photographers earn less because, as independent professionals, we write off a large portion of our expenses against our income. For many of us this allows us to spend money more efficiently and for the IRS it seems like we are making very little money when the reality is somewhat different. We probably would have spent that money anyway, it’s just that now it’s outweighed by our profits. If you don’t take advantage of it, now is the time to get some accounting advice because you might run out of it.

4. The capitalist scam of the creative industries

The emergence of the creative industries – be it graphics, art conservation, toys, software design, video games, film radio, or photography – is part of our enslavement to the neoliberal regime. . If this sounds dramatic, pretend for a moment that historically capitalism is a ruthless regime that wants to get you as much value as possible.

Aside from being more likely to have multiple careers over the course of your life, as a creative you are also more likely to be engaged in a way of making money that seems very precarious, without ever really knowing. how much you will get out of it. month-to-month, and perhaps support yourself with a low-paying part-time job. As a society, we have come to fetishize this existence, admiring artists who work long hours and fight poverty. We’ve romanticized this notion so much that if you’ve spent any time in East London, you’ll know that creating the appearance of being poor is very much in fashion now.

This precarious existence as a creator has been transformed by society into something you should aspire to. Unfortunately, it’s also a convenient way to pay creatives as little as possible. Last year, the creative industries in the United States contributed more to GDP than either agriculture or transportation. Despite this, surveys show that among people working in the creative industries, 90% have worked for free, 18% earn less than $ 20,000 per year and 25% earn less than $ 6,500 per year. If you don’t come from a comfortable background, your chances of getting your foot in the door are slim.

Income is incredibly low because we want to feel authentic and empowered in our work, intentionally blurring the line between work and leisure, and therefore taking less money for it. We take work in exchange for exposure, put low quotes to make sure we get the job, and underestimate ourselves for fear our work isn’t good enough. This all relates to point number five.

5. It’s nice to be nice

It might be more British, but too many photographers are just too nice to turn something they love to do into something really profitable. We’re often good at making people feel relaxed in front of the camera or keeping the bride’s weird aunt happy after her seventh gin and tonic, but we’re often a little bit useless when it comes to negotiating. good rates and to be upfront about what we think we are worth.

Additionally, we frequently underestimate the time we spend working on a job, which adds to our ability to underestimate our services. We spend a lot more time working on projects than we realize, immersing ourselves in changes and forgetting to log the hours as we go through this endless stream of changes requested by a client.

We love to create images and we love to make people happy with our work, whether they are brides or large corporations. However, this pride in our artistry can be a hindrance when it comes to charging clients a decent rate or selling you enough to get more work done. If you want to make money, stop being so nice and start being a little more business-minded.

Your thoughts

If you have more ideas on why photographers still fail to make a decent living – or, better yet, how to fix it – be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more about the income of photographers in the United States, click here.

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