Guess Which Study Photographers Are Ranked #1 Worst In

We’ve all heard of the ‘starving artist’ stereotype, but a new UK study has put some hard numbers to this portrayal, showing that photography graduates do become (on average) starving artists. Adding insult to injury, the study finds photographers not only make the list, they’re ranked among the worst for low-income graduates. Ouch.

Adzuna, a UK-based job search engine, analyzed more than 120,000 CVs to find the lowest paying jobs five years after graduating from university. Research has found that photography degrees offer the worst value for money, as graduates earn an average salary of £24,785 ($29,381) five years after graduation.

On the US side of research, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports in 2021 that the average annual salary for photographers is $48,210.

The average university degree leaves graduates with a debt of £45,000 ($53,345). It seems that in the age of “YouTube Academy”, traditional art degrees are hard to justify.

I am one of the few to have graduated in fine arts. Did my degree pay off? Absolutely. I had requirements not only in film and digital photography, but also in design, composition and art history which had a significant impact on my work. Would I say you need a degree to be a successful photographer? Absolutely not. Very few of the greatest works in the history of photography have come from people with degrees in the field. Fortunately, I fall well outside the average salary of the study. Maybe my next article should be “Making Big Money in Photography: How to Actually Do It”.

The question that comes naturally to reading this statistic is: “why”? Why do we as photographers have the lowest return on investment in our education? Do we underestimate our work? Is it related to the fashionable subject of “impostor syndrome”? Maybe it’s linked to the drop in our prices for fear of not closing the deal? The flip side of “YouTube Academy” is that now everyone is a photographer. We’ve all received these answers: “Well, my cousin is a photographer, and he can do it for…” Has the increase in quality of cell phone images lessened the need for professional work or at least less semi-professional?

I am grateful that I fall outside the statistic and that my clients see the difference in my work enough to pay more. In cases where clients want the work for less, I find educating them on the process of creating the images helps them understand the price. I have charged several hundred dollars for a shot numerous times. Some charge thousands.

I have found that education raises prices from what applicants think it should cost to what is a real fair price for the time and expertise needed to create the images.

What are your thoughts? Why do photographers fall into the painful bottom bracket of this study? Is there a way to change this? Leave a comment below. Reading your contribution is still my favorite part of the article.

Bravo and good click this week.

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