New study finds majority of photographers struggle financially

A new report has shed light on photographers’ earnings in the wake of Covid-19 and highlighted how the pandemic has been particularly damaging to minority groups.

The 2022 State of Photography Report was produced by researchers Tara Pixley, Martin Smith-Rodden, David Campbell and Adrian Hadland and released at the CatchLight Visual Storytelling Summit in San Francisco in late April. He surveyed a total of 1,325 photographers in 87 countries, however, the majority of respondents were born in the United States.

The survey, which ran from December 21, 2020 to April 12, 2021, highlighted that photographers are grappling with the financial realities of the industry. Nearly half (46%) of women surveyed admitted they were considering leaving the visual media industry as they struggle to make ends meet.

Hard numbers

Half of all respondents reported earning less than $40,000 net per year, while 30% earned less than $20,000. At the other end of the spectrum, about 15% of respondents earn more than $70,000 per year, while only 52 people (6% of respondents) earn more than $100,000 per year. The report indicates that the oldest respondents were those who earned the highest salaries.

Survey of photographers

The research indicates that the majority of respondents live in Los Angeles and New York – areas where “low income” is defined as less than $75,000 and $40,000 per year respectively – suggesting that at least some professional photographers in these places live at or near levels of poverty.

Survey of photographers

There was a racial disparity between photographers who had access to health care through insurance, with 15% of white photographers reporting not having health insurance. Conversely, 42% of Asian photographers have no health insurance and 41% of blacks surveyed say they have no insurance.

Male photographers surveyed were more likely to say they “regularly win photo awards” (60.4%) than female (39.6%) and non-binary photographers (0%). Photographers of color, non-binary photographers and photographers with disabilities were significantly underrepresented with only 23.9% indicating they had been recognized through awards, compared to those who did not belong to these groups ( 76.1%).

Payment disparity

The State of Photography report said women, who made up half of the survey, said they received $10,000 less in median annual income than their male counterparts.

The data also showed a clear income gap for marginalized groups (women, non-binary, and POC), with these photographers earning a median income of around $20,000 to $30,000, compared to those who were not part of a marginalized population that had a median income. income of $40,000 to $50,000.

Similarly, photographers identifying as being from non-Western countries reported significantly lower earnings than their Western counterparts. Those who identified as being from a Western country posted a median income of $40,000 to $50,000, and those who did not identify as being from a Western country posted a median income of $10 $000 to $20,000.

Survey of photographers

Catchlight’s report follows a similar survey last month that found photographers are optimistic about the industry post-pandemic, though it didn’t dive into the same financial details found above. .

The full report can be downloaded from the Catchlight website.


Picture credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.


Update 5/9: Added fix on search source.

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