Freelance Photographer Vs. Professional Photographer

To become a great photographer (and get a well-paid photography job), just buying professional photography gear, will not be enough.

Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly mentions in his book “Outliers: The Story of Success” the “10,000-Hour Rule“. The key to success in any field, Malcolm explains, is a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. That’s roughly 3-4 years of full-time daily practice.

So becoming a professional photographer (and the reach the top expert level) will take a lot of practice time!

If you have the dedication to take photography classes & courses and you have the time to practice a lot, then there should be no reason why you cannot become a professional photographer and get some of the best-paid photography jobs.

Even if you invest just a little of your time, you could do quite well as a freelance photographer. Which means you can click pictures for the so-called “3 Fs”: Friends, Family & Fools. 😉

… But how much money can you make as a photographer?

What will you get paid if you invest 10,000 hours of your precious time to become a professional photographer? And how much can you make as a freelance photographer?

How much do Professional Photographers earn?

Professional Photography Jobs

The average pay of a professional photographer in 2012 was $13.70 per hour and $28,490 per year (Source: US Labour Statistics)… That’s not really great after investing 3-4 years of you time and pro camera gear!!

Update: The Median wages for photographers in 2014 was $14.66 per hour, $30,490 per year (at least we can see a little upwards trend in income over the years!)

How to earn more?

What does these statistics tell us? To make good money as a photographer, you need to start your own photography business!

Upgrade your Sales & Promotion Skills

To get to the top of the “best-paid photography jobs list”, you don’t only need photography skills, but you also need sales and promotion skills!

Like in so many other professions: “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” Same goes for photography jobs. Pro Tip: Join Fizzle, a community of entrepreneurs providing honest business training.

Tip: If you need help to start your own business, SCORE (see can help you with smart business advice.

Best Paid Photography Jobs by Category

Once you have your small professional photography business up and running (Do not rush! Plan it well!) the best-paid photography jobs are in these categories:

Photography JobsWho will pay you?
Architecture PhotographyArchitects, real estate agents
Corporate PhotographyCompanies CEOs & owners
Product & Fashion PhotographyCompanies making products
Wedding PhotographyEngaged couples and their parents
Family PhotographyParents
Food PhotographyFood Magazines, Chefs & Restaurants
Nature PhotographyNature Magazines

Freelance Photographer Jobs

Another road that you can take is freelance photography.

Wedding photography and portrait are generally the best-paid freelance photography jobs.

Related post: Gear you need to succeed as a wedding photographer

You can start off by looking for jobs in your area or any events that might require a photographer. Chances are you might have to work for peanuts when you first start off, as your reputation and clienteles go up, you can increase your charges.

Unfortunately, freelance work means you are on and off the job. There may be times when you are overwhelmed with work, and there may be times you won’t have an extra $10 in your pocket. Luckily, this is something you can do in your free time to generate some extra revenue, so you still get to keep your day job if you have one.

You could also start building a side income stream by selling stock photos online. It may be not very lucrative in the beginning, but once you have a portfolio of few hundred images the dollars will start rolling in!

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