10 Best Cities for Working Photographers in the US


You carry a camera everywhere because you just never know when something or someone worthy of having its picture taken will appear. You also work plenty of weddings and events, or you may be a photo journalist for a newspaper. You are a photographer, and are always on the lookout for beauty. But what makes a city good for a working photographer? While it’s important that there are plenty things to photograph, these statistics are equally relevant as well.

Here’s How We Ranked Them

We started with a list of the 100 most populous cities in the U.S. and ranked them from one to 100 in each of the following categories:

  • Cost of Living — As a photographer, you may not have a lot of disposable income, so it’s good to know which cities are affordable. We sourced Area Vibes for this information.
  • Annual Salary — To compare with cost of living, we took the average salary of photographers from each of these cities and applied it here because higher paying jobs mean an opportunity for better living. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.
  • Photographer Job Openings — In order to secure some of that disposable income, a photographer needs a job. This only included full time jobs, and not freelance work or anything related. Numbers from
  • Working Photographers — Your ability to network is increased the more photographers there are. This metric was also used to gauge relative demand for photographers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics website was used here as well.

After establishing a ranking for each of those categories, we assigned a score to each city for those categories as well. Once those were added up, we divided the sum into an average; the lower that average was the better.

1. Jersey City, NJ

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

The Katyn Memorial, which was erected in 1991 as an homage to the victims of the Katyn Massacre in 1940, overlooks New York City’s downtown area, which resides just across the Hudson River. A plaque was added to commemorate the victims of the September 11th attacks as well. Jersey City vaulted itself to number one on our list by ranking second or better in the amount of full time photographer job openings, and the working photographers categories. This shows that even though many jobs are taken, there are still plenty more to be had.

2. Saint Paul, MN

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

Nestled along the banks of the Mississippi, Saint Paul is the first of the Twin Cities to appear on this list. The mighty River and the park nearby provide excellent views of the skyline, and many photography opportunities. The city ranked in the top 20 in three categories, including fifth in annual salary. Of the cities that made the top ten, they were fourth best in cost of living, making the city affordable as well.

3. Houston, TX

You might think in the oil rich state of Texas wouldn’t provide a good environment for a working photographer. But Houston proved to be an exception by being consistent in all categories. While they didn’t crack the top 15, they also ranked no worse than 43rd, something no other city was able to do. And the above photo of Hermann Park is an example of the plethora of artistic picture opportunities the city has.

4. New York, NY

Photo courtesy Jerry Ferguson

Photo courtesy Jerry Ferguson

In a city that is brightest at night, along with an eclectic mix of neighborhoods each with their own personality and so much happening in America’s biggest city, it makes sense that New York would appear on this list. Perhaps no park on the planet provides more opportunities for wedding, sports, event or nature photography than Central Park. Strawberry Fields is no exception. The city ranked in the top five in three categories, and if not for its cost of living rank could very well have been number one on this list.

5. Los Angeles, CA

Photo courtesy Oswald N

Photo courtesy Oswald N

Despite the stereotypical jokes about smog, Los Angeles turned out to be a very friendly city for photographers. They were sixth or better in three categories, but also befallen by the cost of living category. However, ranking second in annual salary helped to even that out. Kenneth Hahn State Park provides a stunning backdrop of the skyline and the mountains beyond.

6. Minneapolis, MN

Photo courtesy Nate Schervek

Photo courtesy Nate Schervek

Highlighting the natural, or man-made, beauty of each of these cities has been a way for us to show that in order to be a successful photographer, it’s not all about the numbers. Minneapolis embodies that philosophy. The second of the Twins to make this list appears because it ranked sixth in annual salary, as well as 13th in the amount of full-time job openings for photographers it has.

7. Cincinnati, OH

Photo courtesy Joe Dunckley

Photo courtesy Joe Dunckley

With the stadiums for their football and baseball teams residing downtown, and being located along the banks of the Ohio River, Cincinnati gives photographers of all trades the opportunity to use their skills. The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, which separates Cincy and Covington, is a staple of the city. Beyond that, they ranked ninth in annual salary while having a low cost of living, ranking 26th in that category.

8. San Francisco, CA

Photo courtesy Julian

Photo courtesy Julian

From sports to art, nightlife to history and everything in between, San Francisco is a melting pot of opportunity for photographers. From the outside looking in (or the inside looking out, depending on your view) Alcatraz Island combines much of what makes the city great. Despite ranking last in cost of living, they ranked third in annual salary, and fourth in job openings.

9. Washington, DC

Photo courtesy Robert Pos

Photo courtesy Robert Pos

The US Capital has more to offer than politics. Washington, DC is also a fantastic city to live and work as a photographer. It ranked seventh in the annual salary category, and if you are looking to move there, it ranked seventh in the job openings category as well. And with the blooming cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin, it’s easy to see why people line the bank to snap their own photo.

10. Dallas, TX

Photo from

Photo from

Rounding out the top ten, Dallas is also the second Texas city to appear on the list. They snuck into the top ten by ranking eighth in working photographers, and 24th in full-time job openings. The Arts District allows the city to be captured in a calming way, outside of the hustle of downtown. Combined with a low cost of living, this city was able to show that they are a good home for photogs.

Looking Beyond the Numbers

Having jobs available is great, as well as the potential to make a good wage, but something that also stood out about each of these cities is their aesthetic prowess. They proved themselves in the numbers, and the reason for that could be that there is so much natural beauty about each city’s landscape that draws many photographers in. Whether it be the concrete jungle of NYC or the vast amount of green and water of the Twin Cities, the top ten revealed that in order to be a great city for a photographer, it must also be photogenic.


About the author: Christian Neeser is the director of SEO at This article was republished with kind permission from MyLife. The original can be found here.

  • Brent

    Surprised Temecula isn’t on the list.

  • Joshua Yetman

    Except that these full-time photographer openings are for school portrait companies or church directories that pay on commission.

  • Justin Kosman

    “Job Openings” hahha

  • Renato Valenzuela

    the two cities that are in New Jersey that made this list also have the benefit of being in very close proximity to New York City. Jersey City is right across the river, Newark just minutes down the highway.

  • Brandon Rechten

    There’s only one working photographer in Jersey City, NJ?

  • Rob Elliott

    Those are the rankings.

  • Tim Gander

    All the photos on this article are “Courtesy of…” Which presumably means means no photographers got paid in the making of this article. So the income for photographers comes from where exactly?

  • Xavierdjx

    There is a big dust on the first pic … :-/

  • Brandon Rechten

    Ah, I see. I’m admittedly not a numbers person, but this seems like a really confusing way to present data, with the “population” category being the only figure that isn’t arbitrary.

    So, Jersey City has the most working photographers (related to population, or overall?), and the second most open jobs … but without actual numbers there’s no way to know which number is higher. Or am I looking at this wrong (again)?

  • AJ Lorello

    Only 4 working photographers in LA? I’m not a numbers guy, but something doesn’t seem to add up…

  • Rob Elliott

    Nope you are reading it right now.. the raw data isn’t provided. So yes Jersey has the second most Jobs.

    I’d be interested in seeing the raw data.. the article tells you where it is.. I may go take a look.

    but I’m a nerd like that.. I don’t expect most people to.

  • Severin Samulski

    What about Canada?

  • s0undmind

    Minneapolis and St Paul both made the list? That’s kinda… redundant, no?

  • Rob S

    ! and 2 have dirty sensors. 6 and 9 are blown out. Come on PetaPixel, you can do better.

  • Tommy Sar

    They may be called the “Twin Cities” but they are two different cities.

  • Kurt Lindner

    I know alot of photographers in LA that will disagree…

  • s0undmind

    Suuuuuure they are.

  • Courtney Navey

    Jersey, really? Did this guy even consider property tax in the cost of living? Yeah I’m not moving to the armpit of America no matter how much opportunity is there.

  • ISO640

    I have a friend who is a working photographer and lives in the DC area and let me tell ya, she’s always looking for work and hardly ever finding it and it’s not like she hasn’t been doing this for years. She’s got experience and skills.

  • Guest

    But they “received great exposure” Hahahah

  • Bryan Woolston

    But they received “great Exposure” Hahahaha

  • NursultanTulyakbay

    Cost of living looks to be the only category that is of any significance.

    “Photography Job Openings” – Really? I would suspect the vast majority of people that earn their living as a photographer either own their own business or freelance. Counting the Target Photo Studio and Lifetouch job openings seems to be irrelevant.

    “Annual Salary” – see above.

    “Working Photographers” – Seems to be a very subjective category, I question the numbers here. I don’t know much about The Bureau of Labor Statistics, but I would guess this a count of tax returns with “Photographer” listed as the occupation.

  • Zos Xavius

    No wonder these cities have so many photography related opportunities!

    But yeah, wtf is up with that golden gate shot? Can we call it the worst shot of the golden gate ever? I think so…

  • Zos Xavius

    are they counting craigslist ads? :)

  • Kent Nishimura

    No Honolulu, Hawaii? aw man…

  • moonbase2

    Jersey City… hmmm. I bet most of their work comes from NYC. And, it’s only cheap to live there in the neighborhoods that aren’t so crime free. I have co-workers that live there and I have former colleagues that also reside there and from what I’ve been told, living there is quite the gamble. No offense to your survey. I was just quite surprised that JC,NJ was ranked #1. It’s also a city that was affected a lot by Sandy.

  • moonbase2

    I work in the corporate commercial world, but I would never turn my nose up at someone that was making a living in any of the careers you posted. It’s hard work any way you slice it.

  • moonbase2

    Never EVER move to Newark. I lived there for one year and it was one of the SCRATCH THAT — THE WORST LIVING EXPERIENCE IN MY LIFE. I chose to reside there because the rent was cheap and it was a short commute. BIG MISTAKE. THAT PLACE IS A NIGHTMARE…. sorry for the caps, but I can not stress enough what a terrible city that is.

  • Adam Bettcher

    Wish I knew where those “full time jobs” were in Minneapolis and St. Paul…

  • Renato Valenzuela

    Depends on the part of Newark. The ironbound or downtown really isn’t that bad.

  • Vin Weathermon

    This scoring makes little sense to me; in terms of “best for jobs” I would assume that the town with the most job openings with the highest salaries wins. Being in a place that looks nice, has no job openings hardly but a high cost of living and the wage is high (because you need it just to live there) does not sound like it fits the profile of “best for working photographers”….

  • moonbase2

    You are correct. But isn’t that bad is not a really good selling point. Please consider the following information from cnn money, “Newark’s crime record appeared to be on the upswing a few years ago. March 2010 marked its first murder-free month in more than 40 years and shootings were down for three back-to-back years, falling 75% through 2009, Mayor Cory Booker told CNN in a televised interview.

    But then budget constraints sparked by the recession forced the city to lay off one-sixth of its police force.

    The rate of violent crime rose by more than 11% in 2011 compared with 2010. Street crimes spiked, with robberies up 23% and the city’s robbery rate ranked third highest among the nation’s cities.”

    Newark,NJ is a terrible,corrupt place.

  • moonbase2

    Best post ever when presenting advertising prospects traffic reports! Good on you Petapixel.

  • Renato Valenzuela

    Could be worse. Could be Trenton or Camden. It’s all relative, really. to put it summarily, the parts of Newark that are bad are genuinely bad. Like, might as well be Detroit kinda bad. having said that, the nice parts of Newark are actually quite nice.

  • moonbase2

    you’re right. Everything is relative. I’m typing this as I’m pretty sure a cooking oil fire is happening in the apartment below me, but my neighbor’s don’t care. Oh well.

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  • April D Melton

    Wouldn’t that be a dream job!

  • April D Melton


  • taoisms

    Probably not a large enough population… It’s only around 100,000.

  • carbonware

    Surprised Louisville was so low,with all the companies there like UPS, amazon, Gilt, Rue La La and many others there are tons of well paying photography and creative jobs in the area. At the same time it’s very photogenic, low cost of living, and a generally beautiful town. It’s also on a lot of top goofy lists.

  • carbonware

    Louisville was too low. There are many photography jobs here in the many commercial studios in the area. Driven by UPS, lots of Ecommerce and retailers have studios here or nearby. And it’s a very photogenic town too.