By the Numbers: The Underrepresentation of Women in Photography

Woman Photographer

According to a new report, despite making up nearly half of the photography workforce, women are dramatically underpaid and underrepresented compared to their male counterparts.

In line with the upcoming International Women’s Day, a creative content marketing agency conducted research that looked at the disproportionate representation of women photographers in the industry — from the lack of brand ambassadorships to fewer features on major camera brand social media profiles.

Women Photographers Lack Visibility

Although there is no shortage of female photographers across different genres, they are still unrepresented, underpaid, and often invisible across different aspects of the industry. To highlight this more in detail, Wallflower Studios, a marketing agency based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, examined the gender bias in photography in its report, “Give Us Features, Not Flowers.”

Women photographers account for almost half of working photographers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021, however, that same representation does not translate across into receiving equally paid opportunities, sponsorships, or visibility across the digital platforms. For example, the study found that a majority of recent photography graduates consisted of women, but they earn, on average, 40% less than their male counterparts. Similarly, it was found that less than 25% of the commercial photographers represented by the industry’s leading agents are female.

Women have been equally active in photography since its very beginnings. Although not always credited, they were some of the earliest trailblazers who photographed alongside their male peers, developing and advancing the earliest photographic methods. 150 years on, we’re still very much involved and it’s safe to say there’s no shortage of women in photography these days. However, gender bias and inequality are still very apparent.
Wallflower Studios

While women overall are less likely to be “recognized, featured, or celebrated as much as men,” the available opportunities diminish even more for those who are not white — 83% of photographers working in the United States are white, while Latino photographers make up 14%, followed by Black and Asian photographers at 7% and 5%, respectively.

Fewer Ambassadorships and Reduced Representation Online

Firstly, the report reviewed the inequalities in ambassadorship from major camera brands, which is a title that many professional photographers aspire to achieve in their careers. While brands get to promote their products through these ambassador programs, they invite photographers — both established and up-and-coming — to try out their products and give them exposure and a platform to showcase their talent.

Canon Philippines already came under criticism for its all-male ambassador lineup last year. Similarly, Canon USA only nominated 12 women photographers out of 38 ambassadors in 2021 and 14 out of 36 this year. Meanwhile, Canon Europe nominated only 14 women out of 109 ambassadors, although it did feature an article asking why there aren’t more female photojournalists.

Representation of women among camera brand ambassadorships

Canon is not the only camera brand that shows a lack of representation among ambassadors, with other leading camera brands following a similar pattern. The report found that the representation of people of color was lower than that of women, too.

Representation of woman across global camera brand social media pages Representation of woman across global camera brand social media pages

The report also looked at the lack of visibility of women photographers across camera brand social media profiles, using Canon, Sony, Nikon, Fujifilm, and GoPro as examples. The below visual representation shows the difference between who is given the platform to showcase their work. Of note, GoPro was found to give women photographers particularly poor visibility across its social media.

Representation of woman across global camera brand social media pages Representation of woman across global camera brand social media pages Representation of woman across global camera brand social media pages

The report also looked at gender bias that may go otherwise unnoticed by the average Google user. The agency used different keywords, such as “best photography Instagram accounts” and “best photographers” to look at the search results using both Google US and Google UK.

Representation of women photographers on search engines

Across both regions, the report found that women are less likely to be promoted on the first page. The “best photography Instagram accounts” showed a poor result on Google UK, featuring only 17% of women on the first page, although Google US fared better in both searches.

The report pointed out that many articles showcasing the world’s best or most famous photographers often don’t feature many women photographers, with some showing none at all. This further adds to not giving women photographers a platform in the digital landscape, although they are just as active.

The full report shines a light on numerous other findings in the industry as well as different ways to support women photographers through education, mentorship, and more.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.