How Much is a Photographer Worth? Is $300 Too Low For a Day’s Work?

Cameras held aloft

It takes a lot of hard work to become a professional photographer. There are untold hours of toil to perfect the craft and lots of money spent to reach a pro level. So when you get there, how much should you be paid for a day’s work?

This is the issue raised by Roxy Facer this week who called out Vogue Polska for paying her $300 for a full day’s shoot and edit — a fee she deemed to be low.

@roxyfacer Replying to @Jesus Martinez underwhelming to say the least #editorialphotography #voguephotoshoot #fashionshoot #fashioncinematography #fashionvideography ♬ Prada Casso Edit On Soundcloud – cassö

Even for established professionals, photography can be a difficult career in which to make a living. There are few jobs and freelancing can be very insecure.

Facer, who is primarily a videographer specializing in 8mm and 16mm film, may well feel entitled to mock the $300 fee, as a job like that surely should be closer to $1,000. However, many photographers wouldn’t think twice about accepting that rate.

Sure, it’s not great, but it’s not exactly terrible either. Anyone working in editorial knows that rates have been tumbling for years. Inflation has been rising and prices are going up, but photographers are getting paid less.

This is in part due to the shifting landscape of media. Magazines and newspapers have more readers than ever before but the majority of those come in digital form and publications simply don’t receive anything like the money per reader they used to get in print.

The owners and board members of these huge companies avoid bearing the brunt of these seismic changes. Instead, the cuts are passed down onto the men and women who work tirelessly to put these publications together, e.g. photographers.

Perhaps Facer is not used to the relatively low fees offered to editorial photographers and is more accustomed to commercial fees.

Is $300 Enough Money for a Day Shoot?

I would wager that most editorial photographers would accept $300 as a day rate. As mentioned, it is definitely on the lower end, but it is not catastrophic. If, and that’s a big if, a photographer was paid that every weekday of the year, that is a respectable $78,000 salary before taxes. Depending on where you live in the country, and how big your overhead is (photographers do tend to have larger than normal overhead), it’s a livable wage.

But the fact is photographers don’t get hired every day. And even if they do, there is no guarantee of timely payment or even payment at all — just look at how long some have been waiting to get paid from Outdoor Photographer magazine.

It’s the big companies that are usually worse at this. Smaller companies tend to pay promptly but many, myself included, have had horrific experiences chasing major media companies for payments that should have come weeks, months, and even years ago.

Why Call Them Out?

Many have questioned whether what Facer did is a wise move for her future prospects, but she has nearly 40,000 TikTok followers and this particular episode has propelled her even further up the social media/influencer ladder.

Good for her.

There is no handbook on how to make it as a photographer, every creative takes a different path. Success comes in all forms and you have to take what comes your way.

Rather than burning her bridges, Facer may have opened up new career pathways by exposing the industry’s low rates — something that most photographers wouldn’t dare do for fear of losing clients.

This story is part of PetaPixel’s weekly newsletter Clipped Highlights.

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Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.