Architectural Photography Salary?


Hey Guys, 

I've been looking at some numbers for salary for Arch. Photographers, and Photographers in general, and the median seems to be anywhere from 40,000 - 60,000, differing between websites. I'm wondering if Architectural Photography is considered one of the top money making fields in Photography, and if the potential is there to make a large amount of money? Could you potentially make upwards of 150k, if you've got the talent and right clientele? Or are you likely making a ceiling of 70-90k?

Thanks for any help!

Oct 29, 12 10:50 pm

architectural photography is a much smaller field than even architecture.  Most professional photographers don't do just one kind of photography.  The likelihood of making big money as a professional photographer are slim.

There are a lot of photographers not on your list who don't clear 40k a year.  It's a rough life.

Oct 30, 12 12:15 am  · 

I know photographers who do everything from portraits, wedding, events, architecture and still don't make 60,000.  Good luck if you plan on doing only architecture.  But like everything, you must know where to look for work.  You could be the best photographer but make less than that someone's grandma if you don't know how to attract work

Oct 30, 12 8:51 am  · 

architecture is not a money-making field; photography is not a money-making field; architectural photography is definitely not, in the general sense, a money-making field.  The top architectural photographer I've ever worked with (a fairly brand-name photog) charged around $5k for a day's shoot with one assistant (IIRC).  The next highest brand-name photog I've worked with was at a day rate of $3500 with one assistant.  Now keep in mind that a) you need talent to begin with, b) you need BUSINESS SAVVY to begin with, c) you need connections to begin with, and d) you need capital to begin with (photography equipment does not come cheap) and you realize that it is not an easy field to "make it" in.  For the most part, there is no such thing as a "salary" in the field of photography - you mainly work on contract, with no security and no benefits.  (Ok, there are a handful of staff photographers employed by various companies that might get salaries, I don't know.)  But of my close photographer friends (wedding, event, portrait, architectural, and catalogue) not one has ever gotten a salary to be a photographer.  And they all hustle whatever work they can get - and the one that does architectural photography in reality ends up mostly doing real estate photography (definitely not the same).  She supplements with weddings and I'm pretty sure she's never made more than $60k in a year.  She is my most successful photographer friend.  Although it seems the catalogue photography business can be good if you get in with the right contacts.  

If you want to make $150,000, study marketing and work for any one of the tons of large corporations in this country.  Assistant Marketing Managers with a couple years' experience make around $100,000 and go up from there.  $150k is not a hard salary to make as a Marketing Manager.  Plus you will not have to scavenge for your own work constantly, and you'll get holidays and benefits and security.

Oct 30, 12 2:41 pm  · 

Don't listen to these guys! They are all millionaire architecture photographers who don't like competition. 

Oct 30, 12 4:46 pm  · 

I would say that photography can definitely be an asset to any job if if you know how to do it correctly. A good portfolio of photos will help you stand apart from others especially in marketing like mantaray mentioned.

I don't know the particulars of the photo business but it's not easy because digital photography opened the flood gates to everyone who can buy a camera. Find a way to stand out and it can lead to an interesting career path you hadn't expected.

Oct 30, 12 6:19 pm  · 

heyy.. aren't we all architectural photographers?  I bet we are better than most since we have an education in architecture already.  We know exactly what to shoot.. not just take pretty pictures.  ;)

Oct 30, 12 7:45 pm  · 

Is architectural photography one of the top money-makers within photography? No way. Fashion photography has a higher upper echelon, and the combination of news and stock photo can also rake in more. The big thing is that you have to develop a lot of clients, then transition to only working for the RIGHT clients, because you get paid your day rate, but you also get paid for publication rights, which is where you can make money passively, on photos you've already been paid for once. So if you can develop a client list that regularly makes the covers of big magazines, then that helps a lot (cover rights cost more than rights for a spread, especially because a mag often wants exclusivity).

And on the magazine hierarchy, arch record isn't actually all that big. Arch Digest or dwell would pay more, because they have more readers. That's a big reason that the top fashion photogs make more, because if they get to the point where they're shooting for Vogue, that will pay more than any building trade publication will. Doing things like shooting stock photos helps as well, because you can again continue to make money on work you did quite a while ago.

On the other hand, maybe you should care more about the median, rather than the top. Likelihood of being one of those top earners is, for any one person, very very low.

Oct 30, 12 9:02 pm  · 

The stock photo rate (per photo) is seriously low though.  You'd have to have a ton of photos constantly getting pulled to make any good money from that.

Oct 31, 12 9:37 pm  · 
Gregory Storm

This is an old post, but since I have personal knowledge on the subject I thought this would be the right place to make my first post.

As somebody who used to shoot fashion and had photos published in local magazines, let me tell you, shooting people is not the cat's meow.  There are plenty of photographers who think hot women or hot men in various states of undress are sexy.  That's why fashion photography is such a crowded field.  Getting to the top of the fashion photography field has a ceiling because the top magazines and fashion brands already have their line-up of photographers and Steven Meisel, Patrick Demarchelier, Russell James, etc. aren't going anywhere.

The smart money is on people who are skilled at shooting structure and spaces and have a passion for it.  There are few photographers like myself who think shooting a building is sexier and more fun and more exciting than shooting Victoria's Secret models.  And for that reason Architectural Photography is not a crowded field.  It's a specialty field and that specialty comes at a premium.

In terms of an earnings ceiling, that depends on how much and how hard you want to work.  If you wanted to make $40,000 to $60,000 shooting homes, that would be an easy number to hit on a yearly basis.  Take Mantaray's example of the photographer that was paid a $5,000 day rate.  I'm pretty sure image licensing was an additional cost, but to keep things simple, let's just go with $5,000 flat.  You would only have to work 12 days per year to make $60,000!  Let's assume you started at an entry-level day rate of $1,000.  You still would only have to work 5 days per month to make $60,000 per year.

If you're good, you could easily make your six figure goal.  And for the slow periods, you wouldn't have to shoot weddings or portraits or people at all.  You could shoot real estate and make even more money.  Most of the real estate, architectural, and interior photographers I know make well upwards of a $150,000 per year.

Nov 18, 13 12:05 pm  · 

As a professional, there are plenty of top photographers making great money - but they have a pedigree. Five figure real estate shoots are common at the top - they're worth it. There's a big difference between beginner - average - professional and professional with a pedigree. 

I believe that $100 or $200 for 50 shots equals how to go broke quickly.

Think about your business model carefully... 

Professional Photographers who produce 'world class' marketing materials should make $3000 - $5,000 a day, and they do.

Professional Photographers who produce really, really good real estate photos should make close to $1,000 a day.

Professional photographers are not going to spend a hour or two shooting, they'll spend 8-12 hours and use natural light whenever possible, they'll plan their shoots ahead of time (and they'll do a reckie - a re-con of the location and property). I know shooters who will visit a property before a shoot, map out a home (all high end properties), send a drone up to shoot everything around a property and will do this in order to plan the full day shoot. The results can be incredible.

A multi million dollar home is like a Bentley, they are pieces of art and should be treated as such. People are willing to pay very well to have their homes shot like pieces of art - and when do correctly, the outcome is awesome.

Jun 9, 16 1:55 pm  · 

I've come across this old discussion a few times in the past year and thought I'd finally comment. I left an 18-year IT career last year to pursue full-time commercial/architectural photography. Less than a year in, In making $20k-$30k per month. I'll do over $300k in services this first year.

Want to do something similar? Be good at what you do, find a niche that you enjoy, work in a geographic market that supplies plenty of clients...and study marketing.

May 9, 17 1:13 am  · 

Hi!  @C4talyst and Gregory Storm, wondering if you'd be willing to give me advice.  My daughter is in college now and would like to pursue a career with arch photography maybe with a specific magazine.  What would you recommend she major in?  I notice @C4talyst you mentioned wouldn't recommend interior design or architecture?

I appreciate any advice. 

Thanks a bunch!


Nov 1, 17 3:47 pm  · 

I've worked with architectural photographers (bookkeeping, retouching, and assisting) and shoot for myself. At the higher end of the spectrum you do get photographers that are invoicing between 3 and 5k a shoot. Sometimes more depending on the circumstances. 

What most people don't realize is that licensing images separately is also a huge percentage of their income. When you shoot a building you have multiple parties involved (engineers, property managers, developers, etc). If they didn't split the invoice with the hiring client they could pay between $250 - $600 an image depending on the licensing terms. Most of the architectural photographers I worked for invoice between 150-300k a year with roughly 20-30% of their income coming from licensing.

Keep in mind, they work long and irregular hours, manage high maintenance clients, pay for support staff, and spend thousands a year on equipment. 

A lot of them started out while working a part time job on the side and it took 2-5 years of shooting regularly to make the switch full time. One photographer I worked for said he made under 20k his first year (early 2000's). If they weren't being paid to shoot, they were photographing projects for their portfolio or on spec to see if anyone wanted to license their images. It can be lucrative but like most career paths in photography, expect little financial stability in the beginning. 

Feb 27, 18 6:00 pm  · 

I made 34k in my first year, 78k in my second and been topping 95+ in the following couple of years. I'm just four years into the business and don't plan on stopping to grow anytime soon.

If you look at all the semi-amateurs and part-time arch photographers, yes the picture is grim, but the best ones, who do only architectural photography rake in big money with no full-time staff (the ones I know of make 250-400k a year - this is first-hand knowledge btw).

It takes a little bit of talent and a lot of business savvy, but it's possible to make a very good living doing that. 

It comes down to this: what is the niche you've identified that you can deliver tremendous value in? Clients are desperate for people that can lead them to greatness, so the more valuable your offering, the better the chances you have building a great business. It's a lot of hours and gruelling shoots but the thrill of shooting great buildings is worth the sacrifice imho. 

Don't listen to the naysayers who've never started a business and tell you it's not possible. With the right amount of moxie and smarts, it can be a really lucrative career, but you have to be willing to put in the work.

Jul 10, 18 11:01 am  · 

I've been doing architectural photography for about 15 years semi professionally and I can honestly say there isnt a whole lot of money in it. Though it depends on where you live and the kind of work you intend to photograph. There is money to be made though, but you have to diversify. I work for an architectural firm as a project manager but they have me take all the photos of our completed projects and I do HABS/HAER documentation as well as real estate photography on the side. You could make a day job out of it but it would be a meager existence until you have really established connections and a good flow of constant work (real estate work is pretty constant and easy to do in a weekend)

Aug 15, 19 9:05 am  · 

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: