1. The Average Photography Salary in the UK
Photographers in the UK earn a little over £20,000 on average. However, these figures are largely based on a full-time photography role ranging from a junior photographer (£16,000 - £18,000) right up to a senior photographer (£30,000+). In reality, the industry has changed dramatically and, for some, their photography salary is dwindling whilst others are making a very healthy sum indeed.
What sort of money can I expect to earn as a freelance photographer?
Many developing freelance photographers are self-taught, learn how to use their camera via a course or study their technique at a private institution or university. What a lot of these approaches have in common is they don't teach new photographers the business of photography including how much they can expect to earn. Admittedly, universities are recognising the lack of business know-how and improving this side of their course but for those who take the alternate approaches, it's a steep learning curve.
A freelance photographer's salary depends greatly on the success of their business and the sector they choose to work in.
Wedding Photography Salary
Wedding photography is still in rude health and photographers can earn anywhere from £20,000 to £80,000 per year. Where the average rate seems to be decreasing, photographers are diversifying to make up the shortfall. Selling add-ons to the bride and groom has always been a part of a wedding photographer's approach, be it photo albums, retouching, framing or more cutting-edge services such as a Wedding App or website.
A photographer salary in the bridal industry will also depend on the number of sales they make and their rate. Summer weddings are still the busiest period for wedding photographers and established photographers can land as many as 2 - 3 weddings per week during peak season. Rates typically range from £500 for a few hours and raw images up to a few thousand for location prep, documentary shots, a second shooter and all the trimmings. A second shooter, incidentally, could earn around £16,000 - £24,000 per year.
On The Freelancer Club jobs board, we post a lot of paid freelancer photographer jobs including wedding work. See what is available and the budgets on offer.
Fashion Photography Salary
Fashion has long been a victim of its own popularity. The lure of the fashion industry has resulted in many newbies in photography, makeup, modelling, hair, styling or otherwise, to drop their rates or forgo a rate altogether just for the chance to experience the world of fashion. This undervaluing of their services has resulted in a very competitive and exploitative industry.
A photography salary in fashion is hard to come by. Most full-time photographers work for e-commerce brands who can provide the photographer with enough work every day to justify a contract. These positions are rare and don't pay very well. We've seen job advertisements from as little as £18,000 for a senior position.
A freelance photographer salary can reach a lot more but, again, there are still many hurdles to overcome if one is to crack the fashion industry. Imagery is in high demand particularly in the e-commerce fashion sector as new collections have to be shot all the time. A fashion photographer must be able to bring a new set of skills as well as their craft. The ability to organise a fashion team, direct a shoot, conceptualise creative ideas, shoot at a highly productive rate and post-produce mass numbers of images to satisfy the brand's demands.
The freelance photographers doing well from e-commerce sites are typically in charge of content creation as well as the post-production and can earn anything from £500 - £1500 for 2 days of work.
Many fashion photographers will also offer model portfolio packages (£500 - £1000 per day), actors headshots (£500 - £800 per day) and other related services.
Other Photography Salaries
The value of a photograph may be at an all-time low, however, new industries are emerging for the photographer willing to diversify. In the positive column, we're seeing some surprising markets open up that most photographers are not tapping into. Some of the better-known markets include the wedding industry, corporate events, portraits, private parties and celebrations while the less obvious sectors include photographing bloggers / stylists, online boutiques, profile portraits and content creation for small to medium-sized businesses. Although many companies are utilising in-house talent for low-level photography requirements as well as tapping into stock photography sites, there is still plenty of work for photographers to get their teeth into. The trick is know how to land it.
2. What an Employer Wants
James Tiney provides us with an extreme view that the value of a photo is zero - worthless. Controversial, definitely. Accurate, we're not so sure. It's fair to say that the value of a photo has declined monumentally due to the sheer volume of images taken every day and that numerous companies are happy to use amateur imagery for their content compared to 10 years ago when a pro photographer was the preferred option.
A photographer's role has most definitely changed and a greater divide between a good and a great photographer has widened. If a business can take a good photo in-house using a phone and a filter, why wouldn't they? Technology is improving day to day and it would seem we're all becoming amateur photographers. Take any office around the UK with more than 5 employees and the chances are one of them is a photo enthusiast or was given a DSLR for Christmas. For a photo to be valued in today's market, it must be great - really great. Simply put, the image must be something that the hobbyist cannot achieve.
The value of a photo is zero. Clients want a photographer who can bring creative imagination, professionalism, collaborative skills and their own style to a campaign. - James Tiney, Photographer
Take a look at your photography website, online profiles, portfolio or social media channels. What do they say about you as a photographer? Do you have a defined style? How many services are you offering and can you back up each service with a collection of stunning images? A brand is what people talk about when you leave the room. It's important to be hypercritical and ask the tough questions.
Am I conveying the message I want?
A freelance photography salary will be determined by a number of factors and your brand is one of those aspects. A clear brand with a confident message that aligns with the look and feel of the portfolio and style of the site, portfolio, social channel, adds a level of professionalism that employers look for. We're lucky enough to have data from 100s of employers who hire photographers and we're going to share that information with you here.
3. Your Photography Portfolio.
Know The Basics
An industry standard portfolio is a body of work typically produced through a specific medium. The number of images in a portfolio depends on the sector you specialise in however as a rule of thumb should not contain so little that it doesn't provide the viewer with an idea of your style, professionalism and experience whilst not too much that they need to put the kettle on to get through it all.
The core function of a portfolio is to present your work to prospective clients or to generate opportunities. Prior to showing your portfolio, it's vital to understand what the portfolio is for. You may require a portfolio for an interview or to land a one-off job. A gallery may require a portfolio to ascertain whether to accept your work.
The Flexible Approach
Your online portfolio (we'll explore this in more detail below) is generally an ever-evolving collection of work that you'll constantly be updating. If presented well, the viewer should be able to easily navigate through your work to see what it is they require. When presenting your work via email or in person, your choices are vital. Each presentation will be different and your choice of images to include or extract will often determine whether you land the job or not.
Choosing Key Shots
One of the most difficult aspects of compiling a portfolio is choosing the images to include and leave out. You'll most probably have a personal connection to the work which makes it tough to be impartial but it's important that you are ruthless in these moments.
Open with an image that defines you as a photographer and ideally one that makes an impact. After all, we want the viewer to keep inspecting your work and in cases when there are 200 portfolios to get through, the first image can often be your last if the quality is not up to scratch. Take the viewer on a journey through your work trying to keep some level of continuity running throughout. 10 to 12 images would be considered enough in each area you're presenting for. Fashion can be a little different particularly if it's editorial work you're showcasing.
Don't skimp out on the portfolio book. That means no plastic bags or plastic binders. Great work can be ruined if presented in a cheap or tatty manner. There are tons of choices out there from portrait to landscape size to the type of finish you'd like. Whichever style you go for we'd suggest a portfolio book that is at least A4 or larger in dimensions to allow the viewer to really inspect the work.
The quality of the print is also an important aspect of your presentation. We've seen some stunning work destroyed by bad prints and not only does it harm your chances of landing the job but it shows a level of unprofessionalism that you want to avoid. A professional portfolio book and prints are worthwhile investments to make, particularly as you've spent so much time and effort on the images.
The Online Portfolio
The single most underrated area for more photographers is the online portfolio. A good tip is to try finding yourself and your work online via Google. What shows up first? How easy was it to find your portfolio?
A portfolio's main function is to showcase your work to prospective clients. You will present this work via a variety of mediums so ensure that you're prepared. Your online portfolio will most likely be hosted on your website and be the first point of contact for the majority of your clients. Your digital portfolio is where you can include your entire body of work and really show off your experience. This is not to say that it should be a mess of images for the viewer to syphon through, on the contrary. Your online portfolio should be categorised provided you have enough work to back up each section.
Should you be a photographer working in the wedding sector, for instance, you may want to split your work up by weddings. This will allow the viewer to see how you approached each event. The viewer can then easily say which wedding they like and give you a really good idea of what they expect whilst providing the potential client with an easy 'menu style' way of choosing your services.
A fashion and beauty photographer may categorise work into commercial and editorial sections then further break down the work into shoots or styles.
Portable Digital Portfolio
The debate between printed and digital portfolios will rage on but our research has shown that it pays to be covered for both eventualities. A portable digital portfolio is typically presented on a tablet, laptop or phone. The latter (phone) should only ever be used in cases when you're caught on the hop and not expect to have to present. Think of it like your digital business card. You never know when you're going to meet your next client but it's unlikely you'll be dragging our laptop everywhere you go.
A digital portfolio should be categorised to make it easy for you to tailor based on the job. You should present your most appropriate work to each prospective client.
When an employer is looking to hire a freelancer for a one-off project, they have a few criteria. Near the top of the list is time and how long it's going to take to find the right person. This is particularly true when the job is a quick, modestly paid piece of work. Their time is precious and if something doesn't take hold quickly, they'll move onto the next option. Keep your showreel short - a couple of minutes can give anyone a good idea and if they want to see more then they've got your full portfolio to watch.
4. Photography Rates
The second most important consideration for a photographer, from an employer's perspective, is your rate. What are you worth? It's a very difficult question to answer. When applying to freelancer photographer jobs on The Freelancer Club site, you'll be presented with a budget to quote within. Knowing your day rate and hourly rate will help enormously with this process.
In general, the person who lands the job is rarely the cheapest so take that into consideration before you undercut the market and devalue your brand. Equally, quoting over budget without an explanation as to why tends not to work. From time to time, employers (particularly the general public) are not aware of market rates and will choose the lowest budget bracket when posting a role. There is nothing wrong with some guidance when you apply for these positions so long as you are realistic and fair.
Should you not know what to quote, which is a common problem that freelancers face all the time, then it's worth calculating your bottom line so you don't end up out of pocket. To do this, follow a simple calculation to get your figure:
EXPENSES / HOURS WORKED + TAX
To help break this down, add up all your expenses including personal expenses (rent, food etc..) as well as your business expenses (kit, travel etc...). Let's say this comes to 10k per year. Then figure out how many chargeable hours you work each year. Chargeable hours are only hours when you are getting paid and not time travelling, doing admin, looking for jobs etc... As a ballpark, a typical photographer works around 20 chargeable hours per week with a 2 week holiday comes out as 1000 hours. Divide the two and you get £10 + tax (around 20% depending on where you are and how much you earn), meaning that your bottom line figure is £12 per hour.
Remember, this is the figure that you need to survive and will rarely be the figure you actually charge. Use this as a way to ensure you never lose money on a job.
On your Freelancer Club profile, you can set your day rate and hourly rate in the EDIT PROFILE section, so be sure to include this to generate more leads. The other areas to consider when filling out your Freelancer Club profile are the portfolio, profile pic, services, experience, contact details and links. Your profile in many ways is the perfect snapshot to show an employer to get a very good idea of your brand, quality, professionalism and price in seconds.
Should you not already be a member, creating a professional freelancer profile on The Freelancer Club will enable you to apply for freelancer photographer jobs with ease.
Use the following checklist when compiling your Freelancer Club profile to maximise your chances of landing freelancer photographer jobs.
- Profile Name: use your own name or brand name.
- Profile Picture: choose a picture of yourself, your work or your company logo.
- Website and Links: in the EDIT PROFILE section insert your website (if you have one) and all social media links.
- Whilst in the same section, insert your hourly rate, day rate, contact number and whether or not you are current;y test shooting.
- About Me section: Write out your experiences, awards and any past clients of note.
- Skill Set: list your skills that are associated with your services such as Photoshop or Studio lighting
- Services: under the UPDATE PROFILE click ADD A SERVICE to include any additional services that you offer eg: Retouching
4. Four essential tips when applying for photography jobs
Once you feel that your Freelancer Club profile is complete and up to speed, it's time to start applying.
Firstly, it's a mistake to blindly click apply for every job in the hope that something comes of it. Each job is an opportunity and should be approached individually.
Tip #1: Every application gives you an opportunity to add a message. This field is the main area for you to provide the employer with essential information. They will see a snapshot of your work, your message a quote so make the most out of it. Address any areas of the job description and sell yourself to the employer. Mention examples of your creativity, campaign work, collaborative experience and professionalism. DO NOT provide them with additional links to click. They have chosen to use our platform to save on time!
Tip #2: State what your weaknesses are as well as your strength. This is a development role and the lead photographer will want to know where to improve you and where to use you.
Tip #3: On occasion, the photographer will have questions they wish to ask before considering you for the apprenticeship. These additional questions are often qualifiers to help them narrow their search. Make sure you answer them honestly.
Tip #4: Keep your head up. Freelancing is not like the nine to five world. Freelancers have to apply to roles all the time in the hope of landing one or two. Should you not hear anything back after a week, that does not mean you're not good enough, you just need to keep pushing. It can take time to land jobs or apprenticeships and if you're just starting out it's arguably the toughest time. Stick with it - it gets easier.
5. The 'do nots' when applying for photography jobs
Here at The Freelancer Club will strive to constantly improve and develop the platform. In fact, we dedicate the lion share of our time thinking about and implementing new ideas to add more value to the membership and improve the user experience. The main source of data that we use from an employers perspective comes from the backend analytics as well as employer feedback. Combined, these two elements allow us to see who is getting the job and WHY. Using the same principle, we can also see who isn't landing photography jobs and offer feedback to help freelance members improve their chances in the future.
- Do not apply for jobs that you're under-qualified for.
- Do not apply to jobs without a portfolio.
- Do not leave the message section, quote or questions empty.
- Do not ask the employer to click on another link to your website or social media platform
- Do not under or over quote without any justification.
- Do not offer your services for free.
To land photography jobs in the UK it's important to be patient. You'll have to apply for a lot before you land a few but the hard work pays off. Don't be another statistic that wants everything on a plate. Hard work and dogged determination is the key when it comes to finding photography jobs.
Freelance photography is a wonderful sector with endless possibilities. Knowing your photography salary or day rate is paramount for your business. From shooting abroad to collaborating on exciting projects, photographers can gain huge job satisfaction, earn a decent living and have a great work/life balance. If you're not yet a Freelancer Club member, click here to claim your freelance profile and get started.