How Much Does Becoming a Photographer Cost?

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$ Associate's Degree: $3,000+ Per Year $ $ Bachelor's Degree: $8,200-$28,000+ Per Year

The job of professional photographers is to capture and preserve images to tell stories, record events or sell products.

Typical Costs

Many photographers obtain degrees from a four-year university in fine arts, photography or a field related to their desired photographic subject.

For example, in 2012, the average annual cost of earning a four-year bachelor’s degree from a public college is $8,244 for in-state students and $20,770 for out-of-state students, according to the College Board.

The University of Texas at Austin Fine Arts degree, for example, offers a photography major, which costs $10,000 in tuition annually.

In 2012, the average annual cost of earning a four-year bachelor’s degree from a private college was $14,487 for a profit-based university to $28,500 for a nonprofit university; however, it can go much higher.

The Brooks Institute, a for-profit college in Santa Barbara, CA, for example,  offers a four-year photography degree for $78,480.

To get a two-year associate’s degree in photography costs approx. $3,000 each year, or $6,000 total, according to the College Board.

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Lebanon College of New Hampshire, for example, offers an associate’s degree in photography for $4,100 a year, or $175 per credit.

Photographers who do not obtain formal education may opt to take continuing education courses in photography, business, networking or other related subjects.

Many equipment purchases are necessary to be used on the job.

The photographer’s first act will likely be to buy a camera that can cost from $500 to more than $3,000.

The photographer may want to have more than one lens as well, and they cost another $60-$2,000.

What Is Included

  • Formal education is not needed in portrait photography and some other commercial photography but is needed in the spheres of photojournalism, where most employers seek photographers with a degree in photography and fine art, journalism or a related study.
  • The commercial photographers, such as wedding photographers and portrait photographers, are less likely to have degrees.
  • Most of the photographers work on a freelance basis or operate as a small business unto themselves.
  • Some start as apprentices by working with established photographers; while others solicit work through classifieds, friends or networking to build a customer base.
  • The public universities are typically less expensive than private universities and may offer a greater variety of classes.
  • Before buying a camera and lens, consider what sorts of photographs it will be used for.
  • The model Nikon D200 for the cum of $1,300 without a lens and up to $3,000 with a lens, is popular for sports photography; while some landscape photographers prefer a Canon EOS 60Da.

Additional Costs

  • The photographers may think of joining one of the many photography trade associations to network and learn new skills.
  • The membership to these groups, which include the National Press Photographers Association, the Professional Photographers of America,  and the North American Nature Photography Association cost $25-$350.
  • The portfolio materials, which include physical prints and an album or case, can cost $100-$1,000 or more.
  • Additional camera equipment include tripods ($100-$1,500), camera bags (about $100) and memory cards (about $15).

Shopping For Becoming A Photographer

  • Find out more about the trade at the Professional Photographers of America.
  • The US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook on photographers presents information on how much those in the field are paid, how many people work in the field and other information.

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