2017 U.S. Photojournalism Salary Survey Results

It all started with a pair of blog posts.

Earlier this year the New York Times’ Lens Blog shared some thoughts from Donald Winslow, a long-time photojournalist and former editor of the National Press Photographers Association’s “News Photographer” magazine, about the “uncertain future of photojournalism.” A few days later, they published a rebuttal of sorts by Leslye Davis, a NYT staffer, who begged to differ.

The pieces felt like polar opposites. “Everything is terrible” or “everything is awesome.” The truth, however, was likely somewhere in between. A friend and I chatted about these posts, and about our industry, and because we’d both been trained at the Missouri School of Journalism to back our journalism with research, we wanted some data. So, one Sunday afternoon during March Madness, we cobbled together some basic survey questions (nothing scientific) to try to get some actual numbers. We thought maybe a few dozen folks would respond, but at least we’d have a starting point.

We had no idea how big it would get. In total, 1,405 people responded. We roped in data guru Charles Mishew (another Mizzou alum, and a data journalism whiz) to help us make sense of the massive influx of information.

And here’s what we found. We hope this will be starting point for future research efforts, and increasing dialogue around the economic realities of our industry.

Respondent demographics


An overwhelming majority — 83% — of respondents were white.

Gender identity

Sixty-three percent of respondents identify as male and 35 percent identify as female.

Salary survey results

Respondents were asked to report their income within pre-determined ranges.

The lowest level — 1 — indicates a salary less than $20,000 per year. The highest level — 18 — indicates a salary of $100,000 or greater.

By location in the US

For this survey, we divided the states into the following regions —

East North Central: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin

East South Central: Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi

Middle Atlantic: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania

Mountain: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada

New England: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut

Pacific: Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Hawaii

South Atlantic: Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina South Carolina, Georgia, Florida

West North Central: Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas

West South Central: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas

By race/ethnicity

By employment status

Pay gap between men and women

More than half of the respondents identifying as female make $40,000 or less per year.

The lowest 25% of men surveyed make $30,000 per year or less.

Thirty-two percent of women surveyed find themselves in the same income bracket.

On the other end of the spectrum, nearly 6% of men surveyed make $100,000 or more. However, just more than two percent of women surveyed are in the same high-income jobs.

Full-time employed photojournalists

812 respondents — approximately 58% of all who completed a survey — identified themselves as having a full-time position.

Employment benefits

Survey respondents indicated a number of fringe benefits afforded to them with their full-time positions. Of the respondents that indicated full-time employment, 94.8% (n=770) have paid vacation; 79.8% (n=648) have a retirement plan; 94.5% (n=767) have health insurance; and 35.1% receive funding for ongoing education and training.


More full-time photojournalists rent a home than own one. 53 percent of respondents (n=434) said they rent a home. 44 percent (n=362) own a home.

Percentage of income from photojournalism

A majority of full-time photojournalists provide more than half of their household’s income with their job. 57 percent (n=454) make more than three-quarters of their income from photojournalism. Nineteen percent make between 50–75 percent (n=151) of their household income from photojournalism. 18 percent (n=151) earn 25–50 percent of their household income and six percent (n=48) earn less than 25 percent.

Additional income needed

Four out of 10 full-time photojournalists (40%) require an additional source of income.

Self-employed and part-time employed photojournalists

593 respondents — approximately 42% of all who completed a survey — identified themselves as having a part-time job or as being self-employed. 11.7% (n=69) are paid hourly; 13.3% (n=79) are paid per contract; 72.3% (n=429) are paid per individual assignment; and 2.7% (n=16) are salaried.

Employment benefits

82.9% (n=492) of self-employed/part-time respondents indicate that they have health insurance. A majority of these respondents — 61.3% (n=364) — indicated that they do not have a retirement plan. Another 216–36.4% — respondents indicated that they have a retirement plan.


More part-time and self-employed photojournalists rent a home than own one. 60 percent of respondents (n=355) said they rent a home. 36 percent (n=212) own a home.

Percentage of income from photojournalism

Just over a third of part-time and self-employed photojournalists earn most of their household income from photojournalism. 36 percent (n=215) earn 75–100% of their income from photojournalism. Nearly 19 percent (n=112) earn either between 50–75% or 25–50% of their income through their career. More than a quarter (n=154) earn less than 25% of their income from photojournalism.

Career Optimism

Respondents were asked to answer three questions about their optimism for their careers in photojournalism. Each question was answered on a scale of one to five. One indicates that the respondent strongly disagreed with the statement. Five indicates that the respondent strongly agreed with the statement.

Overall, I feel optimistic about my personal career in photojournalism:

Overall, I feel optimistic about the profession of photojournalism as a whole:

I see myself working as a photojournalist in 10 years:

About the survey authors: Joshua Bickel is a staff photographer at The Columbus Dispatch. Greg Kendall-Ball is a multimedia editor at Nature. Both are graduates of the Missouri School of Journalism, and proud alumni of the Missouri Photo Workshop.