Market Focus: Professional Photographers
Professional photographers are a mysterious bunch: No one knows exactly how many there are (estimates range from 34,000 to 200,000); they’re both creatives and businesspeople; and they buy everything from the expected photography equipment to museum passes and cruise trips. But what’s not so mysterious about them is that they’re a great market: They’re educated, affluent, open to marketing and interested in all kinds of out-of-category products and services.
Getting a Picture of the Market
It’s difficult to precisely determine how many professional photographers are in the United States because many of them don’t register their businesses. Also, there’s the question of what makes a professional photographer. If it’s anyone who makes money from photography, then the number is much higher than if the definition is restricted to those who make a full-time living from photography. However, we do know by looking at the subscriber files of magazines written for professional photographers that the median age of professional photographers is 40, and they tend to be educated and affluent. According to Nancy Spielmann, senior account executive at Statlistics Management Group, which manages the Photo Techniques magazine file, 90 percent of photographers who subscribe to Photo Techniques are college-educated, and their average income is $102,580.
Professional photographers can work in a variety of categories—such as editorial, sports and events—but the most popular categories are wedding photography, portraiture and commercial work. Fifty-three percent of the respondents in Professional Photographer magazine’s latest reader survey, conducted in late 2006, are classified as full-time professional studio photographers, and 16 percent are professional freelance photographers. “It’s a tough profession to get into,” says Jeffrey Roberts, vice president and publisher of the Hachette Photo Group, which publishes American Photo and Popular Photography & Imaging magazines. “There’s a cachet, and people coming out of schools are trying to get into the business.”