Cheapest Auto Insurance Studies
Cost of Car Insurance
Car Insurance Company Reviews
Best Car Insurances
What Does Car Insurance Cover?
Auto Insurance Guides

Best Cities for Photographers

When making -- not taking -- a picture, a professional photographer considers three main factors: the aperature, shutter speed and the ISO.

Here at ValuePenguin, we consider four... when determining which cities are best for these artistic pros to live and work: number of jobs, average salary, cost of living and location quotient. 

To contribute to ValuePenguin’s coverage on careers, follow us on Twitter @VP_CareersPlease also feel free to use the comment section below.

Best Five Cities for Photographers

Of the 187 cities reporting data, these five earned our best score, comprising the factors of median salary, cost of living and location quotient. Speaking of salary, the 52,250 photographers employed in the U.S. in May 2014 earned $38,350 on average, or an hourly wage of $18.44, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1. Honolulu, Hawaii

Beyond its natural beauty, Honolulu takes home the top spot because of the data. The state's capital recorded two top-10 ranks, in average annual salary (fourth) and location quotient (ninth). Its ValuePenguin score of 18 was the only sub-20 mark in the study and was 91% lower than its average. If natural light is a photographer's best friend, Honolulu has plenty of it, routinely ranking highly for its average percentage of possible sunshine.

2. Los Angeles, Calif.*

It shouldn't come as a surprise, but Los Angeles' photographers earn the nation's highest annual average salary ($66,160), a figure that is 93% higher than the study's average; no other city pays its full-timers more than $60,000. Los Angeles is the first of four California cities to crack our top 30; see the top 100 list below. The American Photographic Artists association is located north, however, in San Francisco.

*Statistical region includes: Long Beach and Glendale, Calif.

3. New York, N.Y.*

With the nation's most photographer jobs (3,350) -- more than Los Angeles (2,680) and Chicago (1,660), many others -- New York comes in third. The Big Apple is home to Wedding & Portrait Photographers International. It's also home to many tourist attractions that are of interest to camera-toting vistors: the 9/11 Memorial, the Statue of Liberty, the Booklyn Bridge and Times Square chief among them.

*Statistical region includes: White Plains, N.Y., and Wayne, N.J.

4. Santa Fe, N.M.*

The first of two "small" cities to crack the top five -- see our population breakdown rankings below -- Santa Fe climbed to fourth, in part, because of it registered top-10 marks in both average annual salary (10th) and location quotient (seventh). We take the latter metric to mean that there is a relatively higher demand for a photographer's services here, despite the fact that the BLS has a record of only 60 full-time positions within the city limits. Photographers short and long on experience appreciate Santa Fe's desert scenery. It's also home to the well-respected nonprofit CENTER

5. Norwich, Conn.*

The most affordable city among our top five -- it's still 8% more expensive to live here than it is in the average American city -- Norwich narrowly bested Anchorage, Alaska, to round out our top five. An hour-plus drive's west is Waterbury, Conn., the birthplace of famed American photographer Annie Leibovitz.

*Statistical region includes: New London, R.I.

Population Breakdown

Although we adjusted for population in our rankings, it is still difficult to compare a small city to a large one. To account for this fact, we separated the safest cities into three categories: cities with populations less than 100,000 people, midsize cities with populations between 100,000 and 500,000, and larger cities with populations greater than 500,000. Here are our findings:

Top 100 Cities for Photographers 

Rank City Average Salary  Jobs Location Quotient Cost of Living Score
1 Honolulu, HI $51,920 380 2.21 118 18
2 Los Angeles, CA $66,160 2,680 1.71 116 21
3 New York, NY $59,190 3,350 1.61 108 25
4 Santa Fe, NM $48,350 60 2.37 140 41
5 Norwich, CT $42,270 120 2.43 108 47
6 Anchorage, AK $40,800 130 1.96 98 56
7 Toledo, OH $42,830 200 1.70 133 57
8 Las Vegas, NV $38,150 590 1.74 103 65
9 Oklahoma City, OK $37,920 420 1.82 100 66
10 Providence, RI $42,440 290 1.34 135 73
11 Myrtle Beach, SC $37,120 120 2.59 135 77
12 Boston, MA $49,440 720 1.04 119 86
13 Huntsville, AL $43,430 100 1.22 93 91
14 Madison, WI $37,550 190 1.45 100 94
15 Green Bay, WI $35,220 150 2.35 86 94
16 Salt Lake City, UT $36,360 390 1.51 102 97
17 Appleton, WI $40,680 60 1.32 102 97
18 Atlanta, GA $39,840 1,050 1.14 152 103
19 Saginaw, MI $42,110 40 1.30 110 103
20 Phoenix, AZ $38,530 810 1.14 98 108
21 Sacramento, CA $43,930 330 0.99 115 108
22 Albuquerque, NM $45,770 140 1.00 109 109
23 San Diego, CA $37,320 640 1.25 109 109
24 Kansas City, MO $36,420 510 1.30 143 109
25 Haverhill, MA $33,120 90 2.88 102 114
26 Riverside, CA $46,140 450 0.93 111 115
27 South Bend, IN $37,410 60 1.33 92 116
28 Minneapolis, MN $47,740 630 0.89 117 117
29 Lowell, MA $37,140 60 1.30 101 122
30 Milwaukee, WI $40,890 300 0.96 91 122
31 Reno, NV $36,620 100 1.26 93 126
32 Fort Lauderdale, FL $32,150 500 1.71 133 128
33 Chicago, IL $36,350 1,660 1.15 157 129
34 Provo, UT $32,280 130 1.76 96 130
35 Seattle, WA $32,710 850 1.48 157 130
36 Tuscaloosa, AL $36,300 50 1.28 82 137
37 Lexington, KY $34,180 130 1.34 85 137
38 Allentown, PA $32,560 180 1.35 88 142
39 Grand Junction, CO $30,510 70 2.99 102 143
40 Dallas, TX $35,980 910 1.05 108 143
41 Columbus, OH $39,540 340 0.90 99 144
42 Warren, MI $44,390 370 0.84 107 145
43 Framingham, MA $33,000 90 1.44 90 146
44 La Crosse, WI $39,150 30 1.08 97 146
45 Wilmington, NC $29,990 140 2.56 140 148
46 St. Louis, MO $33,900 600 1.19 105 151
47 Denver, CO $38,930 450 0.88 107 152
48 Rochester, NY $38,300 170 0.91 97 152
49 Nassau, NY $35,380 510 1.05 125 154
50 Dayton, OH $37,670 130 0.94 106 157
51 Champaign, IL $38,010 40 0.98 90 158
52 Washington, DC $49,310 630 0.69 113 160
53 Orlando, FL $27,340 1,480 3.56 108 160
54 Fort Worth, TX $31,880 470 1.29 200 160
55 Jacksonville, NC $30,420 30 2.00 88 164
56 Baltimore, MD $33,160 550 1.10 106 165
57 Cleveland, OH $34,980 380 0.98 135 168
58 Jacksonville, FL $31,790 290 1.27 168 168
59 Detroit, MI $40,960 220 0.81 107 170
60 Des Moines, IA $34,860 130 1.00 83 172
61 Springfield, MA $48,460 80 0.74 110 175
62 Erie, PA $28,750 90 1.88 115 175
63 Lansing, MI $29,190 130 1.67 96 176
64 Ann Arbor, MI $32,460 90 1.16 93 177
65 York, PA $39,260 60 0.85 82 177
66 Nashville, TN $35,070 300 0.93 79 179
67 Durham, NC $31,640 140 1.24 137 179
68 Oakland, CA $35,290 360 0.91 89 179
69 Charlottesville, VA $46,570 30 0.80 94 180
70 Modesto, CA $36,140 60 0.94 90 180
71 Oxnard, CA $27,110 220 1.89 86 181
72 Montgomery, AL $32,190 70 1.16 77 181
73 Davenport, IA $28,360 110 1.61 86 181
74 Lancaster, PA $29,680 120 1.38 91 181
75 Chattanooga, TN $37,460 80 0.87 78 182
76 Little Rock, AR $31,450 160 1.21 105 182
77 Burlington, VT $34,640 50 1.09 94 182
78 Ogden, UT $26,870 160 2.00 95 185
79 Newark, NJ $36,580 310 0.84 94 188
80 Boulder, CO $43,430 50 0.76 111 189
81 Camden, NJ $33,060 190 0.97 100 189
82 Cincinnati, OH $35,340 340 0.88 137 190
83 Greensboro, NC $30,210 170 1.22 111 191
84 Tyler, TX $36,970 30 0.91 104 191
85 New Haven, CT $55,420 60 0.61 112 193
86 Eugene, OR $29,560 70 1.35 144 195
87 Fargo, ND $34,970 50 0.96 114 196
88 Wichita, KS $27,350 170 1.47 86 199
89 Hartford, CT $43,060 140 0.62 100 199
90 Grand Rapids, MI $47,310 90 0.57 85 199
91 Portland, OR $44,160 250 0.60 161 199
92 Charlotte, NC $25,970 550 1.57 125 200
93 Reading, PA $40,090 50 0.76 90 200
94 Omaha, NE $25,640 310 1.74 120 201
95 Fort Collins, CO $27,650 80 1.52 91 202
96 Miami, FL $33,570 360 0.88 102 203
97 Charleston, WV $30,680 60 1.14 88 203
98 Indianapolis, IN $30,810 360 0.98 145 205
99 Springfield, MO $42,660 50 0.69 155 205
100 Fayetteville, AR $30,830 90 1.10 166 205

What’s It Like Being a Photographer in… ?

3. New York City, N.Y.

Chris Nicholson | Photographing National Parks

"Even though it’s saturated with photographers, it’s also saturated with opportunities. I have been offered work that I was not offered before just because I live here. And that’s a little crazy, because when I lived in Connecticut, New York City was only an hour away by car or train, but New Yorkers consider that “far away.” Now that I live here -- even though it might take me an hour to get to a location by subway -- those jobs get presented to me more often."

35. Seattle, Wash.

Richard Brown | Richard Brown Photography

"I suppose we have so much tech, biotech and nonprofits here as well as some top dot-coms, which certainly provides more opportunity."

66. Nashville, Tenn.

Sebastian Smith | Sebastian Smith Photo

"Music city is where artists are either working or moving out. It's a brutal city to live in because there is so much heartbreak. That's why Nashville has a policy that if you moved to Nashville as a musician with your guitar strapped to your back, then they will buy you a one way ticket back home if you fall on your face."

128. Houston, Texas

Brock Lawson | Brock Lawson Photo

"The urban sprawl is larger than any other city I have ever visited. Clients and vendors are very often late to meetings and appointments (myself included) because of traffic events and distance to travel.  Just as an example, the product studio I am employed at is 27 miles from my home, which is not too much above the average here, and it takes somewhere between one to two hours to get there depending on traffic. My personal studio is another 13 miles from there. When I leave the product studio to drive that 13 miles, it takes another hour. The other unique aspect is the heat during the summer. Taking photographs outside is not only a difficult and slow process, but it can also be deadly with heat stroke and exhaustion." 

Gary Norbraten | Blary Photography

"I always need to pack an extra shirt. The unique thing about being a photographer in Houston are the hot summer weddings where you're still obligated to go out in the midday heat for beautiful sunlit photos. I did a wedding two weeks ago where I was drenched, and I don't sweat easily. Luckily, I could swap shirts before my drive to the reception venue."

165. San Antonio, Texas

Chandra Yarter | Chandra's Collection Photography

"Some people may automatically think of cowboy boots and the Alamo. However, my style is organic, and I love to exude a "hill country" style instead of the typical "country" look. That way, my style is appealing to a lot of different brides, not just someone who loves cowboy boots and hats."

185. Naples, Fla.

Peggy Farren | Naples Portraits

"Naples, Florida has possibly the highest density of millionaires in the U.S. For that reason, photographers have incredible opportunities here, both as portrait/event type of photographers as well as photographic artists. Business is much easier if your clients can afford what you are selling. Wealthy people can be demanding, so you'd better know what you are doing and give excellent customer service. Photography has always been a luxury service, so it's nice to be where so many can afford it... The other unique thing about this area is that we are a vacation area, so there are opportunities for destination weddings and family portraits from visitors. Marketing is very different in this area because of this."

UR. Orange County, Calif.

Kendra Cole | Kendra Cole Photography

"I love the diversity of features to photograph nearby. I can go to beaches, L.A., the mountains, the dessert, fields, Disneyland and many other places within an hour from my house. Additionally, San Diego, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, Yosemite, and San Francisco are all accessible within hours. I will never get tired of the different places I get to visit for my shoots."

UR. Ithaca N.Y. 

Thomas Hoebbel | Thomas Hoebbel Photography 

"Being a photographer here is unique in a couple of ways. One is that we are home to world class Cornell University. That gives me many opportunities to work in academic and research environments that are not available everywhere. It also draws many famous people for events, which can be a fun to photograph. The other aspect of Ithaca is that it is a beautiful environment, and there are fantastic settings to take photos with clients, whether that be portraits, weddings or other events."

Methodology

These were the three key questions we asked in coming up with the list. 

1. What can photographers earn in the city?  

We ranked the best cities for photographers based on the median annual pay. Income is likely the most important factor people consider when starting their career or relocating elsewhere. A high salary in an expensive city, however, may be less attractive than a lower salary in an affordable town. Our next metric takes affordability into consideration.

2. How affordable is it to live in this city?  

Now that we have the median salary, we’ll look next at the cost of living. The cost of living is a measure of how far earnings can be stretched. Cities with lower cost of living index numbers ranked higher in our study. For example, the average city is benchmarked at 100. A city with a cost of living index of 188, such as Honolulu, would mean that generally speaking, living expenses are 88 percent more expensive compared to the average city.

3. What is the location quotient for photographers in the city?  

A place with a high median salary and low cost of living may seem perfect, but job opportunities may be limited. Our third factor accounts for this by favoring cities with high location quotients. Location quotient measures the concentration of photographers in an area as a percentage of all occupations, and then compares that to the national average. We interpret a higher location quotient to mean a relatively higher demand for a photographer's services.

Comments and Questions