And The Winner Is…
While there is very little public data to determine exactly who the top earning photographers are, Annie Leibovitz is easily the first choice for the highest grossing photographer worldwide. Despite almost filing for bankruptcy in 2009, she is rumoured to have earned over $50 million over her career (so far) shooting famous celebrities for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. Known for portrait work, Leibovitz became the first woman to show at the National Portrait Gallery in 1991 – and the last person to ever professionally photograph John Lennon. Lennon was killed five hours after Leibovitz’s famous Rolling Stone cover of the famous Beatle and his wife, Yoko Ono.
In the photography world, Annie Leibovitz is the exception – not the rule. Photographers are not known for their million dollar salaries and their summer homes in Venice – and if they are earning six figures – they are high-fashion photographers working for the big designers in the fashion world. Andrea Klarin is one of these very people. Klarin, Yugoslavian by birth, resides and works in Paris. His clients include Valentino and Fergie, and he is considered by some to be one of the best high-fashion photographers out there.
Other well-known fashion photographers gracing this exclusive list of high-earning photographers include: Ian Abela, Yanick Dery, Shaun Alexander, Cyril Lagel, Tarun Khiwal, Dirk Franke and David LaChapelle. These are the names that are found beneath photos of celebrities, or beside runway models dressed in Valentino and Chanel. They are reputable, reliable and rich – but they work hard. Fashion photographers are at the mercy of their clients and will often find themselves working until the wee hours to find that “perfect shot”. High-fashion is one of the most financially-secure positions in photography – however – there are also some high-earners that fall into this list by accident.
Another unexpected contender vying for a spot on the list of top-earning photographers is Yuri Arcurs, the world’s top-selling micro stock photographer. With the unending reaches of the internet, Arcurs is able to sell original photographs to clients such as: MTV, Time Magazine, The Tyra Banks Show and Samsung. His clients then hold the licence to the photograph and can use it at will. Having been in the business since only 2005, Arcurs is quickly reaching high-profile photographer status with a new-age internet twist.
Granted, working with (or for) celebrities seems to be the ticket to making big bucks in the photography industry. That being said, many wedding photographers, commercial photographers, and reasonably well-known portrait and scenery photographers earn a very decent living. While difficult to establish yourself in the community, once you have a strong client-base, a nice portfolio and a solid reputation – you are well on your way to reaching a spot on this exclusive list.