Find out how much professional photographers could earn by selling fine art prints vs uploading snaps to social media
A few years ago it seemed photography always involved having a selection of expensive lenses and DSLR cameras, professional lighting, and a photography studio.
However, in the image-obsessed social media era, anyone can be a photographer with some time, passion, and a smartphone. Instagram makes it easier than ever to upload hundreds of shots per day, and success is measured in likes, engagement rate, and algorithms.
With the rise of the social media age, both traditional photographers and modern artists have grown their Instagram presence, and some photographers could now make more money from Instagram posts than from selling prints. Giggsterinvestigated Instagram’s most-followed photographers to discover which could earn more money from social media than traditional sales.
Top photographers who could earn more from Instagram than selling prints
1. Chris Burkard - Nature photographer
Difference in earnings: $7,743
American photographer and Instagrammer Chris Burkard primarily photographs landscapes and nature on his travels. He is best known for his use of natural light and candid representation of scenery. Burkard’s work has been published on the magazine covers of National Geographic, GQ, New Yorker, and Vogue.
Burkard’s Instagram feed is filled with captivating aerial shots and breathtaking landscapes, enough to inspire any intrigued nature photographer. The highest-priced print for sale in Chris Burkard’s online shop is on sale for $4,524, a large wall print. Influencer Marketing Hub estimates the photographer could earn as much as $23,881 for a sponsored Instagram post.
2. Jack Harries - Documentary photographer
Difference in earnings: $4,371
Jack Harries is a documentary filmmaker who made his start on a completely different social media platform. Initially gaining recognition for his documentary-style YouTube channel ‘JacksGap’ which he co-owned with his twin brother, Harries now works as a documentary filmmaker and photographer.
Harries’ highest-priced print for sale on his official website is a 40” x 20” acrylic print of his piece ‘Mirror Mirror’, priced at $207. In comparison, for a sponsored Instagram post, it’s estimated Harries could make up to $4,579.
3. Jimmy Chin - Nature photographer
Difference in earnings: $3,984
Professional climber, photographer, and Academy Award-winning director Jimmy Chin is one of National Geographic’s shutterbugs who has grown in popularity on Instagram.
Chin has over 3 million followers on the social media website, where he shares snaps of himself climbing alongside captivating views.
Chin’s highest-priced work for sale is ‘Sherpas on the Western CWM of Mount Everest’ taken in 2006 in Nepal, and priced at $6,000. Influencer Marketing Hub estimates that Chin could earn up to $9,984 for a sponsored Instagram post.
Top photographers who could earn more from selling prints
1. David LaChapelle - Conceptual photographer
Difference in earnings: $71,636
David LaChapelle is best known for his surrealist and subversive photography style, and his clients include names like Travis Scott and Eminem.
LaChapelle boasts a large social media following of 676,000 followers, and is estimated to make $3,364 per sponsored Instagram post. In comparison, the highest priced David LaChapelle print available for sale on Artsy is ‘Gas: Shell’, priced at $75,000.
2. Mario Testino - Fashion photographer
Difference in earnings: $64,756
Fashion photographer Mario Testino OBE is a Peruvian photographer who has shot for the world’s most prestigious fashion brands, including Versace, Gucci and Burberry.
His highest priced print available to buy is of Gisele Bündchen, on sale for $81,220 on Artsy. Influencer Marketing Hub estimates Testino could only earn up to $16,464 per sponsored post.
3. Cindy Sherman - Conceptual photographer
Difference in earnings: $63,235
Cindy Sherman is most famous for her ‘Untitled Film Stills’ series: a collection of photographic self-portraits which depict different versions of herself as distinctive characters.
Sherman began her photography career in the 1980s, and could stand to make more money from traditional print sales than social media posts.
Sherman’s most expensive print is called ‘Untitled‘, on sale for $65,000, while on Instagram she could make up to $1,765 per sponsored post.
The most popular cameras used by photographers
The photographers on the list all use a range of different cameras, and each of them stresses the importance not of the equipment a photographer uses, but the dedication and intent of the photographer.
While it’s true that the camera doesn’t make the photographer, the Instagram shutterbugs on Giggster’s list revealed their most-used equipment.
Canon 5D Mark III - Price: $1,199.00
The primary camera that has been shown to be a favorite among photographers is the Canon 5D Mark III. Used by photographers of fashion, nature, and social life, this camera is ideal for artists working across industries. It features the same autofocus system that Canon uses in its premium Canon EOS 1D X range for just a fraction of the price.
The Canon D5 Mark III is praised by photographers for its easy-to-use ergonomic design which makes it comfortable to hold and convenient to carry - the ideal lightweight and compact camera for traveling.
Sony a7R IV - Price: $2,998.00
Endorsed by world-famous NatGeo photographer Michael Yamashita, the Sony a7R IV is one of the main cameras used by two nature photographers on the list.
For Chris Burkard, the resolution provided by the Sony a7R IV is unmatched by any other camera and is his go-to for large fine art prints. Paul Nicklen highlights the stunning quality that the a7R IV provides for fine art prints while opting for the Sony a9 II for action shots.
Leica M - Price: $9,295.00 (M10)
In a world where autofocus cameras are used so commonly, the Leica M series stands out from the rest, offering only manual focus and manual exposure controls.
The Leica M series’ latest addition is the Leica M10-R, yet all Leica M cameras have a broad viewfinder and allow the photographer to see what is taking place outside the wider viewfinder.
Models from the Leica M series are the go-to photography equipment for three portrait photographers on the list.
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To find out which photographers make more money from sponsored Instagram posts compared to the sale of prints, Giggster compiled a list of photographers using lists from Mediakix, Digital Camera World, and Time.
Each photographer’s Instagram account was used to source information on follower count and number of posts. Influencer Marketing Hub’s ‘Instagram Influencer Earnings Calculator’ was used to source engagement rate and estimated earnings per sponsored post.
The estimated earnings per sponsored post for each photographer was compared to the highest-priced print currently available for sale via the photographer's website, or Artsy in cases where no works were sold via the official website.
Information on each photographer’s most-used cameras was sourced from photographer interviews, and pictures and videos of photoshoots.
Camera prices are sourced from Adorama, where a new model of the camera was unavailable; the price of a used camera in excellent condition was used.