Friday, February 05, 2010

Ryan Pyle Blog: 2009 Earnings Report


This is yet another blog in a series of looking back on 2009. Bare with me. Today's topic is income. How much money did I make in 2009? And how much of a hit did I take because of the financial crisis?

Well, I have decided to approach this sensitive topic today because almost nobody in this industry talks about how much they make, or how yearly income can drastically swing from one year to the next. Without giving actual hard numbers I'll attempt to fill you in a bit on my finances.

First of all, this year was tough. So far in my entire career the year of 2008 was the best year I've had with regards to income earned. In 2008 I earned about 20% more than I did in 2007. In 2009 I earned only about 60% of what I earned in 2008; meaning that I basically took a 40% hit on my income in 2009, mainly from the financial crisis. I got hit in several ways. Let me try to explain.

First, the numbers I am giving are income earned from photography only. Second, they include various forms of photography including fine art sales, corporate assignments, editorial assignments and stock. The biggest kicker this year was corporate work which makes up a sizable portion of my income, and that completely evaporated. Fortune 500 companies, many of which hired me in 2008, were nowhere to be found in 2009. The money spent on producing original work for annual reports and internal publications, at least for me, dropped almost 80% from 2008 levels. Editorial assignments were down as well, roughly 1/3 from 2008 levels. Stock sales were up around 10% but that is basically from 2 major commercial image sales, not a steady flow of purchases.

So here I am, in supposedly the greatest photography market outside a major war zone, and I'm getting clobbered. Losing 40% of your income in one 12 month stretch is brutal. It means that one has to cut back on living expenses and cut back on money spent re-investing in personal projects. Less travel and generally less film production. I would be surprised to see how other photographers faired. Did anyone out there make more money in 2009 than 2008?

I know that the bench-mark of our careers, and our art work, is not about dollar figures. But at the end of the day we need to be able to earn an income from our work, in order to live a fairly comfortable life and support our families - this is true in every walk of life, in every profession. Money matters. Sad but true.

If Ryan Pyle Photography was a publicly held company my stock price would have fallen like a stone, my bond status would be the equivalent of junk. It's a sobering thought. Here's hoping that in 2010 I can make a Steve Jobs like recovery and rejuvenate image sales, work on longer projects and win one of those ever-elusive grants that I keep constantly applying for. If any of that does happen, you can be sure to be the first to know.

Ryan Pyle


  1. You deserve one of those grants, Ryan. I hope somebody from a foundation reads this and gets familiar with your work. Good luck for 2010!
    - Daryl

  2. Daryl,
    Thanks for your support. Fingers crossed. Thanks for staying in touch.



This is Ryan Pyle. I appreciate you adding a comment to my blog and I hope that this space has offered you something useful and interesting. I look forward to staying in touch and I'm glad you took the time to comment.

Ryan Pyle