What Does it Cost...? To Study, Live and Work in Portland, Oregon

by Amanda Baltazar

PORTLAND PEDESTRIANS IN PASSING: One of the lovely ladies of Portland, Oregon, who Toni Greaves encountered while shooting for Marie Claire magazine’s January 2010 feature, What I Love About Me.

Known as the greenest city in the united states, Portland, Oregon, is equally renowned as a mecca for beer and coffee drinkers. Photographically speaking, it’s popular as the destination for Photo Lucida, which features a biannual festival with international portfolio reviews, as well as the annual online program Critical Mass, a curated photography resource that aims to create connections within the photography community. Here, PDNedu takes a look at how much it costs to study, live and work in Portland.


1. Pacific Northwest College of Art

A four-year BFA at this college includes digital imaging, black-and-white, color, large-format and non-silver contemporary processes. Technical instruction is coupled with coursework that balances aesthetic, conceptual and historical concerns. The undergraduate program costs $27,500 per year, while a masters in photography runs $31,450. Housing, run through College Housing Northwest, is available for about 90 students each year and costs $7,990 for the school year or $4,090 for a two-person share.


2. Portland Community College

PCC has three campuses and offers digital photography classes for credit that cost around $240. Non-credit classes range from Photography: Shoot and Critique to Outdoor Photography. Each class costs $40 to $200.


3. Oregon School of Arts & Crafts (OCAC)

A studio-intensive and experimental program offering a BFA in crafts, OCAC instructs students in both traditional and alternative photographic processes, employing a range from 35mm to largeformat cameras. It costs $31,150 annually. Annual housing costs are $6,210.


4. University of Oregon

The 295-acre campus in Eugene, Oregon, offers a BA, a BS and a BFA in photography. Typical fees for an Oregon resident are $7,428 per year; nonresidents see these fees jump to $23,718.

HOUSING: A standard double-occupancy room with standard meal plan runs $8,640 on campus; off-campus costs are the same for rent, food and utilities.


1. Housing

If you’re thinking of moving to Portland, late spring and early summer are good times to buy,” says Martha Park, a real estate agent with Windermere, Cronin & Caplin Realty Group, “because there’s typically a lot of inventory on the market, but prices have dropped.” Affordable, artsy neighborhoods include Brooklyn, Rose City Park, Sabin, Kenton, Woodlawn and Cully. To buy a 600-square-foot condo, expect to pay $150,000 to around $500,000. One-bedrooms of 700 to 800 square feet will cost closer to $220,000. “Homes aren’t much more,” Park adds. Between $200,000 and $250,000 would get you a one-bedroom starter home with a den or an office. Two bedrooms push the price up to at least $350,000. Two-bedroom rentals typically run around $1,000, although you could find larger units farther out in the southwest and southeast areas, she points out.

THE BOTTOM LINE: To rent: $1,000 and up per month. To buy: $150,000 and up.

2. Transportation

Portland has a free streetcar in the downtown area but requires a fare if you travel beyond that. Despite this, most photographers travel by car in this city, mostly because they’re carrying gear. Editorial photographer Robbie McClaren shoots 100 percent on location and last year spent $2,500 on gas. Cameron Browne, a sports and editorial photographer, spends much less and often zips around on his girlfriend’s moped. In all, he spends $25 to $80 monthly on gas, depending on how busy he is. Commercial photographer Andy Batt falls in the middle, with around $100 spent on gas monthly.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Gas: Around $100 per month.

3. Food

Portland is a great city for food, even when you’re on a budget. Photo student Erik Urdahl splits his time fairly evenly between eating out at medium-priced restaurants and eating at home, and he spends $350 to $400 per month on food. An average meal out at a pub-type restaurant is $10 to $15, he says. A teriyaki joint or food cart runs lower, at $6 to $8.

Another student, budding food photographer Barbara Hinderer, eats out a lot with her husband. “This costs $200 to $300 per month for cheap ’n’ cheerful places,” she explains, and they spend an additional $200 on groceries.

Photographers with families spend more time eating at home. Chris Ryan, a commercial and editorial photographer, spends around $600 per month on groceries for his family of three (with a six-year-old daughter) and an additional $200 to $300 on eating out— at a mixture of family restaurants and nicer places, he says.

If McClaren and his family with two small children eat out, it’s for burgers and pizza. They probably spend $200 to $300 monthly, “but we’re pretty conservative.” Groceries cost them $600 per month.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Eating out: $200 to $300 per month. Groceries: $600 per month.

4. Utilities

Documentary and editorial photographer Toni Greaves spends around $80 per month on electricity and water, plus $55 for Internet service.

Browne’s utility costs run around $150 per month for just about everything (electricity, gas, water and Internet) but are slightly less in the summer because he needs no A/C. McClaren’s costs are slightly less at $100 to $125 per month.

THE BOTTOM LINE: $125 per month.


1. Marketing

Marketing costs for photographers vary, but most admit they should be doing more of it. McClaren uses direct mail and has nonexclusive representation with Redux for editorial, a traditional advertising representative and a listing on www.wonderfulmachine.com. He also makes an annual sales trip to New York. His annual costs total under $10,000.

Greaves spends closer to $1,000 a year for e-mails and cards. She also enters photo contests and budgets $600 for them annually. “Contests are good for my business, as they allow further exposure for my work and thus potentially lead to paid assignments,” she explains. She also spends money on attending networking events.

Browne spends mostly on his own Web site, contests and his ASMP membership. His annual costs are around $600.

THE BOTTOM LINE: $50 to $800 per month.

2. Equipment

The best place in Portland for both camera equipment and service is Pro Photo Supply. However, “people tend to own everything in Portland and borrow from each other,” Browne points out.

A top-of-the-line DSLR camera body costs about $5,200, says Jon Combs, sales and marketing manager. Lenses generally start at $100 and go up from there, but the average price is $797, he points out.

The top-selling Nikon camera is the D90, at $839, along with $810 for the 24-70 mm lens or $2,399 for the 70-200 mm lens.

Lighting purchases have shifted in the past few years from power packs and light heads to moonlights or speedlights because there’s more location shooting, says Combs. However, to rent the Pro Photo Supply 7B lighting kit costs around $90 per day ($360 per week), and it includes a portable battery pack and a head. Rental prices are identical at Clutch Camera. Clutch also does good rental business in the Bron Color Lighting kit, which costs $85 per day or $340 week.

Photographers also rent cameras from Pro Photo Supply and Clutch. The hottest Nikon rental is the D700, available from Pro Photo at $175 per day or $700 per week. Lens rentals cost $30 per day or $120 weekly.

THE BOTTOM LINE: To buy the basics (camera and lens): $2,774. To rent the basics (camera, lens and lights): $295 (per day); $1,180 (per week).

3. Studio

To buy, Steve Hagan, a real estate agent with Windermere Real Estate’s commercial division, says you should anticipate spending around $1 per square foot per month, and most studios are 1,000 to 2,000 square feet. “There’s a lot of very viable space in the older industrial areas that are converting into more creative uses,” he says.

Andy Batt rents his own studio, which costs him $2,200 per month for 2,750 square feet. He also rents it out to other photographers at a cost of $400 to $450 per day.

A 450-square-foot rental studio at the NewSpace Center for Photography runs $250 for a full day (eight hours) with no lights, $275 with in-house hot lights and $325 with in-house strobe lights.

THE BOTTOM LINE: To rent your own studio: $1,000 to $2,000 per month. To rent a studio by the day: $250 to $400.

4. Insurance

Most photographers carry business/ equipment insurance. This costs Browne $300 per year, while Greaves pays $514. McClaren’s costs are even higher at $600, “for a basic business insurance with a liability rider that covers damage to equipment.”

Greaves also pays $156 per month for health insurance, McClaren pays $725 for family coverage and Batt pays $600 for two people.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Business insurance: $25 to $50 per month. Health insurance: $502 per month.

Portland Demographics



Under 5 years – 6.7%
5 to 9 years – 6.1%
10 to 14 years – 5.3%
15 to 19 years – 5.5%
20 to 24 years – 5.9%
25 to 34 years – 16.0%
35 to 44 years – 16.8%
45 to 54 years – 15.3%
55 to 64 years – 12.1%
65 years and over – 10.3%









LEADING INDUSTRIES: Educational services, and health care and social assistance (22%) and professional, scientific, management, administrative and waste management services (14%).

MOST COMMON OCCUPATIONS: Management, professional and related occupations (42%); sales and office occupations (23%); service occupations, (17%); production, transportation and material moving occupations (12%); and construction, extraction, maintenance and repair occupations (6%).


SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, 2006–2008 American Community Survey



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