To make money from photography you will need to cover your costs before you start making any money.
Yes, technically if someone were to give you money for a photo you are making money. But let’s look at it this way.
If your equipment costs you $1,000, $50 for travel to that cool location for the photo shoot. You need to sell $1,050 worth of photography before you break even.
Anything on top of that is profit and that’s when the fun starts.
There will be of course other costs involved like web hosting, your time to edit the photos, Internet connection and so on. I’ve covered the business side of photography and you can read that article to get some ideas of where to start.
Today, I wanted to specifically talk about making money from photography for the long-term rather than a quick buck.
As you know I’ve been a professional event photographer for 15 years. And it does take a long time for the money to be consistent and even then it’s not a guarantee.
It is possible to make quick money with a photo. In fact that’s how I got hooked, It was a sports photo. But I assure you it wasn’t consistent in the beginning and it wasn’t a lot.
And that’s what I wanted to talk about that today. Finding 2 to 3 opportunities to sell your photos as a photographer to start making an income.
Starting with one type of photography and progressing from there.
Before you charge money for your photography. You have to have a certain skill level of proficiency with your camera equipment.
If you find that you are not 100% confident then working for free or for a reduced rate to build your confidence and portfolio is the best way to start.
Let me be clear, and I can’t stress this enough. You should only work for free for a short period of time.
To succeed in making money with your photos, it is going to be part technical and part business. If you feel that you’re lacking confidence with your technical ability start a personal project or do a photo challenge.
By assigning yourself a project or a regular challenge it is similar to having a client come up with a brief and you have to go and photograph it and then deliver the photos.
For the business side there will be some opportunities to work for other photographers and you can learn the business from them by simply watching. Such as what forms they use, what’s in the contract, How do they deliver their photos, why do they charge the amount they do.
If you don’t have the luxury or the confidence to work for someone else. I recommend you start reading about how to run a small business.
A lot of information may talk about opening up a physical address. As a photographer, you have the luxury of working from home so a lot of those expenses you won’t have.
But more importantly you have to know your numbers. how much money you need to make before your camera makes you money. Even if you’re working for someone else, there will be some sort of cost involved to you to do the work.
OK, now we got that out of the way. Let’s look at some long term job opportunities to make money from your camera.
Table of Contents
- Portrait Photography
- Event Photography
- Service Local Businesses
- Selling Your Own Photos
- Freelance Your Photography Skills
I like portrait photography because there’s no one-size-fits-all. Meaning you can take something a bit obscure such as steampunk portraits and make it a form of income.
Don’t be afraid to try different types of portrait photography and you certainly don’t have to offer the same product as everyone else.
Depending on the type of portraits you do, the products you offer to sell may be dictated by your clients.
Sell: Prints, Canvas, Books, Digital Images
Pro: In person sales (IPS) can be extremely profitable. Wide range of products can be sold.
Cons: It can take a while to establish yourself before clients become consistent.
If you enjoy dealing with kids, family photography can be a very rewarding and profitable source of photography income.
The relatively low startup cost of a camera body, a lens and using a park for a photo session makes it very appealing to photographers that want to start making money as a side gig or even (starting a business. (link to business post)
I personally find that these stylised type of photos look the best in a location such as a beach or an open field and the mother is wearing a sheer dress / outfit to show the baby bump.
If you have a love for babies you could make it a viable business where you photograph maternity photos and then months later you’re doing the newborn photos as well.
Newborn photography is very involved when it comes to photographing what seems like a very simple subject.
But that’s the beauty of it. As it’s very involved and requires lots of moving parts and patience to get right.
Anne Geddies has made this type of photography extremely popular and when you see babies in baskets or cute little outfits you gonna absolutely love it or cringe.
But unlike other types of portrait photography, newborn photos need to be taken in a controlled environment.
The babies are only weeks, so the temperature needs to be right, they also need to be photographed at a particular time and they need to be handled with care.
This is definitely not for everyone, there is a lot of outlay when it comes to props and backdrops if you want your photos to stand out.
Photographing pets is something that many photographers don’t think about as it’s not really traditional when it comes to portrait photography.
One thing I realised with pet owners is that they absolutely love their animals and in some cases more than the actual children.
The amount of money it costs to have a pet is a good indication that a pet owner will be willing to do something special for them and a portrait session is a good way to capture a pets personality.
Some of the products you could produce are large prints, canvas and even photo books.
Photographing events usually means long days, so it’s important to have good organisation skills. For any event photographer to be successful you need to be organised, and communication with your clients should always be transparent. This so they know exactly what they are getting from you for your services and products if you offer them.
Even though I’ve only listed a handful of events to photograph. I suggest you start with hobbies that interest you and photograph them.
Like if you’re into cars, soccer or any other kind of events that people take part in a large group
Your first need to approach the club or event organiser and offer your services and sign any contracts beforehand.
You simply can’t turn up and start shooting as some events have minors competing or governed by a committee that oversee the sporting league.
Start with smaller local events and ask if you can sell photos to the people who attended the event. If they say yes, offer some photos for their website with a link back to the event photos. In most cases the organiser will be happy to oblige and recommend you to anyone asking for a photo.
Sell: Prints, Digital Images
Pro: Large groups of people to sell photos to , sometimes you are paid an upfront fee for your services.
Cons: you sometimes have to photograph on spec meaning that you are speculating people will buy your photos. This is usually done from a website or onsite printing. Some bigger events will ask for a fee so you can photograph and sell your photos to the contestants.
When was the last time you took a selfie in a low lit club with your phone and the photos didn’t look like garbage?
Taking a quality photo of people enjoying themselves and then handing them a card to your site so they can see and purchase the photos could be something may want to try a couple of times to see if it’s gonna work for you.
Search for nightclubs in your area and if they have a website. See if they have a photographer taking photos for them. If not there’s your opportunity to contact the owner and offer your services.
For the owner of the club, it’s great to get professionally taking photos of people enjoying themselves in the club they can use for advertising.
It’s either going to be a one-off or a regular weekend opportunity to sell photos to the clubs patrons.
You will definitely need a camera that has good low light capabilities as well as a flash, and the skill to balance the ambient light with a flash.
Using an online gallery such as Shootproof to sell digital images and prints directly from a lab makes it very hands-off.
You really gonna love the idea of a wedding photographer or be repelled by the idea of brides and a day full of stress.
Absolutely the first few weddings are definitely going to be stressful for you especially if you haven’t photographed a wedding as a second shooter or even gone to a wedding.
Weddings are not about turning up and pressing the shutter, there are several parts to the day that require different skills and planning to get the job done right.
- The getting ready stage is best if you take a fly on the wall type approach. Where you’re very much hands-off and giving very amounts of direction such as where to stand for the best light.
- The bride my asked for photos of particular object such as jewelry and the dress and you need to know how to style and light them accordingly.
- The ceremony of course is the most important part of the day and you need to be one step ahead and that’s when planning comes into play.
- Family portraits and individual portraits are also part of wedding photography and if you can’t organise or control a small group of people then it’s going to be tough for you.
- The reception can be fun and frustrating at the same time. It’s great to see people enjoying themselves after they’ve had a few drinks. But when the reception doesn’t have enough lighting you need to get creative but also have enough of your own lighting to make the situation work.
But as your experience increases and the more planning you do it will become one of the most rewarding types of photography you could do and it can be extremely profitable if done correctly.
When talking to your customers listen to them ask what they want and don’t be afraid to ask for a fair price for your service.
I would definitely recommend starting off with some friends weddings or being a second shooter just to see how the day goes.
When you do start photographing for yourself. It’s OK to have your prices low but make sure you raise them to the average price in your area. After a hand full of weddings and your confidence in your ability increased.
I’ve often been asked to photograph people’s anniversary parties and other types of parties such as engagement parties, birthday parties and corporate events.
It’s not the most glamorous of event photography but it definitely can be a good stepping stone to wedding photography and also the income is ok considering you can ask for $50 to $100 an hour on the lower end and up to $200 on the high-end depending on the event.
This type of photography you’re more than likely to be approached by the event organiser and be paid a flat fee or by the hour for the digital images.
If you are going to try to do sports photography don’t do it just because of the access. Do it because you have an interest in the sport, otherwise it’s going to get boring real quick.
Offering your photography to local sporting clubs for either team photos or action photos during the playing season is a way to make money.
A lot of semi-professional or non-professional clubs don’t always have the best photos of their players.
If it’s a large organised event or a multi day event. You can offer team photos as well as action photos during the events.
Sometimes the event organiser will ask for a fee from you to be able to come and be the official photographer and you just need to work your numbers to see if it’s feasible for you.
In the past I’ve paid up to $500 for the privilege. It involved a team of people to get the job done right. The days were long and it was an opportunity to secure future events.
It’s certainly possible to offer team photos, take them early on in the event so they can be ready by the end of the event to hand out to the team managers.
If this is a type of photography you want to get into. You can also invest in onsite printing and photo stations where competitors can purchase photos directly from you.
Another type of sports photography would be editorial photography taking photos for newspapers and magazines.
The majority of the time these publications already have freelancers or stringers to do the work for them. You will also face licensing agreements where you’re not allowed to sell the photos to anyone other than a newspaper or a magazine and that’s always governed by the Sporting body themselves.
Magazines and newspapers will try to take advantage of photographers and not pay them for their sports photos. But instead offering a byline or a credit for a photo.
Don’t do it! Because all you’ll have is a portfolio of photos and no money.
Service Local Businesses
You’ll be surprised at how many photography jobs you can get by letting people know that your a photographer.
When I’m out with new group of friends, I like to bring into the conversation the type of work we all do. The people know that you’re a photographer and much you love doing it but more importantly don’t be pushy about your services.
Over the years I’ve received jobs based on my relationship with other people, not because I’m a better photographer and to be honest that’s what business is really about “relationships”.
Servicing the local businesses in your area is not necessarily about approaching every single business.
Using ads and your website to get the majority of your business is more efficient use of your time.
Sell: Digital images
Pro: Lots of businesses require unique photos to separate themselves from their competitors.
Cons: Some of the work and maybe a one off or a once a year .
Real Estate Photography
In my area there are 2 real estate businesses and I constantly see for sale signs being put up. They need to get their photos from somewhere and it could be an opportunity for you to tap into a constant income stream.
It’s ideal that you have a sturdy tripod, a wide angle lens and a full frame sensor camera so you can fit more of the scene in.
You’ll also need to know how to light a room and photograph it in a way that will bring a buyer to a viewing or an auction.
A good way to find out what a real estate agent wants would to see the type of photos they already show on their website.
Depending on the business with commercial photography you have the opportunity to licence out a series of photos like a stock Library of photos for them to use for their brochures, websites and other marketing materials. In most cases they may just pay a single fee for the work that you produce.
Rather than using stock photos businesses need photos that are tailored to them to get there brand across, so the photos need to be unique to their business.
Commercial photography could mean that you are photographing different scenes of people working and the work environment in general, These type of photos could be used for marking material in annual reports, websites and brochures.
Head shot Photography
If you’re in business you need a good portrait of yourself and headshot photography can be done quite quickly.
Within 30 minutes, plus editing a headshot can be produced for a quick source of income. Think of people such as doctors, lawyers, actors people with LinkedIn accounts all need good quality photos to present’ confident image of themselves.
Your photos don’t need to have a white or grey background and can be done outside to give a more casual feel is that’s what the customer wants.
Rather than using generic stock photos that can be obtained by anyone. Photographing specifically for someone’s website can be a source of income.
Partnering with web designers to add value for their customers is one way you can get work.
Another way is by looking at business websites and contacting them to update their existing photos.
Selling Your Own Photos
There’s something about selling your own photos that’s very rewarding. The satisfaction knowing that the creative work that you produced is liked by others or maybe it’s that your simply getting paid for your creative work.
Unlike other types of photography, where you first need to get the client before you do the work. Selling your photos on the speculation that others will buy it can be a little bit more difficult if you don’t understand your customer or the market that you’re trying to sell to.
But like anything if you do a bit of planning you’ll start to see results provided that your photos are technically sound, they are unique to a certain point and are at the right price point for your customers.
You will need to hustle to get your customers and convincing that your photos are the ones that they need on their walls.
The type of photography that works well is landscape photography, Still Life photography, stock photography, Street photography to name a few.
Sell: Prints, Canvas, Books, digital images
Pro: You have more control with your photography, not only in what you photograph but how it is presented.
Cons: Need to work harder to sell your own creative work as the client base may be smaller than other genres of photography.
Stock photography is not as lucrative as it once was. Many years ago you could command high prices for a single image by licencing it out for a period of time.
Micro stock photography has replaced the traditional stock photography business model and works on the idea of high volumes of photos being sold for very small prices.
Which is great if you have a huge library of photos to work with. Photos that once could be sold for hundreds of dollars. Are only sold for a few dollars. You as the photographer will get a small percentage of that money as compensation.
You could create your own stock photography website and cater for a very specific niche and command your own prices but then you’d have to also do your own advertising.
Fine Art Photography
Cater for the art buyer that wants to decorate their home or office with unique artwork by selling fine art prints. It can become a steady income stream if you have quality photos that people want to purchase.
Websites such as Etsy makes it easy to sell fine art photos because of their large customer base and photos can be sold either as a loose print, framed print or canvas.
Coffee table books can be a good option if you have a large amount of photos on a particular topic. A great way to produce these photos would be to start a project and use the photos to create a beautiful big coffee table book using a book publishing company such as Blurb.
Wall calendars are still popular even though we live in a digital age. I’ve received free calendars from local shops and that could be an avenue for you to partner with a local business and produce a calendar that they can give to their customers.
Go out and photograph the community and use 12 of those photos for the calendar or if it’s a smaller calendar using one spectacular photo and a simple calendar design underneath with the business name and details below.
Freelance Your Photography Skills
Freelancing can be used as a stepping stone to becoming a full-time photographer. It could also be used as additional income when it’s a slow period for your photography business.
You could also use it as a way to get into a different genre of photography. You first need to show your technical ability in that area as well as good solid work. The fastest way to gain experience would be to offer free photo sessions so you can build your portfolio.
Once you have solid work start applying for different Freelance photography jobs. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into just photographing for other people. You can offer them more such as editing and assisting during a photoshoot.
Sell: Your time and skills set
Pro: it can lead to regular work and be a good source of extra income.
Cons: depending on the type of work you might be outbid by less established photographers.
Sometimes it’s just easier to work for other people and being a freelance photographer could be a good learning experience for you before you go down the path of opening up your own business.
Ideally you would want to have a website with photos that are specific to the type of work there are you going for. If you’re trying to be a portrait photographer or a wedding photographer then presenting a website full of nature photos is not going to work.
Depending on your contract you won’t be able to use the photos for your own use. You’re more than likely been given memory cards to use and to hand over at the end of the event so they can edit them.
You can earn $15 to $100 an hour as a freelancing photographer.
Being a photo assistant this one sure way to learn the business by watching and helping out.
You won’t be photographing as your main responsibility is to assist the main photographer. Tasks such as packing equipment, carrying bags, cleaning, setting up equipment will all be in a day’s work.
If you are a photography assistant to a studio photographer, knowing how to use the lighting equipment is a must. You still needed to know the technical aspect of photography Even though you won’t be using any equipment.
It’s important to be one step ahead and be as useful as possible.
Some wedding photographers that require an assistant will get you to photograph some of the day when needed. While other parts of the day you may be dealing with the equipment transport, handling reflectors and setting up lighting.
You probably didn’t expect to edit other people’s photos when you thought of making money with your photography.
But it could be an extra source of income in between your photography work. You obviously need to know how to use photoshop or Lightroom depending on the type of editing they want you to do.
You’re more than likely use Lightroom if your editing large batches of photos for a portrait / wedding photographer or anybody that does events as it’s just much faster than Photoshop.
Websites such as Fiverr and upwork are a good place to start finding clients. Services you can offer would be to culling images, simple edits and or creative edits.
The type of editing will be dictated by the customer and some cases you may be asked to edit their photos a completely different style to what your normally used to.
That’s 19 types of photography that you can use to start making an income with.
It’s import to have money coming in from more than one stream to supplement any photography that maybe seasonal.
Start with one type of photography and try to build processes that can help you streamline how you deal with your customers.
Once you have your processes in place, pick an other type of photography that you can do in the off session. Don’t be afraid to work for other people to fast track the process.
How are you making money with your photography? Let me know in the comments.