Make Money with Photography
You started your photography journey because you just really love photography. Because it makes you happy, because it’s fun, because it connects you to the world around you or because it helps you to cope with the challenges in your life.
And you’re becoming a better photographer every day. More and more of your friends are impressed with the beautiful photos you make. And that makes you even happier.
Sometimes you hear this little voice in the back of your head whispering, wouldn’t it be a dream come true if I could make money with photography.
But you ignore this soft voice because you’re sure that it’s not in the cards for you.
Turn Your Passion Into Profit
But what if you could actually make a little money on the side from your passion for photography? Now I got you wondering right?
Because the big question is of course how to make money with photography?
How awesome would it be if you could finance that much-coveted special lens from selling your photos?
How amazing if that trip to the place you’ve been dying to visit and photograph is funded from the money you make with your photography passion.
That’s a dream come true right?
So get inspired by these simple and attainable ways to make money with photography. But first, let me get some obstacles out of the way.
Big chance you’re not sure if you have what it takes. I think that is an excellent and valid question. You don’t want to disappoint people or yourself for that matter.
You need to tick boxes in 3 departments I would say. Gear, skills, and confidence.
You will need a DSLR or a Mirrorless camera in most situations. A phone camera is fantastic but it has its limitations.
When you wanna make money with photography you need to produce high-quality images consistently.
Your phone camera is just not gonna cut it.
The quality of the camera is of less importance. The lenses you have with the camera determine the ultimate quality of the image more than your camera.
Go here to read more about how to choose a camera and the best lenses.
And then you will need a computer and an editing program like Lightroom to edit your pictures. I’m a big fan of Lightroom. It’s a paid editing app but hey you’re gonna make some money with your photographs so you’ll be able to afford it.
Wanna make your editing life easier? Check out these 25 Lightroom Hacks and Shortcuts.
Well, this is obvious. Still, there might be holes in your education as a photographer. If your knowledge comes mostly from watching Youtube videos I would advise you to take an actual (online) photography course or one-to-one mentoring sessions.
If you already know quite a lot but think there are areas for improvement I think a few one-to-one mentoring sessions are a great way to fill the voids in your knowledge and skills.
A good photography mentor will teach you exactly what you need.
One-to-one mentoring sessions from an experienced photographer are also great from a business point of view.
Your photography mentor will be able to give tips not only on how to make fantastic photos but will guide you in marketing them as well. This is a win-win.
Another way to level up your skills is to become an assistant to a photographer. For instance, wedding photographers are often looking for what is called a second shooter.
The photographer is responsible for all the required and crucial moments of the day and the second shooter is responsible for the mood impressions.
There is less pressure for the second shooter and you won’t be put on the spot. That’s why it’s a great way to look over the shoulder of a pro and learn from how she’s handling herself.
So now you have the right gear, you hope your skill level is sufficient but you don’t feel confident enough to take the plunge.
Confidence grows over time, mostly by doing it. Your confidence will not grow in the comfort of your home. It will only expand by practicing.
A safe way to grow your confidence is to start a personal project. Doesn’t have to be an extensive project but something to get you out of the house and start experimenting.
You can start with a theme you feel passionate about or a cause that’s close to your heart.
You could volunteer for a local charity for instance. Charities always need good photos to spread the word about their cause. So chances are they will welcome you with open arms when you offer your services.
You can also decide to give away your services depending on what you plan to offer. This is a slippery slope though. Because you do want to start charging at some point. When people are used to you giving it all away for free it’s difficult to make the transition.
A good way to do this is to determine for yourself how often you want to do this. Maybe once is enough for you to gain enough confidence to start charging.
Now let’s move on to the actual topic of this post, how to make money with photography!
#1 Sell Photos Through a Stock Agency
A stock agency is a market palace for photos frequently used by businesses, websites, brands, magazines, etc. You need to create an account and upload your photos for people to buy them.
It’s an excellent way to get some passive income because once your photos are uploaded your work is basically done.
Please, keep in mind that this is not an income stream you can retire on. A lot of excellent photographers upload their photos as well and most stock agencies pay very little for a download.
Consider these points if you want to make the most out of your stock photography experience:
- Stick to photography you love and you already have in high volumes. Stock photography works best if you can offer a lot of photos.
- Put yourself in a potential buyer’s shoes. Are the photos you want to upload interesting enough for them?
- Make sure it’s of high quality.
- Check the requirements for image quality.
- Use lots of keywords so people can find your photos when they put in a search term.
- Make sure to also add the metadata and your copyright obviously.
- Join several stock agencies to broaden your reach.
- Upload new photos regularly.
Wanna discover the kind of photos that do well in stock photography? Check out How to Choose the Richt Niche in Stock Photography.
#2 Sell Prints Through Print-on-Demand
In the same way, a stock agency works so does a print-on-demand service work. You upload your photos and people can buy them.
The difference is that your photos are gonna be printed.
Yeah! Photos are meant to be printed I think. There is something very special about a photo you can actually touch.
So how does this work? Like I said, you upload your photos, determine how much to charge, and you’re done. More or less.
Selling prints is more for consumers. They are looking for a nice piece of art for their home. After they’ve chosen the photo they wanna purchase from you they can decide on the size of the print and its presentation (framed, canvas, aluminum print, etc)
At this point, the print-on-demand service takes over. They print and finish your image, package it and send it to the customer. You don’t need to handle any of that.
But if you like to be in control from start to finish you can also set up an Etsy shop and handle the printing, framing, and shipping yourself. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to sell photography on Etsy that shows you exactly how to do it.
For uploading your photos use the same guidelines as for uploading for a stock agency. The most important thing is to include useful keywords so people can find your photos.
#3 Sell Photo Products Online
A super fun way to sell your photos is printed on products. Imagine! Your photos on a coffee mug, a table, phone cover, curtains, a baseball hat, or a t-shirt. The possibilities are endless.
Society6 offers both wall art and photo products.
An all-in-one solution to make money with photography is Smugmug. They offer online storage, sale of digital files, and print on demand for wall art and products.
#4 Host a Photo Tour
Do you live in a beautiful area? Is your neighborhood Insta-worthy or is your city a tourist attraction? Then you’re in luck! You can create personalized photo walks for tourists, visitors, and locals.
Dive into the history of your own backyard so you have some interesting stories to tell or if you feel confident enough you can teach them something about photography! Be sure to take them to hidden gems and off the beaten track places.
Make it personal by injecting the walk with personal stories, a special theme, or fun photography assignments.
#5 Offer Outdoor Portrait Shoots
When you’ve come to a point where your camera has no more secrets for you and you love to interact with people, offering outdoor portrait shoots is another great option to make money with photography.
Especially if you live in a place that attracts lots of tourists and visitors this can be an interesting extra source of income.
Clearly, this is a more advanced and also time-consuming option. But very satisfying because you give your clients a valuable and tangible memory of their visit to your city.
Several platforms offer these kinds of shoots. The good thing is that you get booked and paid through the platform. You don’t need your own website.
Or you can check out Smiler, a start-up company offering on-the-spot one-minute photo sessions.
#6 Sign Up for a Freelance Platform
Offering your photography skills on an online freelance platform might not be the most obvious way to make money with photography. But when you like to endlessly edit your own photos this might be an interesting path for you.
There are lots of wedding photographers for instance who outsource the selection and editing process of their wedding shoots. For a regular wedding, they are likely to come home with thousands of files on their memory card.
You can make their life easier by selecting only the best photos and editing them to perfection for a nice fee.
A well-established worldwide freelance platform is Upwork.
A recently founded freelance platform is Work for Impact. They just started in 2020 and their mission is to connect freelancers to for-purpose companies.
#7 Search on Job Boards
This one’s for you if you’re ready to play in the big league. You are seriously planning to make money with photography and make a living as a photographer.
Jobs you can acquire through a job board are usually in the field of wedding photography, newborn photography, real estate or architectural photography, or product photography.
If you want to keep it simple and light you start with selling your digital files through a stock agency or join a print-on-demand service for producing wall art or photo products. This is a low investment in time but might just get you enough income to finance your next trip or a new lens.
A little more hands-on are organizing a photo walk and offering outdoor portrait shoots. Your skill level, confidence, and ability to make instant connections with people are crucial if you wanna be successful and keep it fun.
These are both options that are definitely more time-consuming but still, you’re able to plan your shoots and determine your availability yourself.
The freelance platforms and job boards are for sure more in the direction of actually making enough money with photography that it could become a substantial part of your income. It’s possible but it will take time, commitment, and tenacity to get there.
Let us know in the comments how you are going to make money with photography!
And if you’re totally not there yet why not take your first step today and download the Starter Photography Playbook.