If you have a passion for photography, the right equipment, and an entrepreneurial vision, then you’ve already probably wondered how to make money with photography.
Well, let’s be clear about one thing right off the bat:
If you’re looking for a way to turn your passion for photography into a profitable business, then you need to have a system and approach it as a business.
Yes, you can’t transform into a paid photographer overnight–but you can start on the process now. Being creative and imaginative is not enough; after all, plenty of photographers make a decent living with very mediocre skills.
While professional photography might feel like quite a competitive industry to try and break into, there are still plenty of ways to make money with photography.
In this article, I’ve rounded up all the different ways that will actually help you start getting paid for your photography skills.
Set Yourself Up To Be A Successful Photographer
Before we dive into all the ways to make money with photography, let’s get into the steps you can take so you can be prepared when you eventually make money.
1. Work for other photographers.
When you’re first starting out, it’s always a good idea to work with other photographers. This is perfect for when you want to make money with photography but aren’t ready to venture out on your own and want to learn and practice more.
Help out with post-production
Post-production editing is a very time-consuming task, and you’d be surprised at the number of photographers who are looking for some editing assistance.
You can work with more experienced photographers and edit their photos. If they’re happy with your work, you may get an assistant photographer gig later on.
Work as an Assistant Photographer
Being an assistant photographer is one of the best ways to get experience, build your portfolio, and learn from and network with more senior photographers.
It’s going to be a struggle to find photographers who will pay you what your skills are worth. However, the networking opportunities and the things you will learn will be absolutely valuable. Plus, it gives you a much higher chance of getting clients later on.
How to find assistant photographer jobs:
- Join all types of photography groups on social media platforms.
- Look for “assistant photographer” jobs in job sites.
- Go to photography events and conventions.
- Network with local photographers.
- Get involved in a photographer organization.
The bottom line is:
It’s much better to learn photography by doing instead of learning solely from books, blogs, and online tutorials.
2. Pick a niche
At this point, I’m assuming you’ve already taken a photography course or two and have already experimented with different genres of photography.
You might enjoy all kinds of photography, but if you want to start making money with photography, picking a niche is highly recommended.
When you specialize in a niche, you get to identify which techniques you need to study, as well as invest in continued education and training.
Also, when researching which niche you want, you get to know which ones have the most money-making potential.
In particular, wedding photography and travel photography seem to be more lucrative than, say, nature photography.
It’s not all about the money, though; it’s just another factor to consider aside from your skills and passion.
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Another advantage of concentrating on a niche is that you’ll have a much more cohesive portfolio. It’s always much better to show a client a portfolio with a specific set of images that fall under a theme, instead of random pictures from random photoshoots.
Here are some niches you can specialize in:
- Fashion photography
- Maternity shoots
- Nature photography
- Wildlife photography
- Wedding photography
- Portrait photography
- Club photography
- Sports photography
- Food photography
- Product photography
- Travel photography
- Real estate photography
3. Set up a website.
Your next logical step should be creating a website (if you don’t already have one). Even better if your profile has a theme that matches your niche.
Contrary to popular belief among photographers, Facebook or Instagram can’t replace your own website.
This is not to say they are useless. Both social media platforms act as great places to generate interest, engage with followers, and network with other photographers as well as potential clients.
With your own website, though, you’re not jostling for other photographers for views from your audience. You can create a whole experience that revolves around your own unique photography style and your brand.
Having your own website gives you the ability to provide potential clients with a multi-sensory experience, easy navigation, and seamless viewing of your pictures.
Your website visitors are thus more likely to purchase prints, contact you for shoots, or offer brand partnerships.
4. Start a photography blog on your website.
If you like writing, being a photography blogger is a good content marketing tool and an additional source of income aside from your photography skills.
Blogging requires both patience and time, but the rewards are absolutely worth it. You can create a blog that attracts readers and adds value to their lives.
You can then earn cash through advertising, brand partnerships, sponsorships, affiliate marketing, and much more.
By having a blog, you’ll actually have an artistic platform that will give you credibility and allow you to share your work with the world.
And of course, the more followers you have, the more you’ll be contacted for work, and the higher you can charge for projects and bookings.
Here’s how you can make money with a photography blog:
- Use display ads by Google AdSense.
- Collaborate with other bloggers from different industries (such as in the fashion or travel industries).
- Publish engaging and informative content to get more pageviews and gain popularity.
- Post content regularly.
- Learn to use SEO to get on top of the search results page.
- Use affiliate marketing.
5. Set up a store on your website.
Aside from your blog, you can set up an ecommerce store right on your website.
You can sell physical items, such as prints of your photos, photobooks, merchandise with your photos on them, and photography tools and gadgets.
You can also offer up digital items, such as ebooks, equipment checklists, wallpapers, and printables.
If you can set up a booking system for calls and appointments, as well as an advance payment system, this will help you with your photography business as well.
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I recommend using WordPress to build your website, as plenty of ecommerce solutions specific for photographers have already been built to work with WordPress.
6. Start a vlog.
If you already have a blog on your website, the natural transition is to start a vlog.
But what can you vlog about if you don’t have any assignments or bookings yet?
Start by posting honest reviews of the equipment that you’re using. When you get more assignments and clients, you can start sharing stories, advice, and tips and tricks.
Eventually, you can expand to mini-courses and how-to videos.
As your viewership grows, you can earn more money through ads, affiliate marketing, and sponsored videos.
Starting a YouTube channel is the traditional way to start a vlog, but more and more photographers are finding their way to Twitch.
7. Build Your Social Media Presence
Since photography is a visual art, the best social media platform for you to establish your brand is Instagram.
But don’t ignore all the other social media platforms. Every one of them is a chance for you to put your work out there, expand your reach, find potential clients, and engage with them.
Link back to your website (see how having your own website works here?), to your useful blog articles, and to your video reviews on Facebook and Twitter.
Post your best work on Instagram and make sure to link back to your website or your ecommerce store.
Grow your followers by consistently posting useful, engaging content, and you’ll see results.
14 Ways to Make Money with Photography
Once you’ve set up your website and your digital marketing and income tools, you can now start to recoup your investment in these as well as your equipment and get that income.
Here are some actionable ideas to start turning your photography skills into money.
1. Join photo contests.
As a beginner in a field where no one knows your work or who you are, joining photo contests is one way to expose your work to photography experts as well as enthusiasts, while getting the chance to win some money or prizes.
The money is uncertain here, of course, but it’s a good stepping stone to bigger opportunities even if you don’t win anything, as the contest can get your photos in front of big brands, experts in the field, and plenty of potential clients.
Some competitions offer thousands of dollars in cash, equipment, or the chance to snag the project of a lifetime.
For instance, a wedding photography contest may have the grand prize of shooting a celebrity wedding. What it doesn’t pay in cash, it makes up for with exposure and publicity.
You can look for local photo contests as well as on Google to find online or even international photo contests.
2. Reach out to small local businesses.
There’s probably a small business near you right now that is trying to gain more followers to promote their business.
And they’re looking for photographers to take photos of their stores, their products, and sometimes even their personnel to display in their websites and social media platforms.
Reach out to these local businesses and offer your services. Offer a discount in exchange for their permission to include some of the photos you took in your portfolio.
You get to take high-quality photos to help both their business and yours, so everybody wins!
3. Conduct photography tours.
If you live in a city or town with a lot of tourists, and you know it like the back of your hand, you might want to become a tour guide.
But not just a tour guide, but a photography tour guide.
Offer to lead tourists on a photo walk and help them take pictures of local “hidden gems” while exchanging photography tips and tricks.
Your social media platforms and website can help you offer this service; your social media for promotion and finding interested tourists, and your website for tourists to select and book a schedule.
4. Offer portrait sessions.
It’s not only local businesses that may need your services.
Individuals who need portrait photographs for their portfolios, resumes, websites, social media profile photos, or for school photos will be looking for someone local who’s available at a day’s or even a few hours’ notice.
Accepting these types of projects allows you to network with local clients, who spread the word to other potential clients. Plus, these portrait photos will be great additions to your portfolio.
5. Offer your services on freelancer platforms.
Companies also post openings for freelance photographers on these sites, especially if the assignments are one-off. Look for the specific niche of photography that you want to specialize in and try to get gigs in your niche.
If allowed by the platform you’re posting in, link back to your website and your social media platforms so potential clients can look at your portfolio and know that you’re taking your photography career seriously and you’re not just a weekend hobbyist.
One disadvantage of using freelancer sites is that they take a cut of your payment. But getting your profile in front of a database of potential clients may be worth the cut these sites take.
6. Become a photojournalist.
News and media outlets, whether traditional or digital, are veering toward freelance news photographers and photojournalists.
Also, whatever your niche, you’ll benefit from the experience you get from capturing news and current events in real time and evoking the emotions of those particular moments.
Start by covering local news on your own and then emailing your photos to editors-in-chief of various publications; local or national, traditional or digital, magazine or newspapers. If you can find their email addresses, include them in your outreach.
If your one or a few of your photos are accepted, you can get published and paid.
The faster you submit, the more likely your photos will be picked up. Learn how to pick out your best photos quickly so you can send them as soon as you can.
7. Open a Flickr account and license your photos through Getty Images.
Flickr has become a home to thousands of photographers wanting to make money with their photography.
Open a Flickr account, post your best photos, and enable the Request to License badge on your photos, as well as Allow Getty Images editors to invite my photos.
This way, if potential customers see your photos and likes one or a few, they can click on Request to License on your photo page and they can license the photo via Getty Images.
Also, if you allow Getty Images editors to review your photos, they can include the photos they like on their Flickr collection.
Every time someone licenses your photos from Getty Images, you get a fee.
Admittedly, this is an uncertain source of income, but it’s a possible source of side cash that you can just set and forget; that is, upload your best work and wait for clients to license your photos.
8. Sell your photos on mobile apps.
Your DSLR isn’t the only high-quality camera you can use to take photos.
Nowadays, even midrange smartphones have high-quality built-in cameras that can take excellent pictures.
If your photography skills extend to your smartphone, there are mobile apps willing to actually buy your best photos.
Some of the best mobile apps to sell your photos include:
9. Sell your photos to stock photography websites.
Similar to mobile apps, there are stock photography websites where you can sell your photos.
Just make sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into with stock photography and don’t end up like the guy who made $1.88 while Walmart made millions off of his image.
There are a variety of stock photography websites you can choose from, including:
- Shutterstock – Pay rates that start from 20% (one of the highest paying.)
- iStock – More viewers, and 15% rate.
- Alamy – If you’re a student, you get 100% of your sales price for two years. If you’re not a student, then you’ll get 50%.
- Picfair – You set up the amount you want to get. Competitive.
A few things to bear in mind:
- The more quality pictures you upload, the more money you get.
- There are plenty of websites that accept pictures from both amateurs and professionals.
- Stay on top of trends when shooting for stock websites.
- Capture the most high-quality images you possibly can.
- Photos of people are always in demand, no matter what.
- Always check the account terms – learn how you’re going to be paid and when, and most importantly, how much.
- Add as many relevant keywords to your images as you can.
10. Sell prints of your photos online.
Selling prints of your photos on your website is another way to make money with your photography skills.
You can use a print-on-demand service to fulfill orders so you don’t have to invest in a high-quality printer and ink.
Another good thing about using print-on-demand services is that they may be able to print your photos on various items, such as t-shirts, keychains, mugs, buttons, mouse pads, hats, tote bags, and many other merchandise and souvenirs.
Plus, aside from the printing, they take care of the packaging, branding, and shipping of the items to your customers.
Some of the best print-on-demand websites you can use include:
11. Sell your photos in galleries.
Another great place to sell your photos is in local art galleries.
Go down in person, take your portfolio with you, and ask them for wall space.
Photographs of nice local views or landmarks are popular with local art galleries, and they’re more likely to be snapped up.
However, they won’t sell if your photos have people in them.
12. Publish a photobook.
This may be an ambitious undertaking for you if you’re not yet that well known, but creating and publishing a photobook is a great project, especially if you’re into travel photography.
Did you go on an insane trip recently and took hard-to-compete-with pictures?
Did you dive with a shark and take pictures?
Did you take unique pictures of a tribe abroad?
Do you have a story to go with it?
Pair a really good experience with fantastic photos, compile them in a photobook and sell it on your website!
13. Write an ebook about your photography skills.
Once you’re doing well with your bookings and additional income, it might be time to share your blessings with beginners.
You can write an ebook sharing your photography knowledge, tips and tricks, and best practices. You can even include recommendations of the best equipment for aspiring photographers.
Ebooks don’t cost too much in terms of overhead, plus you can sell them straight from your website.
You can also use them as a marketing tactic. Sell your ebook on Amazon so you can direct readers to your website, which has your portfolio, your booking system, and your online store.
14. Create and sell a photography course.
If your ebook did well, and you feel you have a lot more to share, why not try your hand at teaching photography online?
Think back to the photography courses you’ve taken, both in-person and online. You can also check out photography courses currently being offered; not to plagiarize but for inspiration.
Create an outline, flesh out each chapter, and come up with your own approach based on your niche and your strengths.
You can even expand this to an on-demand consultancy service through a video call, or an in-person workshop.
For you to pull this off, you would need to have a genuine love for teaching and for watching your students evolve.
Start making money with photography today!
As a hobby, photography can be quite expensive.
But it’s a hobby that can make you money, if you have an entrepreneurial spirit.
Have you ever made money with photography? Share your experience with us in the comments!