Most people who get into photography aren’t usually in it for the money—or at least, not at first. Photography is an artistic pursuit, and like all art forms, the attraction lies not in its earning potential but in the person’s desire to do something fun, creative, and worthwhile.
But the great thing about an artistic discipline like photography is, while it’s certainly a fun hobby or an interesting way to pass the time, it’s also a potentially lucrative profession.
Ready to turn your hobby into an actual career? Read on to learn how to do it.
How to make money as a photographer:
1. Do photo shoots for clients.
Ideally, you need to have your own studio (or have the budget to rent a professional studio) to be able to offer photo shoots. However, many clients also prefer outdoor or location shoots, so even if you don’t have a studio yet, there are lots of opportunities out there for you. People will always need a professional photographer to help them commemorate all the special moments in their lives, with or without a studio.
To get started, all you need to do is build a strong portfolio, get your own website, tell your friends and family, share your work on social media, and do whatever you can to get the word out about your services.
Some types of photo shoots you can do:
- Maternity photo shoots
- Newborn photo shoots
- Pet photo shoots
- Family portraits
- Real estate photos for ads
- Boudoir photo shoots
Depending on the type of shoot, you can charge at least $100 for a session. When figuring out your pricing, do your research and find out how much other local photographers are charging so you can stay competitive.
2. Sell or license your photos through stock photography sites.
Do you have a sizeable collection of high-quality photos? Why not submit them to stock photography sites? It’s a good way to earn a stream of passive income! Become a contributor for sites like iStock, BigStock, and ShutterStock, or upload your photos to your own personal Flickr account and license them through Getty Images.
How to sell your stock photos:
Sign up as a contributor. You’ll be required to provide some basic information about yourself, as well as identification documents to prove your identity.
- Read and familiarize yourself with the submission guidelines.
- Upload your photos and add metadata, photo descriptions, and relevant keywords.
- Submit your stock photos for review.
3. Join photo contests.
Don’t believe that your skills are good enough to win a photography contest? Think again! It’s not just the experts who join these contests, after all. The contestants you’ll be competing with will usually be an eclectic mix of photographers with different levels of experience and expertise, so don’t be afraid to venture out and try your luck.
What do you have to lose? Even if you don’t win any of the cash prizes, photo contests can help boost your confidence and gain you some exposure.
There are plenty of photo contests out there, and the grand prizes can go as high as a few thousand dollars! Not bad, right?
4. Start a photography blog or YouTube channel.
Bloggers make money through ads and sponsored content. If you’re an adept writer, another way to make money is to start your own photography blog. You can make tutorials, share tips and tricks, or write reviews on all kinds of photography gear and software.
Similarly, you can also make money by starting a photography channel on YouTube. It’s essentially the same content (tutorials, reviews, etc.) but in video form. However, your blog or YouTube channel needs to gain a good following before you can actually start making money from it.
5. Sell your prints.
A beautiful photo is a work of art—and people will pay for art. If you want to earn some extra cash by selling prints of your work, here are a few ways to do that:
- Sell your photos on your own website or upload them to sites like ImageKind.
- Bring framed copies of your photos to sell at art and craft fairs.
- Get your photos displayed at coffee shops, restaurants, and other outlets.
- Offer printed copies to your clients.
- Sell your photos at local art or photography galleries.
Before you start selling prints, find a good printing service first (check out AdoramaPix) to ensure the quality of the end product. Also, as a general rule, people don’t normally buy photos with people in them, so try to avoid selling these kinds of photos. After all, the prints they buy will likely be displayed in their homes or offices.
6. Do freelance photography work for magazines or newspapers.
Contact your local magazines and newspapers and inquire about possible freelance work. It definitely won’t be a stable job, but it’s a great way to earn some money on the side. Eventually, when you’ve established a relationship with a local publication, you can expect a steadier stream of work covering local events and snapping photos for features and news stories.
Make sure to build a strong portfolio to increase your chances of getting work!
7. Become a paparazzo.
Places like Los Angeles and New York are known celebrity hotspots, so if you live in areas where celebrity sightings are a daily occurrence, paparazzi photography may be for you. Paparazzi photographers are well paid, but their job can also be highly demanding and competitive.
How to become a professional paparazzo:
- Invest in the right equipment—you’ll need a high-quality DSLR camera, a telephoto lens, and even a compact camera to allow for taking photos on the sly.
- Obtain press credentials and other credentials you may need.
- Decide if you want to become a freelancer or join an agency.
- Familiarize yourself with celebrities from all fields: TV, movies, sports, and even politics.
- Familiarize yourself with prime locations for celebrity sightings.
- Develop your communication and people skills (you’ll need to interact with celebrities and other paparazzi, so knowing how to establish good relationships is key).
If you decide to be a freelance paparazzo, make sure to find out which outlets (celebrity photo agencies or publications such as The National Enquirer, People, etc.) to contact when you want to sell your photos.
8. Get gigs as an assistant photographer.
Most photographers often need a second shooter (like at weddings and events) or an assistant during photo shoots. If you aren’t too confident about going out there on your own and taking on clients by yourself, working as an assistant or a second shooter is a great way to get your feet wet, gain more experience, and earn some extra cash—because you’ll be compensated for your time!
Just contact any local photographers near you and ask if they need an assistant or a second shooter. Or, if you don’t feel like calling up a photographer you’ve never met and asking for a job, you can try meeting people (and making friends!) in the local photography community by joining some groups or clubs. Networking is an important part of any photographer’s career, so start building your network now.
9. Offer wedding photography services.
You don’t necessarily have to start a wedding photography business to make money from shooting weddings. You can start by contacting clients or offering your services to friends and relatives. Wedding photography is particularly profitable, so it’s always a good option if you’re looking to make money.
Now, whether you decide to do wedding photography full-time or not, it’s important to have top-of-the-line equipment at your disposal if you want to make your clients happy and ensure that they recommend you to all their friends.
10. Start your own niche photography business.
Finally, we get to the last and most obvious way to make money as a photographer—starting your own niche photography business.
Putting up a website that offers a broad range of photography services is a good way to make money, but if you want to really get serious about your career and earn even more money, you need to find your niche. If you enjoy photographing animals, start a pet photography business. Love traveling? Then get into travel photography. Just make sure to keep it focused on one or several related niches, as doing so helps you increase your credibility and build your reputation for being an expert in that particular niche.
Why? Think of it this way: if a client wants to hire a photographer for his wedding, will he hire the photographer who does real estate photography, head-shots, and the occasional weddings here and there? Or will he hire the photographer who exclusively specializes in weddings? Probably the latter, right?
The bottom line is that people want a photographer who not only knows what he/she is doing but also has the specialized skills and experience to be the best person for the job.
So, if you want to start your own photography business, stick to one particular niche—and be the best at it.