Ever wonder what types of freelance photography exist and how you can actually make money doing them?! Let’s break down your options!
The term freelance photography can be a bit intimidating! It means you’re on your own and have to keep your business afloat by being creative and aware of trends in the market. Here’s a list of 21 types of freelance photography that can actually make you money.
1. Social Media Photography
This is a BIG one, guys. BIG. If you’re on Facebook or Instagram, which I suspect you are, you’re bombarded by ads and thousands of images daily. That means businesses need to majorly step up their game if they want to stay relevant! When a business invests in their social media presence, customers often take them more seriously. IMAGES SELL. That’s where your freelance photography comes in! This new social media platform is growing exponentially, and businesses are starting to take notice.
How to make money: This could potentially be very lucrative for a photographer! You could set up “social media” packages for local businesses and gear the photography specifically for Instagram or Facebook. You can even make it a recurrent “contract” if they pay upfront. Say you take pictures of their store/products every three months, you can offer a discounted price for the year. For example, you can offer them 50 social media photos (sized appropriately), every three months, for a total of 200 photos. Say your normal session fees are $250. Instead of charging them $1000 for the year, offer them the package for $750! Businesses KNOW that advertising is going to be a part of their yearly operating budget, so tap into it!!
2. Family/Portrait Photography
Portrait and family photography is probably the most common type of freelance photography. If this is your niche, it’s easy to get busy very quickly! This type of photography is constantly in demand, as families grow and change over the year. Not to mention people love to share their photos online and hang them in their homes.
How to make money: Advertise locally on Facebook and Instagram. Tell all of your family and friends, and offer discounted or free sessions to get the ball rolling. This type of freelance photography relies HEAVILY on word of mouth, meaning you need to make the client experience a stellar one. This is why it’s always important to know what your client is experiencing! So get in front of the lens yourself on occasion.
3. Event Photography (Weddings, Concerts, Party Photography)
People are constantly planning events! Between weddings, Christmas parties, Bar Mitzvahs, Christenings, corporate lunches, charity events, all the way to birthday parties and births! Specializing in event photography can really open your networking possibilities as well.
How to make money: Talk, talk, talk! Tell everyone you know that you’re an event photographer and that you’re currently booking into the next year. You can charge for the event itself (a flat fee for a certain amount of photos), or you can set up price lists for each digital download. The latter can be risky because people often take photos on their phones and therefore don’t feel the need to purchase a digital image. In this case, watermarking your images can be key. Not only will people know who you are, they will share those photos on social media.
Keep in mind that you really have to sit down and figure out what event photography is worth. Let me tell you, it’s EXHAUSTING, and if you don’t price it appropriately, you’ll end up hating the thought of doing another event. Events tend to run over in time, people are often slightly more stressed out than usual, and the stakes are higher because you only have one shot to get it right!
In order to break into this field, you can advertise on social media, offer your services to your company or friend’s events, or even offer to second shoot for a minimal fee (the going rate for a second shooter for a wedding is roughly $50/hr)!
4. Fashion Photography
The realm of freelance fashion photography can be a bit tricky, since it’s such a small niche with big names in the industry. If you’re inclined to love fashion, this can be a lifelong career.
How to make money: Fashion photography can be very busy and rewarding. If you’re just starting out, offer your services to local boutiques around town. If they don’t have a budget for this, it’s time to get put your negotiating skills to use! Trade services! So maybe for an hour of shooting, they can offer you a 50% discount on your next purchase (this can be pretty nice if you like to shop)! Keep working, keep finding models, and make sure to advertise your images in social media. You never know who’s looking at your work!
5. Corporate Photography
Breaking into corporate photography can be a great way to get your freelance game on! Most companies are now shying away from the classically stiff studio headshot photography, and want a more modern, friendly images to share on their websites and social media accounts. Many large corporations are also interested in event, meeting and team photography! The opportunities are endless.
How to make money: Talk to ALL of the people in your circle because there are bound to be a few working for big businesses! Mention that you’d like to break into corporate photography, and that you can offer a discount on your photography services. Many times, these companies don’t negotiate pricing, meaning you can charge a competitive price and not feel bad about it.
For example, if there is a department of eight people, offer your regular headshot session price and include the meeting and the group shots for free (so they feel like they’re getting a deal). In terms of time, I recently did just that, eight people (you can determine the number of images for each person), group shots, and meeting photography. It took about three hours on site, one hour of travel, and roughly two hours of editing. So determine your hourly rate based on how much time it will take you. $1400/7 hours = $200/hour! Not bad for a day’s worth of work, don’t you think?
6. Landscape Photography
Landscape photography can be great for those freelance photographers that like to work alone! Nothing gets old about seeing a beautiful landscape/cityscape of your favorite place. These can be great for calendars, postcards, and printing to sell in a photography shop! For more on how to make your landscape photos pop, read this great tutorial!
How to make money: Making a steady income from landscape photography can be challenging, but not impossible! If this is your niche, make some nice prints and go to an art fair in town, approach local art vendors or print shops and ask to consign some of your pieces! People tend to buy landscape prints from places they connect with, so be intentional with your marketing. Offer prints to family and friends, or donate a piece for an auction or charity event. Landscapes are hard not to love!
7. School Photography
Every school likely will need to hire a photographer to take yearbook photos! This can be a LOT of work, and take a lot of careful planning, but it can not only lead to great sales, but the ability to connect with hundreds of families. Plan to move fast and make sure to have an assistant.
How to make money: Approach local schools and offer to do their photos at no fee (this is fairly standard practice as you make your money from print sales). This can be a big risk, because you have no idea how much you’ll sell in prints until after you’ve put in all of your hard work. On the flip side, if things go well, you can make a LOT of money. If you want to negate some risk, try doing pre-sales for parents at a discount.
8. Wildlife Photography
Wildlife photography falls in the same category as landscape photography. People never get tired of a beautifully colored, exotic butterfly or an image of a herd of elephants treading through the African savannah. Some people create these images just for people to buy and put on their desktop screen savers.
How to make money: Calendars, printed images, or hanging your work in a nature store are all ways you can sell your work. You can also submit photos to nature publications or to stock image sites. It may be worth offering the photos to nature reserve advocates to promote conservation and wildlife protection!
Photojournalism (also referred to as press photography) can be a really cool way to spark a love for photography that can take you all over the world. This type of freelance photography centers around news and material print. It can range from international politics, documentary or street photography. It usually appears in newspapers and magazines. Some of the most well-known photojournalism was seen by war correspondents, like in Vietnam.
How to make money: Publishing companies (newspapers, magazines, journals) can be a way to gain work because they are often looking for image content. The key to photojournalism is to be persistent, targeting a specific audience or type of genre.
10. Paparazzi Photography
This type of freelance photography can get competitive, so put on your helmets! It can often be challenging because you need to be so much more than good at photography! You need to be smart, have connections, love to travel, and have a thick skin. Another requirement is that you must love the idea of “hurry up and wait.”
How to make money: Some paparazzi can make a living on just this type of photography, from photos ranging from a few hundred dollars, to thousands, for a single photo. It takes expensive equipment and persistence!
11. Real Estate Photography
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there are probably a lot of residential and commercial properties where you live. Those homes, business spaces are being bought and sold daily. Every real estate agent knows the value of professional images (that get potential clients on the phone and eventually to see the space).
How to make money: Go to local real estate offices and offer your services. If you’re new to this type of freelance photography, maybe offer a discounted price to get started. Many agents have it in their budget to take professional photos. Another place to look for real estate opportunities are with people that own rental Airbnb’s, or through a hotel booking agency, like Bookings.com. People don’t typically visit vacation rentals before renting them, so professional photos are incredibly important! Get in on it!
12. Pet Photography
We all love our cute and cuddly pets, and many people love to take photos with them or of them. As they can be very important family members, people will often pay for a pet session just as they would for one of their children.
How to make money: Pet calendars are pretty popular, along with good old portrait photography of pets and their owners. Advertise in local Facebook groups, or at shelters! If you’d like to donate your time and your good heart, offer a local shelter to take photos of the animals for their website. What’s better than helping a fellow creature in need find a new home?
13. Product Photography
How many people have a product that they want to sell? A LOT. Marketing requires professional photos, and that’s where you come in!
How to make money: TALK! Ask around town, friends, family, and local businesses. Offer to take photos of local products and ask that they give you photo credit or pass out your business card. It’s actually really fun to meet new people and collaborate on projects. Word of mouth can be like a wild fire. Produce top quality work and exceptional customer service, and they’ll call you for future endeavors.
14. Print Photography
Print photography is pretty straightforward when it comes to freelance photography. Take picture and print it!
How to make money: Print your photos on high quality material and voila! Post them to your website, etsy.com, or ask that they be displayed in local stores! You never know who will connect and fall in love with your work! Heck, if you feel the desire, open up a gallery of your own. People love to decorate their homes with beautiful artwork!
15. Sports Photography
Photographing sports can be a really fun way to get your work out in to the community. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional, sports work can be a dynamic type of freelance photography.
How to make money: If you’re a parent, offer to take official photos for the sports team. Parents love a great photo of their child to look back on. If you’re an avid fan, take your camera to college or professional games and see what comes. You may be able to sell your shots to the team or to the school.
16. Aerial/Drone Photography
People are more and more interested in aerial photography. Most people automatically think that drone means videography, but that’s not necessarily the case. Real estate agencies, hotels, and historic communities love a different perspective. It’s pretty cool to see something from above!
How to make money: Not many photographers do aerial photography, so this is a great way to set yourself apart. You can even print and sell aerial shots in galleries or to local businesses that are looking to add art to their walls. It never hurts to ask! (Don’t forget to get your FAA license to operate a drone!)
17. Food Photography
We ALL love food. And we all love food that looks good. Restaurants realize this and need good looking shots for their website and social media. It’s the best way to attract potential customers, and they definitely budget for this type of advertising…so start asking around!
How to make money: This may sound a little bizarre, but take your camera the next time you go eat (or everywhere you go). Something I’ve done (and always tends to work), is that I snap a few photos in an establishment (restaurant, cafe, local business). If the photo turns out well (sometimes it doesn’t…so no harm, no foul). I then send it to the company’s Facebook page and tell them that I really loved their food/coffee and thank them for a great experience. I size it correctly and tell them they can use it for their social media site. That gets people thinking! I then mention that I’d love to help if they need photos for their website or advertising. Once they see the difference in picture quality, they usually get interested. You can set up packages that range from a few photos to a full blown company re-branding! The opportunities are really limitless!
18. Travel Photography
Who hasn’t dreamed of traveling the world and making money doing it? It’s hard to do, yes, but not impossible. The next time you travel, take your camera. I know, it’s a pain dragging it around, but I promise it’s worth it.
How to make money: Travel blogs are always looking for content! Some companies will actually pay if you produce consistent travel images that they can use for their sites. OR, you can get creative and start your own project.
Mihaela Noroc, from Romania, decided to travel the world and take photos of women from Ankara to Seattle. She compiled all of these photographs in an amazing book titled, The Atlas of Beauty, which is now a huge hit around the world. She now plans to continue her mission with the funds from the book. Sounds like a pretty great way to take life by the horns and break down barriers!
19. Street Photography
Being a street artist can be challenging but very rewarding. You know that whole Humans of New York series that sort of EXPLODED? That’s street photography at its finest. It has turned into a documentary and book series as well.
How to make money: This is where you have to really sell yourself and love what you do. Grab your camera and be willing to have some tough days. Street photography needs to evoke emotions and tell stories through images. You can print your work and sell it, send it to a variety of publications, or sell images to the very people you are photographing. You’ll have the most luck marketing through a blog that you update regularly!
20. Stock Image Photography
This may not be the most lucrative type of freelance photography, but you can make money off of copyright-free photos that sites sell to people/companies.
How to make money: Depending on the site, you can get paid a flat rate for each time your image is downloaded. This can range from a few cents to $1-2/per image. It’s probably not something that will support you full-time, but can maybe increase your income by a few bucks a month.
21. Underwater Photography
If you have a love for the ocean, try exploring underwater photography. You’ll be amongst the few!
How to make money: Underwater photographers can tap into the market in many ways. You can freelance for diving companies on an exotic island, taking photos of vacationers. In fact, some people easily make a living doing this! You can print and sell images and also try your hand at producing your own book or calendar! Who doesn’t love a vibrant underwater photo! Oh, but it may be a TAD expensive…
Whatever type of freelance photography you choose, being creative is ALWAYS the most important part. The key is really sitting down and finding where your true passion lies. The fact is, if you LOVE what you’re doing, the money will come. Make a list of how you could make your dream a reality. Who is your target audience? How can you market your images? Where could you sell printed versions of your work? Can you sell your images to companies or publications? The more you detail your options, the more likely you are to follow through. If you’re willing to put in the work, there’s always a way!