You picked up a camera and within a few clicks, you fell in love. People, flowers, wildlife, weddings… no matter the genre, you are LOVING photographing it. But now you wonder…Can photography make me money? The answer is yes, you can make money from photography.
The question then is how can you make money? In this article, we’ll talk how to turn your passion into profit. But we’ll move beyond just which genre of photography to focus on and look at different ways you can use your skills to bring in some extra income.
How much do photographers make? That depends on how you choose to make money with photography, your skill and your market. But there are many photographers who have turned it into a full-time career and lucrative side hustles.
This isn’t a step-by-step guide on how to grow your income stream, but it should help spark some ideas on ways you can use the skills and knowledge you already have to make money with photography.
Benefits of Photography Side Hustle
Most of us don’t jump head first into photography as our main income stream. It starts as a side hustle. We have our “real” jobs, but use photography to make some extra income on the side. There’s a few benefits to starting in the industry this way.
Easier Entry Into the Industry
If you eventually want to go full-time, a side hustle first makes a lot of sense. You can see if photography as a career really is the right thing for you. It gives you a chance to slowly grow your photography business and skill without the stress of supporting yourself financially. You can accumulate equipment overtime instead of making a huge investment up front.
New Ways to Make Money Using the Internet
Back in the day (the day being before the mid-1990s), there was no world-wide use of the Internet. No blogs, no affiliate marketing, no websites. Today?
We so many different ways to earn a living via photography! You can use the power of the Internet in lots of ways to make some money in the photography industry, from selling online photos or notecards to selling products for other photographers. And you can do it without quitting your day job, so to speak.
Make Products for Other Photographers
Taking photos for clients isn’t the only way to earn money with a photography side hustle. Make other photographers your clients by creating products for them! Lightroom presets, Photoshop actions, digital backgrounds, overlays, and marketing templates are just a few things you can create and sell to your fellow shutterbugs.
Making Money with Photography Online
Stock Photography Websites
Stock photography websites essentially resell, or grant usage rights for, your images to other businesses. For example, a tourism agency might buy rights to your stunning sunset photo for use in a brochure. You upload your work to stock photography sites, and if a third party purchases the rights to use those stock photos, you get paid a small sum.
There are two different kinds of stock photography websites – macro and micro. The process is the same, but the exclusivity changes. Macro sites generally sell only extremely high quality photos and usage rights are either exclusive to a single client or granted to a limited number of buyers. Mico sites, on the other hand, still sell good quality photos online, but to an unlimited number of buyers.
Some benefits of selling photos as stock photography are that it is passive income and doesn’t require much in the way of dealing with people. Hooray for the introverts! The disadvantages are that you aren’t paid a tremendous amount of money per image for stock photos and it’s a highly competitive field.
Macro companies pay more but are highly selective and really competitive. Micro sites are less strict but often only pay pennies on the dollar for your work. And you may shoot and upload dozens of photos but never actually sell them.
Stock photography includes all genres of photography. The big money pictures are few and far between, but once you build your portfolio and have photos on several different sites, you can earn income from those photos while pursuing a different income stream.
Ever thought about making money by writing about photography? Write for photography sites, or start your own photography blog and monetize it. Teach other photographers the craft, or niche down into one specific area of expertise related to photography and develop content around that niche.
Many photographers combine their day jobs and photographic experience into teaching related skills like laws, insurance, accounting or marketing. Rachel Brenke, aka The LawTog, is a great example of a photography-related blogger making money with her knowledge.
You can make money blogging about photography (or it’s sister industries) by selling ads on your blog or by securing companies to pay for sponsored posts that advertise their own services.
Podcasting or YouTube
If you don’t like to write, consider making money talking about photography. Start a photography-related podcast or Youtube channel and share your knowledge and ideas with the world. You can make money by securing advertisers for your podcast or by hosting sponsored topics for which advertisers pay.
Photo contests are a great way to add to your resume. They may offer cash or other prizes to their winners. If your entries are strong enough, you could be rewarded financially.
Before entering a contest, though, read the rules carefully. Know your rights and what you may be giving up, such as usage rights or copyrights. A $75 prize isn’t much if the contest sponsor prints your image on a product they sell. Don’t settle for a a $50 Amazon gift card and a complementary calendar while a company prints your sunflower image on notecards make tens of thousands of dollars.
Work online selling photos as physical or digital products through online marketplaces. These could be local Facebook marketplaces. There are also national online marketplaces like Etsy, Fine Art America, Zatista, or even Amazon.
These sites improve the reach of your business beyond your immediate geographical area. Customers from across the globe can find your prints and products through simple searches.
Freelance Job Boards
These job boards are similar to marketplaces, but are usually businesses looking to hire you to help their business. Browse job opportunities or create a profile that demonstrates your skill.
What photography related skills do you have others might want? Photo editing, writing, graphic-design, blogging, social media management, and scheduling are just a few skills others might pay you for!
These sites often require a portion of your profits as payment for hooking you up with the job. But like online marketplaces, you can find potential clients worldwide and develop long-term relationships with existing clients. Try sites like Freelancer, Guru, Upwork, or Fiverr.
Ebooks and Courses
If teaching photography is your jam, why not do it online and make some money at it? Write an ebook and offer it for sale. Or create a course that teaches a skill or set of skills and offer it to photographers at once across the world.
There are literally thousands of topics you can choose to write or teach about. Teach posing, astrophotography, flash, how to use Lightroom, how to edit in Photoshop, how to set up mini-sessions, how to switch to in-person sales, and more.
If you’ve mastered some area of photography, turn that into profit by showing others how to do it, too!
Create an online store on your own website to sell your photos. These could be physical products like canvases or prints of your work, or cute socks with cameras on them other photographers would wear. You can also sell digital products like presets, templates, guides or ebooks.
Selling Digital Products
Speaking of digital products, don’t discount them as an income stream! Photographers are always looking for ways to make their lives easier or their work better. Design products around those needs and sell them to other creatives.
Become a Social Influencer
Social media influencers make money by selling products or services for other people. Essentially, you build up a big enough following that advertisers will pay you to influence your followers to buy certain products. You might get paid to promote camera straps, lens cleaning cloths, strobes, modifiers or accounting services.
Finally, leverage your popularity through affiliate marketing. This is usually done through a website or blog, but can also be done via social media. You set up links to products or services on your site that your followers can click on.
If your followers click the links and buy those products or services, you earn a small commission or some other type of reward. I suggest starting by researching the products you already know and love and see if they have an affiliate program. Can you earn some sort of fee for referring your followers to those companies?
Making Money with Photography Locally
We’ve explored the world, now let’s hone in on your local area. Let’s talk about making money with photography locally! We’ll discuss some genres you might not have thought about pursuing and some related activities that have serious income potential!
Art Shows and Craft Fairs
Local art shows or craft fairs are a low cost way to get your work in the hands of other local people. Sell prints or items featuring your work, such as notecards, calendars, coasters, mugs, pillows, blankets, signs, etc. I recommend starting small so you don’t have a lot of money tied up in inventory.
These shows can also be a great place to showcase your work and meet potential clients. Display your work beautifully and you’re bound to draw new potential clients to you for a meet and greet.
Take Pictures for Small Businesses
We’re living in a digital and visual world. And most small businesses know next to nothing about great photography. So help them! Here are a few services you can provide fellow small businesses:
- Personal branding imagery
- Product photography
- Stock photography for websites
- Prints for their space
- Corporate lifestyle photos
- Flatlays for marketing
Brainstorm a list of small businesses in your area, their potential photography needs and then sketch out a great way to make your services solve their problems!
Newspapers, Magazines and Niche Publications
Newspapers, magazines and publications have two kinds of photographers – staff and freelance. In staff positions, you are given regular and routine assignments and generally paid by the hour or salaried. You work as an employee of that business.
Freelancers work independently and contract with newspapers or magazines on a project-by-project basis. You are paid by the project and are not a true employee of the organization. You can pursue work as either a staff employee or freelancer!
Pitch your images or ideas to local newspapers or other publications. You might sell images you’ve already taken or develop a freelance relationship with them. The key is to develop those relationships so that when they have a need, they think of you as a solution!
And don’t discount larger organizations that do business locally. Is there a convention coming to town? See if the organizers or merchants would like photos of the event for their social media needs! Again, think about problems and become the solution.
Start a Photo Booth Business
Photobooths are hugely popular in some areas for weddings, high school dances, and even corporate events! Use your knowledge of photography and customer service and start a photobooth company.
Work as a Photography Assistant
Photographers often need assistants on jobs. You might carry and position lights, run the photo-booth check in process or simply help organize people for family portraits at a wedding. Assistants don’t usually take any photographs, but their services are still invaluable. I regularly hire assistants for my volume sports and school needs. It’s a great way to make money and learn skills from an experienced mentor.
Work as a Second Shooter
Wedding, event, and volume photographers need help from other photographers. Get paid to take photos for them. In addition to getting paid, you might also have new photos for your portfolio and experience to add to your resume.
Shoot pictures for clients
The most obvious of ways to make money locally as a photographer is to take on clients and work for them. There are lots of different niche markets out there, so if one niche doesn’t feel right, find another to explore. We discussed some ideas on shooting for businesses above. But here are some ideas to get you started with on private, personal sessions.
- Weddings and Engagements – you can shoot one or the other or both! You can also niche down even further and specialize. Become the go-to guy or gal in your area for backyard weddings, beach weddings, elopements, or themed weddings.
- Maternity – record those beautiful baby bumps for posterity.
- Birth photography – document the birth story for the family to enjoy later.
- Fresh 48 sessions – these sessions focus on the first two days of the baby’s life after she is born. They can be shot in hospitals, birthing centers or at home if your client had a home birth. They are a great service for photographers who don’t have the patience for posed newborn photography.
- Newborns – photograph those sweet little faces, fingers, and toes. Offer posed newborn sessions with wraps and props or go more casual with lifestyle sessions. You decide which style you prefer – maybe you want to do both!
- Families – this is my bread and butter. Even with cell phones everywhere, moms and dads want beautiful photos of their families. You can give those memories to them.
- Milestones – Twenty-five years ago, there were lots of small, discount portrait studios in places like K-mart or Sears. Moms and dads would take their kids in for short portrait sessions, usually once a year until they started school. Lots of families take their own milestone photos now, but there is still a market for this service. Provide a package deal for sessions occurring at important milestones for a single child, like 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and a 1 year birthday. Or create a package for families with multiple children!
- Mini-sessions – these are shorter sessions with fewer prints or digitals offered, usually at a price lower than a full private session. Most are limited edition themed shoots, such as a Christmas theme. You make less money per session, but can shoot several sessions during the day.
- High school seniors – seniors are another of my favorite niche markets. These sessions are a lot of fun if you enjoy working one-on-one with clients and getting to know them on a more personal level.
- Events – so so so many ways to make money with event photography! Think about fairs, festivals, conferences, conventions, concerts, sports, dances, fundraisers, political campaigns, and more.
- Boudoir – empower women with these intimate sessions!
- Real estate – more people are relying on websites to look for housing. Great photography can be a tremendous asset to a realtor, or even just a friend looking to sell their house or list their property on Air B&B. The best part about real estate is it’s ongoing! There will always be more houses to sell or feature.
- Drone services- private and business clients are willing to pay for ariel photos and videos.
- Pets- dogs, cats, horses, hamsters, snakes if you’re willing…
- Volume work – volume photography is all about taking a lot of photos of a lot of people in a short amount of time. It includes school portraits, dances, sports team and individuals, or corporate headshots.
- Fine art –
- Landscape and wildlife – some people will buy your pictures with money to display in their homes, offices or online. Like newspapers or magazines, you can also become a staff photographer or freelancer for publications.
Teach Photography Skills Through Workshops and Mentoring
Help grow other photographers and teach skills to make money with photography! You can host your own workshops, partner with organizations, teach for a local community education program or even teach college classes.
Workshops can be as simple as a two-hour event or something more elaborate like a trip to Yellowstone coaching budding wildlife enthusiasts.
If group sessions feel overwhelming, offer one-on-one coaching services. Mentor budding photographers in the craft or coach them on related skills.
Host Photo Tours
Put your intimate knowledge of your local area to use and host photo tours! You know the best places to shoot, the best time to shoot a photo and how to get great images. Offer that knowledge for a fee. The best photography tours offer something most tourists can’t get on their own, whether that’s access to private locations or special transportation (see the forest horseback!) or individual coaching.
Be a Photo Editor or Designer
Lots of people have access to a camera. Fewer have access to or understand how to run powerful editing programs like Lightroom and Photoshop. People will pay you to edit, restore and enhance a photo.
Lease Your Studio Space
Studios are expensive. Offset the cost of having your own studio by offering it up for rent when you aren’t using it? Rent it out to other photographers or creative types for a few hours each month. They could use it for sessions, videos, meetings, or small event if you’ve got the room!
How Much Money Can You Make as a Photographer?
So now you know it’s possible to earn money taking photos. But how much can you make? That depends on a ton of things, including your experience, your market, the area of photography you focus on, how much time you devote to growing your business, and how hard you hustle.
Which Type of Photography Makes the Most Money?
Again, it depends on your individual market, experience and clientele. It can be tempting to chase high dollar jobs, but if you don’t enjoy the work and the people you work with, you’ll burn out quickly. Spend some time learning what you enjoy doing, then get creative on how to make that activity or focus earn you the most money it can!
By now, I hope you realize shooting images for other people willing to pay you for your time is just one great way you can make money with photography. There are literally dozens of other ways you can turn your passion for pictures into profit for your product.
Whether it’s expanding into a new niche market or developing a passive income stream to supplement your existing work, if you’re inventive and willing to put in some work, photography can definitely make you money!