In this post I will give you a couple of ideas on how to make money in photography – nothing spectacular here, just things that each of us can do to make money from what we love doing.
We all love photography and it is said “Do what you love and the money will follow” – but is it that easy?
The short answer is NO! It will take work and dedication but it is possible.
Before you can make money in photography you need to become familiar with all (well almost all) things photography related as a first step. Then you need to become proficient at marketing and running a business.
There is no point in taking great photos and not knowing how to present them to prospective customers. In brick and mortar terms “location is everything” but in today’s Internet world its understanding keywords and what customers search for.
The first step is to become a good photographer.
Become a Good Photographer – It has nothing to do with equipment!
To be a good photographer you need to learn how to become a good photographer and that does not require the latest and most expensive camera equipment. Sure it will help but if you have the fanciest typewrite in the world it does not make you a best-selling author. In exactly the same way the latest kitchen equipment (stove, knives, pots, blenders etc.) will not make you a master chef.
What makes us experts in any particular field is understanding the basics to start with and building on from there. They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any field. Now that may not sound like a lot but 10,000 hours is 250 forty hour weeks – or about 5 years of full time work.
Time to get started then …
You will need a camera with a lens but that is it – you can become a good photographer with your phone camera – and let’s face it the phone cameras are far easier and far better than anything Ansell Adams ever had to work with.
Study the following:
- Your camera manual – if you want to get the most out of your camera then the least you can do is understand how it works. There are lots of buttons and menu options, make sure you understand what each one does. This is a basic requirement to becoming a good photographer and the good news is if you do this for camera #1 nothing much changes as you upgrade.
- Learn everything (there’s not much) there is to know about the exposure triangle – essentially this is the relationship between ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. They all work together to give different results.
- Rules of composition – they’re just rules that can be, and are often, broken. But there is a purpose behind each rule based on the way the human eye views and the brain interprets a photo. There are numerous books on the subject. But here is an example. In this image the man is walking from right to left and in strict terms of composition I should have him walking into the image – instead I have him walking out. Why did I break the rules? Well I felt that being in such a beautiful spot, on such a gorgeous day, him being on his phone meant he was missing everything that there was to love about life on the beach. He had probably traversed this entire stretch of beach without seeing anything or savouring the atmosphere and as a consequence where he was going was irrelevant. I think it works – despite breaking the rules.
- Read books, watch videos, join a local or international club and participate as fully as you can in competitions where you will get feed back on your results. I joined The Photographer’s Guild in the UK because of their Image of the Month (IOM) competition which is of a very high level. Now you may not want to join something as intense to start with but you may ultimately want to be judged by peers who pay great attention to detail and will provide you with mentoring. Get your ego out of the way and take criticism as a way of growing. It’s hard and it hurts when someone doesn’t like a photo you do but try to take your emotional connection away from it and understand that they are looking at it from a different perspective. Repeat the shot and try capturing the emotion you feel in the image so that your viewer feels the same.
- Study the old Masters (I’m talking painting artists like Rembrandt) and pay particular attention to their lighting techniques and posing.
- Regularly visit art galleries and photo exhibitions – hell have your own exhibition.
- Go work for an established photographer – get paid to learn. What could be better?
You Don’t Have to Be a Great Photographer! – Average is okay, good is better.
Take photos of a great variety of subjects under all sorts of lighting conditions. Push yourself to the limits and get comfortable with being uncomfortable if you want to grow.
Shooting in a studio day in and day out may ultimately be your style of choice but those who climb mountains, sit up at night, go to foreign countries and capture a variety of subjects usually produce the “wow” photos. Travelling the world taking photos and writing a blog about it seems a pretty good life to me. But there again so does studio work (what I do a lot of) – it all depends what floats your boat.
Do you have to be great – absolutely not. If you continually criticise your work you will never produce anything that meets your strict requirements. however you will know you are good enough when you criticise the most. Look back on previous photos and see how far you have come.
- Compete with the photographer you were yesterday.
- Do a 365 – take a photo every day of the year and post it online for others to hold you accountable. This can be done on FaceBook or in a forum or anywhere you choose.
- Meet with a mentor on a regular basis.
- Hook up with a like minded buddy and go shooting together.
There are a lot of really average photographers out there making seriously good money (and more importantly living the life they love) who are very average photographers. Just have faith in yourself – you’ll never be perfect and you will always be improving. You can only do the best you can on any one day at any given time and in photography that moment never comes back and the photo you capture is the best one of it.
Mediocre photos coupled with positive action beats expert photography with zero output!
Dare to Be Different – It’s less competitive and more sought after
Once you have mastered your gear, learnt about the exposure triangle, understand composing, studied others etc. etc. you will have an idea of what you enjoy doing the most. This is the path you should follow for now (yes it may change later).
Now is the time to specialise!
I am a great believer in learning from others and replicating is fine – but comes a time when you need to be different. You need to have something quite unique.
For example there is always a market for abstract photography. Here I have taken a photo of a forest and deliberately moved my camera as I took it – the image is clearly not in-focus but yet has an eerie feeling to it and will appeal to many. You can make a living just doing this sort of thing as you get known.
Or you can take a series of photos and composite them to make a totally different story – I have friend who does this with wedding photos. She will take a photo of the couple and then put them in the clouds with doves and birds and things and make it all romantic. Does nothing for me but her clients love the photos and she funds her annual overseas photo holiday on the proceeds.
So try to find something that is unique to you, that you enjoy and that has a market. Everything has a market and often the more obscure it is the higher the rewards.
A Thousand Ways to Make Money in Photography
Like any industry there are a thousand (and more) ways to make money in photography.
Let’s explore some a few of those ways.
Offering a photographic service.
- Commercial photography – OMG the number of businesses that are looking for unique photos for their business is unbelievable. Some businesses have their own photpgraphic division because of the volume and variety of product they sell.
- Real Estate Photography – this is easily a full time occupation.
- Website photography – I do quite a bit of corporate work that start off as headshots for the website and end up being a lot more. My speciality is doing environmental type portraits.
- Weddings – evergreen but hard work and competitive but lucrative if you market correctly.
- Portraits – my favourite. I love human faces and expressions. Portraits has many sub niches such as glamour, men, women, children, couples, generational, family, new borns, graduation, etc. etc.
- School photography – again a friend of mine does only this and has 6 schools on his books. He makes a great living out of it because he connects with the families and gets extra work out of them.
- Boudoir – my favourite! Just something so incredibly alluring about the genre, where less (revealed) is more (for the imagination).
- Nude – again tasty is my preferred choice but you can make a good living out of raunchy if that is your thing.
- Pet photography – this is a huge market and I know someone who does only terminally ill pets. She makes a small fortune and people fly her around the country to come and take photos of their furry family before it is too late.
- Hire yourself out as an event photographer – birthdays come to mind as do sporting events.
Selling Your Photographs
You may have decided that you want to take photos of things you love – such as landscapes, wild animals, insects (macro) flowers etc.
That’s great because there is always a demand for these types of photos. People love a variety of subjects but don’t always have the knowledge or the means to photograph them – these people are prepared to buy other people’s images.
As I type this I am thinking of sporting events, motorsports, biking, marathons, track meetings, football, basketball, rugby, cricket, rowing, skiing (snow makes great photos) blah blah blah instead of etc. etc etc. I think you can see the endless possibilities.
Where to sell?
- Well you could have exhibitions
- Make them available online with your own personal site – yes you too could build a site like the one you are reading right now. Its easy ask me how in the comments below.
- Sell through stock photo sites – and there are hundreds to choose from. Its like having a whole team of people all over the world selling your photos for you. All you have to do is upload them.
- Sell to bloggers who are always on the lookout for photos.
Sell Other People’s Photos For Them
Like you there are those who want to sell their photos for a bit of pocket money. Why not help them and start your own uniques stock photo service?
There are several different types of stock photos available online and you can easily start your own.
- Imagine having a couple of hundred thousand photos for sale and making a few cents off each sale – the power of numbers.
- Sell only prints of other people’s photos – one to the site I am affiliated to does this and instead of cents the photographer set’s his/her own price and get a fairly decent sum for their photo. The website takes care of the printing and delivery and for that adds on its one percentage. Its a win, win, win.
How to Make Money In Photography -The first half an hour of the 10,000 hours completed
You’re well on your way, after all the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step!
Jokes aside though I do hope this has given you some ideas on how you too can make money in photography.
My parting bit of advice is to not get too hooked up into the whole making money side of it just yet. First learn by doing and have fun doing it. This is not something I want you to hate doing – I want you to get up and look at everything and think “how can I photograph this so it looks interesting?”
Have fun – do the things you love and the money will follow.
OH and as always please leave me your comments below – anyone and everyone welcome to comment and I would love comments from you if you are already making money from photography.