10 Ways to Make Money with Your Photography
You do not have to be a starving artist just because you want photography to be your main career. Here are some excellent ways to start making money with your photography.
1. Find Your Clients
I got my very first paying clients by putting forth the effort and finding them.
If you’re sitting around your house waiting for someone to suddenly discover you on social media, you may be waiting a long time and go broke doing it. Instead go out and find the clients yourself.
I knew someone who was pregnant and offered to shoot her maternity photos for free and if she liked them she could hire me for the newborn portraits. Not only did she hire me for the newborn portraits but for the baby’s six month, twelve month, and eighteen month sessions and then again for their next baby’s entire first year sessions. I even got to photograph the birth which was so special to me because she and I went to highschool together. She also went on to refer me to her friends so I got about three years worth of paying sessions from that one client.
Posting content on social media is great but you should be using it as a tool to actually connect with people. Human beings are social creatures and there is no better marketing campaign than your presence.
2. Work Within Your Circle of Influence
You can see how I worked within my circle of influence in the example above.
This is not my original idea. In fact I had never heard of this concept when the above events took place. It comes from a book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. It’s a great book. It’s not necessarily talking about working with people you know, but rather working with things in your life inside your realm of control rather than forcing things from a realm of concern.
By being proactive, your circle of influence will grow with each little step you take in your new photography career. For instance I had been a hobbyist photographer for years before I became a professional photographer. I had even taken film classes in high school. My friends and family could always count on me having a camera. Slowly I began to get asked if I would photograph their baby showers and baptisms. After I photographed the event I would make them a photo book or print and frame the photos as a gift for them. Even though I was doing all of this for free I was slowly working up to getting paid and building myself a nice little portfolio before I even considered doing this as a career or even knew what a portfolio was. I was proactive and working within my circle of influence.
This leads me to my third way to get paid, Freelance.
As people I knew became more accustomed to my photography I started getting referred to freelance. I have probably freelanced for a dozen companies at least, even my local newspaper, and several of them were internationally recognized.
Freelancing has it’s pros and cons to keep in mind. PRO: you get paid from a legit company and do not have to market yourself, they find the work for you. CON: you cannot use the photos you take for them on your own website or social media platforms.
4. Graphic Editing
Become a graphic editor. Photographers often outsource their editing. I have worked for several other photographers editing their work including school pictures, dance portraits, and wedding photography.
The best thing about this is that you learn on the job. The company will train you how to edit the way they want their photos to look on Photoshop, Lightroom, or specialized software made for their company.
They usually pay pretty well or you can research the current going rate and set your own. If you really like it I recommend taking some Adobe Suite classes online or in your community. They are offered everywhere.
5. Work as a 2nd Wedding Photographer
If you have photographed a few family weddings and have started a portfolio you may be able to work as a 2nd Wedding Photographer for another company in your area. Especially if you’re building your resume with Freelancing and Editing gigs.
Local companies are always hiring for 2nd Wedding Photographers, you just have to look for them. This can be a last minute gig so you will need to be flexible and readily available on weekends.
Since they will have a Lead Photographer already assigned to the wedding it relieves some of the pressure off of you and you can learn on the job and gain more experience.
Another plus is that unlike freelancing you can usually use these photos for your own marketing as long as you tag or mention the company you worked for.
I now photograph my own weddings
6. Graphic Design
Now that your graphic editing skills are improving you can start dabbling in graphic design making companies or new clients logos, albums, products, and pdfs. I have had people hire me just to make their wedding or baby album after another photographer took their photos. I’ve also been hired to make logos, start a Facebook page, create marketing campaigns, and I even had one client who just needed a photo resized for a locket and they paid me.
Fun with Graphics
7. Publish a Book
OK you have gone from hobbyist to professional photographer, learned the ins and outs of Adobe Suite programs, and have plenty of customer service and client experience. It’s time to publish a book!
You can publish a book using your own photos and designs or write and publish a How To Book on whatever you have become great at.
Many fine art photographers or street photographers publish books with their own photograph series based around a certain social phenomenon.
I have self published a children’s book combining my photographs, poetry, and graphic skills.
My First Children’s Book
8. Start Your Own Business
By now you have so much photography experience that you could run your own business.
While I was doing all of the above I was working on my own side hustle, creating my own business. I always had a website and social media platforms. I was always posting everything I photographed along the way. I was constantly on the search for clients and working within my circle of influence.
These actions led me to book my own paid events, weddings, births, newborns, babies, children, high school students, graduations, and family sessions. I have even hired my own 2nd wedding photographers and assistants. I no longer freelance for anyone else. I work for myself all of the time.
I do have a personal goal to someday freelance for National Geographic and I’m perfecting my travel photography along the way to that goal by proactively engaging in my new Instagram Page and posting new travel content. So Stay Tuned to see if I make it!
Lost and Found in a Field of Sheep
9. Stock Photography
This is not something I have done to earn a living but I wanted to share it with you anyway as many other photographers have. About six months ago I threw some photos up on Shutterstock Contributors to see how it worked and just checked it the other day to write this post.
I was surprised to find out I had actually sold something! Now keep in mind this is barely enough to buy a Starbucks but it’s still exciting. So yes, if somebody put in the time and effort regularly like with anything else they could make some extra passive income.
These two photos sold on Shutterstock
10. DONATE BUTTON
I have never done this personally. But I have seen photographers do it. This is usually for fine art photographers who are putting out free content without the luxury of earning money like a commercial photographer.
They may prefer entering their work into contests, exhibits, or are saving their work for the book they want to publish.
They may actually have a large following so sometimes you will see a Donate to the Artist section and button on their website.
I have never done it so I do not know the ins and outs but it could be worth researching and trying.
Those are all my tips for making money from your photography. I hope some of them work for you.