The reality is that this is the toughest time in history to make money from photography – but that doesn’t mean you can’t make any money.
Here’s what the critics and the naysayers like to say:
Print media is shrinking and pictures in the media are ephemeral
Stock photo sites have millions of good photos to sell for trivial amounts of money – and more every second.
You would be competing with tens of thousands of experienced photographers, more every day, who want or need to make money to offset their expenses.
The barrier to entry is small as cameras are smart enough that anyone can make decent pictures if they let the camera alone. And manufacturers are still selling cameras.
If you’re looking to build a credible business, check out our guide on building your own startup from scratch.
1 – Sell Prints
If you’re any good at photography (I’m sure you are, if you’re following this site) and you take a lot of photos, there’s a good chance that you’ve taken some really good ones by now, so good that people will buy them.
Why not sell them?
This can be very easy and inexpensive to do, or slightly more difficult, depending on how you go about it.
Obviously, the easiest way for anyone to sell prints is to sell them online through a third-party seller who does all of the legwork: processing the order, printing and sending out the photos, and providing you with a commission.
There’s no reason why you can’t go through all your best photos right now and upload them to a site such as ImageKind – start earning money from the prints you sell.
Another way, which is a little bit harder, is to print them yourself and sell them through shops and restaurants.
Say, for example, you’ve taken plenty of nice photos from your area. Approach a cafe or a restaurant and come to an arrangement where all you have to do is print your photos and give them a commission to display and sell them – they get artwork, you get money.
At the very least, you will have your photos displayed to thousands of people.
Have you ever been to a restaurant and seen artwork hanging up with a price on it? That’s what that is all about.
As a photographer, you should also learn a few tips about promoting your Instagram account or your services through Digital Marketing techniques.
2 – License through Flickr & Getty Images
A little while back, something very interesting happened on Flickr which has helped thousands of people to start earning money from their photos.
If you have a Flickr account, you can now license your photos through Getty images so that, when people see them, they can pay to use them, earning you money.
Flickr members can turn on a “Request to License” link on their photo pages. The link will show right next to the licensing information.
When a request is made, Getty Images reviews the photographer’s work. If it’s suitable for the program, they’ll contact the Flickr member and help handle details like permissions, releases and pricing.
I would recommend only showing your best photos on Flickr rather than full albums; you want to try and impress the nice people at Getty Images.
This is something that everyone here should be doing and you can learn more about how it’s done here.
NOTE – This is currently closed for the quarter due to high demand but keep it bookmarked.
3 – Local Paper
I have a few friends who started out like this: they have contacted their local paper and worked with them to earn money from their photography.
There are two main ways that you can do it.
Firstly, if you have a strong portfolio of images and an established relationship, you will begin to find that they will be contacting you when they need a photographer (and they will need one).
From here, so long as you have the aspiration, you can expand your portfolio, moving onto bigger and better things.
The second way to work with them is to go out yourself and capture local events or new stories.
You’d be surprised at how easy it is to get a press pass for local events, I’ve done it before without even being asked to see a portfolio, or who I work for. Take these photos to local papers and start to earn money (always charge them; they have a budget for this sort of thing) and get published.
Pick up the phone and call your local paper today. In my experience, a phone call is a lot harder to ignore than an email.
4 – Stock Photography
We’ve all heard of stock photography before and it’s similar to what Getty is doing with Flickr, only you go about it in a slightly different way.
Instead of waiting for your photos to be found, you can submit them to a whole variety of stock photography websites. Add keywords and people will find them – if your photos are what they’re looking for, they will buy them.
When I say buy, I really mean license; you can continue to sell photos time and time again and make a good living out of it if you have a large portfolio.
5 – Club Photography
This is a very specific type of photography, that’s listed here for a reason: it’s easy to get into.
If you ever go to a nightclub, and I mean a proper, local club, not some bland chain where they charge you an arm and a leg to get in, there will be well established promoters.
These promoters all want photos from their club nights; you can be the one to provide this.
It’s worth the promoter paying for a photographer to come along and take photos because these photos end up on Facebook and are used to promote the club night.
If you go to many clubs, you’ll probably notice that the majority of the photographers are in their early 20’s, living locally, students perhaps – you don’t need the greatest experience in the world to get work.
If you want to expand your photography before you start looking for work, go down to a club night with your camera anyway. I have NEVER been stopped from going into a club with my camera because the bouncers just don’t care and neither do the promoters.
As a little added bonus if you enjoy this sort of thing, you can get into a lot of gigs for free.
Go out tonight with your camera and take some photos at a local club/gig/event.
6 – Sell your Photography Gear
This is a bit of an ongoing joke with photographers: the best way to make money from photography is to sell your camera.
And it’s true, earning money from photography can be tough but I think I’ve shown you enough possibilities in this post that hopefully you don’t do that.
However, I’m sure you have plenty of photography gear lying around that you’re don’t use any more. I’ve got old film cameras that I don’t use because I have so many and at least three lenses that haven’t been touched in the past six months (I’ve upgraded).
There’s no point in having these lying around, collecting dust. You may as well sell them to make some money or, if you’re feeling really generous, you could give them to a friend who’s starting out.
Another great way to make money is to go to flea markets and look for old cameras. Take them to shops or eBay and earn a profit.
It does help to know what you’re talking about though – and learning how to make money from photography is definitely easier.
7 – Assist a Photographer or Studio
Assisting as a photographer is one of the best ways to find work and start making money fast.
You will need a strong portfolio if you’re expecting to go and work at weddings and such with a camera but there is other high end work, such as fashion, where you won’t get behind the camera but can still gain experience and earn money.
Photographers often need assistants on jobs and you should expect to be compensated for your time. The biggest advantage of all is that you don’t have to look for the work, it comes to you.
The hardest part about learning how to make money from photography is finding people who are willing to pay you the money you want for the work you’re good at.
If you’re assisting for a photographer, they have all of this set up and you will start to learn how it’s done. Take some time now and find local working photographers in your area. Contact them, ask if they would like an assistant.
Offer to do the first time for free if you like because, if you’re any good, then they will want you back.