18 Ways to Make Money as a Photographer in 2020 – Real Examples

You might not be into portraits or event photography. Or you may hate the thought of spending weekends at weddings or packed exhibition openings.

Or, on the contrary, packing your gear and going out for a gig might be just what you prefer when it comes to earning money as a photographer.

Whatever your preference, there are numerous ways to make money with photography—the way you love it—whether it’s online or offline.

Let us show you.

From teaching photography to selling gifts with your photos and becoming a stock website guru, we’ve compiled a list of 18 profitable ways on how to make money as a photographer.

To make it easier for you, we’ve also listed the pros and cons of each job.

1. Teach photography online

Online learning is a booming market forecasted to hit $50.4 billion by 2020. That’s a lot of money for you to make if you want to share your photography knowledge and skills.

There’s a catch though.

You can be a fantastic photographer, but that doesn’t necessarily make you a good teacher. Just like photography, teaching is a talent and a skill at the same time. Before you take this road, ask yourself if you’ll be fit and happy to do it.

If you’re now nodding in agreement, start by applying as a tutor in popular online course platforms like Udemy and Skillshare.

Some tips to help you start:

  • Follow classes from excellent photo tutors. Search for a topic inside the course platform and filter only the courses with the best ratings.
  • Perfect your portfolio and Instagram profile. Aspiring students will probably want to check your own work before subscribing to your class. Make sure your website or Instagram profile looks convincing before you launch your class.
  • Prepare enticing preview videos. Your potential students will check out your preview videos before buying your course. Make sure they include valuable information, but don’t give away too much—leave them wanting more.
  • Come up with your angle. Don’t just say you teach photography. Decide if you are a wildlife photography specialist or a staged photography guru. Maybe you are more into the technical aspects of photography or all about the art side of it.

Tabitha Park teaches about capturing movement in portraits – a specific topic that attracts the attention of students because it stands out among general photography courses. Image Source

How much can you actually earn as a teacher on one of the skill-sharing platforms?

Well, Udemy’s top 10 tutors managed to earn $17 million in one year, and on Skillshare there are tutors making over $30K a year. Admittedly, these numbers are hard to reach for a beginning teacher, but you can expect to earn between $100 and $1000 from your first relevant lesson.

Pros
  • An exciting process that will also include a lot of learning for yourself.
  • Good quality courses really pay off (you just have to record them once, and they will bring you passive income over time).
Cons
  • Making a course can be complicated and time-consuming.
  • There might be significant competition for your course, so make sure it stands out from the rest.

2. Sell your digital products on Sellfy

If you have (literally any) digital products to sell, Sellfy is the place to start.

Here’s how it works. You create your online store with Sellfy. Add any type of product you’d like to sell. Prepare a juicy description, set a price, publish your product, and share it wherever you like.

Putting up a product on sale literally takes 5 minutes.

Some photo-related digital products you can sell:

  • Video or photo presets
  • E-books or whitepapers on technical aspects of photography
  • Artistic photos
  • Mockup images
  • Photoshop templates and scripts for photo editing
  • LUTs

Remember Point No 1 on teaching photography online? You can also sell your video class on your Sellfy store. This way you’ll avoid the intermediary fees of the skill-sharing platforms.

Read this blog post to get inspired by more digital products to sell online.

Pros
  • An unbelievably simple way to make your digital artwork available for sale.
  • You can customize your site to look highly professional and match your brand.
Cons
  • After you publish your products, you’ll still have to find a way to market them. Sellfy offers inbuilt marketing tools that will help with this, such as email marketing, upselling, and discounts.

Some successful photographers and photo artists selling their work via Sellfy:

  • Traveler and photographer Sorelle Amore sells Lightroom presets in a collection named Hipster AF, including presets named Fixie, Beard Oil, Wes Anderson, etc.
  • Salt in our Hair represents a traveling couple, Hannah and Nick, who sell Lightroom Phone + Desktop presets for Instagram.
  • Model and designer Flicka Elisa posts fashion photos on her Instagram profile and sells Lightroom Presets named after famous style icons.
  • Christian Maté Grab is a filmmaker, photographer and traveler offering LUTs and Lightroom Presets via his beautiful, customized Sellfy site.

3. Sell posters, clothes, and souvenirs with your photos

Think beyond wall art and photo books. Today, you can sell literally anything that looks great with your photo on it.

Some places where you can sell photo products:

  • Facebook is a good place to start selling your photo products. Create a business page for your product or brand, invite your contacts to like it and ask them to spread the word. Facebook also has an online marketplace where you can buy and sell products right in the app.
  • Etsy is suitable for selling not only handmade items but also digital artwork like posters, wedding invitation templates, postcards, etc.
  • Fine Art America is a marketplace specialized for original art, photo prints, home decor, etc.
  • Instaproofs is a service that pulls in photos from your Instagram profile and helps to prepare them for sale.
  • Drop shipping services like Printful take care of printing, packaging, branding, and shipping of the ready-made products to your customers. Create custom T-shirts, posters, mugs, hats, leggings, bags, and other souvenirs either in the program’s mockup generator or upload ready-made designs.

Pros
  • A pleasant and hassle-free way to earn money by creating something yourself.
  • A safe way to experiment and see if your products are in demand before you invest in your business more heavily.
Cons
  • By choosing a print-on-demand service, you give away a significant cut of your profit.

4. Review photo products on YouTube

Most of us check product reviews online before buying, especially when choosing technology or other expensive products.

If you have good technical knowledge about photo products, why not use it to prepare your own product review videos?

The photo industry relies on selling and upselling technology, equipment, and different accessories. Cameras, lenses, and flashes are the most common products you can review for money.

Recommended read

 

Keep in mind that some people who successfully do photo product reviews might not be great photographers themselves. But their specific technical knowledge makes them eligible to make a living with professional reviews.

Here are some ways to earn by reviewing photo products on YouTube:

  • YouTube ads. If you get a lot of views, advertising can be a good source of income. Read more about earning money on YouTube.
  • Affiliate marketing. Add affiliate links in the video description and get a cut of the sale. For example, you can even review the products you already have with the Amazon Associates program.
  • Arrange paid sponsorships. Brands are looking for knowledgeable people to review technical products. Your first reviews will probably be unpaid and will cover the equipment you already have. When you already have a follower base, you can contact companies via email or Twitter to initiate paid sponsorships. Or, use sites like Famebit to find sponsorships by category.

With time, you can grow your audience, gain influence and work out more deals reviewing products that you love.

Some YouTubers who do product reviews:

Pros
  • Once you master product review videos, they can be a good source of income.
  • You can combine several sources of income in one video, e.g. ad revenue, brand sponsorships or Patreon.
Cons
  • It might take time until you gather a substantial audience and start earning. For example, 1000 views on YouTube brings only around $2 in ads. In other words, to make $1000 on YouTube, you need half a million views. However, sponsored videos can bring a more substantial income.
  • You’ll need to upload new videos consistently so this might be time-consuming for a side-gig.

5. Become a photography blogger

If you like writing, blogging can be a great and profitable addition to your photo skills. To stand out among existing photobloggers, choose an exciting angle to your blog, for example:

  • Adventure and/or travel photography
  • Technical tips for photographers
  • A philosophical take on art photography
  • Fashion photography
  • Taking the best food photos

In other words, write about what you love or know very well. The best part? You can earn money while photo blogging.

Ways to earn as a photoblogger:

  • Placing ads on your blog, and getting paid every time a visitor clicks on them.
  • Writing reviews about photo products. If you are an experienced photographer, your audience will definitely appreciate your take on photo gear. On the other hand, brands will be happy to strike sponsorships with you.
  • Offering paid content upgrades in your articles, e.g. a downloadable ebook, online tutorial, consultations, or related products (pro tip: you can create content upgrades right inside the Sellfy platform).
  • Affiliate marketing. Place sponsored links within your content. Every time your reader clicks on them or makes a purchase, you get a percentage of the deal. This way you can provide useful content to your audience while earning money on the side.
  • Writing for photography blogs and media outlets that pay guest contributors.

Pros
  • You don’t need a budget to start blogging, only good writing skills and expertise in your chosen niche.
Cons
  • You need to set a regular posting schedule and be disciplined about adding new content at least 2-4 times per month.

6. Sell your photos on stock websites

Uploading photos on stock websites is a widespread side job for many photographers. The most popular microstock sites are ShutterStock, iStock, Dreamstime, and BigStock.

The amount paid for each downloaded photo is generally low, so you should bet on quantity and upload high volumes of photos regularly.

The key to getting noticed on stock websites? Adding many relevant keywords that people would search for.

Some other important points to consider when uploading stock photos:

  • Stick to photographing what you love (just make sure it’s top quality).
  • Use the correct file type & size suitable for each database.
  • Add metadata to each picture (caption and relevant keywords are very important).
  • Aim for earning in the long term, not next week or next month.
  • To increase your earnings, upload photos on a regular basis throughout the year.
  • Find a low competition area and a high buyer request area.
  • Follow photo trends to know what will be in demand for the next year.
Pros
  • This is passive, long-term income, so even if you uploaded something years ago, it can still bring you income.
  • With time, the amount you can earn becomes more and more substantial.
  • A bonus source of income to anything else you do.
Cons
  • Initially, your income is likely to be low. However, it will grow with time.

Earnings breakdown for Shutterstock. Image Source

7. Offer your skills on freelancer platforms

Looking for photography or photo editing gigs? Freelancer platforms are a good place to find your first customers. Some of the most popular freelancer platforms include Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer.

Some gigs you can find on freelancer platforms:

  • Product photography (with or without models)
  • Food presentation, styling, and photography
  • Image manipulation
  • Developing and editing negatives
  • Culling and creating collections from wedding photos
  • Amazon product photography

Besides joining these platforms, there are other ways to find your first customers. For example, use your personal and professional contacts, share your portfolio on your social media, or reach out to companies directly (e.g. offer to take more professional photos than those currently on their site).   

Pros
  • Joining freelancer platforms is a very simple way to test your skills, see if there’s a demand for your services and grow your portfolio.
Cons
  • Freelancer platforms take a cut (~20%) of your earnings.
  • The majority of Fiverr users make as little as under $100 a month. However, 30% earn between $100 and $499, and above. Persistence and hard work can definitely take you there.

8. Earn with travel photography

Making money while traveling is probably a dream of many photo enthusiasts.

But is it really possible? Yes, it is. In fact, some people are already doing it while you are reading this post.

Some ways you can earn as a travel photographer:

  • Ads and affiliate links on your travel blog or YouTube channel.
  • Sell city guides with photos and tips on cool places to photograph.
  • Publish travel videos on YouTube.
  • Arrange brand deals on Instagram.
  • Sell your photos to travel magazines or websites (pro tip: a good idea is to target your local media outlets as they will be more likely to publish the footage from a local author).
  • Do photo and video gigs for hotels, tourism agencies or tourism boards.
  • Upload your travel footage on stock websites.
  • Sell your travel photos on your online store.

Besides this, you can also arrange sponsored trips or accommodation with your customers, thus minimizing your expenses.

Hannah and Nick are a traveling couple and authors of Salt in our Hair blog. They do various gigs during their travels. Image Source

Pros
  • Obviously, making money while you travel the world!
Cons
  • As with many dream jobs, you might first have to sweat a little to become successful (for example, Hannah and Nick had a huge boost to their audience after GoPro shared one of their photos on Instagram, bringing in 6,000 new followers).

9. Become a freelance photojournalist

Freelance photographers can work for travel magazines, local newspapers, online media outlets, or be employed by photo agencies.

Your chances of getting accepted will depend on the size and authority of the media outlet. For instance, National Geographic requires at least five years of experience in photojournalism and a degree in a discipline other than photography.

However, a little less prominent travel media might accept your photo simply because they find it brilliant.

Some tips for aspiring photojournalists:

  • Publish your work. Hiding your photos for security or copyright reasons is not a strategy that will get you noticed. Instead, choose respectable websites to share your photos and update your portfolio regularly.
  • Email photo editors (or editors-in-chief) from local newspapers. Attach your photo or a series of photos, introduce yourself briefly and tell them that you took this photo recently and thought they might find it interesting. If your photos are good enough or depict very current events, your work will be noticed.
  • Contacts are very important for getting published. Networking is also a process that takes time, so always keep your eyes open for any mutual friends, LinkedIn contacts, or events with networking opportunities.
  • Don’t give up. If your photo is not accepted at first—follow up. If one, two, or five sites refuse, keep pitching others. Be systematic, be patient, and show professionalism in every email you send.
  • Show your experience in fields other than photography. Mention if you’re an avid traveler, environmental activist, human rights supporter, rock music enthusiast, etc. All these specialized areas will add value to your resume.
  • Follow professional photojournalists on social media, get inspired by their work and look for opportunities to network.
Pros
  • Once you get noticed and develop contacts, you can start submitting your work on a regular basis and even make it your full-time job.
Cons
  • Photojournalism is a highly competitive field, therefore breaking into it usually takes time and a lot of effort.
  • If you want to be taken seriously, you’re going to need to invest in professional equipment. The most basic gear should include a camera body with a wide angle and a telephoto lens.

10. Find opportunities in your neighborhood

Instead of using your computer and making money online, you can also find opportunities when you step away from the computer and hit the streets.

Depending on where you live, your neighborhood can offer opportunities for making money with photography. Some ideas on how to contribute to the social life of your community while earning money as a photographer:

  • Organize photo trips and excursions. It doesn’t matter whether you live in a big city or a village, you can surely find a fresh angle for showing your surroundings to tourists or offer weekend activities for locals.
  • Teach photography classes to kids or adults in your neighborhood.
  • Offer workshops for photography beginners in your local community center.
  • Organize a photo exhibition. You may be an artist, a wildlife photographer, or a portraitist – if your pictures are great, you will surely have an audience willing to see your work.

11. Monetize your Instagram account

Think of your Instagram profile as your second portfolio. Make sure it looks great as soon as you start spreading your name and looking for new customers.

Elizabeth Jane Rubene is a fashion and art photographer, and her Instagram feed reflects her work. Image Source

Instagram can serve as a powerful engine for boosting the sales of your digital products, e.g. photography presets. It can also help you land into affiliate marketing.

Once you have enough followers, you can start thinking about monetizing your Instagram account. If you’re great at taking amazing photos, chances are you’ll likely get contacted by a brand or two that wants you to sell or advertise their products.

Read this article with valuable tips for selling on Instagram.

Pros
  • A sure-fire way to fame and earning once you’ve reached micro-influencer status.
Cons
  • Figuring out Instagram algorithms can be a pain.

12. Become a wedding photographer

Wedding photography is a highly rewarding niche. Not only will you benefit from the huge earning potential, but also play a vital role in capturing some of the happiest moments of people’s lives. 

If you’re great at shooting portraits, you’ll likely be great at shooting weddings too. With that being said, there’s also a lot of pressure involved in making sure the photos turn out as expected.

So, to convince a future bride and groom that you’re perfect for the job, you should first:

  • Make sure that you have an eye-catching portfolio (preferably of couples or friends and family in aesthetic settings).
  • Demonstrate your willingness to go the extra mile and really capture the most beautiful moments of a wedding (e.g. upload a video where you talk about your photography passion).
  • Take photos of engagement sessions.

sellfy seller moorea thill photography

Moorea Thill has taken wedding photography one step further by selling presets and guides on Sellfy.

The best way to really convince people? Create a wedding-themed website. Add a dreamy touch to it and upload some of your best-stylized shots of couples in wedding or engagement attire.

In fact, you can easily do that with Sellfy without having to go through the hassle of creating a website from scratch. Read more on how to get started with Sellfy here.

Pros
  • Major earning potential once you’ve become well-known.
Cons
  • A challenging job as the expectations are huge (understandably so).

13. Make money from cinemagraphs

If you have a passion for photography, why not take it to the next level and create cinemagraphs? 

Cinemagraphs are basically like video content, except there’s usually just a portion of the photo that is animated. Think of it as a professional-looking gif, if you will. 

Cinemagraphs literally make your photos come alive as visual eye-candy in people’s social feeds. It’s the perfect clickbait for capturing followers and building a loyal fanbase.

So, how do you animate your photos and sell them?

Here are a few tips:

  • Use a free app like Cinemagraph Pro to edit your iPhone photos and create quality cinemagraphs.
  • Upload animated photos to your Instagram account and watch your following grow.
  • Alternatively, you can also upload cinemagraphs to Flixel and link them to a landing page on your website.

cinemagraph

A cinemagraph created by visual artist Philipp Frank. Image Source

Pros
  • The visual appeal of cinemagraphs will almost certainly guarantee interest in purchasing your work (for instance, Microsoft uses cinemagraphs to boost their marketing campaigns).
Cons
  • Trying to figure out how to turn photos into cinemagraphs can be time-consuming for a beginner.

14. Freelance for Airbnb

Yes, you heard that right. You can even freelance for Airbnb — how cool is that?! 

So if photography is your passion, this could be a potential side-hustle for you. Airbnb is always looking for talented photographers to take photos of popular rentals for their clients.

It’s similar to real estate photography, except with a much bigger bonus: a chance to pay for your travels with money earned from freelancing for Airbnb.

freelance for airbnb

Pros
  • If you happen to be a photographer who also loves traveling or trying out different Airbnb rentals, then this could be your opportunity.
Cons
  • You’ll have to apply for contract work with Airbnb and meet their list of requirements.

15. Create and sell photo books

Another way to earn money is by creating and selling photo books. While online photo galleries and portfolios are more common, a real book showcasing your talent might also work well for your business. Not only is it perfect for sharing with clients, but it’s also the perfect gift for family or friends. 

A couple of photo book theme ideas:

  • Wedding
  • Animal or pets
  • Travel 
  • Family 
  • Children’s picture book
  • Memoir

For example, you can sell and distribute your own photo books with Blurb. By using their services, you’ll be able to sell on Amazon, Ingram, Apple iBooks Store, or Kickstarter. You can also convert your photo book into an ebook.

create and sell photo books

Pros
  • A physical product that will be appreciated by family, friends, and clients.
  • The more high quality photo books you create, the higher your chances of earning.
Cons
  • The time and the cost that goes into creating and distributing a photo book.
  • Likely to be more profitable for someone with a large following.

16. Share your work on free photo sites

What if I told you that you don’t always have to go the premium stock site route to earn money? While this may sound counterintuitive, sharing your work on free photo sites can be a surprising boost for your business. 

Let me explain:

  • When you download an image from a free photo site like Unsplash, you’ll see a pop-up asking you to help the contributor gain exposure by giving attribution.
  • When you download an image from Pexels, you’ll see a huge donate button next to the contributor’s name.
  • When you download an image from Pixabay, you’ll get asked to link back to the image author, follow them on Instagram or give a donation.

Although the earning potential isn’t as high as with some of the previous ideas in this article, it’s still an option.

share your work on free photo sites

If people love your work, chances are they’ll donate.

For example, you can use a free photo site for more exposure and popularity while you try out other profitable business ideas as a photographer. Doesn’t hurt to give it a try, right?

Pros
  • You’d be surprised how many people actually click that donate button.
Cons
  • As mentioned, not that profitable in comparison to other options out there.

17. Enter photo contests

Photo contests aren’t something that comes to mind when you think of earning an income with photography. However, if you’re lucky, you might actually win a huge cash prize. Some contests also offer new camera equipment as part of the prize or even a chance to have your work exhibited.

Whatever the prize is, it’s worth a try because your work will likely stay up on the competition’s website. So even if you don’t win, you can still attract followers.

If you’re going to try your luck at photo contests, I recommend having your own Sellfy website so that people can view (and potentially purchase) more of your work.

Here’s a good list of 2020 photography contests on Photo Contest Guru’s site. Here’s another list.

enter photo contests

Image Source

Pros
  • A chance to win a cash prize of $1000+. Need I say more?!
Cons
  • Tough competition from other talented photographers.

18. Offer tutorials, photo editing or restoration services

Aside from photoshoots, you can also offer photo retouching or restoration services as part of your online business. If you already have an existing portfolio that demonstrates your photography skills, you’ll probably be able to sell photo editing too.

Retouching photos involves adjusting the tone, colors, or lighting. But more than that, it requires a trained eye. We’ve seen a surge of face editing apps like Facetune over the years. 

While these apps can be useful for editing or airbrushing minor details, they leave much to be desired. The reason is that edited photos more often than not end up looking unnatural. 

That’s why marketing yourself as a photographer offering professional retouching services can actually be a very profitable business. 

In fact, you don’t even need to have Adobe Photoshop to do the job. There are hundreds of apps out there specifically made for photographers that work as well as computer software.

sellfy seller prince meyson

Prince Meyson’s popular Retouching Essentials Pack product on Sellfy.

Something else you can try is photo restoration⁠—there’s actually a growing market for repairing old or damaged photos. Not only will this service appeal to vintage photo lovers, but it’ll also make you stand out as a niche service provider.

Bonus tip: If retouching other people’s photos aren’t your thing, try filming tutorials of how you edit or repair your photos and then selling them to aspiring photographers.

Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Sell Photoshop tutorials on your blog or website and monetize the site through advertising.
  • Join an advertising program such as the YouTuber Partner Program and create video tutorials.
Pros
  • There’s a huge demand for photo editing and retouching, so you won’t be short of customers.
Cons
  • If you don’t have an existing portfolio, you’ll need to invest in marketing your services.

Wrap up

Photography can be an expensive hobby, but it’s in your power to turn it into a steady source of income, too.

Before you start hustling, decide what it is that you love about photography. Is it the artistic side of it or, on the contrary, the mirrors, shutters, sensors, and other technical bits and pieces?

Ideally, take a photography course and experiment with different genres to find your favorite niche. Finally, decide if you’re looking for a side gig or a full-time hustle, and only then set out for the dream job that will help you make money with photography.

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