9 Ways How To Make Money As a Photographer (Besides Paid Photo Sessions)

Photo sessions, paid gigs, and events like weddings are probably the most popular way to earn as a photographer.

But photo shoots are not for everyone.

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

Is there a way to earn money besides packing your gear and going on tiring and stressful photo gigs?

Yes, there is.

Whether you’re a nature photographer, photo artist, or a beginner shutterbug, there are ways of making money with photography – the way you love it.

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 9 legit and profitable ways (+ two bonus tips) how to make money as a photographer. To make it easier for you, we’ve 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 look 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 – 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 in-built marketing tools that will help with this – email marketing, upsell, and discounts.

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

  • Traveller 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 traveller offering LUTs and Lightroom Presets via his beautiful, customized Sellfy site.

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

Think beyond wall art and photo books.

Today, you can sell literally anything that looks great with your photo on it.

Some places where to sell your 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 digital 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.
  • Websites like Blurb, Yorkphoto and many others allow to create high-quality photo books and ship them on demand. Think beyond a simple collection of photos – why not create a photo cookbook, travel book, children’s photo book, etc?
  • 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 your own ready-made design.

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 demanded 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.

Mind that some people who successfully do photo product reviews, are not even 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 with YouTube.
  • Affiliate marketing – add affiliate links in the video description and get a cut of the sale. You can even review products you already have starting 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 platform for creators.
Cons
  • It might take time until you gather a substantial audience and start earning. For example, 1000 views on YouTube, in general, bring 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
  • Something funky, like a blog on 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 you’re at it.

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 e-book, 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 any 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.

5. 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 in 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 + 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 – even if you uploaded something years ago, it can still bring you income.
  • With time, the amounts you can earn become 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
  • Photo editing and retouch
  • Image manipulation
  • Developing (and editing) negatives
  • Improving image quality
  • Culling and creating collections from hundreds of wedding photos
  • Amazon product photography
  • Photoshop services (airbrushing, touch-ups, etc.)

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 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. Earning 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 right now, 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 – 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 earning this way, 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 and do various gigs during their travels. Image Source.

Pros
  • Obviously, making money while you travel the world!
Cons
  • As with many dream-like jobs, you might first have to sweat a little to become successful. (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. Freelance photojournalist

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

Your chances of getting accepted (and your salary) will depend on the size and authority of the media outlet. For example, National Geographic requires at least five years 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 say: ”I took this photo today and thought you 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 – both as an author and a photographer. Networking is also a process that takes time, so always keep eyes open for any friends of 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 grade equipment. The most basic gear should include a camera body with wide angle and a telephoto lens.

Bonus tip 1: Find opportunities in your neighborhood

This last tip differs from all the others. Instead of using your computer and essentially making money online, for this one you’ll need to step away from the computer and hit the streets.

Depending on where you live, your neighborhood offers opportunities for making money with photography. Some ideas how to contribute to the social life of your community while gaining experience (and earning money) as a photographer:

  • Organize photo trips and excursions. It doesn’t matter if 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.

Bonus tip 2: Spice up your Instagram

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.

 

There’s more.

Instagram can serve as a powerful engine that powers the sales of your digital products. Read this article with valuable tips for selling on Instagram.

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 or pieces?

Ideally, take a photography course and experiment with different genres to find your favorite niche.

Finally, decide if you are looking for a side gig or full-time hustle.

And only then set out for the dream job that will help you make money with photography.

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Ieva is a content crafter and travel journalist with 7 years of experience. She works with Truesix.co – a content marketing agency that helps tech startups access big markets.