Photography is a highly sought-after skill with growing demand across a wide variety of industries and plenty of ways to make money, regardless of your experience level.
In this post, I’ll share 12 ways you can start making money and get paid as a photographer. I’ll also provide tips on running a photography business and strategies to help you market yourself as a photographer.
Whether a beginner or a seasoned pro, keep reading to learn more about how you can turn your photos into cash and build a successful photography business.
12 Ways to Make Money as a Photographer
Whether you're starting out or have been taking photos for years, here are ten ways you can make money as a photographer.
1. Sell Digital or Printed Photos
Photography is an art form that many people are willing to pay good money for. One way to tap into this market and make money with your photos is by selling prints or digital versions.
You can do this through your own website, on third-party platforms like Etsy or Amazon, or by uploading them to sites selling prints and other types of art for independent artists. You can also sell framed prints at fairs, markets, and local galleries.
2. License Photos to Stock Photography Sites
Many websites, such as iStock and Shutterstock, offer stock photos for download. One way to make money from your pictures is to submit high-quality ones to these sites. All you need to do is register as a contributor by submitting basic information and documents to verify your identity.
After signing up, read the submission guidelines and upload your photos with descriptions and keywords before submitting them for review.
3. Teach Photography Workshops
Classes or courses can provide a way to share your experience and passion for photography and earn a steady income. That said, it's essential to understand that running a workshop takes considerable prep time. You'll need to organize the different classes, formats, and reservations and find a space to hold your classes.
You can also offer urban or nature photography workshops in various locations for a more dynamic and interactive learning experience. If these in-person formats don't appeal, you can always run online classes via Zoom from the comfort of your apartment or studio.
4. Do Photo Shoots for Clients
People are always looking for professional photographers who can take pictures of their family, friends or loved ones for family portraits, maternity, and holiday photos. You might be the perfect person to provide that service because you have a way of working with people and an eye for capturing special moments.
Professional headshots for models, CVs, and LinkedIn profiles or real estate photos for someone selling their home are also great ways to earn money.
Of course, a lot goes into getting the perfect shot. You'll need to discuss the shoot with your client and figure out what they're looking for. You'll also need to choose the right location and set up the perfect lighting.
5. Become a Photo Editor
People and businesses are willing to pay good money to customize, enhance or fix imperfections in photos. As a photo editor, you'll typically work with photographers, advertising agencies, and other businesses to edit images using software like Photoshop and collaborate with your clients to ensure your work meets their expectations.
If you're interested in getting into this world, creating a portfolio showcasing before-and-after images and your process for transforming photos is a must to help you attract clients. You'll also need at least a basic familiarity with editing software programs.
6. Sell Photos to Publications
Selling your photos to media publications like magazines and newspapers is another excellent way to make money. Getting started is easier than you might think. First, look at the images that magazines and newspapers publish. Next, research the publications you're interested in and familiarize yourself with their submission guidelines.
Building a solid network and targeting smaller publications rather than big outlets like the New York Times is best when you're starting out.
7. Offer Event Photography Services
One of the most traditional and lucrative ways to make money as a photographer is to photograph events like weddings and birthdays. There are numerous opportunities but the amount you can charge is primarily determined by your reputation. You'll likely need a complete online portfolio and some experience under your belt to convince most clients to hire you.
8. Start a Photography Blog
A photography blog is an excellent way to boost your website, build industry credibility and get new clients. But you can also monetize your blog to earn money. You can place ads on your site and get paid every time someone clicks on them.
You can also insert links within your blog posts and receive a commission whenever a reader clicks the link. That said, you’ll need to grow your audience and prove decent website traffic before anyone wants to put an ad on your site.
9. Enter Photo Competitions
Many photo contests exist for all skill levels, including amateur and professional photographers. These competitions offer the opportunity for increased exposure and cash prizes which can help boost your income and confidence if you’re not already quite confident enough.
There are hundreds of competitions out there. Some of the more well-known ones include iPhone Photography Awards, Nikon Small World, International Photography Awards and the Sony World Photography Awards.
10. Become an Assistant Photographer
Getting a job as an assistant photographer is a great way to gain more experience and boost your confidence while earning extra money. Get proactive and reach out to local photographers to ask if they need an assistant for upcoming jobs. You can also join photography groups or clubs and start making contacts that can lead to work opportunities down the line.
11. Be a Product Photographer
Product photography is an important niche in photography with services in high demand. Product photographers are responsible for taking images of products that help drive sales. Lots of businesses need this service, especially in the world of ecommerce.
Thousands of companies are selling products online in every category you can think of. For these businesses, having the right images that showcase their products in a way that entices buyers is critical to selling online.
12. Offer Airbnb Experiences
You’re probably already familiar with Airbnb's primary offering – accommodation. But the company also offers experiences that connect local tour providers with travelers who want to experience something authentic and unique.
As a photographer, you can use Airbnb experiences to offer tours that take tourists around your city or town and take professional photos of them and the attractions you visit. You don't need to have your home or apartment listed on Airbnb to host an experience. Travelers don't need to stay in an Airbnb either. It's open to everyone!
How to Run a Business as a Photographer
In many ways, running a photography business is just like any other business. You need to get all the suitable systems in place to handle your accounts and stay organized.
You also need to market your services and purchase things like insurance to protect you against any accidents or potential lawsuits. These things aside, if you want to run your photography business like a real pro, consider the following insider tips.
Pricing your Services
Setting your prices as a photographer is tricky. One way to determine your pricing is to determine what one hour of your time is worth. Let’s say your time is worth $100/hour. If you spend one hour taking photos, you’ll likely spend another two or three hours editing afterward. So let’s say you get hired for a one-hour photo shoot. In this case, you would charge anywhere from $300 to $400.
An important side note: Too often, newbie photographers or those starting their photography business undersell and charge a low amount when considering what they produce. Look at your past work and be honest with yourself about your level and check what your competitors are charging to ensure you’re in the right ballpark. But don’t fall into the trap of underselling your services.
Building a Website
Having a website for your photography business is a must. A website is your chance to communicate to potential customers who you are and what services you offer and show off your skills and experience. A website also provides a convenient way for customers to get in touch with you and pay for your services.
Many website builders make it easy to design a fantastic website at a low cost. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars and months developing a complicated website.
You should keep your website design simple and easy to navigate. Showcase your work by category and help potential clients get to know you by including a picture of yourself and your background, experience and contact details. It’s also a good idea to list your services and prices and provide a way for clients to pay you.
Setting Up a Payment System
Photography may be your passion, but getting paid is critical to your business success. That’s why it’s essential to partner with a payment service provider that enables your clients to pay online quickly and without hassle. With Pay.com, you can easily add a customized checkout page to your website and accept credit cards, debit cards, and many other payment methods.
Pay.com also lets you create Pay Links and send them directly to customers via email or SMS. When a customer clicks the link, they go to a personalized checkout page where they can make a payment.
If your customers want to pay over the phone, that’s no problem either. With Pay.com, you can collect customer credit card details over the phone and enter them into the Pay Virtual Terminal to receive a payment.
Want to know more? Click here to sign up to Pay.com now.
Purchasing Camera Gear
When it comes to camera gear, it’s best to always have backup equipment in case something breaks. If you can, buy two cameras, two lenses, and two flashes. You’ll also need the right software to edit your photos. But don’t get too carried away.
While purchasing good quality camera equipment is important, you shouldn’t break the bank when you’re just starting out. There’s nothing wrong with buying used gear as long as it delivers high-quality photos. You can always upgrade as your business grows.
Having excellent people skills is a huge advantage for photographers. If you can ensure each of your clients has a great experience and is happy with your work, your client will often refer you to others.
With that in mind, always be friendly and try to build relationships by getting to know your clients before taking photos. Understanding your client's expectations and doing whatever you can to meet or surpass them is also essential.
How to Get Paid as a Photographer
Payments may not be the first thing that comes to mind when running a photography business, but providing your clients with convenient ways to pay is critical to your business’s success and shouldn’t be an afterthought.
Pay.com enables you to quickly and easily accept credit cards, debit cards, and a wide variety of other payment methods through a customized checkout page on your website. With Pay.com, you can design your checkout using brand colors and logos that match the rest of your website. You can also select which payment options you want to accept to ensure customers can pay with their favorite methods.
Best of all, Pay.com couldn’t be easier to set up, even if this is your first time accepting payments online. Click here to get started now!
How to Market Yourself as a Photographer
Being a photographer isn’t just about taking pictures. It’s also about marketing yourself because it’s not always the best photographers that end up with the coolest jobs or highest-paying clients. It’s the ones that most effectively market themselves to attract new clients. Here are a few tips to help you sell yourself and land your dream clients.
Create a stellar portfolio: A great portfolio is a must-have for marketing yourself to new clients. Your portfolio should concisely showcase only your best work and help convince potential clients to hire you. You can think of your portfolio as your greatest hits album.
Develop a blog: Blogging is a great way to showcase your latest projects to new clients and people you want to reach out to instead of just sending them to your website. With a great blog, you can stand out from the pack by showing your skills and experience and also provide a window into your thought process and expertise. You can also feature your latest projects to showcase your latest work.
Post to social media: Social media is a fantastic way to get your work in front of people you otherwise wouldn’t be able to connect with. It’s up to you to decide which ones to use but posting consistently to platforms like Instagram and Facebook are typically the most effective to build a following and drive eyeballs to your work.
Networking: You can be the most outstanding photographer in the world and regularly share your work via social media but you need a more proactive approach to networking and outreach if you want to land the best clients.
Joining photography groups and attending functions to make connections is a good start. It’s also a good idea to reach out to people whose work you admire and other industry professionals like photo editors, creative directors and executives.
Making meaningful connections with these people will help you create inroads with the people you want to work with in the future and build a strong network that delivers you continuous work.
The Bottom Line: You Can Start a Photography Business
That's a wrap. If there's one thing I'd like you to take from this post, it's the following. If you have a passion for photography and think you have what it takes to turn your hobby into a business, then go for it!
You can build a successful photography business, and whether it becomes your full-time gig or not, there's nothing wrong with making a few extra bucks on the side doing something you love.
There are so many ways to make money as a photographer today and running a photography business is easy, especially if you follow the tips outlined in this post.
Of course, having partners like Pay.com that can handle essential business operations like payments also makes a huge difference. If you're interested in learning more about Pay.com, click here to get started.