8 Creative Ways to Make Money with Your Photography

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Photography doesn’t just have to be a hobby, in fact, it can be a brilliant way to gain some extra money – and quite a lot at that! I’ve put together a list of my favourite ways of making money through photography, and with the ideas ranging from a couple of hours a week to a part-time project, you may find something that catches your eye.

1. Shoot Microstock

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Stock image – © Olly Stabler

There are many different microstock sites out there, including Shutterstock and iStock Photo, and by uploading your images you may well be able to earn some extra money. If you excel at taking commercial images, this will be a great idea for you as these are the types of photographs that sell the most. If you are considering this option, make sure you don’t let your passion for photography die out, through a focus on sales statistics and selling stock shots.

2. Network to be a Second Shooter

Through networking using social media, events, and photography clubs, you can build relationships with other photographers. Opportunities will often arise through the relationships you have built, such as requests to work as a second shooter on a project. It may be that a fellow photographer is working an event, and needs you to join them to take photos to build a complete portfolio of photographs from the day. Weddings are probably the most common occasions that require second shooters, so keep an eye out for these jobs.

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Me as a second shooter – © Scott Choucino

Alternatively, those you have networked with may have to turn down work that is too low-budget for them, and will ask you to work on them instead. Never underestimate the job opportunities that will become available to you through networking. This article tells you everything you need to know about the importance of being a second shooter.

3. Sell Prints

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The first of my photos to make it to print – © Olly Stabler

There are many different ways you can sell prints; choose framed copies for larger amounts of money, print on canvases to create a professional look, or prints on their own for those who want to spend less. This will also open up the opportunity to place your work in stores and exhibitions. Having hard copies of your photographs will prove helpful whether you have already received sales, or are searching for prospects.

If you shoot in a studio, I would advise hanging your prints on display, and the larger the prints, the better. Your clients will always take note of them hanging in your studio and these prints will showcase the work you can create, encouraging sales. Upselling to your clients can create big money, with bigger prints bringing in big profit margins. To ensure that your photos print perfectly, check out Image Size and Resolution Explained for Print and Onscreen.

4. Become a Photo Booth Service

Photo booths are a similar price to a full frame DSLR body plus lens, and are extremely easy to operate. There are an unlimited amount of events and options available if you choose this route including parties, weddings, corporate affairs and events. Offering a photo booth service might not be the best option for a budding photographer as artistic photo opportunities are extremely limited, but nevertheless, it is a surefire way to earn money through photography.

Chris Guillebeau

By Chris Guillebeau – Yes that is your very own Managing Editor Darlene Hildebrandt in a Photo Booth at an event in Portland in 2012

IMG 0653

Same group, same event – 2015!

5. Sell an eBook

If you want to share your passion with others by talking about your experiences and discussing hints and tips, creating an eBook may be the way forward for you. This idea will involve little costly investment, but will require a lot of time. There are many benefits of writing an eBook including the fact that it will help you to make a name for yourself within the industry. The best way to encourage the success of your publication would be to outreach to bloggers and ask for reviews; the power of word of mouth is invaluable.

6. Hold a Portrait Party

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A headshot taken in my studio – © Olly Stabler

The idea is simple. Invite friends, bloggers, colleagues, and clients to your studio and tell them to bring a couple of friends. This concept will also work in your lounge, your friend’s front room, or pretty much any location you fancy. Shoot portraits of them all throughout the night, you can even put on a show with entertainment and food.

You can then give them the option to buy their photographs, or book a session. Giving out a few free prints will also work in your favour, as you are thanking them for their time; this will also give them examples of your work to show people they know, and could end up resulting in a lot of business.

7. Photograph in Nightclubs

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A photograph taken from my nightclub days – © Olly Stabler

Photographing in clubs will help you to learn a lot of skills that you will need for higher paid and more complex jobs. If you are reasonably new to photography, and want to earn extra money as well as build your skill set, this is the one for you. Although the pay isn’t brilliant, you can end up earning a decent amount if you photograph a few student nights a week in university towns and cities. This will also help you to build confidence as a photographer as you will be forced to interact with a lot of people at the same time – an essential quality for a photographer.

Becoming a nightclub photographer is extremely easy to get into, you just need to make sure you have a flash – you can find my recommended products on Amazon.com. The cheaper versions of these flashes do not work with ETTL, which means you will learn how to control flash manually, giving you a full understanding of how flash lighting works – something that is essential if you want to move into higher paying work.

8. Enter Competitions

There are plenty of photography competitions floating around, all with various prizes dependent on those running the feature. Try looking for those that offer a cash prize and enter as many as you can. If you are regularly photographing, you should have a portfolio of images you can enter into competitions. You only need to spend an hour each day searching and applying for these, which may make this option a favourite if you only have a small amount of time to spare. A good place to start is by utilizing databases such as this photo competition website. Remember though, this idea does not guarantee a payout and can be an unpredictable way of making money.

Editor’s note: be sure and read How To Evaluate Photo Contests Before Submitting Your Images And Cash before you enter any contests.

So those are just a few ways you could use your photography to make a little extra money, or start to make the move towards full-time professional. Do you have any other ideas or things you’ve tried? Please share in the comments below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Olly Stabler is a portrait, commercial and event photographer based in Leicester, UK. He photographs for three major agencies as well as his local newspaper; shooting everything from music events through to weddings. Find more of his work on his website.

  • Luis

    9. Manage a photography site that shills out paid products.

  • TamasK
  • I have entered a few competitions and received commendations and even small prizes but I hit the jackpot a week ago when winning first prize for a local calendar photo competition for my region. $500AUD richer and grateful. Thinking I really should spend it on something relating to photography 🙂

  • ROYAL STAFFORD MEDIA

    ROYAL STAFFORD MEDIA

  • rally point

    on a lense 🙂

  • Because it’s bad to make money…

  • Or post rude comments… oh wait, that pays nothing.

  • Another way to is to take advantage of the website / social media reality that we have today and work as a photojournalist. Combine text and photos into a information page around your interest. There are various ways to make money on a website with ads, depending on interest for the page. I am now building a website (still in beta) where I use my own photos to present my interest as a photographer. I have taken the concept a bit farther with information regarding the photos and places. It is a webpage loaded with my own photos but also a lot of information. Although quite time consuming it is maybe a time better spent than devoting yourself to flickr or 500px which in the end, is money in other peoples pockets. Here is the site http://hiticeland.com and not just a ordinary photographic website. Here is an example of my latest note where I combine a photo, text and a folklore story – http://hiticeland.com/iceland/notes/icicles-are-named-after-the-notorious-folklore-troll-gr%C3%BDla-in-iceland.

  • GemTweedie

    Hi Ollie, I’m interested to know more about the nightclub photography that you did. It’s seems like a great way to practise some essential skills. Did you link up with nightclubs officially or did you just go in and take photos? How does it work in terms of getting permission and how did you sell the photos? Also, if anyone else has thoughts on this, I’d be interested..

  • Olly Stabler

    Hey there. Nightclub photography is really good for when you’re starting out as it teaches you the basics of flash but doesn’t pay all that well. In my experience, I have always been contacted by the club. I would advise that you go to a few clubs with your camera and see if you can get in to take some shots. If you can get in, get some shots and then you can email all the clubs in your area with those shots asking if they need work. Another method would be to get to know the nightclub photographers in your area and offer to cover for them when they are on holiday or ill etc. They might let you know about new positions in new clubs that they are too busy to take on.
    In terms of permissions it is down to the individual club, so it would never be guaranteed that you can get a camera in unless you’re working directly for the club.

  • GemTweedie

    Thanks Ollie, this is great advice

  • Good to know; I was wondering the same thing.

  • Grant

    I used to work in a local bar & club through an agency. The 1st night I turned up gear in hand to meet the area manager. The bouncers wanted to search my camera bag and were being being iffy about letting me in until one of them actually acknowledged the name of the company, let me in and pointed out where the guy I was meant to be meeting was already working.

    Also use old gear or make sure your well insured. I’ve lost 3 flash guns in clubs when some drunk took a swing at me, luckily caught the flash rather than my camera or my nose and snapped the hot shoe off the bottom of it

  • Mindy

    Don’t forget your business license and insurance, and be sure to keep good records for tax time.

  • ajmills

    With competitions, read the terms & conditions first to see what they want to do with the photos, and for any restrictions they may place on them

  • tommy5677

    Hey there. I would be interested in that as well. Olly says it’s extremely easy to get into but not sure how to go about that. The only thing I can think of is to contact the clubs directly because they aren’t going to like someone with a camera coming in on there own to potentially sell photos. If you aren’t paid by the club then you could use a website like KeepSnap or Snapped4U where you would give the clubgoers a card directing them to the site to possibly purchase a photo. But believe me, working on spec is a serious challenge and I have done well in some instances and poorly in others. Also, you can’t share the photos until the sales cycle through a couple times, something the owners might not like. It’s all up for negotiating, I suppose.

  • tommy5677

    Nice work.

  • Holly Feltzer

    Hi olly, is there an online site you recommend to sell prints? Or is it better to create your own website?

  • Olly Stabler

    Sorry about the late repy. I sell them the old fashioned way – i.e someone contacts me and I send them a quote and then invoice when the sale is agreed. You can use something such as Fotomoto though (google it).

  • Eitan Hindi

    Koocam is the perfect site to Teach your hobby or learn a new skill , for those who wants to work from home by selling their knowledge. Any knowledge is required.
    I highly recommend it……

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