Wouldn’t it be nice to make money doing something you love – even if it were just enough to cover the costs of that hobby?
I’m going to share with you four ways that I have personally used to try and make money as a photographer. I’ll share with you my experience with each, advice on getting started, and whether or not I was successful in my attempts. I’ve also found a few more posts on DPS that will help you find more information on a few of these topics if they peak your interest.
The Wedding Photographer
Wedding photography is probably one of the more profitable ventures – I know for me even having only photographed one wedding I’ve made more in that one day than the other three methods I’ve tried combined. It has a relatively low cost to entry and if you’re lucky enough to be in or know a lot of people in their early to mid 20s you have a pontential gold mine of a client base to tap.
I recently was asked to photograph my sister’s friend’s wedding and after some convicing I finally said yes. Instantly I felt the pressure of the task before me. Even though I had nearly a year to prepare before the big day it still felt like I had a mountian to climb. Now I’d suggest that if you don’t feel this pressure when you’re about to photograph your first wedding then you probably shouldn’t be photographing a wedding. It was this pressure that pushed me to get help and make sure that I did the best I possibly could with the experience that I had.
Four words of advice if you’re going to try breaking into wedding photography
- Don’t do it for free – No matter who it is! If it’s the president of your company or some stranger off the street find a price that works for both of you and be happy with it. Wedding photography is a lot of work and a lot of responsibly. These photographs will have value to your client (even if they’re not the ones she has on her Pinterest board) because they will be the photographs that freeze this day in history.
- Find a mentor – You’ll want to do the best that you possibility can and if you’ve never photographed a wedding let me tell you you’re not prepared. There is a million things that you need to know and the best way to learn these things is by doing. I found a great professional photographer who’s been in the business for decades and he allowed me to shadow him on two weddings prior to mine – it was the best thing I ever did!
- Rent your gear – Odds are if you’re just starting out you won’t have top of the line gear – which at a wedding does make a difference. You’ll need something sharp and fast to get the best quality shots, but you don’t have to invest thousands of dollars in your first go. There are plenty of places that will rent you all the gear you want for a couple hundred dollars for a weekend. For example I rented a Nikon D600 and a 24-70mm f/2.8 for under $170 for 5 days for the wedding that I photographed.
- Communicate Often – Stay in communication with your bride and groom. Find out their vision, what they expect of you, and who they want featured in their album. The better the relationship you have with your clients going into the wedding the better the photographs will be.
These are four of the most important ways to get started in wedding photography, but by no means is an exhaustive list of wedding photography tips. Here’s the first post in a great series here on DPS about wedding photography for more information.
The Real Estate Photographer
Okay so the global economy is still pretty much in the ICU, but things are starting to look a little better right? After all the housing market is slowly starting to come back to life and as it does there’s an opportunity here for a photographer to make some money on the side photographing interior and exterior shots for real estate agents to use in order to sell the house.
I’ve only done this once and I wasn’t even really looking towards this as an option, but out of the blue a real estate agent who helped me buy my house contacted me after seeing the photographs I share on Facebook and asked if I’d be interested – I agreed to give it a shot.
Again – don’t fall for the working for experience line here if you’re serious about making money the worst thing you can do is start out giving your time away for free so come up with a price and stick with it. The going rate for real estate photography is going to change based on region so you might want to see if you can find local rates in your area.
A Couple Ideas for Pricing Your Real Estate Shoot
- A Flat Fee – Exterior only typically will be a simple job so you’d probably charge a flat rate for this. If they want interior shots too then you might want to charge on a per room basis.
- Fee + Commission on Sale – I’ve seen this done before too, but typically you’ll have to have more of a reputation to demand a commission on the sale of the house. That said it’s worth a shot.
- A Variable Fee – Set your rate based on the property. If you photograph a shack that’s going for less than $50,000 dollars you’d probably have a lower rate than if you were photographing something that’s listed for $1.5 million.
The best part about this type of photography is you don’t really need too much gear. A DSLR, a wide-angle lens and a tripod will go a long way. Here’s a post with a bunch of DPS reader comments on the subject of entering the real estate photography business if you’re interested in more information.
The Stock Photographer
I’ll be honest here and tell you that I’ve only given stock photography a very half hearted attempt. I signed up for one of the many agencies out there and submitted a handful of my photographs – they didn’t sell – and I gave up.
It’s a very hard industry to break into if you’re just starting out because the agencies typically will feature popular photographer’s work first. One point I’d like to make is that you have to keep in mind that the photographs people are looking for are ones that will help them sell a product or service to their clients and therefore you have to think about that when you take your photos.
Just because I failed at selling anything through a stock agency doesn’t mean it’s not a good source of income for you. After all there are people out there who make good money with stock photography and that’s the main reason I chose to include it in this post.
So if you’d like to know more about getting into stock photography read this article on DPS it’s much more involved than what I’ve gone over here.
The Fine Art Photographer
Fine art photography is probably the most competitive and most difficult avenue to break into due to the fact that the market is saturated with photographers trying to sell their photography and the fact that wall space is limited (we all only have four walls in each room to hang photographs on and typically we want those photographs to mean something to us).
Key Points to Think About as You Get Started
- You’ll Need a Fan Base – Typically people aren’t going to buy a photograph from someone they don’t know or recognize. The best way to start selling your photographs as art is to build a fan base – I’ve done this through sharing my photos on my Facebook page.
- Quality is Huge – If your sunset photographs look like the ones that dad took on the last family vacation then you’re not going to sell anything. Read more about how to .
- Uniqueness Will Sell – As a continuation on quality the more unique you can develop your style to be the more likely you will set yourself apart and be able to sell prints to the fan base that you’ve built and even beyond.
Ways To Sell Your Photography
Okay so now that we’ve gone over some of the basics of what you’ll need to do before you even begin to sell your photography how do you actually go about selling it?
- Direct Sales – If you can build a very loyal and close nit community of people in your town, college, or place of work you might be able to generate sales in this manner. Also, many local coffee shops will allow you to hang your work on their walls for a commission on sales (this is how I got my first print sale). It benefits them in that they get free art to hang on their walls and you get to have a lot of eyes on your photographs.
- Online Sales – Smugmug and Zenfolio are the two names that come to mind when I think about online sales ( ). There are some other places as well like Etsy, Fine Art America and Redbubble which don’t offer as many features and typically will take a larger percentage of your sale. Again while all of these places will allow you to host your photographs, offer shopping cart options, and even print and ship the photo to your client they won’t promote it for you so we’re back to the first point above about needing a fan base to sell to.
Are you making money with your photography? If so are you using one of the options listed above or do you do something else? Share below!