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Photography is an incredible art form that really gets your creative juices flowing. There are so many elements to making a great image, and the beauty of it is that so much of photography is really subjective.
Sure, there are some technical requirements that you might need to pay attention to. But these days, even those are somewhat relaxed in the name of art.
That said, there are a lot of things that you need to consider and pay attention to if you want to make photography your full-time career, or even make a living out of creating images. It is hard to start out and get consistent work in a sea of photographers. The fact that there is really a low barrier to entry in terms of starter gear results in a lot of competition. Plus, much of photography education online is free (or almost free), so there is nothing you cannot learn about photography on your own, right?
Being able to call yourself a full-time photographer and being able to make a living out of photography is not that easy. Markets are constantly changing; customer tastes are evolving and prices for good photography are also shifting. Unfortunately, you will always find someone who is willing to do a job for less money. That is a reality, not only for photography, but for almost any business out there.
Luckily, it is not all doom and gloom when it comes to making a living from your photography. The smart thing to do is to diversify your photography business and create multiple streams of income; that way, when one area is slow, the others more than compensate in terms of monetary benefits you can derive from this art form.
Here are five ways you can diversify your photography business:
I know that many photographers promote picking one genre and sticking to it. There definitely is an advantage in honing your skills and perfecting them. But I have never been one to follow that rule. I tend to get bored easily and, when I was just starting out, I did not know what I wanted to specialize in.
I tried to photograph everything I could as a way to practice using my camera as well as a way of figuring out what I wanted to do long term. When I first started my photography business, I photographed children and families. Then I moved into photographing weddings. That quickly changed to more travel and lifestyle photography and, somewhere along the way, small business branding came into play.
Now I focus on travel, lifestyle, and business editorial visual content creation. While you might think this is a crazy trajectory, I try to focus on all the soft skills I picked up during each of these phases: dealing with different types of clients, working with different kinds of lighting, and even creating different types of visual content. And I found that this really helped when it came time to diversify my photography business.
Once you have been around the block a few times, you realize that you have learned a lot from all your experiences. This holds true for life as well as photography, doesn’t it? If you find yourself constantly in the position of talking to other photographers who are asking for advice on how to do certain things or how to manage a photography business, perhaps it is time to officially start teaching and mentoring newer photographers.
But I have to warn you: This has to come from a place of genuinely wanting to help and teach others. Don’t just use this privilege as a way to make money. We photographers know when we are being taken for a ride, right? Being someone’s mentor or teacher is a huge responsibility, and you need to be willing to give more than you take.
This is, by far, one of my favorite ways to diversify my photography business. I started writing articles for Digital Photography School in 2013, and I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity this community has given me to connect, share, and be a part of an awesome group of people who all have a common love for this art form. This has also led to more writing work, as well as more clients, so I see this as a win-win from all sides.
Now, just to set the record straight:
When you first exploring writing photography articles, be prepared to maybe do some pro-bono work. As more and more photographers are getting into writing and teaching, there is a lot of supply. Consider this exercise very similar to your initial portfolio-building experience.
I admit that this was not on my mind at first. But the more I started speaking to my friends about how they are maintaining their photography business, the more intrigued I became by stock photography.
I started shooting images for stock and found that it was a lot of work. So instead, I started adding stock imagery as one of the line items in each of my shoots (client and personal). I was creating work for my clients, anyway; why not spend some time after the shoot creating some images that can be added to my stock portfolio?
I also shoot scenarios specifically for some of my stock clients if and when I am assigned that job.
I started doing this when I was actively photographing weddings and families. I resisted the temptation to simply copy all images onto a disk or add to an online gallery and give my clients all the images. I found that most of the clients I served were overwhelmed with 50+ images from a session.
Instead, I started an in-person-sales process, where clients would get to see their images and choose images/prints and products. This increased my average sales per shoot and added more revenue to my bottom line.
I have been a professional photographer for the past 10 years and, if I have learned anything this last decade, it is that we have to be nimble and flexible in how we navigate the small business entrepreneur path. What worked five years ago is definitely not going to work today.
For that matter, what worked last year may not work this year. So take it in your stride and actively work on diversifying your photography business.
Not all of these options might be appropriate for you. But if you can even take one of these suggestions and make it your own, you might be less stressed when the slow season comes along and your bills keep piling up.