10 Ways to Make Money with Your Photography
You do not have to be a starving artist just because you want photography to be your main career. Here are some excellent ways to start making money with your photography.
1. Find Your Clients
I got my very first paying clients by putting forth the effort and finding them.
If you’re sitting around your house waiting for someone to suddenly discover you on social media, you may be waiting a long time and go broke doing it. Instead go out and find the clients yourself.
I knew someone who was pregnant and offered to shoot her maternity photos for free and if she liked them she could hire me for the newborn portraits. Not only did she hire me for the newborn portraits but for the baby’s six month, twelve month, and eighteen month sessions and then again for their next baby’s entire first year sessions. I even got to photograph the birth which was so special to me because she and I went to highschool together. She also went on to refer me to her friends so I got about three years worth of paying sessions from that one client.
Posting content on social media is great but you should be using it as a tool to actually connect with people. Human beings are social creatures and there is no better marketing campaign than your presence.
2. Work Within Your Circle of Influence
You can see how I worked within my circle of influence in the example above.
This is not my original idea. In fact I had never heard of this concept when the above events took place. It comes from a book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. It’s a great book. It’s not necessarily talking about working with people you know, but rather working with things in your life inside your realm of control rather than forcing things from a realm of concern.
By being proactive, your circle of influence will grow with each little step you take in your new photography career. For instance I had been a hobbyist photographer for years before I became a professional photographer. I had even taken film classes in high school. My friends and family could always count on me having a camera. Slowly I began to get asked if I would photograph their baby showers and baptisms. After I photographed the event I would make them a photo book or print and frame the photos as a gift for them. Even though I was doing all of this for free I was slowly working up to getting paid and building myself a nice little portfolio before I even considered doing this as a career or even knew what a portfolio was. I was proactive and working within my circle of influence.
This leads me to my third way to get paid, Freelance.
As people I knew became more accustomed to my photography I started getting referred to freelance. I have probably freelanced for a dozen companies at least, even my local newspaper, and several of them were internationally recognized.
Freelancing has it’s pros and cons to keep in mind. PRO: you get paid from a legit company and do not have to market yourself, they find the work for you. CON: you cannot use the photos you take for them on your own website or social media platforms.
4. Graphic Editing
Become a graphic editor. Photographers often outsource their editing. I have worked for several other photographers editing their work including school pictures, dance portraits, and wedding photography.
The best thing about this is that you learn on the job. The company will train you how to edit the way they want their photos to look on Photoshop, Lightroom, or specialized software made for their company.
They usually pay pretty well or you can research the current going rate and set your own. If you really like it I recommend taking some Adobe Suite classes online or in your community. They are offered everywhere.
5. Work as a 2nd Wedding Photographer
If you have photographed a few family weddings and have started a portfolio you may be able to work as a 2nd Wedding Photographer for another company in your area. Especially if you’re building your resume with Freelancing and Editing gigs.
Local companies are always hiring for 2nd Wedding Photographers, you just have to look for them. This can be a last minute gig so you will need to be flexible and readily available on weekends.
Since they will have a Lead Photographer already assigned to the wedding it relieves some of the pressure off of you and you can learn on the job and gain more experience.
Another plus is that unlike freelancing you can usually use these photos for your own marketing as long as you tag or mention the company you worked for.
I now photograph my own weddings
6. Graphic Design
Now that your graphic editing skills are improving you can start dabbling in graphic design making companies or new clients logos, albums, products, and pdfs. I have had people hire me just to make their wedding or baby album after another photographer took their photos. I’ve also been hired to make logos, start a Facebook page, create marketing campaigns, and I even had one client who just needed a photo resized for a locket and they paid me.
Fun with Graphics
7. Publish a Book
OK you have gone from hobbyist to professional photographer, learned the ins and outs of Adobe Suite programs, and have plenty of customer service and client experience. It’s time to publish a book!
You can publish a book using your own photos and designs or write and publish a How To Book on whatever you have become great at.
Many fine art photographers or street photographers publish books with their own photograph series based around a certain social phenomenon.
I have self published a children’s book combining my photographs, poetry, and graphic skills.
My First Children’s Book
8. Start Your Own Business
By now you have so much photography experience that you could run your own business.
While I was doing all of the above I was working on my own side hustle, creating my own business. I always had a website and social media platforms. I was always posting everything I photographed along the way. I was constantly on the search for clients and working within my circle of influence.
These actions led me to book my own paid events, weddings, births, newborns, babies, children, high school students, graduations, and family sessions. I have even hired my own 2nd wedding photographers and assistants. I no longer freelance for anyone else. I work for myself all of the time.
I do have a personal goal to someday freelance for National Geographic and I’m perfecting my travel photography along the way to that goal by proactively engaging in my new Instagram Page and posting new travel content. So Stay Tuned to see if I make it!
Lost and Found in a Field of Sheep
9. Stock Photography
This is not something I have done to earn a living but I wanted to share it with you anyway as many other photographers have. About six months ago I threw some photos up on Shutterstock Contributors to see how it worked and just checked it the other day to write this post.
I was surprised to find out I had actually sold something! Now keep in mind this is barely enough to buy a Starbucks but it’s still exciting. So yes, if somebody put in the time and effort regularly like with anything else they could make some extra passive income.
These two photos sold on Shutterstock
10. DONATE BUTTON
I have never done this personally. But I have seen photographers do it. This is usually for fine art photographers who are putting out free content without the luxury of earning money like a commercial photographer.
They may prefer entering their work into contests, exhibits, or are saving their work for the book they want to publish.
They may actually have a large following so sometimes you will see a Donate to the Artist section and button on their website.
I have never done it so I do not know the ins and outs but it could be worth researching and trying.
Those are all my tips for making money from your photography. I hope some of them work for you.
June 10, 2020
My First Attempt at a “Miracle Morning”
I have heard of these people who get up at 5am and sit on their front porches meditating, sipping tea or coffee, and watching the birds. I have always been envious of those people and even met a couple that told me how great it was to watch the sunrise every morning. Yet at 43 years old it was a pipe dream at best.
I have never been a morning person. In highschool I was late so often that after I got my driver’s license my best friend had to go back to taking the bus to school because her mother would not let her ride with me. I had so many detentions for tardiness that the office secretary and I came to an agreement that I would just serve one long Saturday detention instead of daily detentions.
During my path of self discovery I’ve come to realize that my natural sleeping rhythm is 11pm to 7am which was a vast improvement from my younger days and helped me greatly improve my concentration, productivity and energy throughout the day. However, I would still kind of lay around in bed reading or searching social media for another hour or two before I actually got started on my day.
I had been hearing all of these fabulous stories about how youtube influencers, health experts, and mindfulness coaches believed in getting up at 5 am, how much they could get done and how this book “The Miracle Morning” had changed their life. I put the book on my Wishlist but never got around to it.
During Quarantine I could feel myself relapsing into my late morning sleep fests and told my oldest son Ronnie about how I wanted to be one of those morning people. He told me he was one of those people before he was forcibly sent home from Crete in the middle of a Quarantine and that he would meditate on his balcony overlooking the Aegean Sea while drinking his Greek herbal tea (eye roll).
OK now I was just fed up. I’m going to be one of those people.
So one day I found myself awake at 7am. I fed the cats, laid back down and started my old routine of searching social media and reading. I realized it was 7:30am and I was wide awake. It was not 5am but it was something! If I got up I could have a miracle morning, or at least see what it would be like.
I made my tea, grabbed my granola bar, laptop, cell phone, and water bottle and headed to the front porch.
I had recently manifested a beautiful wicker set for my front porch, throw pillows and all, so it was quite lovely. Now from what I hear about these miracle mornings you should use this time to meditate and write because the best writing comes first thing in the morning. So I look over my vision board, listen to the birds singing in the breeze, then start writing. I’m off to a great start!
About 15 minutes in, my friend calls me. She lives in another state and I don’t get to talk to her often. Soon into our invigorating conversation about teenagers, husbands, diets, and the corona virus; my eighteen year old son Samuel, who slept until 3pm every day for the first two months of quarantine, shows up and sits on the porch. He says he’s getting picked up by one of our friends. “That’s great. Sounds like fun.” I return to talking to my friend and he continues to sit there for 20 minutes or so. I get up and walk around because sometimes girlfriends need to talk about things without eighteen year olds around to hear. When I come back he’s upstairs.
When our friend finally arrives to pick him up he is nowhere around. I am still trying to talk to my other friend on the phone. Finally I go upstairs to find him. He cannot hear a thing I am saying because, as usual, he has his headphones on. Naturally I get loud. Meanwhile Ronnie, a twenty-five year old Millennial who is trying to save the planet while working remotely, is on a business call with the European Union yelling at me to be quiet. I finally get Sam’s attention. Irritated, I go back to my porch and talk to my friend. Our other friend is still sitting in his van in our driveway waiting for Sam, and waiting, and waiting. He finally arrives downstairs saying he had decided to make himself a bagel. They take off together.
I get off the phone with my girlfriend and start to type again.
I suddenly hear a crinkling sound. I look up and there is a bird on a paper bag. Samuel had decided that in order to eliminate our plaguing wasp problem he was going to hang a paper bag on the porch in the shape of a beehive which would supposedly drive the wasps away because they would think they were in another bees territory… This little sparrow was completely confused by the paper bag contraption and was just sitting there while his weight caused it to swing around in circles. Maybe he thought he was landing on a bird feeder but now he was satisfied with his new porch swing.
I go back to typing.
My nineteen year old son, Cedrone, now appears on the front porch. He walks back and forth asking me if I need the car, he wants to go mountain biking with his friend. I tell him he can take the car and he settles on 2pm as the time he will go biking. OK.
I go back to typing.
Ronnie comes out the door “What is all the fuss about out here, and why are you up? Are you finally having your miracle morning?” I tell him I was trying but it’s just not working for me. He tells me Sam referred to my Miracle Morning idea as another one of my “stupid” books. He says he gave Sam a lecture about how that wasn’t nice. I thank him for lobbying on my behalf. Then he tells me Cedrone is hard at work cooking an elaborate lunch. He doesn’t know why or what’s happening but steak is involved. It is now 10:30 am. Apparently my “Miracle Morning” has passed and steak is calling my name.
I can quit now, I did succeed at watching a bird after all.
I didn’t give up on my miracle mornings. In fact, I ordered the book “Miracle Morning” and read the whole thing the next day. I have yet to see 5am but I am dedicated and now love my miracle mornings. Within one week of my new routine I wrote an entire book about traveling on a budget (stay tuned) and three travel essays.
Read about how I was Lost & Found in a Field of Sheep
I have also had the pleasure of seeing deer, butterflies, birds, and hearing a rooster crow early in the morning during my “Silent” time.
See How I spent my miracle mornings on my recent Quarantine Staycation
I’d like to share three tips that helped me improve my photography.
1. Read “The Big Leap.”
The first one is not about photography at all. It is a book that really helped me discover the emotion behind my photography and why I wanted to photograph people.
This book helps you rediscover the childhood genius that you may have lost along the road to adulthood. This can be an emotion or a feeling that you are good at portraying or helping others to portray.
Even though it is not about photography it is helpful in any craft that you are planning to take from a hobby to profession because it helps you get to the root of WHY you are doing what you want to do in the first place. Then you can get better at your craft by implementing those feelings and emotions into your work.
2. Read Your Camera’s Manual.
This is very simple but so helpful. If you read your camera’s manual you will improve your photography immensely. If you do not know how to shoot in manual or where the settings on your camera are then this tip is a must.
Even if you have some photography experience but still struggle with aperture, ISO, and Shutter speed, reading the manual will help you perfect these settings and skills.
If your camera is used and did not come with the manual you can download it online.
Once you read your first camera manual you will not have to do this again. You will be able to move on and operate any professional DSLR.
I cannot stress this tip enough. Please for the love of all photographers: Read Your Camera’s Manual.
3. Practice Makes Perfect.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Over the past ten years I have photographed thousands of flowers. I love flowers and photographing flowers. By photographing flowers I can photograph them in different lighting situations at different times of day and using different settings. I can also compare my latest photographs to my previous photographs.
I recommend finding something your drawn to and you love and practicing your photography on that one thing so your constantly improving your skills.
Once you have discovered your true genius zone, read your camera’s manual, and have practiced over and over again, you will be on your way. You will be able to pose clients and engage in customer service using your gifted feelings and emotions. You will be able to switch the camera’s settings with no thought at all. You will know how to manipulate the lighting available to you to improve your photos.
I primarily shoot with the Canon 5D Mark II. This is a Full Frame EOS DSLR Camera Body.
For maximum quality, color, and clarity, Professional Photographers will want to shoot with a Full Frame DSLR.
My back up camera is a Canon EOS 7D
My Favorite Go To Lens is the Canon EF 50mm
My secondary lens is the Canon EF STM 24-105mm
Taken with my Canon 5D Mark II and 50mm lens.
Taken with my Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105mm lens.
I do recommend getting used equipment when you start out. Especially if you can snag a used Full Frame DSLR.
However, if a full frame and a good lens is not in your budget then going for a less expensive used DSLR and investing in a good lens instead could be to your benefit.
I still love this photo below and it was taken with my 7D which has a smaller sensor than a full frame camera, and the 24-105mm lens. It is the lens that makes the difference if you cannot afford a full frame camera body.
I hope this helps with your latest photography endeavors.
Don’t wait until you can afford the latest and greatest equipment. Start before your ready. It is the photographer that makes the photo great not the gear.
I started out with a Canon 10D. I still keep additional used equipment on hand for traveling, training assistants, or loaning out to friends and family such as the Canon 50D and Canon SL1.
I also have a 24mm lens and 75-300mm lenses. I just don’t use them as often anymore.
Remember: Practice Makes Perfect!
Find more photography tips over on YouTube
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