For most people, photography is a fun, creative pursuit—a hobby. A thing they love to do and always find time for. But, if you’re like most photographers, you may have grown a desire to make money through this craft. Perhaps just to supplement the art itself. Or, to make a full-time career out of it. Regardless, we’re happy to report, there are so many ways to monetize this art form. So, let’s get started!
Pitching is basically getting in touch with a company directly to show your work and talk about potential opportunities. I personally love this method (although I’m more of a writer), mainly because I don’t have to wait for job opportunities. In fact, it’s safe to say I’m making my own opportunities. Because, really, you never know when a brand or company is looking for a photographer. And, maybe they’re not, but after seeing your work, they may consider it. Bottom line is, when done correctly, pitching your photography to certain brands can lead to a good stream of income.
Now, a good pitch has a few necessary elements:
Why you want to work with this brand
What you can offer
Why they should choose you
The last part is vital because there are a lot of photographers doing the same thing. You have to make it clear why your skills match this brand. Writing a pitch involves a lot of tweaking. You’ll have to revise it multiple times until you end up with the one that feels genuine to you. So, be okay with mistakes and feeling a bit off or too sales-y. Everyone starts somewhere.
2. Getting Published in Print and Online Magazines
Aside from the glowing route of pitching, there are many other ways to get paid for your photography. One way is getting published in both print and online magazines. There are a lot of Facebook groups where editors and fellow photographers share opportunities like this. Often, these groups are super transparent with the pay, which is incredibly helpful because, for starters, discussions about money can be uncomfortable or awkward.
The pitching method may also work for this one. Even if you don’t think a magazine is looking for a photographer or for particular photos that you have, it’s not a bad idea to get in touch with them. Aside from connecting or promoting on Facebook, Twitter is also a helpful place. Many photo editors share their direct emails on Twitter and often share calls for photographers.
3. Build a Freelance Photography Business
If you love a good challenge and the right amount of creative freedom, building a freelance photography business might be a good idea. This is perfect for photographers still finding their own niche. You can spend the next six months as a wedding photographer and, if you realize it’s not your thing, you can always move on to the next niche. There are a lot of challenges, just like any business, but it’s a fun and a smart route for creative growth.
Here are a couple things to keep in mind when building a freelance business:
Put your name out there on social media. Your Instagram can serve as your portfolio.
It’s scary to move from one niche to another. It’s shaky in the beginning and takes time to build. But, if you’re up for the challenge, there’s no reason why this won’t work.
4. Build a Social Media Following and Sell Prints
If you’re a social media person, you’ll love this one. Instead of simply scrolling on Instagram for hours each day, why not build a social media account dedicated to selling your prints? Now, let’s be honest, building a social media following specifically for selling your work isn’t easy. It takes patience to grow organically. You don’t just post a photo at a specific time of the day with the specific hashtags and, magically, your tribe will grow. In other words, promoting your work on social media needs a lot of effort.
However, with enough dedication to both photography and social media, you’ll definitely be able to build a strong social media community and make money selling prints. And, sooner than later, it can be a regular thing. You can up your game by selling exclusives or limited copies per print.
5. Sell Through Stock Photography Sites
If you’re not keen on prints or on social media, you may also sell your photographs through stock photography sites. Shutterstock and Offset are only two of the many stock sites you can sell your photos from. The good thing about this is you don’t have to exert much effort, aside from taking amazing images. Many companies and individuals trust these stock photography sites, so you know there will always be someone buying your shot. It’s just a matter of curating a good collection of images that connect to the audience. Remember that these images will be used primarily online.
Plus, don’t forget the importance of keywording your images accurately. The right keywords will help potential buyers track down the perfect image in your portfolio faster and easier.
6. Printing Your Photographs on Merch
Who says you can’t print your photographs on merch items like T-shirts, mugs, and tote bags? There are a lot of websites that offer this service, such as Merch by Amazon, Redbubble, and Society6. Of course, you can also work with your local print shops to see what other creative items you can come up with. Something personal: A friend once had his photos printed as huge stickers specifically for skateboards. What I’m saying is, with this idea, the sky’s the limit. Then, sell them at local bazaars, boutiques, or create your own online store.
7. Joining Exhibits
The more you become an active member of the photography community, the more you’ll learn about exhibits. These events showcase various photographers and are the perfect opportunity to get to know more photographers in the area, as well as sell your own work. Plus, it can be less scary, especially if you’re joining an exhibit for new photographers. Mainly because all the exhibitors are new in the make money through photography world.
8. Create and Sell Photobooks
For long-term projects, creating and selling photobooks is an innovative idea. Especially if you already have a strong and solid social media following, and local connections who can help put the word out that your beautiful photobook exists and is worth buying. But, a photobook isn’t for everybody. This is more for folks who tend to focus on long-term photography projects or are interested in specific subjects. They’re able to showcase a bigger story through multiple images.
Photobooks require some investment. You’ll have to be ready to cash out to make these books a reality, although there’s always the option of crowdfunding. Bottom line is, unlike other avenues of making money, this one requires spending money first. However, that isn’t a bad thing, especially if this is something you’re truly passionate about.
Turning your hobby into a business won’t happen overnight. And, when money and creativity intersect, it can be a challenge. That said, it’s important to understand why you want to make a career out of photography. Why this can’t just be a plain hobby anymore. Once you figure that out, you’ll have a better sense of what kind of money-making route you’d like to take.