How to Make Money with Photography – The Complete 2022 Guide

Photography is a creative hobby that can turn into a source of income with the right strategy. Those of us with photography skills have a perfect opportunity to turn our passion into a source of income. Below, we’ve compiled several suggestions about how to make money with photography.

Pursue a Photography Career

Man sitting at a table outdoors with his computer, drone, and video camera

Real Estate Photography

Real estate photography is in high demand. When a realtor lists a home for sale, they need stunning photos to encourage potential buyers to request a viewing. Some hastily snapped photos simply won’t do. Instead, highly skilled photographers make real estate listings shine. This is a superb freelance opportunity, and there’s potential to build a relationship with a particular realtor who will keep coming back again and again.

Wedding and Events

Event photography is an excellent option for photographers whose greatest skill is freezing moments in time without losing the spirit of the event. All types of events hire event photographers, with weddings being one of the most in-demand and lucrative.

Woman embraces her husband in a field of grass

Food Photography

Many restaurants hire food photographers to take photos of their food for their menus, website, advertisements, and social media accounts. The food photographer has the task of making the viewer’s mouths water simply by looking at the perfectly lit and framed photo.

Family Photography

A family photographer takes family photos to capture the connection between family members. Some families have photos taken periodically as the kids grow older and other changes occur, while others may have them taken every year around the holidays. Family photographers can also double as portrait photographers, as the skills are mostly the same. In portrait photography, professionals take on the task of capturing individual personalities rather than the connection between multiple people.

Nature Photography

Grass growing from an icy landscape during sunset

Nature photography is a good option for those who enjoy the great outdoors. For those of us with a knack for identifying interesting natural landscapes or for capturing stunning wildlife shots, this job could be the perfect fit. Nature lovers could always start a freelance photography business, but there are also nature publications that hire salaried nature photographers to take photos for digital or print magazines.

Product Photography

To dominate e-commerce, a company needs high-quality images of its products. When potential customers cannot hold an item in their hands, all they have to rely on is a 2D image. Product photographers are skilled in playing with lighting, shadows, and angles to take photos that pop and add to a product’s appeal. This isn’t just useful in e-commerce either — our photos could be used on product packaging and for print marketing materials, as well. 

Use Your Skills Online

Social Media

Social media is about more than keeping tabs on friends and family. There are also many business opportunities available on social media. Building a following on these platforms is a stellar way to create a potential customer base. As photographers, we can put all our photos up on social media and include a link in the caption that leads to a third-party site where potential clients can purchase the images. This strategy is particularly effective on Instagram.

Many businesses either buy photos outright or pay for usage rights. Therefore, a strong social media presence is an excellent way to market a photography business.

Start a Blog

There are a variety of ways we can use our photography to monetize a blog. We could treat a blog like an Instagram account and use it as our own personal showcase for our photos to sell them. The blog could also center around teaching photography skills. Online courses can help us make money with photography. If we use blogs as a lead magnet to show off our teaching abilities, we could convert some of those into course sales.

Sell or License Stock Photography

There are several popular third-party websites, such as iStockPhoto and Shutterstock, where we can post our photos to earn commission on them. Most of these websites let creatives choose their pricing and the type of license they’re selling. Photographers can sell exclusive rights, which is essentially a one-time purchase where the buyer becomes the only one who can use that photo going forward. Or stock photographers can sell usage rights to the same image many times.

Sell Photography on a Website Like Etsy

Another way we can sell our photographs is on Etsy or similar websites. There are several possibilities here, as we can decide to sell our photographs in prints of different sizes. Or we could sell the photos digitally. With today’s technology, it’s also quick and simple to have our photographs printed on merchandise to sell such as t-shirts, coffee mugs, and more. Selling our artwork can be one of the most fulfilling creative careers.

Teach Photography on YouTube

This option is like starting a blog to teach photography but relies on video format instead of blog posts. It also allows us to tap into the massive viewer base that YouTube sees every day to get as many eyes as possible on our content. While YouTube does pay ad revenue, this isn’t likely to be the biggest income stream. Instead, the YouTube channel can provide free photography tutorials, and the description can then link viewers to a third-party website to buy the online photography course.

Make It a Side Gig

Edit and Retouch Photos

As busy creative professionals, we may not always have time to go out and take photos. If this is the case, we can start a side hustle editing and retouching photos. There are plenty of places online such as Fiverr where we can offer our editing services.

Enter Photography Competitions

Perhaps some photographers don’t have the time to schedule photoshoots, but they can find the time to snap photos in their free time. Those of us who enjoy taking photos as a hobby can enter our images into photography competitions. While there is no guarantee of making money doing this, the level of effort is minimal as we’re just submitting photos we’ve already taken. This is a low-effort side gig with a potentially high reward.

Sell in Galleries

Local attractions often provide the perfect inspiration for photographers. Some professionals put their photos in local galleries to sell. Locals often like artwork that reminds them of their hometown, so there’s a natural built-in market for this type of photography. Photographers who live in an area with some popular tourist attractions may stand an even greater chance of selling their photos of local attractions. Tourists love bringing souvenirs home, and a quality photo print will forever remind them of their vacation.

Assistant Photographer

Oftentimes our busy schedules make it difficult to run our own freelance businesses. In that case, we might consider partnering with another local freelancer to work as their assistant photographer. Because freelance workloads often have a lot of peaks and valleys, freelancers hate to pass up work even when they’re booked solid. By acting as an assistant photographer, we could take on overflow assignments that the freelancer doesn’t have time to do themselves. Or if it’s a particularly large event, they may need a second photographer to work alongside them.

Tips for Making Money with Photography

Financial

When we work as an employee, keeping track of finances is simple. We receive a W-2 at the end of the year, and our employer pays us on schedule every week or two. If we work as freelancers, we are responsible for our own financial tracking. This means tracking our total gross income, calculating and paying our own taxes, and invoicing clients to get paid. One of the best things that we can do as freelancing photographers is to invest in accounting software packages. 

Equipment

When working as a freelancer, we need to supply our own equipment too. DSLR cameras and lenses can be expensive, but we don’t want to handicap ourselves with inferior equipment. For those of us serious about freelancing on a full-time basis, getting the cameras, lenses, tripods, and other equipment we will need is a mandatory investment. We should be using our accounting software to track these expenses too, as many business expenses can be deducted from taxes.

Studio

If our photoshoots take place in a controlled studio environment rather than outdoors, then we’ll need a studio. For those of us that work as salaried employees, our company will already have taken care of this. Yet for freelance photographers, a studio is essential. In the beginning, we might consider turning an extra room in our home into a studio, complete with lighting, backdrops, and other studio necessities. As the business grows, though, we may find that we need a more professional space. At that point, freelance photographers can investigate renting or buying a commercial office that can work as a studio.

Promotion

If nobody knows we exist, our photography career will be short-lived. That’s why it’s important to promote our business every chance we get. This promotion could include leaving paper flyers at businesses. Flyers could be for everyday customers of a business who may need a family photographer, or they could be geared toward the business itself. For example, photographers who specialize in food photography can drop flyers by local restaurants to land some gigs.

Online advertising can also be extremely beneficial. As photographers, we should ideally target our local area. We can accomplish this by creating our own website to promote on social media or even paying for some location-based advertisements in Google Ads.

Network

While some may think that other photographers are our competitors, there’s a lot of value in networking with other professionals in our field. Successful freelancers often get to a point where they have more work offered to them than they could possibly complete themselves. By developing a relationship with other photographers, we put ourselves in a position to receive referrals. And if we happen to get too busy, we can refer potential clients back to the other photographer to return the favor.

FAQs

How much money can one make as a photographer?

Photographers that work for a company make an average of $16.95/hour, according to Indeed salary estimates. However, the range varies based on location. For example, photographers in Dallas, TX average $24.43/hour while those in Las Vegas, NV average $14.45/hour.

As a freelancer, it’s hard to nail down a figure as it depends largely on where we are located and how hard we are willing to hustle. According to Salary.com though, the median freelance photographer income is $43,053. 

Is freelance photography a good career?

Freelance photography can be a highly rewarding career. Not all job functions can combine a passion with a career, so in this way, freelance photographers are somewhat unique. Pay can vary based on several factors, but if we find the right specialty and handle the marketing properly, we can make a significant full-time income doing something we love. So, for creatives that love photography, a photography business could be a dream career worth pursuing. 

Is it hard to make money as a photographer?

It is not easy to make money as a photographer, but most rewarding careers are not easy. The level of challenge also depends on the path we take. If we’re able to land a job working as a photographer for a photo studio, then making money is just a matter of putting in hours and getting a paycheck. Freelancing is more difficult, as we are responsible for marketing, sales, accounting, photography, and everything else involved in the business. However, many find it much more rewarding to be their own boss.

How does one make passive income as a photographer?

For creatives looking to do a lot of hard work once, then continue to be paid for it over a length of time, then stock photography or selling online photography classes  are the closest thing to passive income. It’s hard work up front, but we can continue to make sales over and over based on this work.

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Nasa Koski cut her teeth in filmmaking through her climbing & mountaineering adventures in the Pacific Northwest. Carrying a camera into the wilderness ignited her passion for storytelling through photos and film. Her short films have toured worldwide and won awards at Banff Mountain Film Festival, 5Point Film Festival, and more. She is the Creative Director of Social & Brand at CreativeLive.