How to Make Money With Photography: The Ultimate Guide

Making money with photography sounds like the stuff of dreams, doesn’t it? Especially if you’ve loved picking up a camera and getting creative for as long as you can remember.

You’d get to indulge in one of your true passions on a daily basis, finely tune your skills, learn more about humans and what makes them tick, create beautiful pieces of art and still manage to pay your bills at the same time.

You could wave goodbye to your unfulfilling 9-5, stop having to answer to your boss and start living life on your own terms.

It’s not going to be easy, of course.

Photography can be a highly competitive industry and unless you’re crazy talented and very lucky, you’re not going to start earning big bucks from the moment you get started.

But with hard work, you can turn your photography hobby into a rewarding career or a profitable side hustle that you love. Thanks to the internet, it’s much easier to get started than it used to be- simply set yourself up with a social media platform, and/or a website, build yourself a portfolio then choose what you want to do.

There are so many ‘earn money with photography guides’ online that can get you feeling inspired but don’t give you enough information to actually turn your dream into a reality.

That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide.

We’ll explain a massive 19 different ways that you can start making money with your photos, give you some tips on how to get started and what you need to bear in mind when choosing each option.

Wherever possible, we’ve also tried to link to useful websites that will go into more depth on how you can get started in each niche, platforms you can use to sell, and so on. Enjoy!

1. Become a Wedding Photographer (or Find Another Niche)

If you love nothing better than a good wedding and you’re a sociable person who can capture the best in a moment you should consider dedicating yourself to wedding photography.

Although it can take a lot of planning, stress, and hard work, it can be a very profitable niche that can turn into a rewarding career that allows you to pay the bills while doing what you love. What could be better?

The exact amount you can charge will depend on how much experience you have, the location and the time of year. You should also take into account the extra time you’ll need to plan, edit, and select the shots when you’re providing someone with a quote.

Because weddings are (hopefully!) a once-in-a-lifetime event, the pressure to take great shots will be high. This means it’s not a great option if you’re a newbie photographer or lack the confidence in your own work.

Having said that, there are tons of ways to get experience as a wedding photographer even if you’re not quite ready for the whole thing. You could work as a second shooter, create a fake wedding for the couple, photograph the wedding rehearsal or take shots of the engagement if you’d prefer. Every shot you take can also be used in your portfolio and you’ll often find great new opportunities by talking to other photographers in the industry.

When couples look for their wedding photographer, they tend to start their research online. So, make sure you have a bare minimum of a one-page website, preferably with a portfolio page to showcase your talents and your contact details clear.

2. Take Photographs for Small Businesses

Every business these days needs to have a bunch of high- quality images that they can use for their website, social media posts and other types of publicity.

This means that there’s a wide market of businesses out there who are just begging for your services. You simply have to find them, offer them your services at a price that suits their budget and voila- you have yourself a business.

It’s also easy to get started and build a portfolio, especially if you’re willing to keep your fees low when you first start.

Once you’ve done this, you can start your hustle.

  • Arm yourself with your portfolio then go out there and speak to business owners.
  • Join Facebook groups and offer your services to those who need it.
  • Build yourself a solid Instagram account to showcase your work, using hashtags to attract attention.
  • Tell the world that you’re launching a new business and offer to take shots for an introductory price.

Although you’ll tend to get a lot of word-of-mouth referrals when you work as a business photographer, you’ll also need to make sure you have a decent online presence.

3. Sell Travel Photography Stories

Love travel? Check. Love photography? Check. Then a career as a travel photographer could be for you.

There are hundreds of newspapers and magazines who will pay a decent amount of money for excellent photographs that capture a story, inspire wanderlust, and keep the reader turning pages. The better your portfolio, the better your skill and the better your ability to write, the greater chances you’ll have of making it in this niche.

However, even if you don’t fancy yourself as the next Steve McCurry by covering distant lands for National Geographic, there are other great ways of making money in this niche.

For example, tour operators, airlines and travel companies also want top-quality photographs that capture what their businesses are all about and help attract more customers. Track them down, show them your portfolio and you could end up with a dream trip with all expenses paid.

This is also a niche that offers a lot of repeat work. But again, it’s always worth building a high-quality website to showcase your portfolio to prospective clients.

4. Sell Your Photos in Galleries

Setting up a photography exhibition is another more traditional way of making money from your photographs. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold great promise for the talented artist.

All you need to do is identify which galleries you’d like to exhibit in, take your work along to show them and you could end up with one or several exhibitions lined up.

Don’t forget to include those smaller places such as coffee shops, hotels, and restaurants. These are often excellent places to display and sell your work to an interested audience and it’s often easier to get started if you’re not already well-known in your local arts scene.

If you get offered wall space, make sure you understand how the pricing will work beforehand so you don’t get any nasty surprises further down the line. Some will ask for a monthly fee; others will ask for commission and others will ask you to rent the wall space.

Over time, you’re likely to discover that some shots sell better than others and that certain groups of people resonate better with different pieces of art. If you’re clever, you can use this knowledge to create your own niche and make great money with your photography as a result.

5. Teach Photography

What better way to spread your love of photography with the world by teaching others? It’s a great way to meet new people, inspire new generations of artists and make money doing so. You don’t even have to be an expert to get started- provided you have some experience and you’re good with people, you’ll be good to go.

There are also many ways you can teach these days- it doesn’t have to involve teaching at a local college.

You could also find your own space and organize workshops or try your hand at teaching photography online. With the coronavirus pandemic still blazing, it might be better to consider building your business online in the beginning and adding more face-to-face classes once the restrictions finally come to an end.

To get started, consider what type of class you plan to teach? Will it be a general class focused on beginners? Or perhaps a more specific class aimed at improving a certain skill? Will you focus on a niche such as food photography or will you keep the scope more open?

Next consider which online platforms you could use to teach, bearing in mind that they do vary when it comes to what you’re allowed to post, what commission or fee they will ask and how you’re allowed to use the site.

If you’re going with the face to face option, you can also contact schools and colleges directly and ask if they’re looking for someone to lead photography classes. You’ll often be met with a positive response.

6. Offer Photography Tours

If you’ve loved photography for a long time, it’s highly likely that you already know all the most beautiful spots in your city. So why not make money by offering photography tours? You can cover the ‘must-see’ tourist hotspots in your city, explore lesser-known places, or even focus on a night like ‘food photography’ or ‘Toronto in the Spring’.

Although this is obviously another niche that will work better once the coronavirus restrictions are over, it is possible to offer socially distanced tours by asking guests to wear masks, etc. The summer and fall are great times to offer these tours as nature is usually at its best, plus people tend to be more willing to travel to indulge in their favorite hobbies.

Social media is a great way to get started with this. Simply head to Facebook, look up photography groups and offer your services. You could also consider partnering with local tourism agencies, tour businesses and even Airbnb experiences to offer your services. Again, be aware of any fees or commissions they may charge before you get in too deep.

7. Sell Your Photographs to Newspapers or Magazines

As well as the usual travel magazines, there are also thousands of magazines around the world dedicated to just about every hobby or interest you could possibly imagine. And what do they all need to feature on their covers and in their pages? High quality photographs!

If you can find the right niche for you, you could even combine several of your hobbies, gain some incredible experiences and lots of commissioned work at the same time. You could find yourself taking general photographs, attending events, conducting interviews, and so on.

A great way to get started is to simply call up a local newspaper or magazine and, yes, you’ve guessed it, offer your services. They may ask you to visit the offices with a copy of your printed portfolio, ask for a link to your portfolio website or simply come in for a chat. Good photographers tend to be hard to find, so many will be willing to give a promising and talented photographer a chance, even if the pay isn’t great at first.

With this in mind, be patient, start small and take the time to build your reputation. By laying these foundations now, you’ll be able to progress quickly and could potentially charge much higher fees further on down the road.

8. Enter Photography Competitions

Did you know that you could win photography competitions and earn decent prize money? Or that numerous photography competitions happen every single year that all offer decent prizes, even if you don’t win 1st place?

Although you won’t be able to build a career in photography simply by winning competition, they are a great way to showcase your work, build your reputation and bring you instant media exposure that could lead you directly to prospective clients.

Start by finding out when the best photo contests run and send in your applications. You’ll find these types of competitions running from beginner to more advanced levels, and at international, national, and local levels alike. Many festivals also include photograph competitions that are dedicated to a particular topic, so it’s always worth doing your research and considering sending in your application.

If you do win a prize, make sure you talk about it on your website or social media page. This will help showcase your skills and give your work that extra seal of approval. Not that you need it.

9. Become a Photo Editor

Making money with photography doesn’t mean simply being there physically shooting the pictures. You could also build a solid career as a photo editor.

In this role, your average day is likely to involve retouching images, managing layouts, hiring photographers, or organizing assignments and could depend exactly who you decide to work for.

If you’re a pro when it comes to working with editing software and you don’t mind being in front of a computer for hours, you could also consider specializing in editing and work as a freelancer.

What gives this money-making idea extra kudos is the fact that you can get started with zero experience if you’re willing to start at the bottom and work your way up. You’re also likely to find several clients via online recruitment sites such as Upwork and Freelancer that will allow you to build your portfolio and build your new business from the ground up.

10. Real Estate Photography

Another industry that is excellent for making money with photography is real estate. Even in the midst of a pandemic, real estate agents, home rental services, interior designers, and companies such as Airbnb need high quality images and are willing to pay well for your real estate photography services.

However, you will need to have a strong portfolio to get started in this niche so it’s worth considering how you could build your expertise if you’re a newbie in the niche. Perhaps you could ask a local interior design student to allow you to photograph their work- they get free photos and you get pieces for their portfolio. Or ask any friends or family members who have beautiful homes to allow you to photograph their space to do you a favor?

Once you have your portfolio, you can find clients via Facebook groups, design conferences, local real estate events and even via word of mouth. Make sure you’re talking to as many people as possible and telling them about your specialization- often this alone is enough to open promising doors.

11. Sell Your Photos Via an Online Marketplace

You don’t have to opt for stock photo websites if you want to sell your photos online. There are several online marketplaces that can give you the exposure you’re looking for, create a professional image and allow you to make decent profits while doing so. For best results, look for websites that are aimed primarily towards art lovers and artists.  Here are three of the best sites that are worth looking at.

Zatista

Zatista sells limited edition original art of less than 100 prints. It’s an exclusive site so it can take effort to get accepted. But it’s absolutely worth it if you’re willing to wait- it can often take months. This site will help you get in front of thousands of eager eyes. Then all you need to do is print and ship your photos and you could make decent money.

Fine Art America

This website dedicates itself to art and photography, running an excellent print on demand service that you can use for whatever purpose you want. Why not get your best images printed onto phone cases, mugs, duvet covers or whatever else they have to offer? This will allow you to productize your photography and could help you to launch into niche markets. It’s a great option for beginners and is largely hands off as you just upload your images and they will do the rest.

Etsy

Most people have already heard of Etsy– it’s the website that sells handmade products to those who want something unique. And what could be more unique than a direct-from-the-photographer print? The overheat costs are low with Etsy and getting started is affordable and straightforward. Just upload your images to the website then send the print to anyone who wants to buy. Easy!

12. Become a Club Photographer

Nightclubs and live music venues regularly hire photographers to come and take snaps of the fun that their guests are having. This is one of the most effective ways they can promote the club as they’ll have images to use in their publicity and on social media. If it’s tagged correctly, each shot can lead to plenty of work for the club photographer too.

It’s easy to get started- often all you need to do is pick up your camera and offer your services to the club. At the beginning you won’t be able to charge much at all, although you’ll likely get into the gigs and events themselves for free. But as your experience grows, you can also start asking for decent money.

Let’s not forget that the experience of getting into gigs for free, getting free beers, soaking up the atmosphere and making new connections can be an awesome experience in itself. When you’re out there taking shots, you’ll often find that people ask for your contact details. So, make sure you get some old-style business cards printed and ready to hand out.

13. Sell Your Photos on Stock Image Websites

Despite what you might have heard, selling your photographs on stock image websites can be a great way of generating so called passive income. All you need to do is upload the shot once and you can sell each shot an infinite number of times.

To be successful, you need to choose your platform carefully, take the highest quality photos possible and consider what market niche you could fill with your skills. Your main customers are going to be businesses, marketing agencies and media so consider what they might want and market trends. It can be really useful to take a look at several stock images sites to see what is popular and then create your own portfolio.

 As well as choosing your platform carefully, you should also use as high a resolution as possible, upload new content regularly and add as many images as you can. Don’t forget to tag your images with as many relevant keywords as you can think of as this will help your images to get found and ultimately bought.

14. Become a Social Media Influencer

Many photographers build a successful freelance career by using social media websites such as Instagram and Facebook to showcase their work and build a fan base.

Once they have several thousand followers, they can start to leverage this to make money. Many choose to create niche products or services that are tailored towards their specific audience’s needs or they choose to work with brands to get freebies and make money.

Despite how glamorous life as a social media influencer may seem, it takes a lot of hard work to make it, can take months or even years to launch your photography career and it’s hard to make money when you first get started. This means many get frustrated along the way and just give up.

But if you have real talent, an eye for what works on Instagram and you’re willing to brush up on your social media knowledge, the opportunities can be rich for the picking.

15. Take Portraits

Portrait photography has always been extremely popular as it has a wide variety of niches and can be used for a huge number of uses. After all, most of us have been forced to dress up for school photos at some time in our lives, or we’ve posed with our sports teams or young children or even pets.

The amount of money you can make within this niche is technically limitless, especially if you are one of the lucky people who have an incredible eye for portrait photography or you’re willing to work hard to create incredible images.

To get started as a run-of-the mill portrait photographer who shoots pets, pregnant women, engagements, fashion, school graduations, sport teams and babies, you’ll just need to approach the right people and show them your portfolio.

You could also consider partnering with shops, malls, hospitals, and pharmacies to help you find more customers whilst also building your experience. Referrals are often common- once you have a happy customer, you’re likely to get more.

With this in mind, it’s always worth getting testimonials from your customers that you can use in any marketing materials you might have. As with other careers in photography, it’s always worth creating a website or social media page for people to find you online.

16. Become an Assistant Photographer

If you’d love to start making money with your photographs but you have neither the experience nor the confidence, your best bet might be to become an assistant photographer. You’ll be working alongside an experienced photographer who can help show you the ropes, give you some free mentoring and help you expand your skills.

You may need to volunteer to get started but the benefits will soon pay off, especially if you’re building your portfolio for a career as a wedding photographer, portrait photographer or other career mentioned before.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop you making a whole career out of being an assistant photographer if you just want to dedicate yourself to doing what you love without having the extra pressure of running your own business. It’s rewarding, fun and will help you pay the bills at the very least.

To get started you simply need to find other photographers and offer your services. Again, there are many great photography groups on Facebook that can help. Alternatively, you could join local camera clubs or associations or even ask a friend or family member if they know someone you could help.

17. Start a Photography Blog

You didn’t think that blogging would be forgotten, did you? Just as it is for wannabe writers, creating a photography blog can be a fantastic way of making money with photography, especially if you’re willing to put the work in.

Many photographers start by building a website to showcase their work and end up adding a blog because it can help more customers to find them. After a while, they find they enjoy the process, their following grows, and they can make money from the blog itself after a short space of time.

If this sounds appealing to you, start thinking about what you could focus your blog around.

Perhaps it would be good to focus on a particular photography niche such as still life photography, landscape photography or food photography. Perhaps you would prefer to teach others how to take excellent photographs or use a particular piece of software? Maybe you could review cameras and other equipment and use affiliate marketing to generate an extra income at the same time.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to blogging, so it’s definitely worth considering, even if it’s just an extra income stream that runs parallel to your main photography business.

18. Set Up a Photo Booth at Local Events

Still determined to make money selling prints? Take yourself along to a local event such as craft fair, set yourself up with a booth and you can start making money right away.

The beauty of selling your photographs like this is that it’s very straightforward without any hidden costs (aside from perhaps the cost of hiring the table) and you can get directly in front of your customer and find out what they like or dislike.

You can then use this information to make connections and build your business from the group up with very little initial investments. Customers also love speaking directly to artists, so they’re more likely to make a purchase when you’re sitting right there in front of them.

 As well as prints of various sizes, you could also offer specific products such as postcards or calendars or even take your equipment and take photographs on site. Even retro shots taken with a polaroid can become a very popular product, if done properly.

19. Become a Freelancer

Even if you don’t fancy any of the suggestions on this list you could still start earning money with your photographs. Just set yourself up as a freelance photographer then offer your skills to the world via a freelancing site such as Upwork, Freelancer, People Per Hour or Guru.

Although some of the projects you’ll find will be poorly paid, there are also plenty of decent businesses who are willing to pay more for high quality work. What’s great about this approach is that you’ll enjoy a very varied work life, find plenty of interesting projects to get stuck into and you won’t need to do much to get started.

Write up a professional profile page, upload some portfolio samples and then you can start applying. Be aware that the sites do tend to take a percentage of your earnings, but considering that you won’t need to make much effort to market yourself and you’ll be getting in front of millions of prospective clients, it is often very much worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions About Monetizing Photography

How can I earn money through photography?

Working as a photographer will allow you to make money in a variety of ways. For example, you could become a wedding photographer, sell your prints online, become a photo editor, sell your images online, create products, or even set yourself up as a freelance photographer. The only limit is your imagination.

Do photographers make good money?

Making good money with photography can be challenging when you first get started. But if you work hard, take excellent photographs, think strategically and be open to learning new skills, you could potentially make plenty of money doing what you love.

How much money can you make with stock photography?

Usually, stock photos can make you 25-45 cents per shot per month. This depends on which platforms you select, the quality of your photographs, how often you upload, your skill at using keywords and your talent as a photographer.

Can you make money with astrophotography?

Yes, you absolutely can make money by taking astrophotos, especially if you have great talent and you’re willing to think outside the box to get discovered. However, there isn’t as much demand for this type of photo so it can be harder to get established in astrophotography.

A Final Word from Run Gun Shoot

The great news is that there are many varied ways you can make money by doing what you love- taking photographs.

Whether you love the idea of capturing people’s special moments, you love to be at the heart of the action, travel photographs are what set your heart alight or you’d rather become an editor, a freelancer or simply sell your prints, you’re sure to find something that suits.

Having said that, photography is a popular hobby so don’t be deterred if you don’t start making thousands of dollars overnight. Give it careful thought, think about what you love and how much effort you’re willing to invest and you will go far.