How to make money from Photography
If you are like I was when I started out and you are wondering how to make money from photography then keep reading because below I will go through some of the best ways to start earning some money with your photos and skills.
Making money from photography is a dream that a lot of us have at one point or another. We dream to be able to ditch the day job and make money doing something that we love.
Imagine how great it would be to be able to spend more time taking photos, less time grinding away in your day job and how fantastic it would feel to be your own boss.
One of the benefits of making money with photography is that you can decide where and when you work and this also gives you the chance to spend more time with your family.
I’m not going to lie to you though, it is hard and very competitive, especially when starting out. But if you are really committed, have the desire and passion plus some skill then it is still possible to make money from photography. A lot of people will tell you not to do it, that it can’t be done, that there’s too much competition and everyone has a camera these days. I’ve heard it’s a dying trade etc etc.
Well I’m here to tell you that just like any business you can succeed if you are willing to do what 99% of others are not. You have to work hard, be dedicated, make sacrifices and strive to be the best that you can be.
If you really want to make money with your photos then you can, you just have to know how, where and most importantly what is in demand.
I’ll start out with one of the most obvious ways to make money as a photographer and build up to the most profitable.
How to make money from photography – Stock
Stock photography is licensing your images to a stock photo library or agency who then sell them on your behalf to companies, newspapers, magazines and websites. This area is very competitive but most people think that they can upload a few of their holiday snaps and make a few bucks. That is very unlikely.
I know photographers who make a living solely from stock photography so it is certainly possible to make a decent income from your photos via stock agencies.
The key here is to research. Look around you and there are images everywhere, on bill boards, magazines, leaflets, newspapers, websites, holiday brochures and a million other places. Take a good look at those images and try to learn from them because a lot of them are taken by successful stock photographers. If they are selling their images then you can too. You just have to be as good or better than them.
Look at the types of images that are around you. They are usually evoking a mood, telling a story or have incredible light. So if you want your images to regularly sell on stock websites then you need to create images that do the same.
One of my most popular stock photography images is a shot of a very rural school in Scotland with a school sign in front of it. It is a completely average, un-memorable shot but it has sold countless times to national newspapers because it clearly represents rural schools. I took this shot on my way to a landscape location I had scouted out and because I had been following the news, I knew that the UK Government was considering closing rural schools. Therefore I predicted that there would be lots of news stories about it and in turn lots of demand for such an image.
That right there is research paying off. Keeping up to date with current affairs and trends is vital to making money from your photography in stock.
Below are some of the best stock agencies to sign up to.
Alamy – Alamy has a lot of newspaper clients in the UK. There is an initial submission requirement which if passed then allows you to upload the rest of your images.
Getty – Getty is one of the most prestigious stock agencies, working with famous and renowned photographers. They sell around the World and have a huge client list including major news networks and newspapers. I would suggest only applying to Getty if you have a portfolio of very distinctive images or you have access to celebrities and well known people.
Shutterstock – Shutterstock is what’s called a micro stock agency. They concentrate on selling in volume which unfortunately means that they often sell your images at quite a low price. However if you can build up a huge library of images then there is money to be made due to the volume of sales.
Istockphoto – iStockphoto is similar to Shutterstock.
There are hundreds more stock photography websites so just do a Google search. If you have a specific set of photos, such as steam trains of the UK etc then it might be worth searching out a particular agency that specialises in such areas.
How to make money from photography – Magazine Submissions
Even though the publishing industry has suffered a decline in recent years there are still plenty of publications that require high quality content on a regular basis.
I used to provide material to a number of different magazines in the UK, in particular I mainly supplied to the photography magazine industry. While the pay is not great it is another source of income and can lead to more work.
When submitting to magazines make sure you make it as easy as possible for the editor to say yes to your submission. He/She has to look through hundreds of submissions so make yours easy to deal with. Send some of your best images, follow the guide-lines to the letter and I always used to write a short friendly cover note and include a sheet of thumbnails of the images so that they could quickly scan to see the quality.
Eventually you will build up a rapport with certain editors and they may even start to throw some commissions your way which pay a little better.
How do I know who to contact?
Scan the magazines in your local store and grab a list of contact details. Alternatively in the UK there is an excellent publication which lists all active magazine publications, newspapers and other potential outlets. It gives you contact information for picture editors and submission guidelines as well as the types of images required.
It’s called the Freelance Photographers Market Handbook. You can buy it at Amazon UK here and it really is worth its weight in gold The Freelance Photographer’s Market Handbook 2016
How to make money from photography – Sell Prints
For me producing prints and selling them is probably the most satisfying part of my job. If your images are of a high enough standard then get out there, find galleries, cafes, restaurants and hotels and show them a quick portfolio of your images. These establishments might buy your prints off you but in all likely-hood they will agree to display them for sale in return for receiving a percentage of the sale. The percentage of the sale they take ranges from 20-50% . Make sure to factor this in to your retail price.
Remember, local images sell best so look for tourist hot spots and get out there and photograph the most popular locations in the beautful light to give yourself the best chance of selling in any numbers.
Make sure your prints are an excellent standard. I used to print all my own work on Epson 3880 and 7900 printers because I was meticulous about print quality. You can buy the newer versions of these printers at Amazon UK here Epson SureColor SC-P800 A2 Colour Photo Inkjet Printer
and Amazon.com here Epson SureColor P800 Standard Edition UltraChrome HD Inkjet Photographic Printer, 2880×1440 dpi, Wi-Fi
Printing your own prints is not for everyone because you need to make sure you have a colour managed workflow. I’ll write up an article on that at a later date.
If you are going to use a print service then make sure you do a test print first to ensure that the colours match your screen. Most print services offer an ICC profile to download and use in Photoshop to ensure everything matches up. Check your printers website.
Selling prints can be profitable and it is all about finding the right place to exhibit. For instance I used to sell a few thousands Pounds worth of prints every month during the Tourist season on a Tiny island off the coast of Scotland. I had about four galleries selling my work on that island and the biggest most popular gallery was my worst performing outlet. If you can, find a space for your work in a smaller gallery where the owners meet and greet the customers and offer a personal service. They know you and your images personally so they are more likely to sell your work. They can offer a bit of information about you as an artist and that is what really sells your prints.
You could even offer to do open days where you meet the customers. In my experience, meeting potential buyers yourself is a surefire way to increase your sales. It makes the purchase much more personal and they have a beautiful print to remember you by.
What size prints should you offer?
In the UK I used to offer 12 x 8″, 20 x 16″ and 30 x 20″. Offering three sizes is often seen as the best idea as it means that you have something catering to all budgets. Anything smaller is not worth your time and anything larger you can take as a special order. Remember that houses in the UK are smaller than those in the USA so the market for larger prints in the States is bigger. The art market for photography is also more established than in the UK so there is more money to be made.
Remember the larger your print the more profit you make and that’s what we are trying to do here…. Make money from our photography.
How much should you charge?
This can be based on two factors. One is your costs. You need to add up all the costs you have to make each print. That includes the print itself, your time, your equipment and of course factor in any percentage you are handing over to the gallery. Then add your profit on top and you have your retail price.
You can also base this on your worth as an artist. If you are established and have a following then you can charge more for your work. Part of pricing is knowing your value as a photographer which I discuss in an article here
Alain Briot has a fantastic system for this so I encourage you to check out his website because he is an absolute expert in selling fine art photography and I learned a lot under his tutorship.
Do not make the mistake of undervaluing your worth just to get a sale. The right buyer will pay the right price for your work because they appreciate your talent. As a guide my fine art prints sell for anything from $40 up to $800 depending upon size and the number of prints in an edition.
How to make money from photography – Offering your services
This is probably the most common way for photographers to earn a living and it is also the most business-like.
Essentially you offer your services as a photographer, whether that be in wedding photography, portraits, kids, fashion, lifesyle, commercial, product or any other form.
There are several ways to start out in this industry. You can look to work under an established professional or company by applying to be their apprentice. I have had many requests for this from people just like you who want to get their foot in the door. I can tell you the do’s and don’ts when applying to be someone’s apprentice.
Send your CV, a brief portfolio and a cover letter. Don’t suck up too much in the cover letter. Do your research on the photographer and give them an idea of who you are and what you are looking for. Tell them why they should pick you above all the other applicants. We are not always looking for the best photographer but the best fit for our business.
As in a lot of other walks of life it is often who you know not what you know that gets you by so try to network with photographers and peers to get in to their social circle. It might just be the advantage you need to get your break in to the industry.
You can also start out on your own, after all, all you really need is a camera, a website and the passion, drive and determination to succeed.
Speaking of websites, that is one of the most effective tools a photographer can use to gain exposure and book clients. It can also be a platform to sell your prints and make money from your existing photos.
A simple wordpress site and web hosting costs peanuts to create and run so before you do anything else, set up a website. Simple, quick and easily navigable are the key ingredients to an effective website.
Host your site on a great webhost like TSOHost as they are reliable, fast and offer excellent customer service. That’s who I use for this website. You can even get a 10% discount off their packages by entering the code The Cotswold Photographer . This offer is only available to the first 20 customers though so don’t wait around.
I also use Hostgator in the USA because like TSOHost, they offer great service and fast, reliable and cheap hosting packages.
Running your own photography business is not an easy task though. When you are starting out you need to have more than just good photos. To make money from your photography you need to be able to identify a market for your photos and products and effectively advertise to them.
The best way to get your name out there is to network on social media but don’t just randomly tweet that your services or images are for sale. That’s like bombarding people you don’t even know with sales leaflets and we know that most of those get thrown in the trash. Instead talk to people and join in conversations on social media. Join related groups and add valuable input to discussions. Then when you have built up trust and rapport you can subtly point out what you offer.
Do not throw money at Google Adwords unless you know what you are doing because it can be a real drain on your finances and could even bankrupt your business before you get started. It can cost thousands of dollars to test to see what is effective on Adwords and you probably just don’t have the finances at the start of your photographic career.
Build up your portfolio by offering discounts to your first clients. A good strategy for wedding photographers just starting out is to offer a 50% discount to your first client and tell them it is because you want to build your portfolio. Tell them that this is a one off offer though and the next client will only get a 45% discount. The next client would get a 40% discount and so on until you are charging your full price. This not only helps you to book those first important customers but it also helps you to build a great portfolio which will justify your full asking price.
It is also very important to understand that to make money from photography you need to be a businessperson first and foremost. You need to have a grasp of your finances and be able to work out a business plan. You need so many skills to succeed, you need to be an accountant, web designer, marketer, customer service agent, secretary and of course a photographer.
Don’t let that put you off though because the rewards are infinitely greater than the initial struggles and if you plan, persevere and produce the goods you will become successful. Then eventually you can start to outsource some of the more tedious tasks and concentrate on what you love, creating photos.
I’ll have plenty more to say on the subject of how to make money from photography in future articles including some killer tips to make your website pay for itself so make sure you subscribe to my newsletter to keep up with all the latest tips, reviews and more.
Now if you are really serious about changing your life around, ditching the 9-5 and becoming your own boss then I suggest you read Going Pro by Kelly Kingman. In her book she has over 91 pages of insider tips on how to make money from photography. She is a very successful pro photographer and she explains step by step how you can fulfill your dream and turn Pro. Along with all the great information in the book there is also an audio download with interviews from some of the most successful pro photographers giving their incredible knowledge of what it takes to turn pro and make a success of it.
That’s all for now folk as I’m exhausted after another 18 hour day