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Photography is one of the most popular hobbies and thankfully, there are plenty of different ways you can make money with it. Regardless of whether you’re interested in making a little extra money on the side by doing something you enjoy, or you’d like to turn it into a full-time income, there are realistic possibilities.
This is a topic that means a lot to me personally because I’ve used a few of these approaches myself. I’m a hobbyist photographer, certainly not a pro, but I was able to earn a full-time income in the photography industry for a few years before selling my websites. You can read more about my story in this article that was published on Forbes if you’re interested.
I know that photography is one of the best hobbies that make money because of my own first-hand experience, and I also have several friends that have done it as well.
When you think about how to get paid for photography, taking portraits for clients is probably the first thing that comes to mind. While that’s certainly an option, there are many other possibilities too. A lot of the methods we’ll cover in this article make use of the internet, so you’ll be able to do them wherever you live.
1. Start a Photography Blog
I’m listing this one first, because it’s the approach I used to make more than $1 million as an amateur photographer. You might be surprised by the fact that it’s possible to have success with a photo blog as an amateur, but it really is. The key lies in choosing the topics that you cover and the types of content you publish.
Blogging could be done part-time or full-time, so it really can be whatever you want it to be.
There are a few different types of photo blogs. Of course, many photographers use blogs on their own portfolio websites to publish articles, but those types of blogs aren’t likely to generate much money unless you’re extremely well known. A better approach for making money would be to start a blog that publishes articles, tutorials, reviews, and other content targeting photographers.
My blogs were never about my own photography. Sure, I included my own photos in posts when it was relevant, but the goal of the blog was not to show off my work. Instead, I wrote about topics that would be of interest to photographers, enthusiasts and pros alike. There are a lot of topics you can cover without being a pro yourself (and if you happen to be a pro, that’s even better). When I wanted to cover topics that I wasn’t able to write about on my own, I outsourced the writing to others who had more experience.
There are a number of different ways to make money with a blog, including:
- Affiliate programs
- Publishing sponsored content
- Promoting your services
- Creating and selling digital products
While those are all viable options, my favorite method for photography blogs is to create and sell digital products, and that’s how I made the majority of my money. That’s a separate topic that will be covered in more detail later in this article, because you don’t necessarily need a blog in order to create and sell digital products. Using a blog is just one way to get exposure for your products.
Affiliate marketing is also very popular with photography blogs, and other types of blogs for that matter. Gear like cameras and lenses are expensive and you can earn a pretty good commission by promoting these types of products as an affiliate. These are also the types of purchases that most people research online, so if you can get your content in front of the right people, you’re likely to earn some money.
And of course, there are a lot of other related products you can promote as an affiliate as well, including things like photo props, backpacks, software, laptops and desktops, books and ebooks, online courses, and much more.
If you want to learn how to start your own blog, please see my article How to Start a Blog that walks you through the simple process of getting your blog up and running.
2. Start a YouTube Channel
Starting a YouTube Channel is somewhat similar to starting a blog, except you’ll be creating video content instead of written content. You could also do both and embed the YouTube videos in your blog posts, although I’d advise focusing on one or the other first, rather than trying to grow both at the same time.
There are many YouTube channels dedicated to photography-related topics. Some are general and others are very niche specific (for example, wildlife photography). Just like blogging, there are lots of different options for the types of content you create. You could focus on tutorial videos, gear reviews, industry news, or even post processing using software like Lightroom or Photoshop.
It’s possible to start a YouTube channel without spending any money at all. You could use your smartphone or an existing camera to create your videos for now, and upgrade your gear later once you’re making some money.
There are a few different ways you can make money with a YouTube channel, and they’re very similar to the monetization options you have for a blog. The most popular ways YouTubers make money include:
- The YouTube Partner Program (ads)
- Affiliate programs
Affiliate marketing is slightly more tricky with a YouTube channel than it is with a blog because you’ll be including links either in the description or in the video itself. However, it’s definitely a legit way to make money on YouTube.
Also just like blogging, a YouTube channel could be a source of a little extra money each month or it could be a huge money-maker.
3. Start a Podcast
Continuing with the theme of content-oriented businesses, a podcast focuses on audio content rather than text or video (although a growing number of podcasts are also available in video).
Although photography is a highly visual art, there are a number of podcasts that are very popular in this niche.
This is another option that could be a great opportunity for a hobbyist. You don’t have to be an expert or a pro yourself, but you could interview guests and feature a different photographer on each episode. With this approach, you’re just facilitating the conversation and you’re leaning on the expertise of your guests.
The most common ways to monetize a podcast include:
- Affiliate programs
- Creating and selling your own products
Sponsorships are the primary source of income for a number of podcasters and there are a lot of possibilities here if you have a responsive audience.
4. Take Portraits
Probably the most common way to make money as a photographer is to take portraits for clients. This is a great option for making money part-time while doing something you enjoy, but it’s fairly difficult to turn it into a full-time income.
One of the reasons why it’s so hard to take portraits full-time (as a self-employed photographer) is because there are so many amateurs and hobbyists doing it part-time. That creates a lot of competition and drives down the rates.
That’s certainly not intended to say that you can’t do it full-time, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult as the number of part-timers continues to increase. If you have exceptional photography or marketing skills, you could be able to earn a full-time income from it.
There are lots of different types of photos you can take and many different scenarios when clients are looking to hire a photographer, including:
- Family photos
- Senior photos
- Engagement photos
- Maternity photos
- Newborn photos
- Sports team photos
- Business or professional photos
- And more
If you’re currently taking portraits part-time and you’re looking to make the jump to full-time, my first recommendation is to combine it with some of the other methods covered in this article. Almost every professional photographer I know uses a few different approaches to add up to a full-time income.
5. Wedding Photography
One of the most lucrative possibilities in the industry is to photograph weddings. I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners because it can be stressful. You only have one chance to get most of the shots and you’re working for the clients on the biggest day of their lives. That puts a lot of pressure on you and if things go wrong, it’s not very pleasant for anyone.
However, if you’re a skilled photographer and you’re up to the task, there is a lot of money to be made. Some clients are willing to pay top dollar for excellent photos of their big day.
6. Work as a Second Shooter
If wedding photography is something that interests you but you’re not quite ready to take the leap, consider working as a second shooter for another wedding photographer in your area. Almost every wedding photographer will hire a second shooter to assist them and ensure that the event is thoroughly covered. You won’t make nearly as much money, but it’s an ideal way to get experience and make sure you’re ready for the bigger role.
To find opportunities, get your portfolio ready and reach out to local wedding photographers to see if they’re looking for help.
7. Photograph Events
There are a lot of different types of events, aside from weddings, that you could get paid to photograph. This could include:
- Business events
- Non-profit and community events
- Birthday parties
In most cases, you’ll be documenting the event for the client. The specifics of the job will depend on the type of the event.
Concert photography is of interest to a lot of people, especially music fans. It may require you to start small because you’ll need to get access and approval to photograph the event commercially. You could look for opportunities to cover local concerts for a newspaper, some other type of local publication, or a website.
8. Real Estate Photography
Taking photos for real estate listings is a great opportunity that’s often overlooked. High-quality photos and videos can make a huge difference when listing a home for sale. Realtors know this and many of them hire photographers in order to get professional-quality photos that make their listings stand out.
There are also a few different types of photos you can take. Of course, traditional photos of the interior and exterior of the house are an option. But you could also use a drone to take incredible aerial photos as well.
Aerial photos aren’t used with every listing, but they’re especially common these days for higher-priced homes or homes with large yards or properties. If there is something unique to show off, a drone photo can be extremely effective. Drones are also very affordable today, so it doesn’t require a major investment to be able to offer this service.
You could also offer to create videos to be used for real estate listings. Sometimes these videos are created using a montage of still photos, or you could use a drone to capture video.
Regardless of where you live, there are real estate agents who are trying to sell houses, and they need quality photos. There are lots of opportunities here and it’s possible to earn a good income from this work as well.
9. Sell Prints Online
Many landscape, nature, and travel photographers earn at least a portion of their income by selling prints online. Wedding and portrait photographers can also do the same.
If you’re selling landscape, nature, or travel photos, you’ll probably be selling to a general audience that will be using the photos as art to decorate their home or office. If you’re selling prints from weddings or client sessions, you’re probably only selling to your clients or their friends and family, so the approach is much different.
There are a number of platforms that allow you to create your own website and sell prints. Smugmug and Zenfolio are two of the more popular platforms, but there are several others. Some of them offer automatic fulfillment, which means orders from your website will be sent directly to the lab, printed, and shipped to your customers without any action on your part. It’s an ideal way to reduce the amount of time and effort needed for administrative tasks, allowing you to focus on the photography itself.
Selling prints can be a great way to make some part-time money, but it’s very competitive and not many people are able to make a huge amount of money with it. It works better as a supplemental source of income than a primary source of income. Try combining it with some of the other methods in this article to maximize your income.
10. Sell Your Photos in Galleries
Another way to sell prints is to get your photos into brick-and-mortar galleries. Depending on where you live, there may be some local galleries that would be interested in carrying your photos. You can also sell in galleries that are not in your local area, although getting them to carry your photos is usually more challenging.
The compensation can vary, but in many cases, you’ll provide the prints and then you’ll get paid as they sell (which requires some upfront investment on your part). Other galleries may purchase the prints from you upfront and then sell them.
Of course, in order to get your work into galleries, you’ll need to get in touch with the gallery owner or manager and convince them that your photos will sell. You can do this by reaching out online, but sometimes walking into the gallery in person is more effective. You can take some sample prints or an iPad with you to show your photos.
Again, this is another option that’s ideal for making some extra money on the side, but it’s unlikely to generate a huge amount of money.
11. Sell Your Photos Locally
Can’t get your photos into a gallery? That’s ok. There are other ways to sell prints locally. Art festivals, exhibits, and flea markets provide opportunities to sell your prints. Even some public libraries host art events.
When you’re selling locally, photos taken in the local area tend to sell best. This is especially true for local places or landscapes that are recognizable to a lot of people in your area. Many people would like to have a nice framed photo of a favorite local spot.
Don’t expect to get rich with this approach, but it may be a way to make some money from your hobby.
12. Sell Merchandise
There are a lot of websites that make it possible to earn money by selling merchandise that features your photos. This could include calendars, t-shirts, mugs, mouse pads, and all kinds of different items.
Some of the sites include:
With these print-on-demand websites, you don’t need to invest money in inventory. Instead, you’ll upload your photos and products will be printed and shipped as they are ordered.
This is another approach that’s very unlikely to make you rich, but you can earn some supplementary income. And best of all, it’s passive income.
To learn more, please see Sell a TON of Art on Redbubble.
13. Create and Sell Digital Products
Earlier, I mentioned that creating and selling digital products was my favorite way to monetize a photography blog. While that’s true, blogging is only one of the possible methods that could be used for selling your digital products.
First, let’s talk about the types of products you can sell. In this section of the article, I’m not talking about digital stock photos, or even any type of photo at all. I’m talking about other photography-related products. There are endless possibilities, but this includes things like:
- Lightroom presets, Photoshop actions, and presets for other software
- Photo apps
- Plugins or add-ons for photo editing software
- Card templates (like newborn announcements, save-the-date cards, etc)
- Brochure templates and marketing materials for photographers
- Photo book and album templates
Many of these products don’t require advanced technical skills to create. For example, anyone can learn to create printables like price sheets, order sheets, or invoices. And if you don’t want to learn to create the products yourself, you can always outsource the work to a freelancer. Sites like Upwork are perfect for finding freelancers to create products for you (although I recommend making it clear from the start that you’ll retain full ownership of the product and that you will be selling it).
In my case, I created most of my own products, but I also hired people to create some products that I couldn’t do on my own.
When it comes to selling your products, there are many different ways you can do it.
- Sell on your own website or blog using a simple checkout like SendOwl
- Sell on marketplaces like Creative Market, Etsy, or FilterGrade (there are many others as well)
- Sell on deal sites like PhotoWhoa
- Start an affiliate program and recruit affiliates to promote your products
- Use Facebook ads or other paid ads to generate traffic
This could be something that brings in a little extra money, or it could turn into a six or even a seven-figure business. I know a number of photographers aside from myself (including pros and hobbyists) who’ve made a very good income by selling digital products.
14. Create Online Courses
Courses could fall into the previous category of digital products, but they’re a lot different than the types of products I mentioned earlier, so I’m listing it separately. This option is far more ideal for professionals or very experienced photographers because, obviously, you’ll need to have some expertise to teach others. If you don’t have that expertise yourself but you want to create courses, you could partner with a photographer who would do the actual teaching and you could be responsible for other aspects like setting up the course and marketing it.
If you’re looking for an opportunity with outstanding income potential, this is one that you might want to consider. Courses, especially higher-end courses, can bring in a lot of money if they’re successful. The downside its, they also take a lot of time and effort to create.
15. Write a Book or E-book
Another way to monetize your photography expertise is to write a book or e-book. This may sound intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but becoming a published author is more realistic today than it’s even been. You could write and sell an e-book on your own, or you could use a platform like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
Through KDP, you can sell your book in e-book format for Kindle, or as a print-on-demand paperback. With print-on-demand, you don’t need to buy inventory or pay to have a large run of books printed. In fact, you don’t need to spend any money at all. You’ll list your book for sale and Amazon will print the paperback copies as they are sold.
Obviously, Amazon has a huge audience of customers who are buying books and e-books, so it’s an ideal platform to get exposure for your writing.
Your books and e-books could serve as passive income, continuing to generate money well after you’ve done the work to write the book.
This course from bestselling author Jonathan LaPoma will show you the exact steps to follow to have success as a self-published author and sell your books and eBooks through Amazon's Kindle Direct Program. Get free access for two months!
The income ceiling is higher if you sell an e-book on your own since you won’t have to split the revenue with Amazon, plus prices on Amazon tend to be lower, although you’re in control of the price of your books. However, selling it on your own requires you to build your own audience. One of the major perks of KDP is being able to get your book or e-book in front of Amazon’s customers.
The book shown below is an example of what you could create. This is available as a paperback or Kindle e-book, and an audio version is also available.
16. Lead Photo Tours or Workshops
If you enjoy teaching other people, leading tours or workshops is an excellent way to make money. Many professional travel and landscape photographers earn a portion of their income by leading group workshops.
Leading workshops will not only require you to have strong photography skills in order to be able to teach others, but you’ll also need excellent organizational capabilities to put the event together. While it does require a lot of work, the income potential is excellent and there is a strong demand (I’ve personally paid to attend two landscape photo workshops).
Your workshop could be as short as a few hours or it could last several days. Obviously, the longer workshops are more intense and require more work, so a shorter one would be a good option for getting started.
Another option is to lead a photo tour. While photo tours are very similar to workshops, they typically do not involve as much instruction. Attendees of a photo tour may be more interested in a guide who knows the area and can get them to the right spots, and they may not be as interested in getting personal instruction or tips from the tour guide.
If you live in an area that attracts a lot of tourists or somewhere that has a lot of photography subjects, leading a tour group could be a good option.
17. Become an Influencer
With the popularity of social platforms, especially Instagram, there is a lot of potential to make money as an influencer. You’ll need to grow a large and responsive following, but if you’re able to do that, you can make a nice income from sponsorships.
As an influencer, you’ll be paid to promote the products or services of the sponsor. The amount you make will depend on a lot of factors like the size and responsiveness of your audience, but some influencers are able to earn a great income.
18. Offer Photo Editing Services
If you like editing photos in Lightroom or Photoshop, you might be able to get paid to do this. There are a few different possibilities.
First, you could create a profile on Fiverr and set up some gigs related to photo editing. You’ll list the exact services you offer, like removing objects from photos, and price your services. When a user is searching for the services you offer, they may choose to hire you.
Second, you could use other freelance websites like Upwork. With these sites, you would be bidding on jobs that have been set up by clients who are looking to hire. See our Fiverr vs. Upwork comparison to determine which type of site might be best for you.
Third, you could skip the third-party websites and market your services directly to photographers. For example, some portrait and wedding photographers outsource photo editing to other people. They take so many photos that they don’t have time to process them all. You could put together a simple portfolio website showcasing your work and then start reaching out to photographers in your local area to see if they would be interested in your services (you don’t have to reach out to photographers who are local to you, but being local often helps with cold outreach).
Making some extra money on the side would be very realistic if you have some photo editing skills (or if you’re willing to invest a little bit of time in learning). Earning a full-time income is also possible, but obviously would take a lot more work and some patience to grow the business.
If you want to master photo editing, be sure to see Fundamentals of Photo Editing at Skillshare.
19. Stock Photography
One of the most popular ways to make money with photography is by selling licenses to your photos at stock photo websites. There are many different stock marketplaces like Adobe Stock, Shutterstock, iStock, Deposit Photos, etc. You’ll apply for a contributor account and most sites will require you to upload some samples of your photos in order to be approved to the program. Once you’re approved, you can upload photos that you want to make available to the users of that marketplace.
Stock photography is a popular way to make money because very easy to get started. Each time one of your photos is downloaded, you’ll earn a commission. The details vary depending on the site, but generally you’ll earn anyway from a few cents to a few dollars per download.
While licensing stock photos is often one of the first recommendations for making money with photography, the truth is, it’s pretty difficult to make a significant amount of money this way. The stock marketplaces already have millions of photos and thousands of established contributors.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but your perspective is really important here. If you’re looking for a way to make some extra money (like a few hundred dollars per month), stock photography could be a good option. But if you have your eyes set on earning a full-time income, that’s going to be very difficult to do with stock photography. Ideally, this would be a supplemental source of income for you.
However, even if your goal is simply to make a few hundred dollars per month, you’ll probably still need to upload a lot of photos and stick with it for a while. The nice thing is, if you’re continually adding photos to your portfolio, your stock photo income should be increasing as time goes by.
To learn more, please see Start Selling Your Photography: Getting Started With Stock Photography on Skillshare.
20. Give Away Free Photos
The last option we’ll look at is very similar to stock photography, except in this case you’ll be giving away your photos for free. You’re probably wondering how you’re going to make money if you’re giving away photos for free, but it’s actually possible. Here are two options.
- Contribute free photos to Vecteezy. You’ll earn $5 for every 1,000 downloads of your free photos. It’s definitely not very much per download, but Vecteezy has millions of visitors each month, so it could still add up to something. Other free photo websites don’t pay contributors anything for downloads. This could be a decent option if you just want a fun way to make a little extra money.
- Start your own free photo website and make money from ads, sponsorships, or affiliate programs.
There are a growing number of free photo websites. You’re probably familiar with the industry leaders Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay. It’s not very realistic to expect to compete on their level, but there are also a number of other smaller free photo sites.
ISO Republic is one of these smaller sites that was started by an individual photographer a few years ago. Over time, the collection of photos, and now videos, has grown significantly. The site makes money from ads and affiliate programs. Gratisography is another similar example.
There is so much demand for free photos that it’s possible to start your own site if you’re willing to give away your photos for free. It will take some time to grow traffic and income, and you’ll need to be willing to continue adding new photos, but the income potential is significant. This is definitely something that could eventually be turned into a full-time income with enough time and effort.
Photography is one of the most popular hobbies in the world, and thankfully, it’s also a great hobby for making money. Whether you’re looking to make a little extra money on the side or you want to grow a business that generates a full-time income, there are a number of realistic and practical options.
We’ve covered twenty of the best ways to make money with photography in this article, so take a look at the options and decide what you want to pursue. Then take action and get started as soon as possible. Best of luck!
Frequently Asked Questions
The income for photographers will vary significantly from one to another. According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for a photographer in the U.S. is $43,114.
In general, wedding photography is one of the best options if you want to maximize your income. According to ZipRecruiter, the average wedding photographer makes $104,417, which is well over double the average for all photographers!
While making money with stock photography was much easier several years ago, it’s still very possible to make money today. However, some perspective is important. Stock photography is far more ideal as a supplemental source of income than a primary source of income. Making a few hundred dollars per month is very realistic, with some time and effort. Making thousands of dollars per month is much, much harder.
It depends how the photos are being sold. Landscape and nature photos are ideal for selling fine art prints. In terms of stock photography, authentic-looking photos of people (not clichéd stock photos) are very much in demand.