How to Start a Profitable Photography Side Hustle

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Photography Side Hustle

Photography is a favorite hobby for millions of people and presents excellent money-making opportunities. If you’re looking for a fun way to earn extra income, you should consider starting a photography side hustle.

About 10-12 years ago, I became interested in photography for the first time. Over the next few years, that interest grew as I got more experience and practice. Eventually, I started looking for ways to make money with it. Thankfully, I was able to have some success (you can read this article from Forbes about how I turned my photography hobby into more than $1 million).

This article covers the basics that will help any photography enthusiast to start making money while doing something they enjoy.

Why Photography is an Ideal Side Hustle

There are several reasons why photography makes an excellent side hustle.

  1. You may already have the needed skills. Many hobbyists are more than capable of taking high-quality photos.
  2. Many clients are willing to hire part-timers. There are a lot of part-time photographers out there. Most people realize that you don’t have to be a full-time professional photographer to get the job done (wedding photography might be the exception here), so finding work is doable.
  3. There are many different ways to make money with photography. You can offer different types of photography services, plus there are other ways of making money besides photographing for clients.
  4. You can start with minimal investment. All you really need is a decent camera and some basic editing software. If you already have a good camera, you might not need to spend any money to get started.
  5. It’s fun! If you enjoy photography, what better way is there to make money? Whether part-time or full-time, work is much more enjoyable when it involves something you’re passionate about.

How to Start a Photography Side Hustle

Now, let’s look at the steps you can follow to start a photography side hustle. While there are many ways to make money with photography, the most straightforward approach is to take portraits for clients.

This can include families, couples, maternity, newborns, kids, seniors, sports teams, business headshots, and more. I recommend not jumping into wedding photography until you have more experience (because it’s high-pressure and very demanding), but that still leaves plenty of possibilities.

Photographer taking a picture

What You Need to Get Started

If you’re a photography hobbyist, chances are, you already have some of the things you need to get started.

Photography Skills

You don’t need to be a world-class photographer to start making money with your camera. However, it’s important to have some basic photography skills. This includes understanding exposure, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and composition basics.

If you’re new to photography, plenty of resources are available to help you learn the basics. You can find helpful articles and tutorials or even take an online class (Skillshare is an excellent resource). Once you understand the basics, you’ll be ready to start offering your services.

Camera

Cameras come in a very wide range of prices and capabilities. You don’t need a camera that costs thousands of dollars to get started (95% of your clients wouldn’t know the difference anyway). However, you’ll need something more than just a smartphone.

Entry-level DSLRs and mirrorless cameras can take quality photos without breaking the bank, so they’re an excellent starting point.

As you start making money with your photography and decide to upgrade your equipment, you can save up for better gear. But don’t feel like you need the best of the best to get started.

Photo Editing Software

If you want to offer professional-looking photos to your clients, you’ll need some photo editing software. This doesn’t have to be expensive either. Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop are industry standards. You can get Lightroom and Photoshop together with an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription that costs about $10 per month. There are also free or lower-cost alternatives if your budget is tight.

Locations to Photograph

If you’re taking portraits, you’ll need some locations to shoot. Parks, gardens, and urban areas with interesting architecture work well, but you’ll need to verify that commercial photography is allowed at these locations. Photography is usually allowed on public land, but it’s always good to verify.

Indoor studio space is helpful but not 100% necessary. If you have space for a small studio in your home, that’s great. But if not, sticking to outdoor spaces is also fine.

Portfolio Website

When you start marketing your professional photography services, you’ll need a place to showcase your work. A portfolio website is the best option. It’s possible to start offering services without a portfolio website, but if you hope to grow your photography business, you should create a portfolio page as soon as possible.

I recommend creating a site with Squarespace. They offer beautiful templates for photography websites, and the pricing is very affordable.

Social Media Profiles

Having social media profiles for your photography business is also a good idea. This helps you get found online and can be a great way to market your services. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest are all excellent platforms for photographers. You can also use your personal profiles, but it’s best to create business profiles as well.

How to Find Clients

Ok, so you have the skills and the necessary gear. You’re probably wondering how to find clients to pay for your services. Here are some of the best ways to build up your clientele.

Photo session

Your Network

The first place to start is with your personal and professional networks. Talk to your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers, and let them know you’re offering photography services.

You’d be surprised how many people will need a photographer for one thing or another. Even if they don’t need your services, they might know someone else who does.

Classifieds and Bulletin Boards

Craigslist is a great resource for finding clients. Start by creating a quality ad. Include your rates, services offered, contact information, and a link to your portfolio site. Be sure to check the site regularly and renew your ad often. You can also post in various sections (as long as you’re following the rules) and in neighboring towns or cities.

You can also promote your services on local bulletin boards. Create some simple flyers with details about your services, the URL of your portfolio site, and your contact info. Keep an eye out for bulletin boards at local businesses and organizations where you can advertise.

Social Media

Social media is another excellent way to find clients. Post about your photography services on your personal and business profiles. You can also join relevant Facebook groups and post about your services there (as long as you follow the group’s rules).

You can also use social media to promote your work once you land clients. Post photos from your sessions (with the client’s permission) on social media. Tag the client so their friends and family see the photos. Include a mention of your services and include your contact information.

Barter

Bartering is a great way to get started if you don’t have any money to invest in your business. Offer your services in exchange for goods or services that you need.

Businesses and entrepreneurs of all kinds need photos for their websites and marketing materials, so you may get free services in exchange for your work as a photographer (while building your portfolio).

Ask for Referrals

Don’t hesitate to ask for referrals when you finish working with a client. If they’re happy with your work, chances are they know someone else who could use a photographer. Ask them to pass your information on to anyone they know looking for a photographer. You can even offer a bonus (a gift card, cash, or a discount on your services) for successful referrals to provide added incentive.

Cold Outreach

You can also reach out to potential clients directly. Start by creating a list of businesses and organizations in your area that could use a photographer (pre-schools, sports teams, organizations, and clubs are good places to start). Then reach out and introduce yourself. Let them know you’re a photographer and offer your services.

Circle Back to Past Clients

After working for a while, make a point to reach out to your past clients. Most of them will need a photographer from time to time, so staying in touch is worth your effort.

For example, if you took photos for a family Christmas card last year, reach out and see if they’re interested in doing it again this year.

How Much to Charge

Now that you know how to find clients, it’s time to talk about how much to charge. This can be a tricky subject, especially when you’re just starting.

The best way to figure out your rates is to decide how much you want to earn per hour and estimate the number of hours a project will take. Don’t forget to include time for editing the photos and all other associated tasks. You can also factor in any expenses you’ll incur and the overall costs to run your business and ensure those expenses are covered by your rates.

It’s important to keep in mind that your rates should be competitive with other photographers in your area. You can check out websites like Thumbtack and Craigslist to get an idea of what others are charging.

You can also offer different pricing tiers to give your clients options. For example, you might offer a basic package, a deluxe package, and a premium package. This way, you can accommodate different budgets and still make a profit.

If you’re just starting, it’s okay to charge less than others in your area. In fact, you may need to charge lower rates at the beginning to get your first few clients. As you gain more experience and build your portfolio, you can gradually increase your rates.

Alternatives to Photographing for Clients

Taking photos for clients is one of the best and most straightforward options, but there are other photography side hustles you could pursue.

Travel photographer

Stock Photography

As a contributor to stock photo websites like Shutterstock and Adobe Stock, you’ll make money every time a customer purchases a license to use one of your photos. The biggest downside to stock photography is that’s extremely competitive, and the major marketplaces already have millions of high-quality photos. Standing out is not easy.

Is stock photography worth your time? Well, that depends on your expectations and your perception. Stock photography could be a good choice if you’re looking to make a few hundred dollars per month and are willing to work to build a large portfolio of photos. But don’t expect to make huge money from stock photos.

Selling Photo Prints

Another option is to sell prints of your photos. You can do this by setting up your own website with a platform like Squarespace or selling at a marketplace like Etsy or Fine Art America.

Selling prints could be a good option for monetizing landscape, nature, and travel photography. However, there’s also a lot of competition here, so it’s certainly not easy. But it could be a good choice if you look at it as a way to make money doing something you enjoy.

Start a Photography Blog

If you’re passionate about photography, you could start a blog and write articles. Of course, this option won’t make you any money right away, but if you can build a large enough following, eventually, you could generate income through ad revenue, affiliate marketing, or selling products and courses.

While building a successful blog takes time and patience, the long-term income potential is unlimited. If you’re interested in starting an online business and incorporating your love for photography, a blog could be the ideal choice.

Start a Photography YouTube Channel

Like starting a blog, you could also start a YouTube channel and make videos about photography. Once again, this option won’t make you any money right away, but if you can grow a large following, eventually, you could generate income through ad revenue, affiliate marketing, or selling products and courses.

A YouTube channel could be a great way to share your passion for photography with the world and build an audience of like-minded people. It could be a lucrative side hustle or even a full-time business if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

Freelance Writing

This could involve writing blog posts about photography, articles for magazines or websites, or even ghostwriting books or e-books.

Unlike starting your own blog, working as a freelance writer allows you to start earning money immediately without spending months building the foundation of your business.

Create an Online Course

If you have a lot of knowledge and experience in photography, you could create an online course teaching others what you know. This is a great option if you’re looking to earn some passive income, as once the course is created, you can sell it over and over again.

Creating an online course does require a significant amount of work upfront, but it could be a very lucrative way to make money from your photography skills.

You could sell your course on a platform like Udemy or Skillshare, or you could create your own site with Teachable and sell it on your own.

Write a Photography E-Book

If you don’t want to create a course, you could write an e-book instead. You could write on any aspect or type of photography while also showcasing your photos.

Like an online course, writing an e-book does require some work upfront, but it’s a great way to earn passive income from your photography skills. You could sell your e-book on Amazon or your own website.

Lead Workshops or Photo Tours

This option is great if you love traveling and showing others around new places. You could lead photography workshops or tours in any location you’re familiar with.

You can find leads for workshop and tour opportunities on websites like Meetup or by contacting local businesses or tourist organizations.

Specialize in Real Estate Photography

This could involve taking photos of homes for sale, which are then used by real estate agents to help sell the property. Becoming a real estate photographer is a great way to make money with a photography business that doesn’t rely on portraits.

Drone photography is also in-demand for marketing houses and properties, so this is a potential area of specialization.

Related reading: How to Make Money with a Drone

How Much Can You Make from a Photography Side Hustle?

The amount of money you can make from your photography side hustle will depend on various factors, including the type of business you start, how much time and effort you’re willing to put in, and your experience level.

Making anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per month is realistic if you’re willing to invest time and effort. Earning a full-time income is much more challenging, but certainly can be done.

Final Thoughts on Photography Side Hustles

There are many ways to make money from a photography business, and the best option for you depends on your skills, interests, and goals.

If you’re passionate about photography and are willing to put in the time and effort, starting a photography side hustle could be a great way to make some extra money. You never know, it could even turn into a full-time business.

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