It has never been harder to make a living from photography than it is in this day and age. But that doesn’t mean the game is over for you as a photographer. There are still plenty of ways to make money from photography if you are willing to make the effort and have a well-thought-out plan. So here are 10 ways to make a living from photography.
Portraits can be a great little money earner for any photographer. There is even more opportunity for those photographers in smaller towns. Yes, there may not be as many potential customers but the competition will also be much smaller. From the initial shoot fee to prints (digital or analog) and frames, there is an opportunity to make additional sales on top of just the portrait shoot. So any portrait photographer has a few potential steady income revenues.
The overheads to start with are also fairly minimal as you can offer location shoots or even set up a small studio in your home to keep you going until you can get a proper space to work.
Event photography is another good genre of photography that offers great opportunities for earning money. Events can be anything from birthday parties to trade events or even company events like Christmas parties.
The advantage of this genre of photography is that there is always going to be a demand for it. So if you can get a good reputation, then word of mouth can spread and get you more and more work.
Similar to other genres of photography, there is always a steady supply of work for a photojournalist. Being a photojournalist is hard work, both physically and, more importantly, emotionally. But it can also be one of the most rewarding genres of photography as it has the power to change the world.
If you are willing to make the sacrifices needed and are good at capturing photos that tell stories, then this genre of photography could be for you.
A few years ago, weddings would have been one of the top earners in this list of 10 ways to make a living from photography. But like most genres of photography, things have changed.
Less than a decade ago, an average wedding photographer could command $2000 plus per wedding and easily shoot 30-40 weddings a year. Unfortunately, the influx of photographers who undercut each other in price has had a detrimental effect on wedding photography. There are photographers now offering to shoot weddings for a few hundred dollars.
Nevertheless, wedding photography is still a market that has lots of opportunities to make money.
Product and food photography
As long as people are making things to sell or eat, they will need images of their products to help sell them. Product and food photography is a great source of income and a steady stream of work for any photographer.
It can be a little mundane for some, but I actually enjoy the process. I really like that I can shoot at my own pace and control every aspect of the shoot. This is not something anyone who works as an outdoor photographer gets to experience. From local restaurants to design companies, there is an endless amount of work available if you can find it.
Commercial photography can consist of things like:
- Shooting lifestyle campaigns or adverts for tourist boards and companies.
- Photographing hotel rooms and venues.
- It can consist of both interior and exterior shots with or without people.
I find it works really well combined with my editorial work as I often find myself getting an audience with someone in a position of power in these areas through my various commissions.
Editorial photography was a great source of revenue for photographers.
This changed with the introduction of digital photography all those years ago, which led to the slow demise of staff photographers. It is cheaper and easier to use stock images than it is to send a photographer out to photograph a feature. The other benefit of using stock photos for an editor is that they can see exactly what images they are purchasing.
There are still higher-end magazines like National Geographic and agencies that will commission a photographer for an editorial feature, but they are few and far between.
Gone are the good old days of being able to make a living solely from stock photography. But all is not lost.
Assuming you are getting work from one of the other aspects of photography on this list, you will be accumulating a body of images that you can more than likely put with a stock agency. Whilst this won’t make you rich, it could provide a nice additional income. Just make sure to get model release forms where possible, and find the right agency for your style of photography.
Selling prints is another good revenue stream, whatever your genre of photography is. Big names aside, most of us photographers are not going to be lucky enough to sell prints for thousands of dollars. But, again, like stock photography, if you have a body of work, you might as well try to earn an income from it.
Sports photographers will always be in demand as long as our love for the various sporting games continues. If you can get yourself in with a good agency or accreditation and get those awesome shots that are grace the pages of newspapers and websites worldwide the next morning you can make a very good and steady living. To get to that level will take time and a lot of hard work.
But there are also lots of opportunities at the local level of photographing such as school sports days or even local sporting events. These are much easier to get into and can provide a steady income to supplement your other photography work.
10 Ways to Make a Living from Photography: Conclusion
Whilst many photographers specialize in one specific area of photography these days, most photographers have to be willing to offer a few of these services. I shoot a lot of editorial and food photography and some commercial projects. I then use stock and print sales to increase that revenue stream.
Whatever genre of photography you specialize in, it’s important to diversify your work. Not only because of the income but also because you might make contacts that will lead to other jobs within your chosen genre.
Remember to price yourself accordingly and try not to work for free. Always keep in mind that if you don’t respect your work enough to be paid for it, why should someone else?
Do you have any other ways to make a living from photography that you’d like to add to this list? Share with us in the comments!