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8 Creative Ways to Make Money as a Photographer

For some of us, photography is a part-time hobby, while for others, it’s a full-time career. Either way, digital photography has become a booming industry, and the rise of smartphones and social media has changed the way we can make money from our work. While traditional film companies like Kodak and Polaroid may be a thing of the past, there are still dozens of ways you can make money as a photographer. Here are eight of our favorite methods:

1. Work for clients

If you want to be a professional photographer, the old-school freelance model is still one of the most reliable ways to do it. As a freelancer, you can set your own rates and choose your own clients. Your rates will vary depending on how much experience you have and the quality of your equipment, but entry level photographers can charge upwards of $50-100 per hour for a shoot. Alternately, you can charge per image, in which case you’ll agree to process and retouch a certain number of photos from the shoot to give to your client.

Freelance photography is competitive, so don’t expect to simply put up an ad and have lots of clients calling you up. You’ll need to set up a website with a portfolio of your work, and build up some references and testimonials from clients. It’s best if you can specialize in a particular niche, such as wedding photography, corporate photography, or family photography. If you’re good with dogs, consider being a pet photographer, or another specialty that isn’t covered in your city. The more unique your expertise, the more you can charge.

2. Explore product photography

One specialty that often gets overlooked is the world of product photography. While it may not be as glamorous as corporate or wedding photography, there are plenty of companies out there with a steady stream of new products that they need photographed. For example, jewelers, florists, clothing retailers, and more all regularly need photos of products that they advertise or sell online.

For product photography, you’ll need a more specialized lighting setup than you would for event photography, including a plain white backdrop against which to display the items. You can either create a mobile product photography studio or do most of your work from home. In order to get your business started, try visiting craft fairs and look for jewelers, clothing designers, or eBay resellers. Some online retailers may even be able to ship the products to you.

3. Become a real estate photographer

Another lucrative side gig is real estate photography. If you enjoy photographing houses, you can make money as a photographer by taking photos of homes for sale or rent. Sites like Airbnb pay photographers to take photos of rental properties, and some businesses need photographs for Yelp reviews and other listings.

You can do real estate photography with a standard DSLR camera and a wide-angle lens. You’ll be expected to get a certain number of shots of the exterior and each of the interior rooms while adhering to typical real estate style. If you can offer a video walk-through of the entire property, you’ll be able to charge even more. Reach out to real estate agencies in your area and see if they have need of additional photographers on a contract basis.

4. Sell prints of your images

In addition to doing client-based work, you can make money as a photographer by selling your images to customers. This is a good option for those who do art or landscape photography and have images that people might like to hang on a wall.

If you have a following on Instagram or a personal website, start off by converting your followers into potential buyers by creating an online store. You can also sell prints through sites like Fine Art America, which takes care of all the shipping and billing for you. You can even sell your images as greeting cards or smartphone cases!

Or, if you want to sell your prints in person, approach a local photo gallery to see if you can display your work at an exhibition or art fair.

5. License your images to stock photography sites

One easy way to make money as a photographer is to make your images available on stock photography websites. While you won’t earn a lot of money this way, you’ll get paid royalties each time a someone uses your work, and if you have a lot of photos available, that can add up. One of the most popular sites of this kind, Shutterstock, has paid over $500 million to independent photographers since it started.

There’s also Twenty20, which specializes in “authentic” images like the ones might already have on your Instagram account. Intended for mobile devices, you can download the app or upload photos to make your images available for use.

6. Start a Patreon

These days, a lot of photographers supplement their income with a Patreon account. This is ideal for photographers who have a lot of followers, but don’t necessarily have photos they can sell as prints or artwork. Maybe you’re a travel blogger and post images from around the world, or take portraits of people you meet in exotic places. 

With a Patreon account, your followers can “subscribe” via a monthly pledge to get access to what you post. You can choose who gets to see what, so you can include additional content, such as behind-the-scenes stories or photos, to subscribers who pledge a higher amount. Patreon accounts can be a great way to develop a recurring income stream.

7. Rent out equipment on KitSplit

Another great way to boost your income is to rent out your gear when you’re not using it. While this might seem risky, any reputable peer-to-peer rental service will have insurance protection so you don’t have to worry about someone running off with your equipment. Plus, the renter will have paid a deposit and verified their ID.

Two of the most well-known options are KitSplit and ShareGrid. Photographers can post camera bodies, lenses, and other gear they have available, and set a fee for a daily or multi-day rental. Renters simply make a booking and pick the gear up from your home or office. Why leave your camera sitting around when you could be making money off of it?

8. Rent out studio space on Peerspace

If you have an artist’s loft or studio space that you work from, consider renting it out on Peerspace. Just as with your equipment, why leave your studio sitting empty when you aren’t using it? There are plenty of photographers out there who need the occasional space and are willing to pay by the day or hour.

You don’t have to have a fully-functioning studio to list your space on Peerspace, but if you have lighting or camera gear that you can rent out too, that’s a plus. It’s free to list your space, and you’ll be able to accept, decline, and manage bookings directing from Peerspace’s smartphone app.

Now that you’ve learned our eight favorite ways to make money as a photographer, you can go out and get started putting them into action. Good luck!

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