With over 3.5 billion smartphone users in the world and almost all of them able to take high-quality pictures, the art of photography is an utmost priority in business. However, telling your friends and family that you want to pursue a career in photography may raise eyebrows. It is well known that earning money in the arts is extremely difficult, and making money with a camera will require as much creativity off the photoshoot as it does on it.
Here we've compiled 20 ways to help you turn your artistic pursuit into a career that enables you to live comfortably off its proceeds.
1) Teach Photography
Every time you speak to a fellow photographer or go on a shoot, regardless of whether it's paid or not, you're learning to hone your craft. For novices, your mistakes are invaluable and can help others in the field. Teaching can provide a regular, predictable income that will make you feel like you're making a positive contribution to society, whilst also creating revenue as you network with new potential clients. To step it up a notch, you could qualify to teach and assess to enhance your career opportunities.
The best way to learn how to teach photography is to attend a few classes. This will give you a feel for how to teach face-to-face sessions or online across the world. Once you feel comfortable in how to format a photography lesson, set your price, and start advertising your next class/tutorial.
2) Sell Prints of Your Work
Increasingly, art in people's homes has moved to print art, rather than painted. There are many good photographers who have focused on photographing wildlife, scenery, and sunsets as these are the most desirable home-style prints.
Reaching your audience has never been easier with technology as advanced as it is. The best way to sell your prints is to list them on marketplace platforms like eBay, Etsy, and Wayfair. When you start to get customers trickling through, consider setting up a cheap website so that you can save the 20%+ commission that those platforms charge.
3) Write a Photography Blog
It is often said that people are either good with their hands or good with their words. If you are lucky enough to have the skill of both, you might want to consider writing a photography blog. Aside from the blog drumming up customers for your prints, the blog itself can be a money-maker.
It can take time for your audience to build, but once your blog has a large readership, you could partner with international brands. You will also receive paid requests from equipment retailers and other photographers to feature their products or work in sponsored posts. This can quickly become very lucrative while supporting your other photography endeavours. Photojournalism is a potential career path that will enable to you to merge both your skills in photography with writing and story-telling.
4) Create Photography Tours
You can make the most of your local environment, whether it's famous landmarks such as Stonehenge, or hidden gems such as The Seven Noses of Soho. It's possible to extend your revenue potential by running photography tours. Whereas ghost stories and walking tours have become commonplace in most big towns and cities, photography walks are a forgotten opportunity.
Take some time to admire what your local area has to offer, and find a standard walk that you can advertise and repeat. Build friendships with local hotels, and event listing websites so that you can get customer referrals from as many places as possible.
5) Shoot Professional Headshots
Professional headshots can be extremely lucrative with the average price being over £100 per hour in the UK. The increase in demand for professional headshots is largely down to the increase in 'Meet the Team' pages on websites. Users on LinkedIn often connect high-quality headshots with a better job, sales or networking opportunities.
The best way to find headshot work is to look for the senior managers of businesses local to you on LinkedIn, and reach out to them, offering to uniform the images of their team. This will secure you several hours of work in one location on a single day. It will keep your costs low, while maximising the profit.
6) Sell Photos Paparazzi Style
You might not live next door to Harry & Meghan, but there are paparazzi opportunities everywhere. There might be a new restaurant opening in the local area, or your local nightclub is hosting a radio-famous DJ. Your pictures may not always be of interest to the big national papers, but even local newspapers will pay up to £100 for a selection of news shots.
The best way to start selling paparazzi shots is to visit your local journalist or newspaper editor and discuss the stories that are going to be written over the next couple of weeks. Then, identify where you could capture an image that could transcend the story from an average read to a viral masterpiece. Just make sure you remember to keep copies of the images that get published, as the bigger your portfolio, the more likely you are to be commissioned by larger publications.
7) Shoot Events and Conferences
Every sizeable city in the UK has a conference centre attached; whether that is the Excel in London or the NEC in Birmingham. These conference centres are constantly putting on events that are attended by thousands of people. The conference centre will hire their venue spaces out to event planners and 3rd parties, who will either sell tickets or advertising for their events.
Often these event planners will put the same event on annually and sometimes more frequently. To market this, they need to showcase the success of the previous event to encourage people to attend their next one. This is where a talented photographer comes in. Approaching the event planners and offering your services to photograph the event could deliver £500+ per day, with additional revenue to be generated from editing the photographs that are taken.
8) Become an Assistant Photographer
If you have empty days in your diary with little prospect of filling them in the short term, you should consider talking to more experienced photographers who seem busier. Ask if you can become an assistant for their next shoot. Like electricians and plumbers, most photographers work more comfortably with a mate or assistant. You might not earn as much money as when you are leading a project, but you can learn from the experience.
9) Take on Editing & Retouch Work
We've all heard of Photoshop. Just a quick flick through the latest glossy magazine will showcase photographs that are of a contorted reality... Photos whereby editing and retouching have been done to the focus or the background of the image. It might be a model who wants to iron out her imperfections or a hotel owner who wants their resort to look brighter... retouching/editing of images is commonplace.
Editing other people's work is an easy way to make some extra money on slow days. Once you have completed a Photoshop course, you will be able to tackle all manner of touch-ups. Plus, the best thing about it is that this kind of work can be done from home.
10) Create Websites
We get it, becoming a website developer may seem a little bit of a curveball for a photographer; yet, one of the things that make an average website incredible are the graphics and the artwork. Graphics and artwork are right in a photographer's wheelhouse; blending creativity with the technique of design is an exact match to the normal photographer's strengths.
11) Document Your Holidays
Isn't it a dream to go on a free holiday, or better still, to turn your holiday into a revenue-generator of its own? Take your camera with you the next time you travel abroad and take snaps of everything in the destinations that you visit. Bring the images back home, retouch and edit them, and you have created monetary content from your holiday. Real-life images abroad are incredibly valuable to travel bloggers, review sites, hotel groups, and travel agents. So, once you have the images, get in touch with some companies to sell your photography.
12) Shoot Weddings
Probably one of the oldest gigs for professional photographers is wedding photography. There are almost 250,000 weddings in the UK, with over £395 million spent on photographers capturing the day each year.
The average wedding day photography package costs over £1,600, which for two days work can be a great money earner. On top of that, being a key part of such a magic and happy day in people's lives can give you a real sense of purpose. After all, work should be fun and rewarding! You could even combine your photography skills with a wedding planning package, which would boost your offering and gain you more clients.
Many wedding photographers service from word of mouth introductions and referrals. So, do a great job, and the clients will keep coming.
13) License through Flickr & Getty
There are many license programs associated with Flickr and Getty Images where photographers can earn money. Flickr & Getty Images have over 142 million registered users, and over 8 million images uploaded every day. These platforms are not designed as photo-selling websites, but they are great photo-sharing websites.
Getting to grips with sites like Flickr can seem difficult at first. However, once you've navigated your way, you'll find revenue-generating opportunities. You could create e-books to promote in Flickr Groups and license the e-books to people who see the value in paying to use your images. However, you may find that Flickr & Getty is a lot of hard work for low financial return, compared to wedding photography and headshot assignments.
14) Sell Photos in Galleries
Renting out an entire gallery space to sell just a handful of prints obviously isn't smart or economical; and of course, you are unlikely to attract hundreds of local art collectors unless you are a famous photographer. However, you do not need to be the star of the show at an exhibition to make money from your work.
Google galleries that are within a 30-40 miles radius of where you live so that you limit money and time spent traveling to and from the gallery. Make a list of those galleries and check out each of their websites. You'll find a list of upcoming exhibitions or art evenings on their websites. Check out what kind of art they show and who the leading artists are for that exhibition, then get in touch with the ones who display art that would complement your work. You may have to offer a commission to the artist whose work is showing, and to the hosting gallery. But galleries also yield significantly higher sales for pieces of art compared to the internet.
15) Shoot Property
Just over 1.5 million domestic property transactions are made every year in the UK, which means that there are thousands of houses selling near you. The average estate agent charges between £80 and £150 per property listing. When you consider photographing a house ordinarily takes 2 hours, that would give you the chance to earn hundreds per day if you are the regular photography partner for a couple of local estate agents.
Estate Agents can be quite cut-throat, so once you have secured a couple of real estate partners, you need to ensure that you nurture the relationship and build up a friendship with the owner or lead agent. This is just to make sure that your work is sustained and you are the exclusive photography partner.
16) Enter Photography Competitions
Entry to photography competitions has dwindled over the years, partly because the majority of competitions now offer prizes over actual cash. Also, because snobbery has grown among professional photographers, where competitions are seen as the opportunity for amateurs and hobbyists.
There's no guarantee that the work you put into the competition will result in a prize or money, so seeing photography competitions as part of your career may seem pointless. However, if you see the competition as fun, any 'win' you do get is a bonus. It's about getting mass exposure and credit which makes you more trusted as a hired photographer.
17) Monitor Freelance Job Boards
If you have a couple of days free in your week and you're struggling to fill the time with revenue-generating activities, scan your local job boards. You never know what you might find! There is always a need for a photographer. Whether it is someone looking for someone to take pictures of their car to list it for sale, or a family looking to capture a special moment with distant relatives.
We know that scrolling through pages and pages of local news may seem mundane. Still, perseverance is key to the success of your photography business, and every business for that matter. Hard work always pays off in the end.
18) Shoot for Small Businesses
Many local businesses sell products of one sort or another, and the majority of them sell their products online. The key to getting more customers for these businesses is to have really inspirational pictures of their products. There is nothing worse than bland, boring images that make your customers head to a competitor's website to spend their money.
As a photographer, you have the ability to prevent local, small businesses, from experiencing that commercial pain. Make contact with a handful of businesses in your area and offer to shoot a couple of their products for free. Why? Because as they sell more of that product, they'll return to you to have the rest of their products photographed. Returning clients equal a steady income.
19) Create YouTube Channel
If you have excellent content that you believe is worth sharing, try doing it in the format of a video... Creating a YouTube Channel is a great way to have all the benefits of a blog, without having to type your thoughts. Just turn the camera on and start recording. Creating your first video will be a nerve-racking process at first, but the more you do, the better you will feel doing it. There is a lot of money to be made from running a YouTube channel.
Money can start to grow from this form of activity. The growth in your account can be quickly scaled up to thousands of pounds per month, earning you money while you sleep! YouTube pays you for every view that your video gets. What's more, you can get paid by advertisers and sponsors for giving reviews and talking about certain topics. The key again, as with many of the money-making methods, is perseverance.
20) Shoot for Schools
Do you remember being at school, having to participate in an individual photo, a class photo, a year photo, and an entire school photo? Parents who bought those photos every year at an extortionate price because of the memories that will forever be attached to their child being that age. Becoming a school photographer can be an incredibly rewarding thing as it's you create something that gets passed around families and kept for generations.
Not only is the job incredibly rewarding, but it can be incredibly well paid. While school photography is seasonal, you could earn £200-£400 per day for the weeks you do work, which is high compared to other photography assignments. The truth is that the opportunities to make a career in photography are endless. Plus, the money you can make can enable you to live a life driven by your passion. It might be a tougher career compared to working in an office, but if it is your passion, it's more than rewarding.
Did you find a career path in photography that has sparked your curiosity? As long as you continue to learn, seek opportunities, and work hard, you can turn your dreams into a reality.
Curious about our Introduction to Photojournalism course? Speak to our advisers on live chat and we'll be happy to give you some more guidance.