Alright, you’ve spent the cash to purchase a beautiful, top of the line, camera. You’ve probably dreamed of taking prize winning photos for a while. You’ve posted some amazing shots on your social media, you’re getting compliments from friends and family. But… now what? Are you ready to take that camera and earn some cold hard cash (for new attachments).
There are several ways to earn a living with your camera or even a combination of methods (more likely). You’ll probably find, at first, that you will jump from one type of work to another. Because it is hard to get started. You need to build up either a business or a portfolio. Contacts and referrals take time and work. But once things get rolling you will be able to live a very good living doing what you love – taking gorgeous photos!
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Pro’s & Con’s
Do what you love – taking photos!
You may end up falling into a type of work that you fall out of love with
Building a portfolio of one kind can work as a portfolio for other kinds of work easily
Your first attempts may seem amateur, it can be disheartening at the start
Skills are transferable to many different areas, everyone needs good photos!
Photography is photography, if you get tired of taking photos you need to learn a new skill
No matter what, if you have a camera you can earn money!
There are several different ways to earn money with your camera, let’s run through a quick list and then pick one to focus on in “How I Would Do It.” The easiest way for you to choose might be to find either a) a speciality or b) what you would prefer to do. What’s the difference?
Well, I may be better at Animal Portraits, but perhaps I don’t want to work with animal subjects every day. If you look past the cute portraits, there are probably a tonne of down sides to working with animals. They don’t always behave well, there are possible problems with the owners etc. But, what if my talents line up best with Animal Portraits?
You could try and work on another type of photography, but it is best to work on what you are best at. Not necessarily what you want to do. It’s unorthodox, it goes against what we are so often told, but don’t focus on your passion. Focus on what you do best. You can work on your passion on the side, but you need to put food on the table. You probably have an idea what your speciality is already. And there are plenty, I’ve seen plenty of articles on “10 ways” to make money as a photographer, and even one that has 36 ways!
Selling/Licensing Stock Photos
Client Photo Shoots
Photography Blog / YouTube Channel
Selling Prints (online / markets, etc.)
Freelancing (for magazines, newspapers, etc.)
Paparazzi (sell your soul)
Product Photography / Corporate
Drones (for another article!)
Each and every one of these will, of course, have sub-niches or deeper specialities. Client photo shoots could mean models, babies, maternity, pets, family portraits, etc.
Freelancers could specialise in sports, travel, food, night life, etc.
Which is easiest? Hard to say, let’s try Client Photo Shoots to quickly hit $100 per day!
How I Would Do It
First of all, let’s assume you have all the correct equipment to both take good photos and edit them to a satisfactory degree in the post.
And ideally, you will have an area you can use as a studio. Have good lighting set up, props or furniture for good portraits, etc or to hire a professional studio.
But we are doing this on a budget, so we will offer clients 2 options – taking photos at their house or at a location of their choosing (always have a list of recommendations you have scouted out!).
Try and find out how much other photographers in your area are charging, many will post the rates on their website or you can email or call for a quick quote. Since you are still an amateur, be ready to either do some free shoots to build a portfolio or cut your rates by a large amount (20 – 50%) You can very quickly start charging $100 or more per photo shoot once you’re there.
If you need to, you could even use friends and family to get your first photos for your portfolio. Once you have these, keep a folio to take to all client meetings as well as building a basic website. Wix is more than good enough because frankly, it’s beautiful! And super easy, and free. For an added edge of professionalism, use a proper domain name, perhaps your own name!
If you cannot get your first photo shoots from friends and family, post a quick and friendly ad in ALL your local Facebook groups. Trust me… there are lots. And if you are giving away or heavily discounting your services, there are definitely people who will be happy to help. Be sure to ask for a referral afterwards!
With your portfolio built up a little, start posting your ad on local listing websites, such as Gumtree or Craigslist. You’ll be surprised by how many enquiries you get from here. Especially if you pay to give your advertisement a bump. Gumtree has several excellent options.
Where this becomes difficult is when you need to keep generating new clients after you have exhausted the friends and family option. Of course, post regularly in your local Facebook groups, keep up your Craigslist / Gumtree ads. Ask for referrals from past clients and build up your own social media accounts. Instagram and Facebook are likely to be your main two. Unless you are working with younger crowds, then Snapchat may be worth your time. The beauty is that your profession will naturally make for good social media posts!
What next? You can also post flyers on local community boards or do letter drops. Perhaps you could also hire a market stall. Show off your photography, get some blow-up prints (local office stores usually will do this quite cheaply!) Post your prices and engage with passersby. Offer them a coupon that’s exclusive to that market, such as 2 for 1, or some similar.
To add to your income, you can also add printing services. Partner with an online printer and sell people merchandise based on their photos, such as big portraits, t-shirts, mugs, etc. A family portrait on a t-shirt makes for a super cute Christmas photo! Especially if the family portrait is the previous Christmas photo (ooh meta!)
You can also find other local businesses with which you may have a natural synergy. For example, if you decided to specialise in animal portraits, then you should ask your local pet stores if you can ask them for referrals, in return, you will recommend their products or use their products in your animal shots.
If you see a business has a stack of other businesses business cards at the front desk, they are probably open to a joint venture or to advertise your business. So, what can you do to return the favour? Take some great shots for them of course! You never know where a client might come from.
It may dry up some time, so it would be well worth expanding into other areas. If you do family portraits, you may choose to also add maternity portraits, baby photos, and animal portraits. All are natural additions to your list of services!
$100 A Day Math
That’s an easy one, if you can get $100 per shoot, then you only need 1 shoot per day. Add to this you can easily squeeze several shoots per day in and can also offer upsells or cross sells and $100 a day is definitely do-able! Given time and experience, you will also be able to charge more.
Scalability – Can It Become A Million Dollar Business?
That’s a difficult one. I would not say no, but you would have to become deeply specialised. Top level product photographers or wedding photographers can earn a lot per shoot. The difficulty is in maintaining a steady flow of clients. If it was easy, all wedding photographers would be making serious bank!