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Make Money as a Photographer

7 Ways to Make Money This Month as a Photographer at Any Skill Level

When I first started taking photographs of other people, I had a small SLR camera with very few megapixels. Though I had no business plan, I possessed a strong desire to earn money by doing what I loved. For some time, I believed that only photographers with the most experience could get significant jobs. However, I was soon proven wrong when I networked with fellow photographers, passionately built up my portfolio, and consistently practiced. What satisfied my clients wasn’t my decades of experience, it was my willingness to create, cooperate, and explore. If you combine all of those elements with curiosity and kindness, you get a successful shoot and a pleased client. The more you shoot, the more you’ll strengthen your skills, and the more impressive your photos will become.

Though this knowledge is uplifting, it can be difficult to figure out exactly where to start. The good news is that anyone can build a successful, income-generating photography business; it’s what you do with your resources that matters most. The best way to learn more about yourself and your photography business is to focus on making some money in, say, 30 days. During this time you can let yourself experiment, find valuable connections, and gain new skills. Below are 7 ways to make money as a photographer this month.

Before you begin, make sure you have the essentials: a quality camera, a lens with a great depth of field, and a tripod. Your equipment doesn’t need to be extremely expensive, but it’s important that you understand how to use it. I use a 50mm 1.8 Canon lens that is both affordable and ideal for portraits.


1. Build and share your portfolio

A portfolio is the most important part of your artistic life. Its existence gives you the chance to share both your vision and your skills. A strong portfolio (diverse, eye-catching, and touching) will encourage people to get in touch with you. Though building one will take time, it’s necessary to have a starting point where you can thrive and get helpful feedback. Your starting point could be:

  • An open Facebook group where you advertise your photography business. Leaving it open to everyone will enable friends of friends to find out about your work.
  • An online portfolio like 500px, Flickr, DeviantArt, or Instagram. The social aspect of these platforms will give you a chance to find new artists to connect and collaborate with.
  • Build a referral base. Create business cards, even if they are homemade, that you, your friends and clients can give out. Make sure to include a link to your online portfolio, website and Facebook page.

Whichever platform you choose, remember to keep an eye out for helpful feedback and to encourage people to spread the word. Discounts are always eye-catching, so make sure you offer a few sessions for less. If you feel your portfolio isn’t strong enough yet, offer a few short, free sessions to gain new connections and photographs. This will compel clients to share your services with their friends, who will then share it with their friends, and so on. Your job is to start this snowball effect.

2. Add a retouching element to your business

Busy photographers often need a retoucher or color corrector – such jobs, albeit small at times, pay fairly well and can be a great addition to your main business.

Retouching is extremely important in the photography world. This doesn’t mean you have to be a Photoshop professional. Simply familiarizing yourself with either Lightroom or Photoshop’s color correcting features will give your photographs a major creative boost. Certain color combinations are more attractive than others. Getting to know them better by simply experimenting will get you closer to impressing people and compelling them to hire you.

Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions make transforming your photographs into works of art simple. With one click, you can experiment with different artistic edits and find inspiration. The most important thing is consistency, so experiment with all sorts of presets and find your favorites. Once you discover your preferences, the editing process will become fun and easy, saving you lots of time after a busy client shoot.

3. Work as a second shooter during events

Assistance is often desperately needed, especially during busy events like weddings and concerts. Though you won’t get paid as much as the primary photographer, you’ll still earn some money and gain a lot of valuable experience. This experience will have a positive effect on your portfolio, giving your future clients impressive images that’ll encourage them to contact you. If you feel you don’t have a strong portfolio just yet, get in touch with a local photographer. Chances are they’ll keep you in mind and hire you later, even if they don’t need someone at the moment.

4. Sell stock photos

If you have photos you’d like to sell, consider joining an online stock photo community. The websites often focus on different categories, mobile photography, event photography, etc. This means that you can make money with almost any type of photo. This option is fantastic for those who take many photographs (or would like to). iStock PhotoShutterstock, and Snapped4U are a few examples.

5. Work for your local paper

Many newspapers seek local photographers to shoot events. Call your local newspaper(s) and ask if they need an extra photographer or assistant. If you’ve already photographed an incident or event in your area, ask your paper if they’re interested in buying your work. This opportunity might give you a chance to work closely with a professional team and shoot interesting things without having to travel far. In addition, you’ll earn credit and a more powerful reputation – factors that will get you better jobs in the future.

6. Start a creative project

Creative projects give others a chance to understand the person behind the photos better. On a subconscious level, this creates trust and warmth. As an example, my 365 project provided me with an abundance of great connections who found value in my daily shots. Some artists photograph strangers on subways, others spend weeks focusing solely on black & white portraits. Ask yourself, “What do I care about most and how can I express that through my art?” Sharing your ideas with others will give you a chance to find models and clients, people who will share your project with their friends and help your business grow. In time, you will have accumulated many eye-catching images that you may consider selling in the aforementioned stock photo communities.

7. Connect with your clients to encourage repeat business

Since cold and formal shoots are unappealing, come up with a creative way of photographing your clients. If you’re just starting out as a professional photographer, focus on your persona. This doesn’t mean you must change who you are or wear a mask around others; instead, focus on what you like about yourself in order to be confident when discussing ideas with others. Confidence is almost palpable and kindness is a never-ending necessity, so embrace both at all times.

Concerning originality, find a few locations where you can set up a comfortable working space for both you and the person you’re working with. You might even consider having a picnic with your client before a shoot. Opening up to your client, finding topics you can both relate to, and sharing ideas with them will all enhance the shooting atmosphere. Your clients will find themselves feeling comfortable and peaceful, something that your camera will easily detect.

Personal connection is the number one reason people re-hire a photographer they’ve worked with in the past. One way to remain connected with former clients is to send them a card or a newsletter updating them with your recent accomplishments and openings. Make these connections personal by referencing a shared experience you had on their shoot. Never underestimate the power of connection to build repeat and long-term clients.

These ideas will help you build an audience and provide you with short-term and long-term jobs, both of which will give you great experience and money. As your career grows, you will find yourself with an increasing income, which will keep growing as you persevere, create, and learn. Good luck!

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