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make money as a photographer

How to Make Money as a Photographer

12 min read

Millions of people have been leaving their jobs to strike out on their own. If you’re a passionate professional or hobby photographer, using those skills to make money is only logical. If you already have a photography blog, it shouldn’t be hard to monetize your site. You can also sell prints online through an ecommerce store, join stock photo sites, and more. Here’s what you need to know to get started making money online as a professional photographer.

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How Much Does a Photographer Make

How much you can make as a photographer depends on several factors, but it can be a very rewarding and lucrative career. Independent photographers average $45,000 to $72,000 per year. That might not seem like much, but when the median income in the US is just under $36,000 per year it’s nothing to scoff at.

Of course, how much you can earn as a photographer depends on what photography services you are planning to offer, or where you will sell your photos. Stock photographers actually earn very little, at an average rate of less than $1 per image per month, and most of them offer services or prints elsewhere as well. Stock images with high-quality photos get more exposure and earn more.

You can also sell prints online. Framed wall art can go for as much as $300 to $400 per piece, depending on the quality of the frame and photo. Canvas prints can go for as much as $250 a piece. You can also sell calendars and other custom items through print-on-demand services.

Wedding photographers earn a lot more than other photography services, with average freelance photographers earning over $87,000 per year on average. You don’t have to limit yourself to just weddings — any event photography small business will average the same.

Finally, portrait studios can be very profitable. You can charge from $150 to $300 per session, adding to the fee with each person in the shoot. If you’re new to portrait shoots, you might be wondering how much a beginner photographer can charge. Ultimately, if you offer high-quality services and already have the talent and skill, being a beginner shouldn’t stop you from setting fair prices.

14 Ways to Make Money With Photography

Not sure how to make money with your photography skills? There are a lot of options for a professional photographer, and you can choose to offer as many photography services as you like to increase your earning potential. Here are the most popular types of photography that make money.

1. Monetize your photography blog

If you already have a blog where you post content or photos, it is a very easy matter to monetize the site. You need to purchase a domain name and upgrade to a business plan if you are currently using a subdomain with free hosting. A photographer blogger can link to an online store to buy prints or custom items, or you can make blog posts featuring travel photography and affiliate links to associated products.

2. Real estate photography

The pandemic has pushed the real estate industry into using remote technology to buy, sell, and rent homes. This has created an increased demand for real estate photography. Offering those services could earn a pretty penny as the market is still fairly fresh.

3. Stock photo websites

Many photographers offer stock photography on one or more stock photo sites, but you won’t earn a living from stock photos. There are two primary reasons to upload photos to stock photo websites.

First, if you have photos that are not being used elsewhere, these sites can give you a chance to go ahead and earn a bit from them on the side. Second, if you can build a name for yourself in stock photography, you can use them to drive traffic to your site and your more lucrative photography services.

4. Photo contests

Photo contests are a great way for beginners to start building a portfolio and increase awareness of their work. When you join photo contests you are primarily doing it for exposure rather than money. (They don’t pay much if anything.) Social media photo contests can give you a huge boost in traffic to your online store, photography bio, or online portfolio.

5. Selling prints online

You can always sell photos directly from your own website, blog, or online store. It’s easier (and cheaper) to set up than you might think. You can sell photos digitally, photo prints, or framed prints. By using a print-on-demand service you can also offer photography calendars and other customized items.

6. Wedding photography or event photography

If you don’t want to have your own studio, you can shoot weddings and events on location. A wedding photography business is quite lucrative, and you can offer the couple a digital album, framed prints, or customized items.

Shooting events of any kind can be a big moneymaker, and you should definitely consider offering them among your photography services. If you photograph expos, conferences, or retreats you can partner with a print-on-demand service to offer attendees the ability to order keepsakes like tote bags, t-shirts, and more.

7. Shooting portraits

A portrait studio can also be very lucrative. You can offer portraits for professional headshots, family photos, or photo shoots designed specifically for babies and children. You can also offer portrait shoots at schools, universities, large companies, or any other entity that requires photo identification.

8. Product photography

With 90% of people shopping online stunning photographs of products are in high demand. Even if a small business doesn’t offer online ordering, presenting images that clearly describe the product can increase conversions and sales. Marketing agencies often work with freelance photographers for the same reasons. You can also shoot photos of provided services on location.

9. Be a photography tour guide

Do you live in an area that gets a lot of tourist traffic? If so, you should consider offering services as a photography tour guide. Photography tours allow you to show the visitors the best tourist attractions in the area while snapping photos for remembrance. Again, with a print on demand service you can also offer the tourists items customized with photos from their vacation.

10. Teaching photography

It might seem that teaching photography online is impossible, but there are ways that you can earn money by teaching aspiring photographers. Photography tutorials can be offered as exclusive paid content, or you can monetize free photography tutorials on YouTube or TikTok. Mentoring or offering internships to local aspiring photographers is also beneficial as it gives you an assistant. You can also offer photography classes in your local community.

11. Sell camera equipment

As a highly regarded professional photographer with a strong reputation and notable accomplishments, consider selling the equipment that you personally use and recommend to others. This can include cameras, accessories, and other tools that have helped you achieve success and earn the trust of your clients and colleagues.

12. Try affiliate marketing

If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of selling, shipping, handling returns, or managing reviews, your advice is still very valuable. You can provide a link to the products you recommend and earn rewards from the stores and marketplaces you suggest for shopping. This is the beauty of affiliate marketing.

13. Sell Lightroom presets on your website

If you have the skills to edit photos using Lightroom and promote them, you can definitely earn money from it. Share your fantastic photos on your blog or social media profile along with a description of the Lightroom presets you used and a link to your online store where people can purchase them. Eventually, you can create preset collections and offer them as bundles for sale. Turn your talent into a source of income and assist others in perfecting their photos!

14. Sell print-on-demand merch

The Print-on-Demand model enables you to sell various products with your photos printed on them, including T-shirts, bags, caps, mugs, wall art, phone cases, and towels. With this approach, you aren’t required to produce or store any inventory, as the POD provider is responsible for shipping and handling returns. All you need is an online store.

What You Need to Start Selling Photography Services Online

Setting up a photography business online isn’t as hard or expensive as you might think. Still, there are some things that every photographer will need to do to set up their business regardless of the photography services and products they offer. To get started selling photos online, you will need:

  • Even if you aren’t offering ordering directly on site, you will still need your own website and domain, including an online portfolio and bio showcasing your photography skills.
  • Your own studio for portrait and headshot shoots, with a dark room if you still use traditional film for some projects.
  • Photo editing software so that you can edit photos before adding them to your site. Many photographers choose Adobe Lightroom for the convenience of photography presets of custom filters for a cohesive catalog.
  • Business account with a print-on-demand service to offer printed pictures.
  • Merchant account for processing payments (PayPal, Stripe, etc.)
  • An ecommerce platform like Ecwid where you can add custom items, photo prints, or framed wall art to your online store. Tasks can be integrated and automated so that you can focus on taking more pictures instead of spending time maintaining your online offerings.

Still not sure that starting a photography small business is the right move for you? Start selling photos online with Ecwid or another ecommerce platform. If it doesn’t work out, you haven’t lost a large investment. If it does work out, the online store can grow with your business. Take the plunge and earn money from your passion for photography.


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About the author

Max has been working in the ecommerce industry for the last six years helping brands to establish and level-up content marketing and SEO. Despite that, he has experience with entrepreneurship. He is a fiction writer in his free time.

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