Making money as a photographer can be a struggle.
And a significant challenge to making an income out of your images is simply not knowing where to start.
So today we’re sharing this gorgeous infographic with you, as inspiration.
There are a lot of ways you can make money as a photographer – probably a lot more than you ever thought. (Did you know that “scientific photographer” is a career?? We didn’t!).
This list is the result of our research and brainstorming, and, as thorough as we tried to be, we’re certain there are even more. But these will give you a great jumping off point, and get your brain thinking about new ways that could help you bring in some income with your passion!
Take a peek at the infographic below, and then at the bottom of this post we’ll chat about the list, highlight some of the exciting new ideas we included, and discuss why we excluded some very popular genres!
Without further ado…
When we started brainstorming for this list, we tried to keep the big idea in mind: How can you make money as a photographer?
We weren’t trying to think of “different types of photographers” but rather how can you directly make cash with your camera.
This led us in some surprising directions, initiated interesting discussions, and made us think about photography in new ways.
Here’s what we came up with.
What Should YOU Do?
If you quickly skimmed over that list, I don’t blame you, because that’s exactly what I always do too.
But now I heartily recommend taking another, closer look at it.
There are a lot of ideas on there, and a lot of them can be further split into many different paths.
So take your time, think about each idea, and imagine what it would be like to do that type of photography work.
These ideas could be super helpful whether you’re just looking to get into photography, change your current direction, or add a new income stream to your existing business.
But the hard part is deciding what to actually move forward on. What should YOU do? Pick one of the trendy, popular ways? Or go with something more traditional?
We can’t, of course, tell you what to do. But we can give you one piece of advice.
Choose ways to make money with your photography that resonate with your own interests.
The more passion and energy you have for your work, the more success you’re likely to find. So as you peruse the infographic, keep asking yourself, what really interests me?
What could I see myself spending years working on? If something stirs up a ton of excitement and energy in you, start doing some research and getting more information. It could be an exciting new direction for you!
People Are Big for Photographers
What might be most evident by the list is that photographing people is definitely a huge way to make money.
Why is that? Simple.
People will hire you to take their photo. Mountains won’t.
So if you want to make money with your camera, you’d do well to start working on your portraiture skills.
The nice thing is that, as you can see in the list, there is enough variety when it comes to photographing people to satisfy almost any photographer’s interests.
Exciting New Ways to Make Money as a Photographer
There are ways to make money on this list that have been around as long as photography itself. Portraiture, for example. It’s been around forever, and it’s not going anywhere.
While the ways a portrait photographer shoots and collects income might be different now than in the past (digital files anyone?) the basic idea is the same.
But what’s really exciting is that we came across some brand new genres of photography that are still in their beginnings, but growing quickly, both in the number of photographers getting into it, and the number of clients looking for it. If any of these catch your eye, dive in. You might just ride that wave to success!
Let’s chat about a few really quickly.
Social Media Photography
This probably got some confused looks when folks saw it on our list. We expected that, because this genre of photography is relatively new, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. In fact, it’s exploding.
Here’s what’s going on…
Right now there are photographers on social media platforms (most notably Instagram) who are getting paid to create images for the sole purpose of sharing them with their social media audience.
And I’m not talking about getting paid a few bucks here and there by a local pizzeria.
Companies like Mercedes Benz, Sony, Nike and Vogue are sending these photographers on the most incredible adventures, often armed with only an iPhone, to make photos for them. It darn well seems like the ultimate dream job.
But don’t underestimate the work involved here.
Many of these photographers amassed audiences numbering in the hundreds of thousands before they were able to start making their living this way. That takes serious time, work and dedication.
If you’re really into social media, this could be a big opportunity.
You can check out Tinker Street, an agency that represents a lot of the big social media photographers, and see the exciting work they’re doing.
Aerial and Drone Photography
Aerial photography has been around forever, but with the advent of high quality, affordable drones, (like the mega-popular DJI Phantom), that require a relatively short learning curve, this genre of photography has blown wide open. For less than a couple thousand dollars (about the same price as the average DSLR camera) you could be creating stunning aerial images and videos.
This type of photography, now vastly more accessible to photographers and clients, is becoming increasingly popular. Eternally creative band, Ok Go, just released their latest music video, and it featured some jaw-droppingly impressive drone work.
If you always loved remote control toys, and photography, there couldn’t be a better way to make money than drone photography. Look into it.
This type of photography still gets an eyebrow raised, and a “Really? People want that?” when we bring it up, but I can tell you, from personal experience, that birth photos are among the most amazing images a client could ever own.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be on both sides of the lens here, and I’m not surprised at all that this genre of photography is growing rapidly.
Birth photography requires a particular sensitivity, and a whole lot of stamina and dedication, but it is also one of the purest expressions of what draws so many people to portraiture – love, amazement, and joy.
If this type of photography piques your interest then check into it further. It’s becoming more and more accepted, and in demand, and a great birth photographer could quickly become worth their weight in gold. Literally. (Ok maybe not quite literally…)
But What About Fine Art? Or Landscape??
Now this certainly was a point of discussion here, and I’m sure that convincing arguments can be made either way.
But here’s what we decided.
We were looking for specific ways to make money as a photographer.
When it came to things like wedding photography or real estate photography, it was clear to us that you could be hired to shoot those things, and you’d make money simply by taking the photos (and, presumably, delivering the files).
But landscape photography? Fine art photography? By and large, those genres of photography require a different approach in terms of making an income. Landscape photographers make their money by selling prints, books, teaching, or running photo tours.
They aren’t generally hired to go out and create photos. They do it on their own, and then have to work to sell the images afterwards. Fine art photography is the same thing.
Are there exceptions to this? I’m sure there are. I’m sure there are fine art photographers out there who are commissioned to shoot something, or landscape photographers who are hired to go and shoot a mountain.
But generally speaking, they use the “Other Ways” to make their income. And so we didn’t include them as a way to specifically make money.
What Do You Think?
But what do YOU think? Are we wrong? Should landscape and fine art be on the list? Did we miss something else? Do you disagree with what we did include? Do any of these surprise you? Interest you? Have questions about an idea?
Let us know what you think in the comments below!
This list is, above all, a great way to start a discussion.
Making money as a photographer can be challenging, but when we have more ideas of ways we can turn our images into an income, that challenge becomes a little bit more manageable!
So help us out and leave us a comment and let us know what you think!