In the last decade, photography became one of the most popular hobbies globally because of how accessible digital cameras and smartphones have become.

Now, it’s not only a hobby but also a profession and a means of income for many—even for non-professionals.

From shooting product photos to image manipulation services, the digital era has brought plenty of ways on how to make money with photographs.

Luckily, more businesses are seeing the value of photographs in their content and have provided photographers with more avenues to showcase their work and make money as a photographer.

Why should you start making money with photographs?

Photography is a valuable asset for businesses in terms of marketing and building their brand.

We live in a highly visual society where images have become necessary for businesses to attract their audience and increase their sales.

In fact, good photos on a website can increase conversions by 161%.

From simple product images on an e-commerce website to elaborate ad campaigns for an agency, high-quality photos are highly-paid and sought-after by businesses.

Demand will never stop as businesses look for ways to improve and maximize their visuals for their campaigns.

That’s why many photographers have turned their passion into a profit.

And, you can too.

However, before we share tips on how to make money with photographs, you should first equip yourself with the following basic setup to effectively work as a photographer.

How to make money as a photographer: Starter Pack

Here is a checklist of the essentials that you will need before you start earning through photography.

1. Get a quality camera

How to Make Money with Photographs - Quality camera

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Let’s start by saying that a ‘quality’ camera doesn’t have to be expensive.

After all, not all expensive cameras produce quality results.

What makes your camera a ‘quality’ camera is if it has the features that you need to get the job done. (Let’s be honest, we don’t use some or most of our camera’s features.)

With that in mind, what should a ‘quality’ camera have?

Place importance on these three features:

  • Lens

Your lens is one of the most vital parts of your camera.

Professional photographers often have a prime lens and a zoom lens.

A prime lens can be anywhere from 12mm and 5200mm but has a fixed focal point, while a zoom lens has a zoom ring that allows for using a range of lengths.

Having one or both helps to capture photos with more depth, but your standard camera lens will also work fine.

  • Viewfinder

Most digital cameras have an LCD screen to preview what you’re about to capture.

However, when in broad daylight, light bounces off your screen making it difficult to see your shot.

With a viewfinder, you can see the subject clearly in harsh light.

When you take your shot using the viewfinder, it helps you balance your shot by naturally tucking in your elbows to your sides, stabilizing your hands.

  • Body

It’s the main portion of your camera and it can be available in various shapes or sizes.

DSLRs are on the heavier and bulkier side while digital cameras are more compact and lightweight.

Make sure your camera’s body is durable enough so it can withstand constantly being held or used.

Keep an eye on these major parts when looking for a quality camera.

Don’t have the funds to buy a DSLR camera?

That’s fine. Your smartphone can be your next best bet.

Many smartphones have decent cameras that allow you to take DSLR-like photos.

One of the cheapest smartphones you can find with great camera specs is the Vivo V15 Pro (48MP, 8MP, and 5MP rear cameras at 380 USD).

What’s good about smartphone photography is it allows you to quickly and conveniently capture photos, edit and retouch it to improve the photo’s quality, then share it across your social media profiles.

In photography, keep in mind that your camera captures the photo, but you take the shot.

In the end, it’s how you will effectively use your camera to bring out that quality photo—and that’s how to make money with photographs.

2. Invest in proper equipment

How to Make Money with Photographs - proper equipment

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Whether you’ll take photos in a studio or the great outdoors, investing in a few good pieces of equipment will make your photos better and your life easier.

Photographers use various equipment or means just to get the shot that they want—like using a drone.

But here are some basic equipment that you’ll find useful for most situations.

  • Tripod

Whether it’s big or small, a good sturdy tripod can be your best friend.

It helps capture steady wide shot photos and take a series of photos with the same background or angle.

Make sure its legs are heavy enough and its feet have a good grip to help keep its balance on all kinds of surfaces and weather conditions.

  • Reflector

Reflectors allow you to spread and even out the lighting on your subjects and can be used indoors or outdoors.

If you don’t have the budget, you can make your DIY reflector by using aluminium foil or a silver gift wrapping paper.

  • SD Memory Cards

Most photographers own several SD cards just in case their memory runs out in the middle of the shooting session.

Aside from this, you can use various cards for different clients allowing you to temporarily sort your files before you transfer it to your hard drive.

  • External flash

Most built-in camera flashes are good, but since it only points to one direction (toward your subject) it can create harsh shadows.

Most external flashes can be directed in other directions to bounce off the light. Some already have a diffuser available.

As a result, your photos have even and professional-looking lighting.

While you can still take amazing photos without some of these gears, these are nice-to-haves that can help improve your photos and capture that perfect shot.

3. Install photo editing software

How to Make Money with Photographs - photo editing software

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No matter how good a raw photo maybe, most photographers enhance or retouch their photos using image editing software.

Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop are popular choices for both professionals and beginners.

However, you would need to pay for Adobe’s monthly or annual plan to have full access to its features.

For a free online alternative, try Canva, Adobe Spark, Pixlr, and Aviary. All of these are also available as apps, making it perfect for smartphone photography.

After covering what you would need, it’s time to answer that big question.

How do photographers make money?

There are plenty of ways that photographers can make money as long as you get creative about it. From shooting events to even teaching online, here’s how to make money with photography.

1. Take photos for businesses

How to Make Money with Photographs - Take photos for businesses

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Gone are the days when a website was just a supplementary part of a business’ marketing strategy. Now, it’s a vital part of the growth and success of a business.

From hotels and restaurants to hospitals and gyms, businesses leverage websites, social media channels, and mobile applications to communicate with their consumers.

That’s where photography comes in.

These businesses need to create ads, social media posts, and website content with photos and images that will grab the attention of their consumers to engage and sell to them.

That’s not all, these businesses might still have offline marketing materials, so they need photos for their brochures, flyers, and posters, among many others.

Some businesses hire a full-time photographer, but some hire a freelance photographer who can shoot on call or who can already provide the photos the company needs.

Some photographers already have connections to some businesses, so it’s easier for them to offer their services. Others build their portfolio online until they get scouted by businesses.

But don’t worry, it’s possible to find freelance or full-time photography work via online job platforms.

A good tip for getting hired is knowing what kind of photography you’re good at and for which industry you would like to work in.

Of course, that should show in your portfolio.

2. Shoot events

Shoot events to Make Money with Photographs

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This is a classic way to make money with photography locally — at least before the COVID-19 crisis happened.

Photographers are always a staple for weddings, birthdays, and company events, among many others.

When taking on events, it’s always best to form your team so you can be sure to cover all parts of the event.

When creating a quote for your clients, remember to factor in the hours you would have to spend on pre-production and post-production as well as logistics like transportation.

Additionally, make sure that you or someone from your team knows how to quickly edit or retouch photos on the spot as some clients would look for packages with same-day photo edits.

If you don’t have the photo editing skills or you simply don’t have the time for it, you can reach out to us. Our team of seasoned photo editors can work on your photos and send them back to you within 24 hours. (We even have a 12-hour turn-around-time for our clients who need their photos rushed.)

3. Sell photos to publications

Sell photos to publications

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One of the most popular ways on how to make money with photographs is by selling them to magazines, news outlets, and other publications.

After all, these publications never go without images, both offline and online.

It’s one of the decent gigs, but it’s also one of the most difficult to get into.

Not only do publications usually have their own team of photographers (which is also difficult to get into), most publications would only reach out to well-established photographers in the industry.

This is why establishing a good portfolio, sharing it online, and connecting with a community of photographers is one of the best ways to get noticed by publications.

Or, instead of waiting for publishers to discover you, you can start by submitting relevant photos to their online sites.

Some of the publications and websites that accept photo submissions are Harper’s Magazine, F-Stop, and Outdoor Photographer, among many others.

Just be sure to carefully read their submission guidelines.

4. Sell Stock Photos

Sell Stock Photos

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We can’t tell you how to make money with photographs without telling you about stock photos.

This is one of the most popular and most basic ways to sell images even if you’re not a professional photographer.

From people and buildings to animals and food, stock photography offers a wide avenue for you to sell your photos.

Here are some of the popular stock photo websites to sell your photos to:

  • Shutterstock

One of the most popular sites to sell stock photos is Shutterstock. It gives its contributors 20% to 30% of their monthly image sales.

They also don’t demand exclusive selling rights which means you can sell your photos on other stock websites and earn more money.

  • Adobe Stock

Formerly Fotolia, Adobe Stock pays out contributors around 20% to 60% for their images, making it higher than most stock websites.

Just like Shutterstock, Adobe Stock doesn’t have exclusive selling rights, allowing you to sell your photos to other platforms as well.

  • Alamy

Although Alamy doesn’t have many buyers compared to the previous two, the platform is said to pay its contributors 50% for each sale.

This is a significantly higher base than most stock websites.

  • 500px

With 500px, you can create your online portfolio and earn money from it.

The website also offers analytics and tracking services, so you can check how many people are viewing your photos and how your photos compare to your competitors.

  • Getty Images

Getty can give its contributors better exposure due to its larger share in the stock photo market.

However, it is said that Getty pays contributors an average of 20%, which is lower than most stock photo platforms.

Before you upload your photos, make sure it’s professional-looking and usable for businesses for it to gain attention and downloads.

5. Edit and retouch photos

It’s not exactly the kind of work that allows you to take photos.

However, since most photographers know how to edit images, this can also be a good avenue for you to earn money.

Most ecommerce websites hire image editors to enhance or correct the look of their products.

For example, here are just some of the requests that we often get from clients.

Clipping Path Service

Clipping Path Service

 

Color Correction

Color Correction

 

Photo Restoration

Photo Restoration

 

Photo Retouching

Photo Retouching

If you know how to do these image enhancements and more, this will allow you to charge for an additional fee to your clients.

You can also forward your photo-editing tasks to us so we can handle them for you. You’ll be surprised how affordable our services are.

With our help, you can still enjoy a handsome profit while doing very little to no work since our team of exceptional photo editors can do all the edits for you.

6. Teach photography

Teach photography

(Image source: Unsplash)

Another way on how to make money with photographs, without actually taking photos, is by teaching online.

If you’re already a professional, teaching others about tips and tricks and how to make it in the industry will also help you earn more.

You can easily upload your video courses on e-learning platforms such as Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, and Skillshare, where users pay to have full access to your courses.

Or you can also create your website, upload your online courses, and charge a fee to download the whole course package.

Similarly, you can also conduct live webinars and have students and other professionals pay to join your lessons.

All it takes to make this happen is to prepare a course that would be valuable and useful for aspiring and professional photographers.

Make sure to find a good area in your home to conduct your courses or webinars.

One great benefit of teaching online is that you also get to establish yourself as an expert in photography and grow your connections.

This allows you to improve your popularity, get noticed by businesses and publications, and eventually get more gigs.

7. Print your photos into products

Print your photos into products

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If you have a lot of photos that don’t sell enough but think that it would look good on a mug, then why not try printing your photos on merchandise and sell them online?

Selling your photos as merchandise means you have to dive into ecommerce and learn the process.

This means knowing how to get suppliers, process purchases, make deliveries, and so on.

However, the good thing about this is you can build your brand and tackle two industries at once.

Your market has become wider as you now have people not only interested in your photos but also your products.

Additionally, selling merchandise would also give other people the need to buy your photos because it’s something that they can use such as shirts, mugs, notebooks, and postcards.

And if those products get used often and used outside, your photographs and products would get more exposure.

For some photographers, this may ‘cheapen’ the value or quality of their photos.

So why not save your best photos for galleries, and print your ‘okay’ photos on tees?

8. Publish your photography blog

Publish your photography blog

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Starting a blog is a great way for you to showcase your work and establish yourself in your field.

Aside from photos, writeups will help boost your website’s SEO allowing people and businesses to find your blog on search engines.

Naturally, this gets your blog discovered and it increases your audience reach and traffic.

To make money through your photography blog, create galleries of your photos, and have people or businesses pay for a full resolution of your photos or more photos from your portfolio.

Once your blog gains more traffic over time, you can incorporate Google AdSense or affiliate marketing to your pages to generate extra passive income from it.

Once your photography blog gains the right kind of audience, it’s more likely that you’ll get approached or hired by other professionals, influencers, publications, or businesses.

Having a blogging platform can also open more opportunities such as sponsorships, selling products, and podcasting to generate more income.

Some great and easy-to-navigate blogging platforms for photographers are WordPress, Squarespace, and Medium.

9. Join photo contests

Join photo contests

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Some photo contests give monetary prizes for winning photos.

If you think your photos are good enough to win, try your luck with photo competitions.

Just a reminder: this is not a steady source of income. This is more for fun, experience, and extra income if you ever win.

However, the main benefit of joining a photo contest lies in the exposure it can give you and your photos.

Winning photos are often announced online or via publications that will put your photo and your name out there.

Some online photo contests determine their winners via online voting from the public. So even if you don’t win, your name and your photos would gain visibility from people in your industry.

This already puts you in a good spot to get scouted.

Some great international photo competitions that you can join are:

Of course, this would mean you would have to enter many contests to be recognized and to win.

Win or not, this will be a good experience for you to train your skills and put your name out there.

10. Become a freelancer

How to Make Money with Photographs

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a 6% decline for the demand of photographers until 2028.

However, this pertains mainly to full-time employment as many companies will prefer to contract with freelance photographers.

In fact, with the world’s current situation, businesses have greatly considered hiring freelancers more than ever.

Becoming a freelance photographer means you will be able to do various jobs depending on your client’s needs.

You must be flexible to cater to a range of services from taking stock photos to photo editing services. Of course, this also means having the necessary equipment as well.

If you ask freelance photographers how to make money taking pictures, they can share various ways with you, but they would also share how difficult the road will be.

If you decide to freelance as a photographer, be prepared to have and to build your portfolio, widen your connections, invest in proper equipment, and constantly improve your skills.

What’s next?

There are plenty more ways on how to make money from photography aside from what we mentioned.

You just have to be creative with it.

As the world changes and as we go digital, see what else you can tap on to make photography relevant and valuable for businesses and consumers.

The next step for you now is to get your camera and get into action!

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