10 tips for turning your passion for photography into a business

First published:
March 9, 2023
January 31, 2024

10 tips for turning your passion for photography into a business

First published:
March 9, 2023
January 31, 2024

The Photo Project by Jason Kessenich

Want to take the next step and turn your love of taking photos into a money-making venture? Here are a few tips to kick-start your new career

Making money from your favourite hobby doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. Whether you want to embark on a career in photography or find ways to supplement your regular income, there are simple steps you can take to get started…

1 Seek out photography jobs

From job sites to local ads, portrait studios, bridal shows and social media, there are plenty of places to get started in photography. Photo by Kruger - f/4 | ISO 200 | 1/300s

While social media can be a great place to get noticed, exposure can take time. If you want a job in photography right now then check out job websites like GuardianJobs, Monster, TotalJobs and Reed. Another option is freelance sites like PeoplePerHour and Fiverr where you can pick up one-off jobs.

Then there are local clubs, schools, event companies, bridal shows and plenty of other places to put yourself out there. You could also try contacting studios, agencies or art directors directly and introducing yourself.

You might get a few non-responders, but you also might find a potential employer who appreciates your initiative. If you’re new to the industry then you might have to start at the bottom of the ladder, but having a camera in your hands every day is the best way to gain experience and level up your skills.

2 Shoot interiors

Hotels and private holiday homes are a great place to ply your wares in interior photography. Photo by Stockimo - f/2.4 | ISO 80 | 1/120s

There are certain types of photography that are always in demand, and one of the biggest is interiors. From real estate to holiday lets, there are lots of ways to get paid by shooting rooms and buildings. However, it can be a challenging task to take on, so learn the basics and build up a strong portfolio to show to prospective clients.

The great thing about interior photography is that it’s easy to approach these potential clients. Simply look online for examples of bad interior photography, you’ll find plenty on AirBnB and similar sites. Then approach the owners and ask them if they want to improve their photography (and consequently their bookings). Be sure to include a link to your work.

3 Sell prints and downloads

Supplement your income by selling prints and downloads. Photo by Jason Kessenich - f/5 | ISO 1600 | 1/13s

One of the simplest ways to begin making money from your photography is to sell prints or downloads of your images. There are several ways to do this. There’s the DIY approach where you can create your own website with a shopping cart feature (or add a shopping widget to your existing site). Then there’s the no-fuss approach offered by Picfair where all you need to do is upload to a gallery and cash out when you make a sale.

Both options have their benefits. With the DIY approach you have ultimate control but need to put in the legwork of liaising with customers, production of artwork and delivery. With Picfair there’s a 20% commission on image sales, but all you have to do is choose your images and upload them to your free online store.

4 Approach local galleries

An exhibition at a small gallery is ideal if you want to kick start a career as a fine art photographer. Photo by Devin Lee Ainslee - f/1.8 | ISO 800 | 1/320s

Get in contact with local galleries and ask if they’d be interested in displaying your work. Hotels are another good option, as they’re often on the lookout for decent art for their walls. Cafes and restaurants can also be a good point of sale for artwork. Include your contact details on cards, and price each piece.

Local scenes tend to do well in these kinds of places, so if you’ve built up a strong body of work featuring local landscapes or street scenes then these can be very popular.

5 Think commercially

When shooting people try asking your subject to hold a product, now your portrait suddenly becomes a commercial lifestyle image with greater appeal to potential clients. Photo by Charlie Bard - f/2.8 | ISO 200 | 1/125s

There are plenty of ways to make your photos more commercial, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to compromise on your art. If you like shooting portraits, try having your subject hold a product like a glass of wine or a camera, and you immediately have an image that could be desirable to certain brands.

Similarly, if you like shooting landscapes, try positioning a person - or even yourself - in the scene, as this makes your image more desirable to travel brands. You can use these images to fish for commissions by posting them and tagging the relevant brands. The business may get in touch, or other businesses looking for product photography may take notice.

6 Submit stock

Images that express universal themes like love and togetherness tend to do well in stock libraries. Photo by Neven Petrov

If you’ve built up a library of images then you could be sitting on a great source of supplemental income. Submit a selection of your best images to stock libraries like iStock and Getty. The quality of the images needs to be matched by the quality of your keywording, so take the time to label images correctly.

7 Brush up on your lighting skills

Polished lighting is essential for product photos. Photo by Brett Blignaut - f/5 | ISO 200 | 1/200s

How often have you heard a clueless person utter the awful words “You photographers just press a button”. While this might be intensely annoying, there is a grain of truth to it. We photographers like to use fancy jargon, but the truth of it is that the technique of photography is getting easier. Cameras and smartphones keep getting better, and as such it’s easier than ever for a beginner to take technically good photos just by pressing that button. So we need to up our game.

One way you can do this is to learn to light. No matter how good the technology, it’s still the light that makes the photo. If you can seek out great light, or create your own with flashes or LEDs, then your pictures will stand apart from the crowd. It’s an essential skill to learn if you want to get into product photography.

8 Compose for copy

Include negative space in your composition to create room for words or graphics. Photo by Wild Media

There are simple things you can do to make your images more sellable. First think about who is looking for photos, and what they want. A huge chunk of these people will be art editors and graphic designers, and what they really need is copy space so that they can add words, logos or similar graphics. This could be an area of the image that is detail-less like a large expanse of sky, a block of colour, an out-of-focus area or similar negative space. So think about copy space when composing your shots.

Another useful trick is to shoot horizontals and verticals of the same subject, as again this gives art editors and web designers more options. It’s also worth considering the aspect ratio of images that designers might be seeking out, like long thin banners for the home page of a website.

9 Teach photography

If you’re confident in your skills then why not set up a workshop or class to teach others? Photo by Jason Renslow

If you’re an expert in a certain location, a specialist technique or style of photography, then why not try advertising a course or workshop? This can be a great way to make a living as a photographer, and the beauty of it is that you don’t need to change what you shoot or how you shoot it, as it’s your style of work that others may want to learn about.

10 Learn to shoot video

Your skills as a photographer can be put to great use for video work too. Photo by Light Captured by Damien - f/2.2 | ISO 400 | 1/320s

Clients are often looking for content that fits several different requirements, and one of these is invariably video. So if you can learn to create quality video content alongside your photography then you can approach potential clients as an all-in-one content creator.

You probably already own equipment that is capable of capturing high quality video. What’s more, so many of the skills you need as a photographer - from camera skills to lighting to composition to colour grading - can be transferred to videography.

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