95% of photographers never make money – here’s how to be in the 5%

First published:
May 30, 2022
February 14, 2024

95% of photographers never make money – here’s how to be in the 5%

First published:
May 30, 2022
February 14, 2024

Cover photo by David Forster

Photography is one of the toughest professions to make money from. If you want to be in the minority of photographers who make money, then read on…

To be a successful photographer, you need to build multiple revenue streams that all provide an income at some point.

So, here are some of the ways you can make money as a photographer.

1 Stock photography

Historically, stock photography was always a great option for photographers to earn a significant amount of money from their photos. Sadly, those days are long gone due to an over-saturation of the market with photos, falling fees and lower commission rates for photographers. But stock photography could still be worth investing some time into if you have a big collection of photos that are just sitting on your hard drive.

There are plenty of stock sites out there ranging from Microstock to traditional stock sites. They vary in their speciality – and more importantly for photographers, the commission that they pay. Some stock sites only pay a few pence to the photographer for every photo they sell.

This is one of the reasons why starting your own store with Picfair is better than using traditional stock sites.  ot only do you keep the whole amount of your sale (as Picfair’s commission is paid by the customer), but you can also set your own price as well. One sale through your Picfair store could make you more money than hundreds of sales over the course of several years on a stock site.

If you do choose to sell your photos on traditional  stock sites, you should at least spend a bit of time researching their commission rates and if they require exclusivity on the photos you supply to them. This is important as it would mean that you cannot sell the photos directly to clients as under the terms of your contract the sales would have to go through the stock site.

Photo by ikustudio - f/4.0| 1/30s | ISO 400

2 Sell prints

A lot of photographers also choose to sell their photos as prints. This is a really good way to supplement your income.

"A lot of photographers also choose to sell their photos as prints. This is a really good way to supplement your income."

You can either choose to sell prints directly from your site or use a third-party print store. The upside of using an established site is that you are likely to get many more people seeing your prints through the volume of traffic that would visit the website. But you will only receive a small percentage of each sale as the site will take a big chunk of the money for production and fulfilment of the print.

If you start your own store with Picfair, then your photos will automatically also be available to buy as prints. And the best part is that the price that you set for your images is the amount you receive for each print sold of that photo.

Selling your photos as prints and wall art is an ideal way to supplement your income. Photo by Anton Dee - f/13| 1/800s | ISO 200
Further reading:

Learn more how to create photography specially for wall art with our dedicated guide.

3 Sell digital art (NFTs)

There has been an explosion in digital art over the last few years and a lot of photographers are now selling their photos as NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Without getting too technical here, this essentially means that you can sell digital versions of your photos to collectors in the same way as someone buying a physical print.

It’s important to remember that the collector isn’t buying the copyright of the photo but rather, the rights to that photo to then sell on if they wish to. Think of it in the same way as buying a painting. You are allowed to then sell that painting to someone else for a higher amount, but you can’t claim that you painted the picture.

The NFT space is growing rapidly and there is potential to sell digital art for vast sums of money. But it is also very complicated with lots of ways in which you can have accounts hacked and your digital currency or even your artwork stolen. So, if you are thinking about getting into this space then I would urge you to do lots of research and learn some of the basic security protocols that you need to implement.

The NFT space is growing rapidly so it's worth considering this as part of your revenue stream for your photography. Photo by Elliot Burns

4 Create Presets

All of us photographers have our own style of editing photos and many presets that we have created over the years for our editing needs. If you are an editing expert and have a few presets or even Photoshop actions, why not package them up and look to sell them online?

The bigger your following is, the more you are likely to sell the presets. So, the first step might be to try and build a mailing list. If you haven’t got a large mailing list, simply start by promoting your presets on social media. You can also contact some of the big photography blogs and ask if you can write a guest article with a view of getting a link to your presets.

Or you can even spend a little bit of money to advertise your presets on social media. But the downside of this is that you will need to make enough sales to cover the cost of the advertising and make a profit.

Many photographers now sell their favourite edits as a preset package. You should consider this too as an additional source of income. Photo by Tom Eversley - f/2.8 | 1/60s | ISO 1250

Enjoying this article? Sign up to Picfair to start your own free store & put what you’ve learned into practice.

5 Online tutorials

If the last two years have taught us anything, it is that you can do a lot online without even leaving your house. Even as a photographer there are opportunities to make money online by either creating pre-recorded content or live tutorials. You can then sell these as a course or a one-off event.

There are lots of people out there who want to learn photography or even just improve a certain part of their skillset. So if you feel like you have something that you can teach and are comfortable talking on zoom or a camera you may just find that there are people out there who will pay to learn from you.

You can do a lot online without even leaving your house, that includes leading your own photohraphy courses. Photo by Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee - f/2.8 | 1/80s | ISO 250

6 Workshops

Online tutorials are a really good way to get money coming in with very little overhead.

"...running workshops whether they are 1-day or multi-days are another great way to earn money from your photography skills."

But they do have their limitations. Of course, doing things in person is always easier but it does come at a higher potential cost to you to set up and for the customer to buy. But running workshops whether they are 1-day or multi-days are another great way to earn money from your photography skills.

But be under no illusions, creating a workshop and more importantly getting enough people to sign-up won’t be easy. Your focus and time should be spent on growing your online presence and slowly building up an audience who will subsequently be willing to come to your workshop.

Leading your own photography workshops isn't easy and takes a lot of time and dedication, but it can prove to be a particularly lucrative revenue stream within your photography offering. Photo by Paulo Rocha - f/11 | 1/25s | ISO 100
One last tip…

Unfortunately, none of these ideas are going to be “get rich quick schemes”. You will have to spend time creating a plan of action and then go about executing it. Keep in mind that you are not the only photographer who is doing this, and you will be in competition with people who have been building their reputation for several years. So like any business, you should adopt a long-term approach and have a clear strategy of what you want to achieve and how to go about doing it.

Very few photographers these days will be able to just rely on their photos alone to make money. You have to be looking at as many avenues as you can to be able to become a successful photographer. So if you are one of the 95% of photographers who are not making money, look to incorporate some of the avenues above into your offering. And you never know, you may start seeing that you are finally earning good money as a photographer.

Making money from photography takes time and patience, but it is absolutely achievable. Photo by David Forster - f/11 | 1/13s | ISO 100
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