7 ways to make more money from your photography

First published:
March 3, 2021
February 12, 2024

7 ways to make more money from your photography

First published:
March 3, 2021
February 12, 2024

Cover image by Lloyd Austin

7 top tips to help you improve your photography business and make more money from your images

There’s arguably never been a better time to be a photographer than in today’s digital world. Once only reserved for the few who could afford it, photography is now accessible to everyone.

That brings its own challenges as it means there’s far more competition out there. But even so, earning money from your photography is undoubtedly achievable. And if you want to maximise your income, there are a few things to consider that you may not be doing already.

1 Explore your archive for hidden gems

When was the last time you had a good look through your back catalogue of images? Probably not since the day you initially finished editing them and chose your best images from the shoot. Well, now could be a great time to look over your past photos to see if you missed any great shots that are worth including in your portfolio.

When you initially edit images from a photoshoot, it is easy to miss some interesting shots. The reason is that you’ll naturally skip over some images during the editing process, especially if multiple images contain the same scene or subject. Also, you might have been extra harsh with your edit in trying to cut down the number of images to work with. Looking at photos with fresh eyes might just uncover a few that will ultimately go on to sell. So, go through your hard drives and re-examine your images - you may find a few hidden gems you previously overlooked.

File path on a hard drive
Explore your archive for any hidden gems you may have missed in your initial edit at the time of the shoot. You may see some images that you previously overlooked in a completely different light
Screenshot of Lightroom workflow
Viewing your images in Lightroom in an excellent way to edit your back catalogue. Read our 10 top Lightroom tips here

2 Give your images a makeover

Another way you can maximise your photos’ earning potential is to give them a different treatment in post-production. This treatment might be as simple as a new crop, or you can go further and change the overall look of the photo. If you give an image a new style or convert it to sepia or black and white. It can make the photo look like a different shot altogether, which could appeal to a new type of customer. For example, buyers in search of wall art might prefer a black and white or stylised version of the image compared to the original.

It’s worth keeping in mind that just as your photography improves with practice, so will your editing skills. And over time, you’ll pick up new techniques that you can apply to your portfolio of images.

Editing an image on an iPad
Give your images a stylish new look with the help of image editing software built into your devices, or with external packages such as Lightroom and Photoshop, to maximise their sales potential. Image from Tom Eversley

3 Streamline your workflow

Any successful business will always look at ways they can streamline certain processes. Your photography business should be the same. Look at ways to improve your workflow, not just in speed but also in quality.

Think about your whole process from when you take a picture to when you edit and publish them. Ask yourself “Is there anything you can do better?” For example, if you add the same edits to all of your images, you can create a profile in Lightroom where you can apply those edits to your photos in bulk. This will make your editing process much faster, you'll find more on profiles here.

Most image editing software will also allow you to insert, copy and paste metadata, such as tags and titles, to your images. This is highly recommended as it will save you a lot of time when uploading your pictures to an online environment. For example, on Picfair pre-inserted metadata is picked up automatically during the upload process so you won’t need to add it again.

Adding image metadata
Apply metadata to your images in bulk with the help of image editing software like Lightroom - this will make your workflow more efficient

You can also re-examine your hardware. I recently changed my master hard drive, where I store my photos and upgraded to a much faster version. Just this simple change made loading and editing photos on my computer much quicker. There could be so many little things that you could do that, when added up, make a big difference to your workflow.

Top tip:

Another key to having an efficient workflow is by keeping an organised storage system for your photos. You can find our 5 top tips for organising your images here.

4 Take photos in your local area 

You don’t always have to travel far to capture sellable photos. Your local area can provide plenty of opportunities. Whether you’re in a city or closer to nature, go out and explore with your camera. While local shots may not end up being your best sellers, at some point, someone is going to need an image from your area, so it’s always worth having some images available for sale.

An added benefit of taking photos in your local area is that you have a great deal of flexibility and can head out when the conditions look right for the shot. Much better than hoping you’ll have the right conditions when travelling to a location or planning a shoot in advance.

A Bristol street on a misty night
The dark, foggy conditions add a beautiful cinematic feel to this shot of a suburban street. Image by Tim Constable

5 Set up shoots at home

Photoshoots don’t always have to be in an exotic location. You can take plenty of photos in your own home that will be precisely the type of image sought after by commercial picture buyers. Everything from gardening, cooking, pets, and family activities are some of the shots that will always be worth creating and adding to your online portfolio.

A happy dog in the bath looking toward the camera
Pets make a fantastic subject for an at-home photography project. Image by Jaromir Chalabala

The key to taking sellable images at home is that the photos need to look authentic and professional. So, make a plan and set up your shoots when the light in your home looks just right, and somewhere you don’t have distracting elements like a busy background.

These images will look much better, compared to simply snapping a photo as you are cooking a family meal. If you manage to execute these types of shots well, you’ll have very sellable images. See the example below:

Hands rolling fresh homemade croissants
The home is an ideal place for setting up shoots for food photography. Image by Tommy Lee Walker

6 Get a model release

A model release is simply an agreement signed by a person who appears in an image, which allows the photo to be used for commercial purposes. This might, for example, be to advertise a product or service. Without a model release, a photo can only be used for editorial purposes (i.e., for a magazine or newspaper article). So, in short, a model release will give your photos broader earning potential.

Sometimes it is not possible to get model releases. If you are taking images in a crowded place, it would be unfeasible to ask hundreds of people to sign forms. But when you do a planned photoshoot with people, make sure you ask anyone in the photo to sign a release form.

Model release form
You can download a standard model release template here

To learn more about how to manage model releases for the images you upload to Picfair, see our FAQs

Keep up with industry trends and news

In the same way fashion changes over time, so does photography. Ten years ago, Instagram-style images were not as in-demand as they are now. And in a few years, there will be new types of photography that are popular with image buyers.

So, make sure you keep up with industry trends that you could then bring to your photography. For inspiration, visit blogs such as the popular Fstoppers and Petapixel, sign up for their newsletters, and browse the many photography magazines available on the newsstand.

Don’t be afraid to try something new in your photography. Not only might you find that you enjoy it trying out new subjects and styles, but your images may end up selling more as well.

Person with umbrella walking across the street during lockdown in New York
Coverage of major global events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, are also in demand from picture buyers. Image by Paco Anselmi

Any photographer these days must actively push themselves and their photography to maximise their income. The tips above can help you to earn more from your images when you apply them.

And remember - don’t give up! It takes time and practice to get the most earning potential out of your photography, but the sooner you start, the quicker you’ll see the results you want.

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