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If you are thinking about learning how to make money with photography, chances are that if you landed here you love taking photos! We do too. Remember, that turning a hobby into a profession is the easiest way to start hating it. So, knowing that, continue only if you’re willing to risk sucking the love from taking photos! If you want to back out now click here.
Photography is the best hobby out there. However, it can be a very expensive one. Making money with photography is a great way to help you push yourself and grow your assets. But, getting started can be a daunting process. Many aspiring photographers are blocked at this hurdle. You think selling your photos is impossible, or that you need to sell stock images.
I too was stuck, but with some hard work and persistence, I overcame it. Once you get your first client and let the genie out of the bottle, you will not be able to stop.
Start by building a portfolio
Before making money with photography, you need a portfolio. This is something that you should be working on all the time. Pick the areas of photography that make you the most excited and start to build a collection of images around these themes. You should be looking to make money in these areas. But, you won’t get paid to be a photographer without an awesome portfolio.
Make sure that you develop a distinct style when putting together these portfolios. If you are looking to do studio shots of models then ensure they have a consistent “look” to them. Use different models so it doesn’t look like it was built in a day. Rome wasn’t so your portfolio shouldn’t either. Some photographers that I can really recommend with consistent styles are as follows:
The reasoning behind having a portfolio is simple. You need to prove your worth. The better your portfolio the more you can charge. This is a bit of a chicken and an egg scenario. You need work to develop a portfolio to get work but you need work to develop a portfolio. Doing this on your own up front will remove the likelihood of you working for free.
Make sure you review other photography websites in your niche. Your website should be better with very high-quality images.
Now you have your portfolio (or the beginnings of one) we can start to look at making money. If you have an online portfolio and would be interested in having it reviewed post a link to it below and I or someone in our community will check it out.
How to Make Money as a Photographer? Think Local!
Let’s say for example you are interested in food photography. Make sure that your portfolio (or at least one part of your portfolio) is based around this. One way I can see to find your first gig would be to look at different cafes/restaurants in your local area. Look at google earth with all the cafes and restaurants in the area highlighted.
Start by reviewing their websites one by one. If you believe that you can provide a superior photography experience for any of them then hit that contact button. Send them an email introducing yourself with a link to your relevant portfolio and explain your proposal. Keep working hard and you will get responses.
To supplement this you could travel to these cafes and ask to meet to the owner. Ensure you bring a hard copy of your portfolio to show your potential clients. Show that their website needs more quality photos and emphasise that the work you can do will help them get more customers.
I highly recommend leaving out the fee portion until they have registered their interest. However, you need to be very clear about how much to charge. Because it will be the first question they ask.
The key advantage to beginning locally is that it is ultimately easier. There is no travel time and you can work closely with them to develop an end result that is best for both parties. You can begin to make a name for yourself with local businesses. With a bit of hard work, your client base will grow.
How Much do Photographers Charge?
So, exactly how much do photographers charge? If you have no idea where to start, then begin with a day rate. You can break this down into hours but remember, every hour of shooting should have an hour of rough editing associated with it. Rough editing consists of lightroom work. You should select, crop, rotate, perform basic exposure edits and perhaps apply your preset in line with your style or your clients stylistic wishes.
Any further editing that you need to do in Photoshop such as: cloning, masking, adding wording etc should be done at an additional fee. I recommend charging this at an hourly rate.
Recommended rates (from Petapixel):
If you are still early in your career and are looking to work to build a portfolio then absolutely offer the client the project for free. But ensure that you invoice the client at the end with a write off section or a “friend discount” of 100%. This way it reinforces to them that you are a professional and they are receiving something that is worth actual money. Next time you will have an easier time charging them and they will have an idea of the expected cost!
“But I don’t want to work for free”, you say. Well obviously as this is your “first gig” then I recommend that you are aiming at the lower end of the scale. If you lack the confidence that you can genuinely provide the client with the expected package, the price should reflect that (free).
In the early days of your business, you should be aiming to over deliver to each of the clients. Take more time than you charge to ensure that what you deliver them with is absolutely perfect! It is imperative that you over-deliver to ensure the client feels like they are getting value for money. This can be thought of as “word-of-mouth” advertising money well spent.
You should expect to negotiate too as, but stay as firm as possible to your figures, suggest ways you can provide a reduced package to the clients. There is an excellent Tim Ferris podcast where Ramit Sethi holds a workshop on negotiating. It is entitled: “How creatives should negotiate”. There are a lot of little nuggets of information in it that will help you get a better end result:
How did I start to make money with photography?
I have studied in and worked almost my entire life in the construction industry. Construction has always fascinated me. As photography started to become a larger part of my life I started to take photos of buildings we were working on. I then proposed to different companies in the industry to do commissioned pieces for them.
What began with one shoot has since snowballed into many. I have commissioned architectural shots for a number of construction companies here in London.
My planning for the project was (roughly) as follows:
- Calculating all travel requirements (food, lodging, fuel) and documenting any costs associated with this along the way (including receipts).
- Renting any specialist lenses/gear that was required.
- Developing a “per photo” commercial license rate and an hourly rate that would cover editing time.
Before setting off I proposed the rates and as soon as it was approved I set off on my journey to complete the work. The images used throughout this post are all from some of my first paid shoots. I still hold them in my portfolio today!
Getting your first gig is always the hardest one. That is a fact. But there are ways to overcome it. Think of the people that you know, all of the businesses that you know. Contact them and show them how your photography will help their life/business. If you don’t know anyone then research the businesses around you to see how your work could help them.
It really is as simple as that. Get comfortable with rejection because it will happen. But remember that every time you fail you are one step closer to succeeding. As you finish one job you can ask them for references or testimonials and use this on your website to market yourself further. A good professional photographer will spend about 10% of his time taking the photos and 90% developing their business.
Just keep grinding and good things will happen! Best of luck. You can make money with photography, it just takes a bit of work to get started!
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Remember: Post a link to your portfolio in the comments below and I will review it for you!
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New Zealand travel photographer based in London, UK. He was taking photos from a very young age in the backcountry of New Zealand before moving abroad. Since doing so he has taken workshops and tried to help get as many people into this art as possible. Featured in NZ Herald, Stuff.co.nz and many photography publications it’s safe to say he loves his photography!