Photography might seem like a tough field to break into, whether you’re a beginner or enjoy it as a hobby. If you’re wondering how to make money with photography, you’ll learn how to start a side hustle to make money and enter into the industry.
People love having photos hanging in their houses as art and hire photographers to capture special events. There’s only so much selfie mode can capture, so if you have a camera, check out my top 15 ways to make money with photography.
Making Money With Photography
You don’t have to be a professional photographer to make money with your camera. You can sell photos yourself, list your work on stock photography sites, or get into wedding photography. I’d recommend trying any or all these methods to develop your photography business and earn money. These methods are also helpful if you’re still learning on how to start a photography business.
Sell Prints Online
Many photographers make money by selling prints and sell photos online. It’s easiest to upload your digital files to a third-party site that receives orders, processes payments, and sends the prints. However, you’ll only make a certain percentage of the sale as a commission. If you don’t have a lot of time to print and ship photos yourself, this is a good option.
You could sell photo prints on your own website instead. It helps if you have a photography blog to promote the work and gather interest in your photos. You’ll have to print and ship the images yourself, but you’ll make more of a profit.
If you don’t have your own website, you can use a host like Etsy. You’ll have a built-in audience of shoppers who visit the site and will find your photos as they browse or search. You’ll still have to print the pictures and send them to the buyer, but Etsy processes the transactions. Each listing fee is affordable so it won’t cut into your profits.
Selling online doesn’t mean you’re restricted to just prints. Sites like Fine Art America put your image on posters, tapestries, apparel, phone cases, and more. You can create an account, upload your images, and customers can order your design on anything they desire!
Design a Photo Book or Calendar
In addition to selling photo prints, you can create a photo book or calendar of your work. Photo books are great ways to show a selection of your work and can be based on a certain theme, like nature, a location, or portraits. You can also choose to create photo books based on years of your work.
Pick unique images to include in your photo book. Even if the entire book is pictures of flowers, don’t have every image with the same composition and lighting with just a different flower in place. Showcase your skills and use images with different angles, lighting, and cropping. You want people to feel amazed at every photo and want to see even more from you.
Cultivating your work to make a photo book doesn’t have to be difficult. You can use a platform like Shutterfly to choose a theme and layout and drop your photos into place. Then you can order the books directly from the site. You get a discount for buying in bulk, but you could also order them one at a time as the customer orders through your photography business.
If you’re dividing your work into years or eras, you might find that it’s a natural progression to offer calendars for sale. If you have a dozen or more photos on a specific theme, you could make it into a beautiful yearly calendar to sell. Flowers, trees, or exotic locations are popular calendar themes. You might sell a lot of calendars showcasing your city’s landmarks.
When you’re making calendars, give yourself enough time to have them printed and shipped if you’re selling online before the new year starts. You can order them from virtually any photo print outlet, from Shutterfly to stores like Walgreens or Walmart.
Promote yourself in your calendar or photo book. Make sure you put your name, business name, contact information, and copyright on the item. You could even add a special discount code on the month when you open preorders to encourage repeat customers.
You don’t have to sell prints on your own site if you’re trying to make some passive income. Stock photos are a way you can upload images to third-party sites and let companies license them for other use.
Sites like Flickr and Getty Images offer stock photography options for users. These sites are some of the best sites you can sell your stock photos and make money. You upload photos to your account and mark permissions that allow other people to download and use your images with credit.
You have to apply to Getty Images and some sites because they want to approve the photos they offer. Other sites offering services similar to Getty Images include:
This method is a great way to get your work seen without having to network. You don’t have to reach out to newspapers, magazines, and blogs that might need photography. They basically come to you by finding your work on a larger database.
Though Flickr functions as an online photo album, if you’re trying to license images, you should only upload your best work. Save the snapshots and candid images for your personal Facebook or Instagram pages.
There are some images that sell better as stock photography. Think of the photos you often see on news sites and in blog posts. People doing everyday tasks are popular, as well as animals, cityscapes, and landscapes.
Make sure you know the rules about intellectual properties before you submit pictures. For example, stock photography sites won’t accept photos of museum exhibits or copyrighted materials.
Submit to Photography Magazines
Submitting your work to photography magazines is a way to make a little pocket money while getting your name out there. Getting published is a major accomplishment in the photography world. You can add the credit to your resume and website to entice other outlets to work with you. It can also help you get clients for events, weddings, and portraits.
Having published work under your belt helps establish your credibility and skill as a photographer. You might make more money, more easily, by licensing stock photos and selling prints, but publication credits are worth seeking out as well.
Some photography magazines accepting submissions include:
Don’t feel restricted to these; I also suggest going to the bookstore and checking out the photography magazines. See what issues suit your style and research how to submit to them. Consider other magazines you enjoy and see if they’re accepting submissions. Literary journals, for example, often seek art to go along with the poetry and stories they print.
Host Gallery Shows
Many photographers think gallery shows are only for big-name artists. However, contacting local galleries might give you a way to host a show yourself. Some locations might charge rent for the duration of your show, while others might only have a wall available. Talk with the gallery about what kind of work they prefer, what sells best, and how much commission they take.
Gallery shows usually have a loose theme so the audience can recognize your work. Printing large-scale versions of any photograph you love won’t stick with the viewers, so try to find a common thread in some of your work. The gallery owner might appreciate having some input so they can help you sell while making a commission for themselves.
You can also see if the gallery will sell prints of your photo after your show, or even if they can’t give you space for a show. Many galleries have gift shops that need art to sell. You can also try selling prints at other local shops, cafes, and restaurants. They’ll likely take a commission since you’re using their space, but you’ll get their customers, so it’s a fair trade.
Create Travel Stories
Many photographers earn money with travel photography by selling travel stories to newspapers and magazines. Even if you don’t have a photography business, you can sell your travel images as content. Pitch the story to a travel magazine, blog, or the area you visited. They can use this material to entice tourists to come to visit, so they’ll pay you for the organic advertising.
These photos shouldn’t be vacation snapshots, but artsy, evocative images that tell a story on their own. You might write captions or an article to accompany the photos, but they should demand attention. Various media outlets will pay good money for well-composed photos.
Once you partner with a newspaper, magazine, or blog, you can pitch other stories. They might need images and stories for a specific destination. If you travel for work, the outlet might sponsor your trip or you can write it off as a work expense.
Entering photo contests might seem like a strange way to earn money, but trust me, it’s possible! Look for photo contests offering cash prizes and see how much you could win. Many contests are free to enter, so you won’t have to pay anything upfront. That means if you don’t win, you also don’t lose anything.
There are photo contests for all skill levels. Before you enter, read over the guidelines to ensure what you’re giving up and what you might win. Some contests ask for a submission fee and also demand rights to your photo even if it doesn’t win. Be careful of these scams. As a photographer, you can’t risk signing away your hard work like that.
Become a Wedding Photographer
Wedding photography is the most popular way for photographers to earn money. Everyone needs a wedding photographer and will pay big bucks to get a good one. You don’t have to start a wedding photography business; you can get these gigs even as a portrait or event photographer.
You can prove you have the skill to photograph a wedding even if you’ve never done it before. You can hire models to stage a wedding or work as a second shooter for an established wedding photographer. You can start by doing engagement photos for couples. If they like your work, they might ask you to do the ceremony as well.
Weddings are stressful events, so you want to make sure you’re prepared. Have a list of photos you want to capture. Ask the couple what photos they want, too. And make sure you get groupings of all the family members and friends so everyone’s included.
Once you get some experience photographing weddings, you might realize that it’s profitable. At that point, you can start a wedding photography business. You might make the bulk of your income doing this, especially if you offer packages. You can include engagement photos and coverage during the rehearsal.
Become an Event Photographer
Wedding photography might feel too high stakes for you since it’s such an important day for the couple. The stress of ensuring you capture every image they want and your equipment doesn’t mess up can get to a lot of photographers. But if you like the idea of capturing big days on camera, you can be an event photographer.
There are plenty of events to cover, and you won’t need to run a wedding photography business to get them. You can photograph birthday parties, religious occasions, birth stories, and more.
Club event photography is a big market in many cities. When a club opens, they want photos of the interior as well as people enjoying themselves inside. They might have special guest DJs or theme nights and need pictures for promotion or social media. Knowing how to capture the action in low light is necessary for these events. If you have it, you can make good money.
Sometimes museums, botanic gardens, and other community organizations need photographers for events. Check out your city’s calendar and see what’s going on. Consider reaching out to these organizations to see if they hire photographers. You can always attend some on your own, camera in hand, to start building a portfolio.
Take Photos for Realtors
Real estate photography is a field not many photographers think of. You think of events with bustling action to capture, or memories you want to keep in a photo album, but realtors need photographs, too. They want to make houses look amazing so they don’t stay on the market for long.
Know how to photograph a room to make it look spacious and light. If the realtor has staged the room, you want to showcase all the work they’ve done. Keep in mind that interior designers also need photographers, so check out both options as you’re looking to expand your reach.
Some realtors and designers might have experience working with photographers, but it doesn’t hurt to do some research. Look at real estate listings to get ideas of the photos used. Create a list of what images you’ll take and set a price for the package. If realtors want to add photos, you can work with them to build a custom package at a price that makes it worth your while.
It’s one thing to want engagement photos, wedding photos, and family photos, but what about headshots? Many people need professional headshots for their website or LinkedIn profile. They want to convey a certain image, so they might ask you to photograph them in their workspace as well.
Some businesses need professional headshots for their corporate website. Put together a package that gives them high-res images for the web, as well as smaller versions they could use on employee badges.
On the opposite side of professional headshots are photos for dating apps. It might seem strange to hire a professional photographer for this purpose, but sometimes selfies don’t convey the look people want. Hiring a professional photographer ensures they’ll get good lighting and photos without their arm in the way.
You can offer related services, like photo editing, to make your packages even more enticing. If a customer knows you’re going to give their images a glow-up, they’ll pick you over someone who just sends them the raw digital files.
Work as a Second Shooter
Working as a second shooter for a professional photographer is a great way to hone your skills. You’ll get to experience different types of shoots. Wedding and event photographers often hire second shooters to ensure they don’t miss a moment of the big day. You can split the list of necessary photos and make sure you capture the happy couple as well as the guests.
Even if you’re helping another photographer, you still want a detailed contract in place. Make sure you both know and agree to the terms of the assignment. This includes what you’re responsible for, how many hours you’ll shoot, and what photo editing they need. If you’re a beginner, you’ll also want a clause allowing you to use the images for your portfolio.
You don’t have to be a professional photographer to teach courses. Anyone with a good eye and great photography skills can teach photography classes to earn money. There are many online outlets that allow you to upload videos and slides of information and sell them as a course.
You can have a course for getting to know your camera, beginning photography, composition, and more. Think about the things you know and how you learned them, and map out how you could make a course for others.
Just because the internet is so accessible doesn’t mean you have to teach online. You might want to post a listing for local lessons and work with people in your community. You can host one-on-one photography lessons or group photo walks, helping people find a good shot and compose it in an interesting way.
The courses aren’t only limited to photography, either. If you’re skilled at photo editing or using Lightroom and other software, you could teach those classes as well.
Start a Blog, YouTube Channel, or Podcast
If you do go the online teaching route, you might want to start a photography blog as a companion. Even if you’re not teaching online, a photography blog is a great way to showcase your work, find clients, and sell photos. It can be your own website or hosted on a blog platform.
Offering tips, tricks, and insights to your work on a YouTube channel or podcast is another way to get your name out there and make some money. You can share your photography skills, promote your photography classes, or help others get the hang of photo editing. You can monetize these outlets, sell ads, or make money with each view or download.
Sell on Social Media
In addition to having a photography blog, you should have social media, especially Instagram. This photography platform gets lots of views. Having an enticing account can grow your audience exponentially.
This doesn’t just mean you’re going to get hundreds or thousands of likes. Brands and stock photography sites check out Instagram to find talent. If you have great photos on your profile, you might find brands reaching out for partnerships or hiring you for contract work. You can also link your site or store in your profile to sell photos.
You can share photos on other social media outlets too, like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Start with Instagram to develop a strong profile, then slowly expand to other platforms so you don’t burn out too quickly. Keeping up with posting, comments, and likes can be a full-time job, so don’t overexert yourself.
There are many ways to take advantage of your camera skills. Anyone wondering how to make money with photography will like trying their hand at these options. My top recommendations are wedding photography, real estate photography, and stock photos. I’ve found that these are all great ways to develop your skills and make money.
Whether you’re a new or experienced photographer, sound off in the comments sharing your favorite ways to make money with your camera. We love to hear from photographers on the scene using their creativity to make a living or even as a side hustle.