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21 Ways to Make Money with Photos (More than Selling Photos)

You want to turn your hobby into a profession and earn money with photos? You can sell your photos online, but there are many more ways!

In the first part of today’s post, I share a story of mine. After that, I’ll show you 21 different ways to start your own photography business. In the third part, I have some tips on what you should look out for and give recommendations on online marketing.

Do you really want to turn your hobby into a career?

Many of us dream of being able to spend every day doing photography. Maybe the job isn’t going so well, and maybe you don’t find it particularly fulfilling. But before you really start thinking about pursuing your photography full-time, let me tell you a story.

I started photography as a hobby while I was in college. I gradually kept learning more and more. Photography became incredibly important to me at some point. At the end of my studies, the point came when I said to myself: If you don’t do it now, you’ll never do it. So I tried to earn money with my photos.

I took assignments, acquired clients, and did photo shoots. I also photographed within different subject areas like portraiture, which were not really my field. At times I had to have my money topped up by the employment office, but I was able to pursue photography every day.

In the spring of the next year, I had a photo assignment for the Thale tourist office. I was to take pictures of the Bode Valley and the surrounding area. In a contract I had agreed to produce 25 „hero shots“ in that one week. That’s a lot for one week, especially when you consider that the weather could throw a spanner in the works. I photographed at every sunrise and every sunset. I ended up making the 25 pictures. But a few days into the week there, I realized I wasn’t happy.

I was alone for the entire week. I was staying in a 20 euro a night vacation apartment. I had to take pictures to get the job done. I had to make a living doing what I actually loved.

When you’re forced to do something every day so you can pay your rent, it can take the fun out of it. For many of us, photography is something beautiful, something you do when you feel like it – not because you have to.

So think twice about whether you really want to go down that road.

Get more image quality out of your photography gear without having to buy a new camera and lenses!

Make Money with Photos
Make Money with Photos

21 ways to make money with photography

In the meantime I am working in online marketing and therefore have a support to be able to take pictures when I feel like it. Thanks to the internet, there are a lot of ways to make money with photography today. I have collected 21 of them. In addition, I give you approaches in the gray boxes, how you can start with the respective way.

Almost every one of these ways is suitable to earn enough money to be able to live from it. Often even more than that. It always depends on how much work you put in. Almost all paths are also suitable to start them part-time.

Offer contract work

A classic way to get started in full-time photography is through commissioned work. Someone hires you to take certain photos. Wedding photography, portraits, or even architectural photography are particularly well known, for example.

How do you get started?

It definitely makes sense to have your own website. With it you have to go on customer acquisition. This can be done through online or offline marketing. For example, you can place ads in newspapers or draw attention to yourself through advertising on Google or Facebook. Of course, recommendations from customers for whom you have already photographed are also very helpful.

Reportage for newspapers

In this business model, it is now often the case that the photographer shoots from himself and then sells the images. For example, many newspaper photographers are now out on their own and offer their pictures for sale to newspapers after they have actually taken them. If you’re the first one on the scene, you have a good chance of the pictures being bought afterwards.

How do you get started?

Make contacts with the local newspaper and find out how a collaboration could happen. Is there a fixed model? Are more photographers needed or does the newspaper already have a sufficient base of freelance photographers?

Stock photography

In stock photography, you also shoot in advance and then offer your images for sale. You stock images for specific subjects („in stock“). On stock photography platforms, you can then upload your images and tag them with keywords. Interested parties who need images for a specific purpose, for example a magazine or a flyer, can then license your images there. Depending on the size, you receive between 50 cents and 2 euros per image sale. That doesn’t sound much at first, so it depends more on the mass of good images. A picture can be sold several times, of course. Practice shows that it is also possible to earn good money here. There is an exciting article about this in the blog of Robert Kneschke.

How do you get started?

Register on platforms like iStock or Shutterstock. See how other successful photographers operate there and for which topics they produce images. Which images have a lot of downloads? What keywords do they use? Study the quality standards required for stock photos. Then you can start taking stock photos yourself and uploading them there.

Photo workshops

If you have some basic knowledge in photography yourself, then you can start offering workshops. Surely you think now that you are not ready yet. But think about how intensively you deal with photography. How much time you have already invested in it. What you have learned during this time. You can pass on this knowledge.

How do you start?

Think about what topic you want to cover in your photography workshop. Then think about how you can best teach that topic to the participants. What structure should the workshop have? What materials are needed? Do you need a training room? You can rent one at almost any hotel. In order to test whether workshops suit you at all, you can offer your first photo workshop free of charge. At the end, you should have the participants fill out a feedback form to improve your workshop. How do people find out about your workshop? You can post about the workshop in a forum, like the DSLR Forum, saying that it’s free. That’s how I started doing it.

Teaching photography in adult education classes

Again, this is about sharing your photography knowledge. You can earn money by teaching a course at an adult education center. If it suits you, you can also offer several courses.

How do you start?

Create a concept for a course, just as you would for a workshop. Of course, this course must be divided into hours over several weeks. With such a concept you can contact the local adult education centers and ask for demand. Or you first call the adult education centers and ask if there are certain courses that they would like to have in their program. If the courses you want fall within your subject area, you can set up a course.

Create video courses

In video courses, you present your photo knowledge as a video. Participants can buy such a video course online as a download or offline as a DVD and then watch it at home.

How do you get started?

Think about how you can best convey the knowledge. What parts should the course be divided into? What practical exercises should the participants do? Whether you film the course or record it on the computer is up to you. After the video editing, you need to provide the necessary documentation for the course. When the course itself is ready, it’s time for marketing. Again, you can choose from online and offline marketing.

Use affiliate marketing

What is actually affiliate marketing? You post on your website, YouTube channel, or wherever you operate what camera and lenses you use. From there, you link to Amazon, for example. Whenever someone clicks on your link and then buys there too, you get a small commission. That’s how I do it on my recommendations page. For photo equipment, the commission on Amazon is 3%. That’s not much, but the bigger your channel or website gets, the more it pays off.

How do you get started?

You need a website or a YouTube channel. Then you can sign up for the Amazon affiliate program, for example. Now you can set links to Amazon and when you sell, there is the commission for you.

If you have your own photography website, you can use banner ads to earn money. The more visitors the website has, the more profitable it is.

How do you start?

Build up your website and then steadily expand it. You can then sign up for Google Adsense, for example. There you can generate a code, which you embed on your website. Now Adsense plays suitable advertisements for the visitors of your website.

Writing e-books

Do you like writing? Then e-books could be a business model for you to make money. Again, it will probably be about sharing your photography knowledge. You can write the e-books on your own computer and then offer them via Amazon or your own website, for example.

How do you get started?

Again, you need to think about what you want to write about and how you want to structure your e-book. What images do you need? Do you need to create graphics to explain certain topics? When your e-book is ready, you can post it on Amazon KDP or offer it on your own website through Digistore24.

Enter the art market

The art market is probably one of the more difficult models for making money from your photos. You always hear stories about high prices and auctions, in photography for example from Andreas Gursky. Yet, of course, some photographers try to enter the art market and make very little money doing so during their lifetime. But still: it’s possible.

How do you start?

I think that contact with galleries and curators plays a big role here. These are the people you have to approach with your finished portfolio.

Writing books and professional articles

Writing about photographic topics is not just for e-books. You can also write on your own book. A word of caution up front: authors of books often earn a relatively small percentage of the sale price. Most of the time, it’s more of an ego project so you can end up proud of having written your own book. However, with several photo books and the right contract for your share, money can be earned here.

It can be more interesting to write professional articles for photo journals and magazines. These are always needed and do not have the volume of a book.

How do you start with it?

You should try out for yourself whether writing such articles suits you. Then you can contact magazines and editors. Here you can ask if certain topics are currently in demand or if there are plans for special issues on specific areas of photography.

Create presets

If you work a lot in image editing, then you probably have a certain routine. Maybe you have created presets for Lightroom or actions for Photoshop. A business model can now be to offer comprehensive presets for sale.

With the right programming skills, you could also develop plug-ins or stand-alone programs for image processing.

How do you start?

In addition to the presets themselves, marketing plays a crucial role here. Presets sell especially well if you already have a name in the photography world. You can promote the presets via your website, YouTube or Instagram, among other things.

Get active on YouTube

How can you make money on YouTube? If you upload videos there and these videos get enough views, then YouTube will pay you money to show ads there.

How do you get started?

First, you need to build a YouTube channel about your photography. You should continuously produce interesting videos and get as many subscribers as possible. In time, you can start monetizing within YouTube.

Offer travel lectures

If you like to travel, then offering travel lectures afterwards can be a rewarding business model for you. The basis is that you work up your photos of the trip as a presentation. With this you can then go on tour and give this lecture in different places. Of course, marketing plays a big role here as well.

How do you start?

Besides creating the actual presentation, you have to organize the events themselves. You have to find rooms for them, get ticket sales going and then promote the event itself.

Selling usage rights

Selling usage rights works primarily passively, at least for me. Agencies want to create a flyer or a website, for example. For that, they are then looking for images on that topic. If they now become aware of your images, then a request for the usage rights of the respective image comes in.

How do you start with that?

You should spread your pictures as much as possible on the net. Image communities, photo contests and your own website are important. Search engine optimization also plays a role here. On your own website, there must of course be a way to contact you.

Sponsoring / Become an Influencer

If you have a certain reach, it can be interesting for companies to sponsor you. In this case, you receive a monetary amount for using their photo equipment and communicating this to the outside world via your social channels.

Especially on Instagram, it’s common for a company to pay money to have their product featured in their photos. Depending on how many followers you have, this can be a profitable business.

How do you get started with this?

The most important thing is that you have a name in the photography world. This can happen through many different avenues. It certainly makes sense to build up a good Instragram channel with many followers. Then you can eventually approach companies on your own initiative and ask for cooperation. Normally, however, companies will approach you at some point anyway.

Set up your own (online) store

Running your own (online) store can be a major project. First and foremost, it is about trading with photo products. However, it can also be interesting to offer your own products through the store.

For example, one idea would be to focus only on filters. Especially in the area of ND filters or gray graduated filters there are still some manufacturers like Lee or Singh-Ray, which are not so easy to get in Germany.

How do you start with that?

Especially with an online store you can start small. For the first steps you don’t need an inventory with 1,000 products, 20 are enough. Here an investment is necessary to store a small stock. For your own online store, website hosters such as All-Inkl offer ready-made store installations with which you can start directly without major programming knowledge. Here again, the decisive factor is marketing.

Rent out photo equipment

Similar to a store, another business model is not to sell photo equipment, but to rent it out. Many people want to try out a camera or lens before they buy it. Lending a larger camera for a specific job is also relevant for some photographers.

How do you get started?

For a rental, of course, you’ll need your own cameras and lenses to invest in up front. So, to start this model, a bigger investment is needed. In addition to a website, you should then focus on online marketing.

Offer image editing as a service

Some photographers have a relatively fixed workflow for their images. So it can make financial sense not to do the post-processing of photos yourself, but to hand it over to a service provider. This service provider could be you.

How do you get started?

On platforms like Fiverr, Upwork or MyLittleJob you can create a profile and offer your skills. Interested people will find you there and then hire you to post-process their images. The more jobs you handle there, the more money you can charge for your services.

Sell your images as prints

This point is especially interesting for the artists among us. You can sell your own images through exhibitions, your website or through appropriate platforms. If you need more information about prints, you can read my article about printing photos.

How do you get started?

First, of course, you need a good portfolio of your work. Then you should start looking for exhibitions and openings. Your own website can also contribute to sales with appropriate marketing. Through platforms like Saatchiart you can apply to be included in their portfolio and start sales.

Organize conferences & fairs

Have you ever been to Photokina? There are a wide variety of trade shows and conferences on a wide variety of photographic topics. If organizational skills are your strong point, you can organize such an event yourself.

How do you start?

To begin with, you should organize your event around a specific theme. Which interesting speakers are there? Which photo manufacturers identify themselves with this topic? In addition to large premises, you will probably need a team to manage this task with you. You need to find sponsors and promote your event accordingly.

What makes a successful photographer?

How do you become a successful photographer? If you’ve read this far, you’ll have noticed that I’ve mentioned marketing a lot. I believe that in a successful photographer, only about 20% of the skill is photography. At 80%, the much more important skills are in marketing. You should be able to market your images and yourself online and offline. This is the only way you will reach enough people to become successful with your photography business.

Do I need a business registration?

If you want to earn money with one of the 21 ways of photography, then you should definitely register a business. For the beginning a side business is sufficient, which you can apply for little money.

I registered my business 4 years ago in 10 minutes at the local trade office online. The cost for this was 25 euros.

My recommendations for online marketing channels

If you want to build your photography business, then you have to decide for yourself what to do with your limited time. Since I come from online marketing, I would like to recommend you some channels of it.

Google My Business

Especially when it comes to local clients in contract photography, Google My Business is one of the most important factors. Here you can achieve a lot with relatively little time. Customers search in Google for „wedding photographer Kassel“, for example, and then find the local providers with your phone number. Then the customer often simply picks up the phone to make an appointment.

The Google My Business profile should be well maintained. There you can use search terms in various fields, which should be aligned with your own activity. You can also upload current pictures to this profile from time to time to draw customers‘ attention to you.

Own website

An own website belongs to the standard repertoire of marketing. Depending on your knowledge and budget, you can have a website created externally or create it yourself.

If you don’t have the skills yet, you can learn them along the way. If you register an address and a hosting service for your website, then these hosters often have the option to directly install a specific software for your website. This is where WordPress comes in handy. This system is relatively easy to use and offers enough possibilities to expand your website later on.

t may seem like an impossible task to create your own website, but it is worthwhile to go this way. You will learn a lot of skills that will help you later on in your career. If you get stuck with something, just use Google to find the solution. Many other people have already dealt with the problem before you. You will almost always find help.

Blog

A blog is a bit more time consuming. However, it is a good way to show your current work and projects from time to time. With WordPress you can create this blog on your own site and thus further expand your website.

Facebook

Of course, social media marketing is also important. Here I recommend that you build a Facebook fan page. There are many free tutorials and guides on the web for this as well. Many photographers complain that the normal reach of Google has been decreasing for months. This is also true, however it is worthwhile to put a little money into your own posts on Facebook that are important to you.

For example, if I share a new blog post on Facebook, only about 50 people will see that post without putting money into it. However, if I promote the post with 5 euros for my Facebook followers, then I thereby ensure that the people who have liked my page also see this post. So I then reach about 500 people. I write about 2 new posts per month, so with a total of 10 euros per month, these costs are also still absolutely within limits.

Instagram

As a photographer, you can hardly get around Instagram these days. This is all about posting new photos regularly, using the right hashtags and being active in the community. There are many different social channels, but to keep the effort manageable, I would recommend only Facebook and Instagram in the end. That’s just the way to achieve the biggest effect.

Get started

That must have been a lot of new info for you. If you want to make money with your photography, don’t wait for a specific time. You don’t need a new video camera or a better DSLR camera. In fact, you could do almost any business model entirely with your smartphone.

Pick one or two of these ways and start doing it.

What are your experiences with making money with photos? What has worked for you and what hasn’t? Drop me a line in the comments! Also, if you’d like, I can give you a quick shout out every time a new post comes out so you don’t miss anything.