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How to Make Money with Photography (3 Best Strategies 2022)

There comes a point in your photographic learning journey when you feel you are in a position to start selling some of your work, where you think the quality of your photographs is sufficient to start appearing in peoples homes and on their walls.

In this post, I’m going to explain some of the ways you can make money from your photography. While there is no guarantee that you will be able to sell your photographs, there are several ways you can market yourself and hopefully find that all important buyer for your work.

How to Make Money as a Photographer

1. Stock Photography

One of the most straight forward ways to make some money from your photography is to use a stock photo agency. Stock photo agencies host your photographs for you and allow customers to buy a license to use the photograph for a single purpose (website, promotional prints, merchandising etc.). Generally stock agencies allow a photograph license to be bought at differing values according to the size of the photograph. They want to use – the larger the image they want to download, the more expensive it becomes.

Related article: 100+ best free stock photo sites to download royalty free images


You make money by getting a percentage of the license fee. This amount varies considerably between the different stock agencies, so before you sign up for one, make sure you are getting a reasonable amount back for your efforts.

All photo stock agencies should have strict quality control procedures in place to ensure that you own the material you are uploading to them. As there have been several cases where stock agencies have been duped into selling work not owned by the account holder uploading the images. Photo stock agencies also have strict quality control guidelines, and will only accept new registrants if they meet a minimum requirement.

iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto

If you browse through the photo stock agency websites, you can quickly get a feel for the sort of images that are selling well. This is worth doing prior to signing up as you may find that a particular photo stock agency doesn’t do well with certain kinds of images and your work may not fit into their niche.

Getty Images

Making Money from Photography - gettyimages

Getty images

From experience, most stock agencies require a minimum file size to be uploaded, and they will not accept photographs that feature any branding . So taking a photo of that Sony Vaio laptop with the manufacturers name or logo prominent will not be allowed.

There always seems to be high demand for office type photos, especially those featuring people working. If you are going to submit photos featuring people, you will need to obtain a model release form that gives their consent for the photograph to be used and sold as required.

Alamy

Alamy

Alamy

Selling your photographs through a stock agency really requires a high volume of sales for you to make money. The payouts are relatively small, so unless you manage to upload a photograph that becomes incredibly popular, its unlikely you will be able to retire by the end of the year. While some people have great success from stock agencies, you will find they upload large quantities of photographs. And write good descriptions with plentiful tagging to help in ensuring their photographs come first when a customer performs a search.

The danger of stock agencies is that you may be devaluing your work, and because you are selling a license to use a digital version of your work, there is little to stop it being butchered for some other purpose that the one intended.

ShutterStock

Making Money from Photography - ShutterStock

ShutterStock

2. Online Print Sales

If the thought of selling your work through a photo stock agency is not appealing, you may want to try your hand at selling your photos as prints (either traditional or on canvas) through a third party website such as ImageKind.

The ImageKind allows you to create albums, upload your photographs, write descriptions and tag them. And then set a price per photo (or album.) You can apply this price as a percentage of the cost that ImageKind charges for the print. So you know you are going to make x amount per print sold at each of the available print size.

ImageKind

ImageKind

This Website (ImageKind) provides the means for customers to select photos and order the prints they want. They make money from the printing process, you make money from the markup you charge. Your galleries on ImageKind then becomes the place to direct your potential customers to.

The biggest benefits to this method of selling over stock agencies is that you are in control of the price being charged, and therefore much more in control of how your work is valued. You are also selling a physical medium. Which means that its unlikely that digital copies are going to suddenly be floating around the web, or other people trying to sell on your work as their own.

Perhaps the biggest issue with sites such as ImageKind is that you need to have some kind of online profile to be able to drive potential customers to the site. This could be your own online photography portfolio or blog, regardless, unless you have a means of showcasing your photography work. Its difficult to drive those potential customers to the point where they can order a print.

Photobox

Making Money from Photography - Photobox

Photobox

3. Direct Sales

Perhaps the easiest way to sell your photographic work is to do it directly, either to individuals or to companies. This approach can take forward planning and guts to carry out. But the rewards (both financial and personal) can be worth the effort.

By direct selling I mean finding someone who is willing to buy a photograph you may not have even taken yet. If you have an interest in motorsport photography, for instance, you may find that approaching the teams before a race meeting can result in a request for specific photos to be taken. Especially if you show prospective clients examples of your work beforehand.

You don’t even need to go as far as securing a specific request – simply handing out business cards with your website address or flickr profile address on to teams and then publishing photos on the web can lead to sales. While not a viable way of making a living, for the casual photographer who would like to support his habit for buying lenses this can work out well.

As well as handing out business cards, many printing companies can now print postcard style photos. Which can be a great way to show off your work and give prospective clients a means to see what you are capable of. Added to which, they are cheap enough to hand out and if you have a very visible web address on them you have instant memorable promotional material. Even if the potential customer doesn’t buy any prints from you. That postcard may end up on a wall in a business where its seen by other potential clients.

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4. Becoming a Published Photographer

A final way to make money from your photography is to become published, selling your work to magazines and other commercial operations that need work they can print. Once you move into this area of selling your photographic work, you are moving away from the hobbyist photographer into a more professional role, with its added costs.

If you want to become published, you need to target specific publications with examples of your work. And be ready for plenty of rejection letters. Its also critical that you don’t offer your work for free, as this both devalues your own time and efforts. But also makes it difficult for full time professionals to compete. Especially if your work is of a high standard.

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Conclusion to Making Money from Photography

Of the three methods detailed above, the direct sales method can be the most effective for those without the time to promote their photography online. Its also the most likely to lead to a sale as you are taking your skill direct to the end consumer, and not just hoping that the buyers will come to you. It requires a pro-active approach and can take some guts to just walk unto people and hand out business cards or other promotional material.

If you have plenty of time, and have some form of online presence, the first two methods detailed can become a good way to make money from your photography. But the key here is time. It isn’t going to lead to instant overnight success. If you think uploading a few images to a gallery and waiting for the sales to roll in is going to work.

Michael S. Carey

Michael S. Carey

With over 15 years experience as a graphic designer, Michael is passionate about helping people enhance their content by mastering image manipulation software. Michael has worked with a variety of educational publishers in the U.S. and U.K.

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