Steps to Earn Money As a Freelance Photographer

by Milana
Turning Photos into Profits: Freelance Photography Money-Making Methods

So…you decided you want to follow your passion and pursue a freelance photography career. Wonderful! But now you are faced with the question of how to turn it into a profitable business. The good news is that photography can be a very lucrative freelance career. Especially since ‘The Internet’ completely changed the game of course in a good way! With the tools available, you can set up an online portfolio and promote it to attract new clients within moments and earn money as a freelance photographer.

With all conveniences that come with the new, digital era, the photography field is also more competitive. This requires you to be up to date with trends, and be creative in marketing your services. Whether you are just starting out in the photography business, or you are a seasoned professional – these can help you turn your photography skills into a booming business. Be open and curious about them and research further the ones that catch your attention.

Let me add, that none of these is an overnight solution and you will need some time to build a steady income. It will all be up to you and of course, the time and energy you put into it which will dictate how fast you will progress and build a steady income out of it. However, with all these business ideas you can start right away! And the best thing?! you don’t need expensive gear or a photo studio to start. So, let’s get into it! 😉

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Photograph Small Businesses

In the era where content is king, demand for people with photography and videography skills is rapidly increasing. Therefore, there are more ways than ever you could earn money as a freelance photographer. Even small business owners understand how important it is that they have an attractive presentation of their products and services. And they probably realize how hard is to keep up with social media, and marketing trends without quality content. This is exactly where you come into the picture. Whether it is your local coffee shop, dance studio, or bakery – small business owners will likely be thrilled to hear your ideas.

So start researching potential clients in your area today, and approach them with an offer. Remember that most likely those are the clients who are not sure what they want. So don’t just offer your services. Instead, plan out the kind of content they would need to better promote their business.

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Photographing different small businesses is also something you can do while traveling. Offer your services to the owner of your Airbnb place, or the manager of your favorite beach bar. This is the way many backpackers and travel bloggers are supporting their trips, so it is already a paved path for you and you can find ideas online. Once you get into it, you’ll start noticing potential clients wherever you go.

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Canon R

Teach Photography to Others – Organize Workshops, Photo Tours…

You have probably learned a ton of valuable tips on your photography journey that you can share with others. So why not share it? Teaching is also a great way to learn new things and become a better photographer. As well as meet new and interesting people.

Remember, you only need to know more than the person who is just starting out to be eligible to create a class. You don’t need to be a veteran in the field. Ask yourself what specifics of photography you are most interested in – Is it the technical, creative, or business side of photography? Are you mostly shooting portraits, landscapes, and events? Figure out your niche and build a course around that.

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There are plenty of formats for teaching photography – You can hold workshops, seminars, in-person or online classes, photo tours, or a completely online course. Team up with fellow photographers and organize workshops together. Organize and list a photo tour online in your hometown or the place you know very well. Create a photography class teaching your style. Or shoot an online course and host it on sites such as Udemy or Skillshare. Opportunities are endless. It’s up to you to find what suits you and just do it.

Shoot an Event – birthday, wedding, etc

This is probably one of the most classic ways to earn as a freelance photographer. It is also how most photographers got their first gig. It’s fun and exciting and there are plenty of opportunities: engagement parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs, corporate events, concerts, birthdays… You name it. It can be physically demanding, but also a rewarding experience. Besides making decent earnings, you’ll also learn to work in a number of situations and sharpen your skills. There can be a number of challenges at events. From low light conditions to a little time to shoot. This will without a doubt make you a better freelance photographer in no time, which of course allows you to increase your rates.

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If you are just starting out – working for free aka volunteering will likely get you your first gig. But since you need to start valuing your time as soon as you are in the business, what you can do is ask for an honorarium. An honorarium is a flat fee gifted to you, and it can usually be in the range of 50-100 USD. Clients will be happy to pay you as they know they already have a discount with you. It’s a small amount, but you are still not working for free and you can cover some expenses.

Licensing Images via Stock Photography Sites

Besides client work, there are also a lot of creative ways to earn passive income online. Passive income sources will require a significant amount of work in the beginning. But they will make you money in the long run without putting too much effort into maintaining them. One of the most popular ways of earning a passive income is stock photography.

Arguably, stock photography is one of the best ways to start earning money as a beginner freelance photographer. You can do this with any skill level and any equipment(even with your phone)! Some photos(or videos) will do better than others. So you will want to watch out for the trends and statistics and adjust what you are shooting accordingly.

What creates a good stock image is being able to see the image through the eyes of the potential buyer. You need to think about how your images can be used, otherwise, you won’t see much sales no matter how good your skills are. That is why it is very often the situation in stock that amateur photographers earn more than professional photographers.

You can find some interesting ones on Skillshare, Udemy, or specialized courses like Microstock Academy. Learn to add a proper description, and tags and follow image requirements and you’ll see your profit rapidly increase. The biggest stock sites where you can upload your photos and videos are Shutterstock and Adobe Stock.

Sell your digital prints online

People from all over the world are willing to pay a great deal of money for artwork! If you are a landscape or a fine art photographer, or in general on the creative side of photography this can be a big source of income for you! One of the biggest and most-known marketplaces for selling your artwork is Fine Art America. On this website, you can sell photos in the form of prints, canvases, pillows, smartphone cases, and other products. You are selling your digital images, so there is no hassle in printing and shipping the artwork.

How can I sell my photography prints online?

Other marketplaces for selling your prints are Great Big Canvas, Image Kind, Cafe Press, Redbubble, Zazzle, and Society 6. As with a website for stock images, you wouldn’t want to rely on one platform but diversify and learn how to sell your prints on multiple platforms. If you already have a decent audience and good traffic on your website, you can sell them on your website too!

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Start a YouTube channel – Become a photography guru!

If you want to build a brand for yourself, there is no better place than YouTube. It’s a perfect creative outlet for every freelance photographer to share experiences and teach and inspire other people. Having a presence on a powerful platform such as YouTube allows you to gain a wider audience, and monetize your channel in different ways. Another one on the good side is that YouTube is easier to build than Instagram and Facebook. As it is a search engine people will find your content in the years and years to come. For photographers and videographers, having a YouTube channel comes more naturally than writing a blog, because it requires a skill set they already have.

Once you build up your channel, the AdSense revenue(money from the ads) will start to flow in. Of course, until you build a huge following, your ads’ revenue will be quite low. You can also get sponsorship deals, or earn through affiliate marketing. Actually, the most important benefit of building a YouTube channel is that you will position yourself as the expert and the authority in the field. That will without a doubt lead you to new clients.

What are the steps to start a successful YouTube channel for photography?

  1. Define Your Niche: Choose a specific focus for your channel, whether it’s tutorials, gear reviews, photo critiques, or behind-the-scenes glimpses of your creative process.
  2. Craft Your Brand: Create a compelling channel name and logo that resonate with your photography style and target audience.
  3. Equip Yourself: Invest in quality recording and editing equipment to ensure your videos meet professional standards in terms of both visuals and audio.
  4. Plan Your Content: Develop a content strategy that emphasizes delivering value, insights, and actionable tips to your audience.
  5. Commit to Consistency: Establish a regular upload schedule to keep viewers engaged and encourage them to return for more content.
  6. Optimize for Search: Use relevant keywords in video titles, descriptions, and tags to improve your videos’ discoverability on the platform.
  7. Engage with Your Audience: Respond to comments, likes, and community interactions to build a loyal and interactive subscriber base.
  8. Collaborate and Cross-Promote: Partner with fellow photographers, participate in challenges, and collaborate with relevant channels to expand your reach.
  9. Adapt and Grow: Stay attuned to viewer feedback and evolving trends in both the YouTube platform and photography industry, and continuously refine your content accordingly.


Affiliate marketing for a freelance photographer

In short – affiliate marketing is where you promote a product, service, or somebody else, and you get a commission off of that. One of the most popular affiliate programs is the Amazon Affiliate program. You have probably seen and even clicked on these kinds of links before other people’s blogs or YouTube video descriptions. When the person clicks on that link and buys anything from Amazon in the next 24 hours, you get a small commission usually between 4-10 %.

If you already have an audience on your social media, website, or YouTube and you don’t have affiliate links incorporated in your content – you are missing out on potential income. People genuinely want to know what products and gear they use. So why keep it a secret when you can earn from your recommendations?

From collaborating with trusted camera and photography equipment retailers to showcasing online photography courses that nurture skill growth, photographers can leverage their expertise to earn commissions. Recommending photo editing software and tools, collaborating with printing and framing services, and connecting with stock photography agencies can also help photographers monetize their craft. Further avenues include partnering with fashion and apparel brands, promoting travel and adventure companies for unique shooting locations, and affiliating with web hosting and website builder platforms to assist in building a strong online presence

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Genuine Leather DSLR Vintage Camera Bag

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Sell photography-related digital products

Embracing a prominent trend in recent years, the sale of photography-related digital products has gained substantial momentum, with Lightroom presets taking the spotlight in countless ads and purchases. Chances are, you’ve encountered these sought-after presets and might have even acquired a few yourself. If you’re skilled in Lightroom, venturing into this arena can prove highly lucrative. The allure lies in the digital nature of these products, streamlining the process and enabling automated earnings. Once your creation is ready for sale, it functions seamlessly, generating revenue even as you rest. Beyond the realm of presets, which currently dominates the market, your creative potential extends to selling Photoshop actions, comprehensive photography ebooks, or even specialized photography contracts. Whatever practical resources you’ve found valuable in your journey are likely to resonate with others, forming a pathway to both financial gain and a sense of shared camaraderie.

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Lightroom presets – before and after

Participate in photo contests

This is a great way to showcase your work and talent and get in the spotlight. They are fun to participate in, but they also pressure you to sharpen your skills to be more competitive. Besides that, you’ll learn to evaluate your images, curate them, and be more thoughtful about the work you put out.

There are dozens of photo contests online you can apply to in every genre. Winners of the contests sometimes get cash prizes, sometimes gear. But it can also be an exhibition of their work and worldwide exposure which for sure will land them new jobs and clients. This should not be your primary source of income. It will serve more to promote your work and be part of the community. Some of the best photo contests are Sony World Photography Awards, International Photo Awards, and National Geographic Photographer of the Year. There are also apps that have new photo contests you can participate in every day like Gurushots or ViewBug.

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Suphakaln Wongcompune, Sony World Photography Awards Winner

Try Editing and Retouching jobs

If you are proficient and fast in image post-production, here is a great photography side gig for you! You can work anywhere you want, anytime you want. For a retoucher gig, you’ll need to make a different kind of portfolio. This portfolio should include before and after images, or timelapse videos that explain how you created those jaw-dropping images. Untrained eyes can’t detect the changes you made, so you’ll need to make it easier for them by showing the changes.

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You can reach out to a freelance photographer who doesn’t have time for post-production, a photo studio, perhaps a model agency, etc. You can offer your editing/retouching services independently or include them in your photography services.

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Wacom Intuos Small Graphics Drawing Tablet

Marketing Travel Photography Stories

Embarking on a journey of discovery, you capture the world’s beauty through the lens of your camera. Your travel photography goes beyond postcard-perfect landscapes; it conveys the spirit, culture, and essence of each destination. As a visual storyteller, you document the interactions between people and their surroundings, preserving moments that tell tales of adventure, exploration, and cross-cultural connection. Your photographs become windows to far-off lands, inspiring wanderlust and offering viewers a vicarious escape. Your imagery not only transports the audience but also serves as a reminder of the diverse and awe-inspiring planet we inhabit.

Venturing into Real Estate Photography

In the dynamic world of real estate, your ability to capture the essence of properties through captivating images is invaluable. As a skilled real estate photographer, you’ll work hand in hand with agents and homeowners to showcase homes in their best light, employing your creative eye to highlight architectural details, spacious interiors, and stunning curb appeal. Your expertise in composition, lighting, and post-processing will play a pivotal role in creating a visual narrative that potential buyers can connect with. Whether it’s a cozy suburban home, a sleek urban apartment, or a sprawling countryside estate, your photographs will not only provide a virtual tour but also instill a sense of possibility and excitement in prospective buyers as they imagine themselves in their new abode.

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Product Photography

In the age of e-commerce, visually appealing product imagery is the linchpin of successful online sales. As a product photographer, you hold the power to elevate products from mere commodities to objects of desire through your lens. Your meticulous attention to detail will shine as you carefully arrange, light, and photograph products in a way that highlights their features, textures, and functionality. Brands and businesses rely on your ability to communicate their product’s unique selling points to potential customers, translating into higher conversion rates and increased revenue. From fashion apparel to artisanal crafts, your images will breathe life into products, enticing consumers to click that “Add to Cart” button.

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Pet Photography

The bond between humans and their furry companions is one of unparalleled warmth and joy. As a pet photographer, you capture the genuine personalities and candid moments of beloved pets, preserving their essence for eternity. Whether it’s a playful pup, a regal feline, or even a charismatic parrot, your ability to connect with animals and capture their unique expressions will bring smiles to the faces of pet owners. Your photographs will tell the heartwarming stories of loyal companionship, serving as cherished keepsakes that celebrate the love and happiness that pets bring into our lives.

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Fitness Photography

The realm of fitness is one of dedication, discipline, and transformation. Your role as a fitness photographer is to encapsulate these attributes, capturing the essence of dedication and physical prowess. Through your lens, you immortalize the sweat, determination, and triumph of athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Your images inspire and motivate, portraying the human body as a canvas of strength and resilience. Whether it’s the graceful flow of a yoga pose or the explosive energy of a weightlifting session, your photographs celebrate the beauty of movement and the pursuit of physical excellence.

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Explore these diverse avenues and start monetizing your photography skills today!

In the ever-evolving landscape of photography, the possibilities for turning your passion into a thriving business are as diverse as the scenes you capture through your lens. Each avenue mentioned here is a gateway to a realm of creativity, connection, and financial success. As you embark on this exciting journey, remember that your unique perspective, dedication, and continuous growth will set you apart. Whether you’re capturing the magic of real estate, immortalizing the bonds of family, or portraying the elegance of fashion, your photographs have the power to inspire, evoke emotions, and shape narratives. So, seize the opportunities, embrace the challenges, and let your passion for photography guide you toward a future where every click is not just a moment frozen in time, but a step forward in your rewarding and dynamic career.

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