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3 tips on how to make money with freelance photography

3 tips on how to make money with freelance photography

I would say that one of the biggest changes digital photography brought is the increased number of photographers. I swear you can’t swing a dead cat these days without hitting a photographer. This leads to huge competition for all types of photography jobs, and that includes freelance photography. This guide will cover many ways you can make money as a freelance photographer, whether you consider yourself a professional or a hobbyist with a lot of passion and desire to turn your pastime into a paycheck.

Tip #1: Market yourself and your photos

First things first. With competition being so high, you need to stand out. You need to show people what you can do with a camera in your hand and give them a reason to want you.


1. Create an eye-catching portfolio

When looking to hire a photographer, people will look at dozens of portfolios. This is your resume, your promise to your client. Remember, it’s not about quantity, but quality. Only showcase your best work, even if it’s 10 photos. If you show 100 and 90 are simply fine, that’s the impression you will leave, fine. Leave your client wanting to see more.

2. Make your own brand

You can work under your name or create a name for your freelance photography business that will be more memorable. You can have a logo to go along with it, this will make you look more professional and help you stand out.

3. Set up your own website

Or at least social media page. Build a website to showcase your work and “advertise” yourself on social media. It’s good to publish a photo a day. The followers you will collect may turn to you next time they need a photographer. You can also add a frequent blog post to your website, this way you can boost the activity on it and always appear busy (as professionals always are).

4. Exhibit your work

Once again, this depends on where you live, but it’s usually possible to find a way to exhibit your photos, either at some art center or perhaps a bar.

5. Find your niche

When your skills cater to a specific market, it’s easier to become an expert in that field, and thus more sought after. This may be tricky in the beginning, especially if you are unsure as to which type of photography you enjoy most and can find most work in.

In this case, it’s good to have separate portfolios for different types of freelance photography gigs you apply to as a freelancer and categories for each type of work you do on your website.

Always photograph what you love though, no matter what pays the bills. This is an art and you should be doing it for yourself as well. Your best photos will be the photos you love taking. Your most precious tool is your eye.

Tip #2: Sell your skills

After you set up your image as a freelance photographer, the next step is working the market of freelance photography. There are many jobs, even some in the field of remote work. Depending on your location, some of these will be better options than others. Here are some of the most common jobs that require your skills as a photographer.


1. Studio photography

Working in a studio is a very different skill than working outdoors or in different, new locations. You require more lighting equipment, backdrops, maybe even props and often your own printing equipment.

A studio can be used very commonly for photos required for documents (passports, IDs, etc.), portraits, clothing and product photography, headshots for actors and models, covers for music albums or books and anything else you can think of.

Having your own studio is great when you live somewhere with a big market for what you have to offer, but check out the competition first to figure out what will make yours unique.

As a freelancer though, you don’t need to have a studio to do studio photography. It may be worth it for you to rent a studio when you need it, or even set up a studio at home (especially if you mostly do product freelance photography).

2. Photojournalism

V-J Day in Times Square, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Life Magazine, 1945

Working as a photojournalist means newspapers, magazines, blogs and more, will hire you to take photographs to accompany their articles. It could be city sights, events, sports, natural disasters, accidents, speeches, concerts.

Sometimes you have a schedule, sometimes you get an urgent call and have to get to the site as soon as possible to snap a picture. All photojournalists make sure to always have at least some type of camera on them, and many listen to police, fire department and ambulance frequencies in order to be the first on the scene. In this case, you can take photos and then proceed to sell them to an interested publication.

3. Weddings

Wedding photography is a huge industry, and more and more weddings demand detailed coverage by more than one photographer and more than one videographer, so it’s good to have fellow freelancers you can hire along your side when needed. But how to break into such a competitive industry?

Without experience in wedding photography, you won’t get hired. No one wants to take a chance on their special day. However, you may get to start at the wedding of a friend or relative or gain experience as an assistant to an established wedding photographer.

Make sure you are familiar with the program of the wedding and the (sometimes unique) traditions that you will be expected to capture. Once you break into this business, work will keep coming your way as long as weddings keep happening.

4. Events

This means working at parties, clubs, graduations, dances, etc. You need to make sure you have the proper equipment for the occasion (like a flash if you’re in a dark club) and make sure you cover the important moments, the people important to the event, and (usually) most people there.

Get pictures that capture the energy of the event and try to avoid unflattering pictures of guests, most people will judge the pictures of themselves depending on how good they look.

In some occasions, you can attend an event (like a graduation) without being hired to do so. Then you can proceed to take photographs and pass out business cards with your website on them, for people to find and purchase the pictures they like. Don’t forget to upload them with a watermark and to do that as soon as possible after the event.

5. Real estate

Like most other things these days, people go online to check out their options when buying or renting property. So it’s important for all those online listings to be accompanied by photographs that show off the space in the best possible way.

Make a room look bigger, brighter, and as pleasant as possible. You are trying to get people interested in visiting it up close. Real estate agencies and individuals are both in need of these services from a freelance photographer as yourself.

6. Photo editing

This is one of the most common types of remote work for freelance photographers. Others take the pictures and hire you to use photo editing software, usually Adobe Photoshop, in order to finalize the images. This includes corrections, manipulation of tones and colours, removing things, adding things, shaping things, smoothing skin tones, removing backgrounds, etc.


Tip #3: Sell your photographs

If you aren’t finding work as a freelance photographer – or even if you are – you can also make money by selling your photographs. There are two basic ways to do this that you need to be aware of.


1. Stock photos

There are so many websites that offer and want stock photos. You can upload as many photographs as you like to as many of those you choose. You get paid for each photo someone uses. In some cases, you can set your price, or benefit from granting exclusivity to the buyer.

The best part of this, once you submit all the photos (of various themes, that you don’t intend to use, but are of good quality) that you no doubt have stored away on some corner of your computer, your work is done.

You can continue to add pictures and you can bother to take some that match popular searches, but you can also simply focus on other projects and enjoy this method of passive income.

2. Photo prints

You can sell prints (and digital copies) of your photographs online. Either from your own website or other websites, like Visual Society and PhotoShelter, even Etsy. You get to set your own price, but the market is smaller for prints than it is for digital photographs.

If your location allows it, selling prints in person may be an option for you as well. If you get to exhibit your work, some might be sold that way. You can sell prints at an art fair. If you live in a touristy area, try selling your own souvenir prints.

You can find and sell to local businesses that are soon to open and in need of art for their walls, otherwise, ask busy cafes and bars to hang your prints and make them available for sale. Figure out what type of market for photographs there is around you!

What’s my best option?

That’s a question you have to answer on your own, after all this is your freelance photography business. You need to take the photographs you love for your own sake and you need to take the photographs that will put food on the table. Hopefully, you can figure out a way for those to be the same thing, at least in the long run.


About The Author

Charlene Ioanidis

Charlene is a Greek-American currently living in Europe, travelling, writing, making films, and teaching English online. She enjoys the freedom freelancing is affording her, in both time and the work she chooses to do.

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