crop man counting dollar banknotes

How to Make Money with Photography: A Guide for Aspiring Photographers

Welcome back to another segment on how to improve yourself as a photographer. This one is more so for those that are not making their majority of income from photography. You’ve been capturing some great moments and now you’re thinking about turning your photography passion into a profitable venture? That’s the dream we all have, so let’s chat about how to make money with photography.

1. FIRST Find Your Niche

First things first, you need to decide what kind of photography you want to specialize in. Are you into wedding photography, portrait photography, or maybe landscape photography? Finding your niche will help you target your marketing efforts and attract the right clients. You also want to be known for something specific. There is a danger to thinking you can be known for multiple genres of photography, in the hopes that it will mean more clients or opportunities. The exact opposite is true. Being remembered in today’s competitive environment is hard enough, so instead of trying to be remembered or seen as a “jack of all trades”, you want to have a specialty: weddings, portraits, maternity, family portraits, etc.

Check out this one part of my YouTube segment on working our your niche below:

2. License Your Photos

One of the most common ways photographers make money is by licensing their photos. This means that you give others permission to use your photos for a fee. One way you can do this through stock photo websites like Shutterstock or Getty Images as an option. This is called “Stock Photography”. It won’t make you millions overnight, but with consistent effort and updating, you can make a small income stream from this.

Another way to license your photos is privately or commercially. If you have images that have commercial value to *someone*, they will be willing to pay to have them licensed for their use. Again, knowing your nice comes into play here. A company that makes industrial steel piping is going to want images of steel piping. A pharmaceutical company will need something completely different.

Be sure to read up on how to structure a legal contract with image licensing to ensure you don’t get shafted in the process.

crop businessman giving contract to woman to sign
How to Make Money with Photography: A Guide for Aspiring Photographers 5

3. Sell Prints

Selling prints of your photos can be a great source of income. You can sell prints directly from your website or through online marketplaces like Etsy. Remember, quality over quantity. It’s better to have a few amazing shots than a bunch of mediocre ones.

If you’ve decided you want to work in the family portrait, maternity or more ‘personal’ level genres, selling prints is going to be a huge part of your income revenue. Again, it’s specific to your industry segment.

4. Open a Photo Studio

The holy grail of any photographer is your own studio space. If you’re serious about making money with photography, you might want to consider opening a photo studio. This can be a significant investment, but it can also provide a steady income stream. Plus, having a professional space can help attract higher-paying clients.

Please be aware this comes with a lot more responsibility in business and has a host of extra factors to consider when it comes to overheads. Don’t rush into this as your first option. I outlined some key points to consider when it comes to opening a physical photographic studio in this YouTube video below:

5. Teaching Photography

If you’ve got a decent amount of industry experience under your belt, why not share your knowledge and passion for photography? You can turn that into a source of income. You can offer photography workshops or one-on-one lessons. You can do this in person or online.

After I had enough years of experience, I started teaching photography workshops for other photographers in my area. Because of my close connection with Nikon South Africa and several of the larger camera stores in my city, I’ve given many workshops on a variety of different topics relating to photography.

man beside flat screen television with photos background
How to Make Money with Photography: A Guide for Aspiring Photographers 6

6. Sell Photos to Magazines

If you have a knack for capturing unique and compelling images, you might want to consider selling your photos to magazines. This can be a bit more challenging to break into, but it can be a source of income. The editorial segment is quite competitive and suffers from the reality that print is slowly dying out with digital being the king of content.

However there are publications that will hopefully be around for a long time still and these titles do need content. Again, you need to consider what niche you’re in and matching that with a similar niche publication. Send some work samples to the magazine editor, showing them what you do and what you can offer them if they require your services. Do not be disheartened if you get no response or a negative feedback. This is actually crucial in your learning experience.

I started my professional photography career in editorial many years ago, when print was alive and king of content. It took me almost 2 years to finally get my break into a magazine, but when I finally did, it was the beginning of a fantastic 10-year long career path. If I had given up after the first negative feedback or rejection, I’d never be where I am today.

7. Enter Photo Contests

Photo contests can be a fun way to earn some extra cash and gain exposure. There are many contests out there with cash prizes, and even if you don’t win, it’s a great way to get your work seen. This helps with your public image too. Having your work seen by a wide range of people is only beneficial for being found at a later stage by a potential client.

I’ve personally never won money from a photographic competition, but I have placed in some globally recognized competitions like the Hasselblad Masters competition. This gave me massive publicity and definitely helped in getting contacted by big brands and companies about doing direct work for them.

8. Work as a Photo Retoucher

If you’re skilled in photo editing, you could offer your services as a retoucher. Many photographers don’t have the time or the skills to edit their photos, so this can be a valuable service to offer. I want to emphasize that you need to be VERY proficient in this regard to be offering it as a service to others.

You do not want to try take on a retouching job for someone/company and then be sorely disappointed when your client is unhappy with the quality or level of proficiency you’ve provided.

This option is only viable if you have the time to take on post production for someone else AND have the proficiency level for it. Fortunately, this is something that can be learnt and there is no short supply of amazing tutorials online to help you get better at this.

crop ethnic freelancer retouching photo on laptop at home
How to Make Money with Photography: A Guide for Aspiring Photographers 7

9. Organize Exhibits

Organizing exhibits can be a great way to showcase your work and make money. You can sell prints at the exhibit, and it’s also a great way to network and meet potential clients. You could even host exhibitions and get fellow creatives in your industry/city to participate. It does not always have to be purely your own work.

If you’ve got a knack for production and organization, this is a great option as it’s mostly going to be administration and logistics: venue, printing, framing, etc

art exhibit
How to Make Money with Photography: A Guide for Aspiring Photographers 8


What kind of photography makes money?

All kinds of photography can make money, but some of the most profitable niches include wedding photography, portrait photography, and commercial photography.

How much money can you make on a photograph?

The amount of money you can make on a photograph depends on many factors, including the quality of the photo, the demand for the type of photo, and the platform you’re selling it on. The more commercially usable the image is, the higher the price can be.

How do photographers usually get paid?

Photographers usually get paid per project or per photo. Some photographers also offer packages that include a set number of photos for a fixed price. The only way you’ll be able to make a salary from photography is if you work in-house for a company or brand. You are a regular employee and your work is just photography. You will not have the flexibility and freedom to build your business this way, but it does give you the ‘security’ of a salary.

Can you make 100k a year with photography?

Yes, it’s possible to make 100k a year with photography. However, this typically requires a lot of hard work, skill, and business savvy.

Making money with photography is all about finding your niche, marketing your services, and delivering high-quality photos. With a bit of creativity and a lot of passion, you can turn your love for photography into a profitable business. So, what do you think? Are any of these options working for you already?

1 Comment

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

How to Get Going with Photography from Scratch in 5 Easy Steps – SPP | Seagram Pearce Photography | Cape Townreply
March 11, 2024 at 1:16 pm

[…] fifth and final step to learning photography is to pick up a paying gig. You need to challenge yourself by taking on a professional assignment, such as a fashion shoot, […]

Leave a reply