Could Your Photo Collection be a Hidden Gold Mine?

By Mike Panic / February 23, 2010

Photography is amazing, it is one of the only hobby's that can capture moments in time that will last a lifetime and allow you to recoup some, all or even profit.  Unlike say, snowboarding, where you need to not only pay for the gear you use but a drive to the mountain and buy a lift ticket every time you want to actually snowboard, photography only has the initial investment; beyond that, the world is yours to capture.

Every few years a story breaks on the news about someone finding a priceless painting or artifact in their basement or attic worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.  While we all dream for this to happen, what if you had a hidden gold mine in your photo collection stuffed away in a shoe box or hidden on your hard drive somewhere?  Photography is becoming an increasingly great way to earn a little income on the side, both passively and actively.

What You Should Know About Stock

One of the best ways to earn passive income is through selling stock photography.  Stock photographs can be used for anything from inner-office memo's and company email newsletters to product packaging and billboards.  Basically, anywhere you see a photograph that a graphic designer may have used has the potential of being from a stock photo catalog.  If the ad agency or company doesn't have the budget to hire a photographer to capture the shot they need, they can buy one from several places, often at a fraction of the cost.  Some of the best performing photographs on a stock photo site can do several thousands of dollars in revenue yearly, each!  Don't think you need to be a professional either, often times candid family photos sell very well, as do far off destinations from vacations.  There are rules, requirements and restrictions so make sure you familiarize yourself with all of them before submitting images.

Pro Nikon Photographer at Morro Rock 04 Dec 2007
Photo by Mike Baird

Famous moment in time.  Did you or someone in your family photograph a famous moment in time, perhaps during something significant happening in history where they were the only person there with a camera?  Museums, art galleries and news media outlets often look for these hidden treasures and can pay substantial money for them.

What About Celebrity Photography?

At the right place at the right time.  One of the most hated words among true photographers is paparazzi, but that doesn't mean you are one if you happen to photograph a celebrity or well known person in such a way that news outlets would find them interesting.  If you happened to go to high school with someone who is now famous and have photos of them from school, they could be worth some big money.

Straight Flash - Paparazzi
Photo by Syd Daost

Selling Your Prints

Art & craft fairs and the Internet can lead to sales too!  If you regularly have friends and family ask you for enlargements that they can hang on the wall of their living room, perhaps selling some of your work can lead to money.  Check your local art and craft fairs out, get some prints made and frame them, rent a table and have a go at it! A great tip for making sales at events like this is to offer the same image in different sizes.  If you have a 16×20 printed, matted and framed, chances are it will cost you $60-100 in framing alone, meaning you need to charge more then that to break even.  Offer the same image as a 4×6 print and tape it into a 5×7 matte available for $1-3 pre-cut, less if you buy a matte cutter and teach yourself.  Usually the single cut mattes come in a perfectly sized clear plastic sleeve, put the matted photograph back in there and sell them for $6-10, easily doubling or tripling your investment.  By doing this, you've enabled someone to take your work home with them for a minimal investment, yet you can still turn a profit.  Setting up a store front on the Internet is also now easier then ever before and will allow you to harness the power of hundreds of millions of shoppers.  If the idea of doing it on your own is too scary, look at sites like Etsy.com that will get you selling your photos in a matter of minutes.

Third Premium
Photo by Circulating

No matter how you look at it, there are probably at least a few photos that are in your collection that you could be cashing in on, right now!  Start sorting through them, plan your best coarse of action and earn that money!


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About the author

Mike Panic

is a professional photographer. See his site at Mike Panic Photography.

  • saknika says:

    Etsy is indeed a good place to get started, but ArtFire might be better for those who want to test the waters since there are no listing fees. Same kind of system as Etsy, but a good choice for those who might not have the money for an initial investment at first.

  • Robin L. says:

    What a great site. This article especially has inspired me to go through my photos, make some copies and try to market. Wouldn't it be great take photos all day AND get paid something?! Love your web site…


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