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A quick Google will reveal many many pages of sites telling you how to make money from your images. Some of them are accurate, some exaggerate the amounts you can make greatly. Making money from images is possible but it’s not easy.
Today, we are going to look at some of the ways you can generate income from your photography. We are focussing on those that want to earn a little extra on the side and not go into photography as a full-time profession.
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1. Stock Photography
Perhaps one of the most common and well-known ways to generate money from photography. However, it's not a simple task of uploading 200 images of your cat and one sunset and waiting for the money to roll in. Stock is a game of patience and hard work.
The vast majority of your images will sell for pennies. If you have some particularly unique images then you might get some three figure commissions but they are really quite rare. The vast majority of stock agencies are what are called microstock, that is to say, pile them high sell them cheap.
Some agencies are better than others, my best returns come from Shutterstock, my worst from iStock/Getty. We have several articles here Light Stalking on getting your stock accepted.
2. Sell Your Own Prints
It’s never been easier to sell your own prints. Let me rephrase that, its never been easier to set up a website to sell your own prints. There are multiple choices of gallery building websites that allow you to upload and sell prints, Zenfolio, Pixpa, and SmugMug to name a few.
However, whilst setting up the site may be easy, the actual selling is not. You are going to need to find your market and market yourself to them. The best options for selling your prints online are when you have a niche subject or when you shoot local interests.
You are going to need to put a lot of work into not only marketing but also website SEO (search engine optimization) in order to get your work seen. You also have to take into account the cost of a subscription to a gallery site, this can run to several hundreds of dollars per year.
3. Local/Family Events
Weddings, christenings, local events, all can be a source of potential income for your photographic skills. However, you need to be confident in your abilities, have the right equipment and back up equipment and in many cases some form of liability insurance.
With that said, there are many people out there that make a part-time living at weekends from shooting events. Often the best option here is to become a second shooter for a local professional. Sometimes, local pros will require help shooting the bigger gigs and if you have the experience, you may well find they will embrace your talents.
4. Editing And Retouching
If you are a bit of a dab hand with Photoshop then there is a whole world of potential for making money as a part-time freelancer. There are a number of sites on the Internet that help connect freelance workers with potential clients. These include Fiverr and Upwork.
Despite its name, Fiverr is not all about selling your abilities for $5 a go. These days there are many different levels or pricing and you can set your price according to your ability and portfolio.
You will be competing in a very large market place so like with other suggestions, you will need to market yourself and have a good portfolio to demonstrate your capabilities. Again finding niche areas will help maximize your incomes.
5. Citizen Journalism
Another area that has become a potential revenue source in recent years is citizen journalism. A number of stock agencies such as Alamy have realized the potential of this and have created dedicated portals to upload newsworthy images. These are processed and put online much quicker than regular stock to maximize their potential revenue.
To make money at this you are going to need to work fast, monitor and cover breaking news in your local area and get those images online quickly. That said, if you live in a large city and have time there will always be newsworthy events going on nearby.
You can shoot with a smartphone and upload your work more or less instantaneously. A number of news oriented stock agencies even have smartphone apps to make the process quick and painless.
This used to be an easier route to generate some revenue but last year Youtube dramatically increased the bar at which you could monetize your channel. However, if you have a talent for demonstrating or talking about all things photographic, there is the possibility of making money.
Tutorials, vlogs, and reviews are probably the best options to build an audience. You will need to get to 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours per year of viewing time before you can monetize your channel.
That’s quite a challenge but if you upload good videos regularly, once a week and always ask your audience to like share and subscribe, it is possible. Once your videos start reaching a certain viewing level they will become “recommended” helping elevate your channel further.
If you become big enough you may even attract sponsorship or affiliation.
If you enjoy jotting your thoughts about photography down, then a blog may be a way to generate some extra income. Like other options, it is going to take time and dedication as well as engaging content. Once you have built an audience for your blog, you can add advertising via Google Adsense or by using affiliate programs such as Amazon. To maximize any revenues, you will need to make sure the products you promote are in keeping with the content you write.
There is no easy path to riches in photography. Believe me, if there were, I would be writing this from a beach on the French Riviera. This is a recap of some of the ways you can generate an extra income.
- Stock Photography – Easiest to do, but needs dedication and a niche to make real money.
- Selling Prints – High initial costs and a strong need to market yourself to make money.
- Local Events – Good option for a competent photographer with local connections.
- Editing and Retouching – A good option for those with a strong portfolio of Photoshop skills
- Citizen Journalism – Hard work, but rewarding for those with a nose for a story
- Will require a lot of work to monetize your channel but rewards can be high for engaging content.
- Blogging – One of the easier options but again will require you to build and maintain your audience.
Making a sideline through your photography is certainly a possibility. However, whichever way you do it, you are going to need dedication and suitable skills. If you have them, then there is certainly ample opportunity to make some extra money.
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