Making money?

A reader who loves photography asked me the other day to give her some tips on making money with photography.

Making money with photography?? Oh noooo!

No, it is not that bad.

Yes, making money as a photographer is tough nowadays. You have to be really good, well-connected, hard-working, and lucky.All of the above.

You see, traditional ways have all but disappeared. Magazines no longer buy photos. War journalists no longer get sent. iStockphoto and Flickr have destroyed a lot: even national newspapers now often buy illustrations for a few bucks instead of paying a photographer. The proliferation of cameras has ensured that every Uncle Fred “can do it cheaper”. Commercial shoots used to net thousands; now hundreds, if you are lucky, and even then they are very rare since magazines and their adverts are themselves rare.

But it is not all gloom. You can sell, still.

  • People still have portraits made.
  • Local newspapers still buy photos (although not many). Magazines, too.
  • You can sell prints to your friends.
  • People still advertise.
  • Stock may only sell for a buck – but 1,000 sales at $1 is as good as one sale at $1,000.

Note that I did not mention weddings: you have to be really good to be a wedding photographer. Not for the casual user.

It takes a lot of time to get into newspapers and magazines. I advise you do two things:

  1. Get good at your craft. Take courses. Learn from pros. Tag along and assist, for free if you learn. Be confident in your chosen types of photography.
  2. Get your name out. Exhibit. Start contacting your local papers. Network. Persevere and persist! Enter contests. Collect references. Shoot relatives for free, initially. Network. Sell photo books. Contact local companies with proposals. Sell micro-stock: half your work will be rejected if you are good, but the feedback will be very useful. Network. Build a mail list and a phone book.

There are no easy solutions, but there are many part solutions. By doing a lot, you will see that you get traction sooner than you think. And it is all worth it in the end.

I shall write more on this in the next weeks.

Oh and that wooden carved figurine? He’s Indonesian. He takes on all the shame and bad vibes in the home, so you don’t have to.

0 thoughts on “Making money?

  1. This is indeed good honest info. Michael, would you be able to go over the various ways to put our name on photographs before they are shared – like your copyright above? (This may be yet another of my sigh-inducing questions: sorry!). As well, when I have sold framed prints I have been in torment about how to price them. Any hints? Merci!

  2. Michael, just wanted to say that I really enjoy your blog, it helps keep me thinking about photography in new ways.

    I am mostly an intermediate-advanced amateur when it comes to photography and most of my shots focus on my family and kids and anything else interesting I happen to see day to day. I haven’t focused on selling any of my work quite yet but have some interest in pursuing this on the side from time to time.
    I’ve thought of approaching my local news papers, but its been mostly a limit of my free time to get this to happen. I’ve thought about trying some work in iStock also, but that tends to get very technical and overly staged for my taste, but it still something I want to try out. The upside with all of this is you got me thinking about it again.
    I am also curious about how to price my work or for any prints that I may sell in the future. Any thoughts or blogging you have on that would be greatly appreciated in the future.

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