Making Money ( from Photography)

sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
edited June 2013 in General Discussions

Following on from the Wedding thread

How do you make Money from photography

need not be weddings,  anything you are prepared to share with us

Post edited by sevencrossing on
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Comments

  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member

    Q How do make make money from Photography ?

    A You don't, but you can have a lot of fun trying

    incidentally, IMHO, one of the best book on the subject, is AA's Autobiography

  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    How to make a small fortune in the photography business? Start with a large fortune.
  • studio460studio460 Posts: 205Member
    Basically, any person or business who needs to sell their products or services visually is a potential client. I offered to shoot for a PR agency, giving them the first gig on spec, and they credentialed me to shoot for a Teen Vogue event. This led to some interior work for a Beverly Hills salon, as well as some portraiture work which was later published in a trade magazine.

    I've also cold-called publicists for certain events I was interested in. I like shooting events, but also want to shoot actor/model headshots because I think they're fun, and really help to hone your shooting skills. I also like shooting interiors and tabletop, so I plan to pursue those types of clients as well. Although it may seem that local businesses never have the budget, they'll pay if your work is good. Ultimately, I'd like to shoot fashion, commercial, and editorial.
  • SkintBritSkintBrit Posts: 79Member
    edited January 2013
    How to make a small fortune in the photography business? Start with a large fortune.


    Hahaha, I like it! Seriously though, I will try anything the client wants. Sometimes that means pretending you've experience in a certain field that you've never been in before. When I look back at some of the jobs I've blagged, it makes me cringe at the thought of how easily it could have gone pear shaped. Fortunately I'm still here to tell the tale, and now actually DO have the required experience. Well you have to start somewhere, and I'm a great believer that you make life's opportunities.
    Post edited by SkintBrit on
    D3s's D700 F100 / Trinity 2.8 Zooms & 1.4 Primes / 105 micro. SB900s with Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 / Mini TT1s. Camranger remote control system.
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    I don't us photography to make money on it directly, in my operation, I use photography as an added bonus of service I offer my clients, which in turn I'm rewarded for by additional referrals and growing customer base. 
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 3,836Member
    @SkinBrit I can identify with your experience, doing things without a lot of prior knowledge. I shot a tennis tournament last fall, as the primary shooter. I'd never shot a game of tennis before in my life.
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • macsavageg4macsavageg4 Posts: 75Member
    I am hoping that the portrait and product photos that I am starting to do for the company I work for will get my name out there. I'd be nice if some of this extremely fun and pricey hobby paid for a little bit of itself.  If not meh I still love composing the shots and using the characteristics of whatever lens I am shooting with to make the shot.
  • scoobysmakscoobysmak Posts: 214Member
    I consider myself as an extreme hobbyist, I doubt I will ever get paid for anything I do. I shoot cars shows for online coverage because I enjoy it but also maybe one day I might get published by a magazine but not likely, most magazines are getting phased out by the internet so it seems (at one point I got paid, not much, but then the company that I was working for did not honor the contract. So I quit and now shoot for the competition for free, I knew the deal when I started but besides a timeline, I am not under a lot of pressure either). I also enjoy landscapes, wildlife and city scenes but a lot of great shots can be pulled from the internet if you look so the money is not really there unless you already have a following. I think I would like to do NASCAR but think you got to know someone to get that far so I don’t even bother, I probably just want to see the race more anyway. I am not much for portraits or weddings which seem to be the big money makers for the average person starting out in photography. I shot kids/college sports once or twice by request and enjoyed it but unless they hand me a press pass when I get offered the gig. I am not tracking 14 people down to get it (bad experience). It’s probably more of a bucket list item to see my name posted next to some picture in a magazine or news article than anything else (honestly some of the pictures published are not because they were good, but happened to be at the right place at the right time). I probably appreciate the stuff I do more because I do it for me, not some other purpose and the stress that might come with it.

    On a side note, if I could make decent money and not screw the other guy that depends on this for a living, I might be more inclined to put more effort into getting paid.
  • blandbland Posts: 811Member
    I don't like to charge, it takes the fun out of it.

    However, here's one way to make good money at it. The other day I had a radio station ask me to take staff shots of their radio hosts. It was easy to do and a lot of fun. Next thing I knew I had fallen into a demand for it. Easy money, $200 for an hours effort.

    What I have found in shooting events for free, about half of them give me perks voluntarily. Which is a lot more then I could have ever made charging for. Plus, I don't have them ordering me around on what they want shot.
  • SymphoticSymphotic Posts: 536Member
    I use photographs to illustrate the users manuals for scientific instruments and video camera systems that we produce and sell. I sell the manuals alone or as part of the systems to end user. I also produce manuals and product photos for our vendors who recognize I am better equipped to do this than their in house staff.
    Last year was slow for us, so we supplemented or revenues with a lot of product photography. This year is more training manuals for specialized systems we are building. On occasion I purchase, modify and resell photographic and video equipment for special use. (Nuclear reactors, ordnance disposal, underwater search and recovery, coral reef research, to name a few.)
    I really enjoy my job.
    Jack Roberts
    "Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought"--Albert Szent-Gyorgy
  • framerframer Posts: 489Member
    I don't us photography to make money on it directly, in my operation, I use photography as an added bonus of service I offer my clients, which in turn I'm rewarded for by additional referrals and growing customer base. 
    Because I own a picture frame shop, photography services are a natural add on. Restorations, document and an occasional image is what I mainly do. What's neat is if I sell a $50 photo the frame is almost always over $250.00. I have an Epson 4900 printer at the store that I use for not only my stuff but I do custom client printing as well. It's really amazing how these two business models can work together. I don't do wedding or portraits.

    framer

  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,365Moderator
    Great thread, but a bit of humor...when I was getting paid for my photography, my starting salary was $490 per month...yes, $490 per month. And the highest I was paid was about $900 per month... :((
    Msmoto, mod
  • framerframer Posts: 489Member
    and gas was 29cents per gallon, a candy bar was 5 cents, you could buy a new car for $2200.00 and rent a small apt on the beach in Florida for $90 per month. I remember those days. Multiply the 490 x 10 for today value.

    Don't get me started...
    framer
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    , my starting salary was $490 per month...yes, $490 per month. ... :((
    Will I think that might have been four times my starting salary


  • GodlessGodless Posts: 113Member
    edited February 2013
    It´s the law of diminishing returns.. making a living out of photography requires either more talent than the competition, or the hardware no one else can afford or access to places few others can afford to get to to get the images that stand out from the competition and your shots get sold/published in any significant volume. Winning a national, or better yet international competition or being already famous and respected will always help. The Bold and the Beautiful usually survive. And the rest have to work harder.

    The world gets darker and living gets harder. Less competition would make so many things easier.
    Post edited by Godless on
  • SymphoticSymphotic Posts: 536Member
    edited February 2013
    It´s the law of diminishing returns.. making a living out of photography requires either more talent than the competition, or .... And the rest have to work harder.

    The world gets darker and living gets harder....
    That's a good strategy: work harder. Bring photography as a secondary skill to a primary skill set that gets one access where others don't go. (I reduce competition to a manageable level by photographing those things I understand well enough to communicate what my clients want to say with their photographs. I don't get to call myself a professional photographer, but I use photography as part of my profession, and my photographs make as much money per hour of work than almost any other part of my job.)

    If my son said he wanted to be a photographer, I would advise him to develop a technical, foreign language, athletic, or other set of skills that would set him apart from the crowd and get him access that the crowd doesn't have. Otherwise it's down to talent or money, and there are always people with more talent and more money than us lesser mortals.
    Post edited by Symphotic on
    Jack Roberts
    "Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought"--Albert Szent-Gyorgy
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,365Moderator
    I have looked at several local "professional" photographers websites who advertise as being able to photograph children, families, etc. All I saw suggested by the content they had no clue what post processing was. There was strong evidence to suggest they tried so hard to be different they forgot to be good.

    Then I recently attended the wedding of my youngest son and the "professional" photographer was so ill equipped...and demonstrated a lack of understanding of what it requires to do a professional job, then after nearly two months finally had proofs of the shots available. It was sickening.

    Thus, if one wants to be a professional, one must learn what photography is all about. And, please understand, this is only my opinion, but I think the object is to capture the moment, then present it with the finest technical skills available, and in the process, maintain a strong sense of editing so as to eliminate any images which are not top shelf. I believe the photographer should edit down to a few photos and then present these to the client. After all, are we not supposed to be the experts on the entire process of communication with our subjects, determining what we see and what we want to have in the final product?

    My strong suspicions are a lot of folks attempting to be "professionals" do not have the proper training, and by this I mean in all areas of human relationships. Along with the lack of ability to read the subject, the technical skills in many of those who are so-called "pros" seems to be lacking.

    Concluding this diatribe, it may be the public can be sold junk, and the good photographers may not be recognized, nor able to earn top dollar. Ah well....
    Msmoto, mod
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    I seem to recall a quote from P.T. Barnum. "There's a sucker born every minute"
  • MikeGunterMikeGunter Posts: 543Member
    Hi all,

    I've been in and out of this for a very long time, which isn't to say I've made much money at it all the time, just some of the time.

    Something most folks forget is the fundamentals, and I can't stress how important the basics have been to me. Education and training have been key to anything worth doing.

    I was lucky enough to get a lot of training early from some very good mentors and from the jobs I held in the Army and and the press. (As an aside - I worked briefly for an underground newspaper and a children's studio before I was drafted.)

    A young friend of mine has a six-figure debt to a well known photography school that I don't know if she'll ever pay off. She's happy, so I shouldn't complain for her, but it seems tough.

    Where I'm going is this: To be really good at what you do, you have to understand what goes on before the shot, what happens in front of the lens, and after the work after the shot.

    The first part involves education, training (the two are different), marketing, and presentation.

    The second part is setup, pre-visualization, vision, creativity, craft, skill, and guile (and they are different, too).

    The third part is post production, which is more than just Photoshop or Lightroom, but also sales, marketing, website exploitation (I'm really clueless in these new media areas, but feel these are the new fields to explore similar to brick and mortar galleries).

    My sincere advice is not to go into business as a solo photographer, but to get a job as a photographer. I worked for the US Army, then for the wire service while l was in college through graduate school. I also worked for a while in advertising and public relations before returning to the Army. And then, I've managed to teach at the college/university level at every post/base of my assignment and retired to a teaching position.

    Depending upon your job, you may have more stability, possibly get more training, and if you can more mentoring, and direction, then set your own course later.

    Old dogs may disagree, but it just seems wiser.

    My best,

    Mike

  • SymphoticSymphotic Posts: 536Member
    ...A young friend of mine has a six-figure debt to a well known photography school that I don't know if she'll ever pay off. She's happy, so I shouldn't complain for her, but it seems tough.
    ...
    Education is the key to making money from photography. It's a lot more profitable to get a job done quickly because you know what your doing than to take forever with trial and error.

    But this brings up a new question: How do people get paid? By the hour, by the project, by how many photographs you sell?

    The photographer at my daughter's wedding sold prints or downloads of varying quality, more money for higher image quality. We did better than Msmoto: our photographer was a graduate of SFAI and knew what he was up to. He got products to us in 3 weeks. (He shot with Canon, BTW). But like Mike's young friend, he has a heck of a college loan to pay off.

    What method would get a six figure photography school debt paid off and leave enough to live on?
    Jack Roberts
    "Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought"--Albert Szent-Gyorgy
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 3,836Member
    edited February 2013
    It depends on the delivery method, the client, and the type of project. Some projects I do are charged hourly, some on a set contract rate, some on a per photo basis.
    Post edited by PB_PM on
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,365Moderator
    @ MikeGunter

    I fully agree with your comment. In the late 1960's I worked for Alderman Studios in High Point, North Carolina, which was affectionately called "Alderman University." This was the premier furniture studio in the world with about 15 photographers, a five acre building, and the ability to do huge furniture sets. We also had several New York advertising clients and this was where I shot my most famous model, Alana Collins (Stewart) for Arrow Shirts.

    But, the immense knowledge which was shared around among the staff was an education. We had a total of about 325 employees at that time. And, when i was shooting, I had a crew of two or three. It was at Alderman I shot the first 35mm transparency ever used in House Beautiful magazine. F body, 24mm f/2.8.

    But your suggestion to work for someone good is the best advice one can get.
    Msmoto, mod
  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited February 2013


    But this brings up a new question: How do people get paid? By the hour, by the project, by how many photographs you sell?

    I try to charge by the project

    Some times, a half day shoot, can take a week of planning and a day of post production and administration
    The client receives hi res res jegs and is free ( with a few restrictions ) to use them as they please
    If they want very large prints, I prefer to handle these, but do not put a large mark up on them

    Regarding the six-figure debt

    work out over how long a period she intends to repay this
    work out how many projects might be completed in this time
    work out expenses
    work out depreciation and overheads
    work out a salary
    add in a PROFIT

    Divide the number of projects into the sum of the rest

    This will give her an idea of how much she should be charging per project





    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • adamzadamz Posts: 842Moderator
    As You know I'm not a pro - don't get paid for most of my snaps and I mostly shoot the events for friends or family anyway. Moreover, my favourite style of photography (travel&wildlife) requires unlimited cash flow (either for travels or equipment). To add to this, I live in a place where there's almost no market for fine prints and the only money making snaps are those taken during the weddings... where average per wedding profit is around $600-$800... and msmoto... the average salary is $500 right now in 21st century and cost of living is pretty much the same as in US and rest of Europe.
    So in my case there are only two options if I wanna earn my living from photography:
    - become wedding photographer...
    or
    - try to create niche for my style of photography and go global... and that's what I would do and would like to ask You guys to keep Your fingers crossed :)
  • LockonLockon Posts: 13Member
    @Msmoto : I know how you felt at your son's wedding! I was at my cousin's wedding a few years ago and had my usual DSLR and couple of mid-grade lenses with me. When the hired "pro" photographer saw me he approached me and said "just wanted you to know to stay out of my way - I'm the pro here"... eh?! What did I do to deserve that? Here's the punch line: when all the photos were in and I gave a DVD to my cousin... guess which photos he ended printing and up sending to friends and family... mine!

    I've never tried to make a dime off of photography... at least by my own effort. I have been paid for photo usage but that's just a bonus :)
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