Funding a photography hobby or a gear obsession can become challenging for the amateur or hobbyist photographer. The question has been asked on numerous message boards, “How can I make money to fund my hobby?” The answer is not a simple one but it is very possible to make money as a hobbyist with the right direction. My background as a photographer is far from professional. I am 25 and work full time in Physical Therapy. I have a wife and kids who are my life and often the focus of my images. I have no desire to be a professional photographer and I also suffer from a small case of G.A.S (as I’m sure we all do). Being a parent, I do not have the money to be spending on the newest telephoto lens or fastest mirrorless camera on the market so I decided to start doing a few small paid photography jobs to help supplement my hobby and provide small additional income. After I felt my skills were up to the standard of paid work I began contacting friends and family through facebook for senior, family or engagement portraits and branched from there.
This is a guest blog post by photographer Corey Boland. Corey recently was selected as a runner up in our Phottix contest and also features in our Creating the Photograph. Here is his post on how to make money from your photography.
A strong network will mean the difference between you getting a job or not. A new camera, long lens, huge portfolio, years of experience will always be trumped by someone’s recommendation. Make friends with your clients and branch out through your available resources first.
Posting to Facebook from your personal page is a great first step. Asking friends and family to repost for you about your new gig that you are looking to book shoots is the best way to utilize your network. I do not recommend a photography specific page until a strong enough portfolio has been built (read strong, not large) even then, facebook snuffs out pages unless you pay to promote them which is terrible.
Business cards are ridiculously easy to create and cheap to reproduce. Download a PDF template for photoshop or spend a few bucks for a designer to make one. Make it simple with your name, contact info and a short link to some of your work. Don’t be cluttered or it’ll get ignored. Business cards should be on hand at any moment so you can pass them out to anyone that may possible need or know someone who needs portraits. Again, word of mouth is paramount.
Local camera clubs, Flickr groups and Facebook groups are also excellent ways to network with photographers.
“What should I charge?” is another question that is asked on message boards. My rule has always been value myself to what I am worth. Photography is a luxury not a necessity and if clients treat you differently for high pricing then they are not clients you want to work with. Photography is not your sole income therefore you can afford to say no. When I was first deciding on prices I asked what others had been paying for portraits and charged slightly less since I was fairly new.
Some of you may think “Why should I charge what other photographers are charging?” By charging the same or slightly less you put yourself on a professional level before even meeting your client. Your new prices have taken you from an amateur with a camera and thrown you face first into a professional environment. You now have motivation to deliver the highest quality images to a new standard that will drive your creativity and skill to a new level. You are now a professional. Again, do not devalue yourself, photography is a luxury not a necessity. Do not be the $50 portrait person or the $100 wedding person. You will attract $50 portrait people and $100 wedding people.
If you feel you need to build skills in a certain area of photography, Approach friends and family as models do not openly offer “free shoots” Again, this makes you the cheap photographer.
Types of Shoots
Senior pictures – Peak season is summer / fall but can be done year round. Senior pictures are great to get into due to the minimal gear required and only shooting one subject.
Family Portraits –Family portraits can be done year round but require a bit of social expertise because they typically involve kids. Be confident about your location and your frame of mind and be quick. Kids get distracted quickly. The holiday season is great to book family pictures because families will be prepping holiday cards.
Engagement photos – Same as senior portraits where they do not require a lot of gear but having the confidence to put the couple in a comfortable state of mind is key. Spend a lot of time with your subjects getting to know them for the greatest success.
Youth sports – Almost any city in America has youth sports and each team needs portraits. Contact your local city rec center or city hall and find the appropriate person to book the job early. This can be a high paying but high stress job and sometimes may require additional print services. A one light setup is highly recommended.
“Do not be the $50 portrait person or the $100 wedding person.”
Musicians / Bands – Scout facebook for bands or musicians in your area and offer services for promotional photos. Bands and musicians also could hire you for live performances.
Real estate – Can be very demanding on time but contact local real estate agents and ask if they need photographs for any listings. A wide angle lens is definitely a recommended piece of gear for this.
Animals – Humane societies may pay a small amount for pictures of animals for adoptions
Events – Local church events, charity events, clubs, school events and much more could hire a photographer to cover the event. This may require a zoom lens with fast aperture 24-70 / 70-200 and a TTL speedlight for run and gun photography
News events – Accident scenes, flooding, fires Etc Photographers can sell images of these events to local news outlets.
Photography is a skill and should be treated as such. There is no reason that if you feel you are a confident and skilled photographer you cannot be working and using that skill for financial gain. Do not take my advice as the paid bible because it is far from it and if you do not feel you can 100% deliver results with confidence do not ask for pay. Do not be the entitled photographer either that feels they deserve the world for their images. Be humble, skilled and genuinely passionate about your craft and success will follow.
Please note I am not talking about four figure paying jobs and you should always consult with an accountant or tax professional if ever in doubt about income. Also, with any job documentation is very important. Apps like easy release or physical paper model releases should be filled as well as invoices for both parties involved.