A lot of people learn photography to become hobbyists but a lot of other people also want to know how they can make money from this amazing hobby.
In this article, I will show you a couple of ways to earn from Photography, besides providing photography services (photo shoots), because that is the most obvious answer.
So let’s look at some of the “not-so-obvious” answers to this question:
1. Teaching Photography
I started teaching photography in 2013 and even after 10 years of being in this business, I am still shocked to see how many photographers don’t even consider becoming teachers.
In fact I have found it easier to make money from teaching photography than actually providing photography services.
Especially in today’s era of online education, the whole world can be your customer base if you develop quality photography courses. For instance, I currently have over a large catalog of online courses, and as of November 2023, my courses have been downloaded by over 55,000 students in over 170 countries.
Even if you don’t want to create online courses, you can always teach photography locally via in-person workshops and even one-on-one sessions. I actually did that for the first 5 years. You can see some of the photos from my workshops that I did in the city of Pune, India:
I loved teaching so much that I almost completely stopped providing photography services altogether. That’s because teaching is more lucrative and is easily scalable as compared to providing services. I still do shoots in my studio but my main source of revenue is teaching photography via my online courses.
If you are interested in this approach and want to learn the art of teaching via online courses, then you can check out my course called Create and Launch Your First Online Course in 5 Weeks.
2. Selling Stock Images/AI Art work
Selling stock images via stock websites is one of the most popular ways to earn money from photography, but the issue is that the commissions you get can be very less.
So the only way to offset this is to have a large volume of images on these stock websites. And that is not an easy task since it’s not just about uploading your photos. It’s also about whether those photos get approved or not.
One of the newer methods is to create AI generated images and upload them on stock websites that allow AI images. One such website is Adobe Stock. I’m currently doing this myself but am yet to see any earnings. I will update this in case it starts to work for me. I am creating the AI images using Midjourney software. I even have a course on how to use Midjourney to create AI images.
I also upload my normal photos on Shutterstock.com (they don’t accept AI images) and I do earn from there, but the income is very less so I have stopped uploading there. However, if you are sure you can develop a large portfolio there, it is definitely one option.
3. Creating a Photography Content Website
Photography content websites, especially the ones that deal with gear reviews or how-to tutorials can be a good way to monetize your photography knowledge.
One great example of this is KenRockwell.com. It’s a review website and is one of the most popular photography websites.
The idea is to write quality content which ranks well on Google and starts to bring loads of traffic.
Then this traffic can be monetized in a lot of ways. For instance, Ken Rockwell monetizes his website by using affiliate marketing, which means that he uses affiliate links for the products he is reviewing. If anyone uses those links to purchase the product, Ken gets a commission. Since photography gear is usually priced high, the commissions can be good.
If your website gathers a large following, you can even ask for donations as a way to monetize your work.
If you are planning on going this route, then I would highly suggest you learn a bit of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which is the skill of ranking your website on the top results in Google, so you can get more traffic.
You can check out my course called Learn SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in 2 Hours.
4. Creating a Useful Photography Tool/Software/App
If you are someone is who is skilled at writing code (or willing to outsource it), then creating a software that helps photographers can be an option.
There are plenty of little tools or apps that helps photographers achieve certain results. These can go viral very fast because photography is still an untapped market when it comes to finding ingenious solutions to small problems.
Here are some examples:
If you want to hire people who write the code for such software, then I suggest using Fiverr.com, which is a great website for finding freelancers.
5. Starting a Photography E-commerce Store
The world of photography presents a great business opportunity to start an e-commerce store.
The reason behind this is that there are a lot of niches related to Photography where even the big e-commerce stores like Amazon don’t particularly excel at.
For instance, let’s say you are a Product Photographer. You can start an e-commerce business related only to product photography gear. Since you would know the pain points that product photographers face, you will be able to find products that solve those pain points and sell them on your store. Such niche products may not be easy to find on bigger e-commerce stores.
The key here is to operate in a small niche. Don’t try to start a general photography store that sells everything because then you’ll be in direct competition with the bigger players.
6. Start a Photography Gear Rental Business
If you are willing to invest some money upfront, then starting a photography gear rental business is a great option.
You can develop a large catalog of camera bodies, lenses, lights, modifiers, etc and that can be used again and again to generate money via rentals.
The key here is to only buy things which are in demand so you don’t waste any money because each item that you buy has to pay for itself via the rentals. So you have to think of it like an investment.
My advice would be to search for a popular rental shop/business near you and see how they operate. Study their website and business model thoroughly and try to replicate it.
7. Starting a Photography Based YouTube Channel
This is an alternative to teaching photography via online courses and is similar to creating a photography content based website.
The only difference is that the medium of giving out information is via YouTube. YouTube is a platform that has really stood the test of time and can be one of the fastest ways to grow, simply because most people would rather watch videos than read content.
The key once again is to find your specific niche and stick to that. Don’t be a general photography YouTuber who tries to cover everything.
Once you develop a large following, you can monetize your channel in a lot of ways like advertising, sponsorship, affiliate marketing, paid shout outs, etc.
8. Selling Your Photos on Print-On-Demand Websites
Print-on-demand websites let you sell your photos and designs by printing them on merchandise like tees, hoodies, mugs, shoes etc.
You just submit your photos. The print-on-demand business will then show a preview of how your photos would look on different merchandise. If a customer places an order, then the business would print it and even ship the product. You get to set the price and the earnings are shared between you and the business.
One of the most popular print-on-demand websites is Redbubble.com, which is a Australian business that became immensely popular in a very short amount of time.
If you are planning on doing this, I would highly suggest you watch some YouTube videos first and get a hang of the entire approach since it is not as straight forward as it sounds.
9. Write Photography E-books (Amazon Kindle)
Writing Kindle E-books is one of the oldest and most popular ways to monetize knowledge and skill. This is because Amazon has a huge market for its kindle e-books.
You can see that I have priced them very low. My idea is to gather as many reviews as I can and then increase the price, since the performance of anything on Amazon relies greatly on the number and quality of reviews.
10. Become a Online Photography Services Freelancer
I was hesitant to include this point because it’s similar to providing photography services but I have included it because I am specifically talking about providing remote or online services.
That means you can become a freelancer who provides a service related to photography. And since it’s online, it’s usually going to be related to editing.
Photo editing is one niche which is very popular and lucrative because normal people don’t want to invest in expensive editing software or learn how to edit photos themselves. So most people are more than happy to send over the photos and have them edited by a professional.
The key here is to start with lower priced services on sites like Fiverr, and then raise the prices once you have got a good amount of reviews. Another important aspect is to develop an efficient workflow so you can edit the photos quickly.
So there you have it. I hope that at least one of the aforementioned method works for you.
But more importantly, I hope that it has broadened your outlook as to how thinking slightly outside the box can generate a lot of ideas when it comes to making money from photography.
I wish you all the luck!
About the Author
Hi there, I'm Kush Sharma, the founder of Creative Pad Media, an organization dedicated to simplifying photography and videography education.
We have over 40 online courses that cover various genres in photography & videography, catering to both beginners as well as professionals. These courses are available via Udemy.com. Our courses have been downloaded in over 170 countries.
I hope to see you inside a course very soon!