By Patti Hale
At one time making money as a photographer was limited to the relatively few people with professional equipment.
Making money as a photographer was limited to being employed by print media or selling prints and books.
But all of that is changing–has changed.
According to this article in Photopreneur.com, there has “never been a better time to be a photographer. The price of equipment is falling even as the quality improves. The walls that kept out talented enthusiasts are collapsing, giving part-timers a chance to bring their talent to market. If print is feeling squeezed, it’s only because the Web has stolen its readers — and the Web has an insatiable demand for images.”
Allie Dennis, marketing manager at Boston University’s Center for Digital Imaging Arts said “Today, over half of the work goes onto the Web. The Web is starved for content, particularly rich media.” “Because the technology has become so great, everyone can purchase a digital camera, but not everyone has the experience to go along with it.”
The difference in making money as a photographer is and always has been the skill and talent of the photographer. A photograph taken using a high-end camera by someone who understands nothing about lighting or composition will still be just a snapshot.
On the other hand, a talented and skilled photographer can take a picture using an inexpensive point and shoot camera that may come nearer to having a commercial use . The applications and uses of this picture, however, will be limited due to the camera’s limited optics and sensor–regardless of how many megapixels it boasts. (The equivalent to a 110 camera versus a 35mm camera for those who remember film cameras.)
It could not, for example, be blown up to a poster, used in a photography book, used on a magazine cover, or in most cases, accepted by stock photo sites.
What kind of camera is needed for professional work? The best you can afford with plans to upgrade as your work progresses is always the safe answer to that question.
But to be more specific, here is a list of DSLR cameras stock photo site, Alamy says it recommends: Recommended Digital Cameras.
Stock Photo Sites
If you have the equipment and the photographic skills, selling photos to stock photography sites is a proven way to make money as a photographer online.
Stock photo sites are a “stock pile” of photographs licensed or rented for use primarily by advertising agencies, graphic designers and web developers to be used in magazines, websites and marketing. In return for the use of the image, the photographer is paid between $.25 to $7 for each download and the stock photo site gets a commission.
While the minuscule amount paid for each download may seem small, the volume of sales at the stock photo sites can make up for the price.
For example, ShutterStock.com, one of the most popular sites, averages 1,209,359 visitors per day. This volume adds up to popular photographers with a large stable of pictures making a six figure income or more.
This post on DpPhotojournal.com reports the income of just one stock photographer I randomly selected from a search on the web.
This is just one site that reports their income. There are many others.
For more information about selling stock photo plus a list of links to sites, go to Photo Sites.
Self-Marketing Your Photos
Having an online portfolio is considered a “must have” for most photographers and required for those marketing their images themselves.
Online portfolios can be used to sell prints, photographic products like postcards, notecards, calendars, and T-shirts or services–whatever, it’s your website!
It is, like any new website, a little hard to get traffic to without a lot of promotion and time, however.
Even without a lot of traffic, the online portfolio is still a valuable tool to use when marketing directly to potential employers, editors of magazines and websites, advertising agencies, art directors and even bloggers you’ve met online who want customized photos for their blog!
Instead of emailing a load of images to a potential customer, with an online portfolio, you simply send a link to all of your samples!
WordPress has several photographic gallery themes available if you go the self hosted website route for your online portfolio and here are links to free sites to promote your photos/website: Flickr, 500px, Google+, Facebook, Instagram.
For links to resources to help you with traffic, SEO, and Monetizing, see How to Blog.
Online e-commerce Sites
If you’d rather let someone else take care of the hosting and web design, there are sites that set you up with your own online portfolio and storefront. Some charge a monthly fee, others take a percentage of the profits, still others will take the order, print the photos or the photographic product for you and take care of the billing– for a cut of the profits.
Here is a list of just a few:
Backprint.com “There are no annual, monthly, set-up, or other subscription costs. We only make money when a customer places an order. The charges are 15% of retail price (which you set) and the wholesale cost of the item ordered. You can upload as many photos as you like and leave them online as long as you want at no charge.”
FotoMerchant Prices start at $9 per month and go up to $49 per month. With the $9 per month package you get unlimited website hosting & bandwidth, unlimited photo gallery, shopping cart storefront, and self fulfillment for a 20% processing fee (fee goes down with higher priced packages.)
Fotomoto You can turn your website into an eCommerce site with Fotomoto’s e-commerce widget. Fotomoto prints, packages, and ships your orders directly to your customers. Does not require a subscription fee for its services but deducts the print cost plus a 15% transaction fee.
Imagekind.com You get your own URL (http://johndoe.imagekind.com) and retain your photo’s copyright. You set the mark-up for your art, and keep 100% of the profit. Imagekind deals with the order processing, customer service packaging and worldwide shipping. You can also earn up to an additional 15% commission on frames, mats and glazing. Customizable storefronts and other services available for a premium.
Customizable storefronts, personalized domain names, image zoom ability, automated image sideshows, and upselling features. They allow you to add your own analytics code, define your own META descriptions, and create rich-text marketing emails. Instaproofs collects the order details, handles the payment process, and gives you a report of what needs to be printed and shipped to your clients.
Photo Stock Plus Membership fees start at $24.95 a month for a 300 Mb account (Up to 3,000 compressed event images).Choose your own URL and customize your photo gallery. Select from dozens of templates and apply your brand: logo, content, HTML/Flash.
Smugmug Choose a theme with a click. Or Customize in under 20 minutes with Easy Customizer. Feeling geeky? Take control with CSS and HTML. For the ultimate treatment, hire one of our trusted Certified Customizers for the site of your dreams. Upload unlimited photos with SmugMug Pro. You get a customizable website, complete pricing control and seamless integration with top print labs. Our cart displays your brand as your clients shop. Millions of buyers have proven how easy it is to buy. You price. We process. You profit. Get a piece of the $millions our pros earn every month.
YourShoot Customise your account to look exactly like your existing website and integrate it into your website. You can even add the login form directly onto your site. You can offer you own products and fulfill them at your own choice of lab. You don’t get tied into using one particular lab service. Accept credit/debit card payments directly into your FREE PayPal account. No commission charges on orders from YourShoot.
Zenfolio Plans starting at $30 per year for Basic Plus plan which includes a professionally designed and customizable photo hosting website that will make your photos look their best, including:
- Fully featured portfolio website & Blog
- 4 GB of storage + 2 GB/year
- 36 MB maximum file size
- Uploading plug-ins
- Mobile-ready layouts and mobile apps
- Professional themes and your own designs
- Photo galleries with large images
- Slideshows with music
- 50 FREE songs from Triple Scoop Music
- Integration with Social Media
- Access control with passwords
- Ordering prints and photo products
Fine Art and Poster Sites
Fine Art and Posters sites are another source for marketing your photography.
EasyArt.com EasyArt is the UK’s leading art print & framing site. The site offers over 100,000 images across Art Prints, Posters, Photography and Canvas Prints. Using innovative print-on-demand technology, these artworks can be reproduced in practically any size, on a range of art papers and canvas styles. Easyart pays you 20% of the retail selling price on Print-on-Demand prints – significantly higher than publisher trade terms. Easyart constantly works to promote all our artwork so you’ll find your name and your artwork in the search engines. Your work will also be available for sale on our European websites
FineArtAmerica.com is a social network and e-commerce marketplace for photographers, visual artists, art galleries, and fine art collectors. All members of Fine Art America can upload artwork, advertise upcoming events, post job openings, post blogs, issue press releases, and participate in online chats and discussions.
Many artists and photographers on FineArtAmerica.com offer their images for sale as fine art prints through its print on demand program. Members allow buyers to own beautiful pieces of artwork for a fraction of the price of an original. FineArt America allows you an inexpensive way to get your artwork into the hands of many collectors at once.
“This channel welcomes all artists, galleries and private collectors to list their artwork at no cost. All you need to do is register and begin your art exhibition. PicassoMio strongly recommends its artists to exhibit 30+ examples of your artwork to maximize their exposure. You can add, modify, and remove your artwork, at any time. Our site offers you your own URL (www.PicassoMio.com/YourName/), eArtCards and various online sharing tools to promote and share your art for free.” 10% commission.
Customized Specialty Items
There are also many sites where your photographs can be used to produce a specialty product. These sites will give you your own storefront, take the order, collect the money, and produce and ship the product and give you a percentage of the sale.
There is a wide variety of products these sites produce. Cafepress for instance has 250+ customizable products that include apparel, home & office accessories, prints and cards, jewelry, buttons, & more.
Here are links to just a few of those sites. More will be added later, so stay tuned.
CafePress allows you to open and run your own online shop with no inventory or up-front costs. Products sold has a base price and includes all fees for producing the product. See http://www.cafepress.com/cp/info/help/pricing policy.aspx
GreetingCardUniverse.com lets you sell real paper greeting cards. Your account is completely free and includes a personalized storefront. You will earn up to $0.60 for each of your paper cards sold. . GreetingCardUniverse.com processes the orders and handles the online checkout. The cards are physically printed and fulfilled by a trusted print on demand partner.
Sell your photography or graphic design on wall art, greeting cards, garments, and iPhone cases. Once you have an account, and have confirmed your email address, you can upload your work to your Redbubble portfolio. Each product has a fixed base price which is the amount Redbubble keeps for collecting the order, processing the payment, and manufacturing the product. You can then add a ‘markup’ on top of this, which is the part of the price you keep when your artwork sells. Add 3%, 30% or 300% – it’s your choice
Zazzle Put your designs on hundreds of retail quality products. Set your own royalty rate. Zazzle manufactures and ships your products to customers worldwide, typically in less than 24 hours, with no hassle at all to you.
Another market for photographs are print and online publications. Here are a few to get you started:
Astronomy Buys 840 photos each year; pays $25 for each.
Pet-centric greeting card maker licenses photographs from freelancers. Occasionally accepts new verse writers.
Backpacker Magazine Cover pays $500-$1,000, inside color shots are $100.
MuscleMag Pays up to $1,000 for a cover, $25 for a color photo and $20 for black and white.
Narrative Magazine Our rates vary, depending on the length and nature of the work. The payment for photo essays ranges from $250 to $2,000.strong. There is a $20 fee for each submission. And with your submission, you’ll receive three months of complimentary access to Narrative Backstage.
National Geographic National Geographic invites interested parties to submit a digital photograph for possible publication in National Geographic magazine and on ngm.com. Click Submit Your Photoand follow the step-by-step instructions on that page. We will accept submissions beginning on the 15th of every month. NGS retains full editorial control over the selection of, and the decision not to select, any particular photograph for publication.
The Sun Magazine
One-time use of photos pays $100-$500
Tide-mark Calendar Photo Submission Guidelines
- Please send specific wall-calendar concepts.
- If you propose a calendar –for example, on a historical subject—you must be able to write succinctly and engagingly on that topic.
- Tide-mark calendars are predominantly one-person projects; rarely do we buy single images.
- Please review our on-line catalog at www.tidemarkpress.com to ensure that you are not submitting a concept that we already cover.
Yankee Magazine We give assignments to experienced professionals. If you want to work with us, show us a portfolio of your best work. Contact our Photo Editor, Heather Marcus, before sending any photography to our Art Department. Please do not send any unsolicited original photography or artwork. Pays $150 for inside shot; $1000 for a cover shot.
In addition to these markets, take a look at the list of publications on the Write for Us page, in particular the ones listed under Travel Sites.
Most of the photography job listings found online are location based but a few are not:
BCVirtual Tour Hires photographers to take pictures of real estate in specific areas in British Columbia, CAN.
EPG Hire Hires photographers and assistants in US and Canada with DSLR experience for special events: commencement and graduation, Marathon races. Hires Nationwide
Fast Snap “FastSnap does NOT hire photographers; we match buyers (people who need photos) with sellers (people who are willing to go out and take the photos). To be a photographer you MUST have a digital camera. It is helpful to have a broadband connection if it is available in your area. Since most of our customers are looking for photos of residential or commercial properties, relevant experience in any kind of real estate, insurance, or mortgage field services would be helpful. You can sign up for as many zip codes as you want, and establish the price you will charge the customer for each job. FastSnap will take care of billing the customer and add a transaction fee on each job you complete. If the buyer is not satisfied with the job, payment may be placed on hold until the problem is satisfactorily resolved. FastSnap will assist both buyer and seller in resolving any dispute.
“We are looking for people with a photography background (amateur or professional) or for those who wish to be in the photography industry and have their own equipment. At Obeo we require external flash photography on all of our homes, so you need a little more than just a digital camera.
Photography orders are forwarded to you via e-mail and it will be your responsibility to:
- Set appointments
- Photograph the home
- Process and upload photos to our website
It normally takes less than 30 min to photograph a home and less than 20 min to process the photos for each home. Payment is on a “per house” basis for each property that you photograph as a sub-contractor. Payment amounts depend on what type of photography is requested and the general market conditions in which you live.”
Photography jobs can also be found in the Outsourcing Marketplaces.
When I started writing this post on finding ways to make money as a photographer online, I expected to include all information in just one page. The post grew. however, as I started finding more and more markets.
But, that’s a good thing since that means there are a lots of opportunities to make money as a photographer online that I will be adding to as I go along.
If you have questions, comments or would like to share your experience with us, please do so in the comments below.
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Thanks, I appreciate it!
Now get to taking photographs!