In the art of photography, the lens through which you see the world can also be the key to bringing home a profit. Whether you're a seasoned shutterbug or just learning your way around a camera, the potential to turn your favorite hobby into a lucrative money-maker is well within your reach.
We'll guide you through 19 unique options to carve out a niche and make money as a photographer. No matter if your skill lies in portraits, landscapes, events or another specialty, there’s an opportunity for you to capitalize on it.
So, grab your camera, adjust your aperture and get ready to see your profits click into place.
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19 ways to make money as a photographer
01. Photograph small businesses
What’s one thing (nearly) everyone needs right after they start a business? They all need a business website, and websites stand out from the competition when they’re filled with beautiful images. Hair salons, plumbers, yoga instructors, you name it—they all need images showcasing their offerings or staff members. This is where you come in.
Start locally. Take a look around your neighborhood or city and speak to business owners in an informal way about what you do, and how you can help them attract more clients with professional-quality photos. Bring a tablet or laptop to show off your online portfolio, as people will want to see examples of your work.
Don’t neglect online search, either. Not only should you search online for clients, but you should position yourself to be found by clients searching for you, as well. Understanding local SEO is key in order to become an established presence in local online search. A good starting place is to use relevant keywords across your website (such as “business photographer in [city]”) and make sure your name, address and phone number (NAP) are clearly listed on your contact page. You should also claim your Google Business Profile.
What’s in a name? Try the Photography Business Name Generator for instant inspiration.
02. Teach a photography class
If you’ve been a photographer for a fair amount of time, you’ve undoubtedly acquired tons of valuable tips and techniques that less experienced photographers would love to hear about. You can turn this knowledge into a business idea and share your expertise with others.
You can offer in-person lessons locally at community centers, public parks or your own studio space (if you have one). If virtual is the way you prefer to go, you can create an online course and teach folks from all over the world about your favorite photography tips. You can use Wix Bookings to schedule one-on-one appointments, group sessions, classes and workshops, plus accept secure payments and offer memberships online.
03. Sell prints of your work
Selling prints is a fantastic—and classic—way to turn a photography passion into profit.
To get started, curate an assortment of images that best resonates with your intended target audience. Focus on your strongest, most high-resolution work as you build that catalog.
Next, decide on the types of prints you want to offer, such as canvas prints, framed prints or posters. Ensure the format complements your photography style (for example, fitting a wide landscape vista fully into a horizontal print size). Partner with a reliable printing service to maintain top quality, and invest in proper packaging for protection and presentation.
Setting up an online store is crucial here; you can create your own eCommerce website or use an online marketplace like Etsy to sell your work. Be sure to include high-resolution images and detailed descriptions of each print. Additionally, you can sell your work in local art shows or exhibitions in your area.
Start selling—launch your online store today with Wix.
04. Open a print-on-demand shop
Would some of your photos look really good on a t-shirt, travel mug or iPhone case? If so, there’s a fairly simple way to kick off another eCommerce opportunity. And, best of all, it’s a business that runs itself.
Print on demand (POD) lets you open an online store without the hassle of inventory management. You’ll first need to find a reliable POD provider—like Printful, which integrates with Wix. From there, it’s a matter of simply uploading your images to the platform and choosing which products to print them on, from canvas totes to fridge magnets and more. Your POD partner will handle all of the fulfillment and shipping for you, taking a percentage of the sales.
Launch your print-on-demand business with Wix.
05. Sell your photos on stock websites
If you have a sizable portfolio, you could try your hand selling your work on stock photo websites like iStock, Shutterstock and BigStock as a passive income idea. The commission per download depends on the platform, the type of license and many other factors. In most cases, these commissions are relatively low, so you’re unlikely to replace a full-time income with your earnings, but it can be a fun side hustle. Photutorial estimates that royalty-free sales can earn anywhere between $0.10 and $99.50, while extended licenses can fetch up to $500.
If you want to make the most money, you should focus on ultra-high quality images and regularly upload fresh content to the platform.
Stock sites require you to sign up first, and your work will need to be approved by the platform. Make sure to carefully read the guidelines, as some platforms forbid you to submit the same images to competitors. Once you’re registered, you should optimize your listings with relevant keywords that answer any possible queries someone would be using to look for a photo like yours.
06. Create a photography blog
Are you full of expert opinions, shareable tips and industry insight? Start a photography blog. Blogging will help establish you as an expert in the field and is a smart SEO strategy for photographers. It can also be used to generate a profit.
As one option, you can place ads in your content, getting paid every time a visitor clicks on an ad from your blog. Additionally, you can place referral or affiliate links in your posts, where you receive a commission every time a visitor clicks through and makes a purchase. For example, if you recommend a flash diffuser on Amazon, and you’re an Amazon affiliate, any reader who buys through your link will earn you some money. If you have a large enough following, you may even be offered payment for featured posts or reviews about a dedicated product from a photography brand.
Whichever option you decide to go with, you’ll need to generate strong, steady traffic if you want to make substantial money from this venture. This means you’ll need to publish high-quality content frequently and regularly.
Start a blog in a few clicks with Wix.
07. Conduct photography tours and workshops
Do you know your hometown, local landmarks and historically-significant spaces like the back of your hand? You might want to think about becoming a tour guide. But, not just any tour guide: a photography tour guide. Vacationers and even locals are always on the look out for authentic experiences. You can offer to lead them through the maze of your city (or any other specific location) and teach them how to photograph it best.
Pair up with travel agencies, join travel photographers and tourist groups on social media, and make sure your website is completely up to date. Like noted Netherlands-based landscape photographer (and Wix user) Albert Dros, entice your readers with a complete description of the photo tour in a professional yet casual manner, and add a few images to show what they can expect to see. Dros notes what to expect in an upcoming Tuscany workshop: “Early sunrises, morning fog, cats (yes, there are lots of them) and great food!”
08. Become a social media maven
Like the rest of us, you probably started small on social media with a few likes from your friends and your mom’s comments under every post. Since then, maybe you’ve learned how to use social media like a professional and you now have a large collection of followers eager to see your every post. It might not sound obvious, but that’s something that you can leverage into an online business idea.
Collaborating with brands and influencers is a popular practice in social media marketing. With a large enough following, you can start receiving offers to promote products, review new gear or even attend big industry events. Since you don’t want your social profiles to look like a holiday catalog, don’t jump on every single offer. Make sure your posts benefit the company you work with, but also genuinely interest and relate to your community.
09. Sell photos to magazines
Between print and online formats, there are more magazines in the world than can be counted. There’s a magazine for just about every hobby, profession or topic you can think of, and no magazine goes without images. This could be a potential money-making opportunity for you.
As a photographer, your work could range from covering events to shooting portraits for an interview to documenting a breaking news story. Working for magazines requires you to build a network and make a name for yourself in the industry. It’s highly recommended to start small and target local and regional publications first before reaching out to the big brands.
10. Shoot portraits
Back in the day, portrait photographers needed a studio. Fortunately, you can succeed just fine without one now. Many clients like (or even prefer) outdoor or on-location portrait sessions, so you’ll find countless backdrop opportunities around your local area. As a real-life example, Wix user Captured by Cassy has perfected this niche offering beautiful maternity, newborn, family and senior portrait photography around her scenic Snohomish, Washington home.
A pro tip: don’t limit yourself to human portraits. Plenty of pet owners would love a portrait of their favorite fur baby and pay for the eye of a professional photographer.
11. Shoot events
It’s one of the most tried-and-true ways to make money as a photographer. Weddings, bar mitzvahs, birthdays, corporate parties—if there’s a reason to celebrate, there’s a reason to have photos of it.
Event photography is physically demanding and can be exhausting, but there’s good money to be made. The amount you can charge mostly depends on your reputation and experience level, the scale of the event, the season and the location.
When quoting your clients, it’s crucial that you take into account the hours of pre- and post-production work you will spend on their package—especially for weddings, where you may need to process thousands of photos after the event. As an event photographer, you’ll need a solid website. Your online portfolio should be strong, optimized for local search and ideally feature testimonials from happy customers. Word of mouth is also very valuable in securing new clients. If you have no experience here, try shadowing a seasoned photographer as a second shooter to build your portfolio.
Make your website shine with a professionally-designed portfolio template from Wix.
12. Enter photo contests
A photo competition may not necessarily offer a cash prize; some competitions might grant gift cards, new gear or even just exposure to the winner. But, it’s still a viable option in leveraging your photography skills for some sort of reward.
Do a simple Google search of “best photography contests [current year]” to see what options are available, when the deadlines are and what prizes are on the table. Some publications award multiple winners with tiered prizes that can range from a new Apple Watch to thousands of dollars.
You shouldn’t rely on this option if you want to make a living as a photographer, but even if you don’t win, participating in a contest is a great way to make more connections in the industry and to have your work and website featured on external websites. It’s good for your exposure, your SEO and your reputation in the industry.
13. Get gigs as an assistant photographer
Not booked on a specific date? Other photographers are, and they might need your help. Just like actors, taking on a supporting role can be a very rewarding (and lucrative) option. To start, you’ll make some decent money without having to deal with all the sales, marketing and other hassles of being the main contractor. If you’re assisting with something like a wedding, this also means avoiding all of the extensive post-processing that images will require. If you’re assisting because you don’t have enough experience yet to hack it on your own, this is a great side business idea to build your online portfolio and network with other professionals.
To get more of these types of offers, you’ll need to be active in your local photography circles. Join photographer clubs in your area, register for professional associations and don’t neglect photo groups on Facebook and other social media platforms.
14. Edit or retouch others’ photos
From a model who wants to remove stubborn flyaway hairs to a hotel owner who needs their resort to look a little more sunny in photos, many people would—and do—pay to get their images professionally retouched. If you’re gifted with editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, this presents an open door for you to make some extra bucks.
You can easily work from home and at any moment of the day (or night), making it a perfect side activity for photographers. You could even market your services directly to other photographers who don’t have time to process their own images, such as high-volume commercial photographers.
Before starting, use your photography website to feature before and after editing samples showcasing your capabilities.
15. Shoot fancy cars or motorcycles
We all know that one person whose world revolves around their beloved car or motorcycle. They have countless snapshots of it on their phone, and they might even have some professional shots on hand, too. Why not swerve into this exciting field yourself?
Car and bike enthusiasts (and manufacturers, at the higher level) are always on the lookout for striking images that highlight the beauty, performance and uniqueness of their vehicles. Take Wix user Will Pohlman for example. Pohlman’s extensive portfolio showcases a number of high-performance vehicles at speed, parked up and even up close for details of the interior, engine and wheels.
To excel in automotive photography, you must have a keen eye for details and understand more specialized shooting techniques, like light painting and intentional blur. You should know a thing or two about cars, too. This is a field that offers a blend of artistic expression and technical skill, so you’ll want to bring both to the table.
16. Master aerial photography with a drone
Aerial photography is a newer niche that has taken off in recent years (no pun intended) with the popularity of drones. If you have a drone and the skills to pilot it, you can turn your airborne camera into a tool for profit.
Drones equipped with high-quality cameras enable you to capture breathtaking landscapes, cityscapes and even events from unique angles. Real estate agencies, travel companies, couples getting married and event planners are just a few of the potential clients who could benefit from adding aerial shots to their collection.
Note that there are some rules for drones established by the FAA for airspace safety. All drone pilots are required to pass The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST), which you can take online for free. Drones that weigh over 55 pounds, even if recreational, must be registered with the FAADroneZone. If you’re flying commercially, you’ll need to obtain a Part 107 license from the FAA as well.
17. Help showcase houses for sale
Real estate photography is a consistently high-demand niche that can be a profitable avenue for you to explore. Whether you're capturing cozy homes or luxurious estates, agents are always looking for images that can play a vital role in attracting potential buyers.
To succeed here, you should have a knack for capturing interiors and showcasing their various features in flattering ways, even in challenging situations such as dim lighting or small, oddly-shaped rooms. You should have professional lighting on hand and a dependable wide-angle lens. Understanding high dynamic range (HDR), which is commonly used for this type of photography, is another major plus. Networking with local real estate agents, brokers and property developers can help you quickly establish a steady stream of clients.
18. Offer time-lapse photography
Time-lapse photography is a beautiful technique that condenses hours, days or even months into captivating short videos or sequences.
Time-lapse videos are fairly popular for things like marketing campaigns, construction documentation and creative projects. Whether you're capturing the growth of a plant, the renovation of a building or the passage of time in a bustling city, your time-lapse skills can find a wide range of creative clients.
This is another avenue that will require some advanced technical skill, but it can be a really unique option that sets you apart from the crowd. Apart from a decent camera, you’ll need a tripod and an intervalometer to measure the time.
19. Become a food photographer
Who isn’t mesmerized looking at pictures of delicious food? Food photography offers a myriad of unique business ideas for photographers. You can find work locally with restaurants, food trucks or catering services that need help showing off their menus online, or you can go the commercial route and work with bigger brands, grocery stores or food bloggers.
Styling food is as much of an art as shooting it, so you’ll want to be skilled in this area. Note Wix user Imagery of Food as an example; dishes should be perfectly plated, free of splatters or spills, and expertly framed to show off the best bite. This is all showcased with precision in Imagery of Food’s portfolio. Lighting, color correction and post processing treatment are also key skills you’ll need, as it’s critical to make the food look as natural and appetizing as possible.
Getting started is as easy as visiting a few local eateries and asking if they could use some professional food photography. Once you get a portfolio established and word of mouth spreads, more clients will come knocking.
How much money can you make as a photographer?
Like most self-directed businesses, the amount of money you can make as a photographer will vary depending on a number of factors, including your skill level, business model, equipment and availability. Below are a few general ballparks to give you a realistic idea:
Portrait photographer: Portrait photographers often charge anywhere from $150 to $370 per hour, depending on their expertise, location and the number of people (e.g., senior portrait vs. family portrait).
Wedding photographer: Wedding photographers command a broad price range starting at $1,000 to $3,000 per wedding. In big cities or popular wedding destinations, prices can reach significantly higher than that. Note that add-ons like prints, photo albums or online galleries can impact your pricing, too.
Photo retoucher: Photo retouchers can earn between $20 per hour to over $150 per hour, depending on their skill level and the complexity of the job.
Commercial photographer: Commercial photographers working on advertising campaigns or product shoots can earn anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 per gig or more.
Real estate photographer: Real estate photographers typically charge around $150 to $350 per hour. Some opt to charge per property instead.
Stock photo photographer: Income from stock photography varies widely. Successful contributors can earn anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per month.
Get your photography business off of the ground
Finding the right business opportunity as a photographer is like taking the right shot; it all clicks into place. With a well-designed website and a solid portfolio under your belt, you’re bound to be destined for success.
Create a professional website with Wix and watch the profits roll in.