Okay, let’s be realistic. The photography industry is not going away anytime soon and there are 20 ways you can make money as a photographer in 2019.
Even though you have more people these days with camera phones and the barrier to entry is less (cost, education, etc), there are still a lot of areas in the industry that you can make money as a photographer.
This is a great time to get into photography and actually make a living from it, or side hustle.
Really the key to be successful in this industry is to focus on one service or a few and be the best at it, along with actually enjoying what you are doing.
It all starts with understanding and mastering your photography skills. Once you accomplish these skills, people will be flocking to use your services, in droves.
Here I’m going to cover 20 ways you can make money as a photographer and an in-depth overview of each service:
- Wedding Photography
- Family Portraits
- High School Seniors
- New Borns / Toddlers
- Pet Photographer
- Real Estate
- Aerial / Drone Photography
- School yearbook
- School Team Sports
- Daycare / Pre Schools
- Dance Photographer
- Sports and Leagues
- Stock Photography
- Editorial / Fashion
- Events / Festivals / Conferences
- Landscape / Cityscape
Over the last 15+ years of my photography career, I have done everything on this list and understand all the wonderful opportunities a photographer has in this industry.
When I started out as a photographer I had the “squirrel” or “shiny object” syndrome. You name it I did it.
I eventually started focusing on a few services and everything change for me professionally………
The main takeaway I want you to have is to choose what interests you.
“If you enjoy what you are doing then you won’t work a day of your life”.
Yes I know that is cliche and this quote has been overused.
But there is some truth to that. You can be successful with any one of these money-making areas of photography as long as you have focus, understand your target market, work hard, stick to it, and enjoy the journey.
What a great way to capture a special moment in two people’s lives that they can cherish for a lifetime. This is a very rewarding area of photography and requires mastering multiple skills.
Being a wedding photographer you are capturing an entire days event telling a story.
Photographing everything from:
- Detailed shot (Flowers, decor, wedding dress, rings, etc)
- Portraits (Family, couples, bridal party)
- People Dancing
- Candids and groups
To really get creative you have to know how to use flash, natural lighting, angels, and posing.
You also have to:
- Think on your feet
- Visualize, see the moments, and be quick on your feet
- Be a people person.
Along with photographing the wedding day you have other services you can offer from:
- Bridal Portraits
- Engagement portraits
- Trash the Dress Photoshoot (after the wedding)
Pricing for these services can range from anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $5000+.
If you decide to be a wedding photographer just remember that most weddings take place on weekends, which is great if you are wanting to do this part-time.
Photographing family portraits can range from taking pictures of a couple with a newborn to photographing extended families (large groups and mini-groups)
The family may also have a dog or pet they want to include in the photos.
The skills you have to learn and understand when photographing families are:
- Posing multiple people
- How to get children to smile for portraits
- Using natural lighting (if pictures are taken outdoors)
- Flash and Studio Lighting (If pictures are taken indoor)
Family portraits are in high demand during the holiday season. People want to take pictures in the fall in order to have images ready to send out for Christmas, New Year cards, or just having a nice wall portrait for their living room.
Whether you are photographing a small or large family this is a great opportunity that can make you a few hundred dollars all the way up to $1000+ depending on how you price your images and what you offer
You can have a lot of fun photographing senior portraits and bring out the creativity in your photography.
The last year that a person is going through grad school is there senior year. Throughout the course of a student’s education, they are involved in multiple activities and sports.
They have formed interests and personalities.
Senior portraits are both for the parents and the student, in order to capture and reflect on a moment in their life.
If you are offering a custom creative session you are wanting to incorporate the interests of the person,
- Taking pictures with there vehicle
- Sports attire
- Musical instrument
- Or in a quirky and artistic setting
This is another service that photographers can charge anywhere from a few hundred dollars all the way up to $1000+.
Oh, the baby pictures!!!
Your only a baby once in your life. Well, I hope people grow up.
With newborn portraits, this is where, like the title suggests, you are taking pictures of a newly born person or toddler (age 1-3).
Have you ever seen those cute pictures on social media with a baby:
- Wrapped up in a swaddle
- In a basket
- Holding balloons
- Eating a cake and getting all messy
Well if you have then this is what being a New Born or Toddler photographer does.
You are capturing a moment in a person’s life; being creative with props, settings or lighting to really make it fun and for the images to pop.
If you have a dog or pet then you will understand that these furry friends are part of the family and people’s lives.
Being a pet photographer can be challenging. I mean its hard enough to get people to look at the camera and smile let alone a different species.
But if you can pull it off, this is a service that people WANT.
You can photograph in an outdoor setting or in a studio. Either way you do it, you can count on people eating your pictures up.
Product photography falls under one of the 5 categories of photography (commercial or business photography)
There is a slew of things you can take pictures of and normally this is going to be for a business or company:
- Amazon Scews (eCommece sites)
You name it if its a product that has been manufactured a business needs professional pictures taken of it so they can use for there marketing
Typically images are taken on a high key white background but sometimes a client may want the photographer to take pictures of the product in an outdoor setting or with a model.
Businesses are willing to pay anywhere from $10 per image or $50+ or more. The name of the game is volume with this type of photography and more images they want a photographer to take the lower per image rate is negotiated.
You can quickly land a $1000+ contract with a business to take pictures of there products
Being a real estate photographer falls under the category of business or commercial photographer.
You are either taking pictures of a building or property (indoors, outdoors, twilight, sunset)
You can do a lot in this field such as:
- Real Estate for Sale (Working with realtors, virtual tours and matterport)
- Architecture photography (working with architects and construction companies)
- Businesses (Images used to market their location and google 360 tours)
Real Estate for Sale
When you are working with a realtor that is trying to sell a house or property you are trying to capture the best angles and lighting to make the property visually appealing.
You can capture these homes by using 2 techniques:
- HDR (high dynamic range) Bracketing images
- Off-camera lighting (using flash setup)
Typically a realtor is willing to pay a photographer $100-$300 to photograph a property for them. Depending on where you are located, the price for this service can vary.
Another upcoming technology in the industry, that realtors and photographers are using, is Matterport.
This is a machine that will create a 3D Rendering of the home or building and will create a virtual walkthrough so people can feel like they are visiting the location at the convenience behind there computer or on phone.
When a new building is constructed you have both an architect firm and a construction firm that is involved in the process.
Both of them want high-quality images of the property after it’s completed in order to use for portfolio and for there marketing.
This type of photography is completely different than real estate for sale because you are working closely with the architect firm or construction company.
They want specific angels and want you to create a certain feel that best represents the building or property
Business Google 360 Tours
Have you ever been on google and seen a restaurant or business listing with images to showcase there location.
Having a professional photographer take pictures of the building, signs, and decor of the location is used in order to promote that business.
Another added service you can offer businesses when taking pictures of there location is being a Google Certified photographer.
I’ve spent 4+ years being a Google Certified Photographer and it has opened a lot of doors to many opportunities working with businesses.
These days technology has made taking aerial photographs a lot less expensive. Back in the day if someone wants a picture from above they would have to hire a photographer to go up in a plane and take pictures.
Using drones has made this process a lot less complicated and has opened up a whole new industry within the photography world.
Just keep in mind if you go down this rabbit hole you need to make sure you do things right and get certified, have insurance, and learn how to fly a drone. DroneU is a website that offers great training and advice in this industry
Different services you can offer drone photography are:
- Real estate for sale from another perspective
- Land Surveying / Mapping
- Landscape and Cityscape
The list can go on and but keep in mind its competitive sense the technology is getting cheaper and the barrier of entry is low.
Headshots are typically used in the business work but is not limited to other areas of photography
People need headshots for:
- Business Website
- Fraternity / Sorority Composites
- University Graduation Composites
- LinkedIn / Facebook or social media
- Business cards
Headshots can either be taken with studio lighting, off camera flash, outdoors, or even your phone.
Yes, you’re wondering why I said phone. Well now with technology in our phones, you can take stunning headshots (iPhone portrait mode)
It all comes down to understanding lighting, composition, and expressions when photographing headshots.
When you are working with photographing headshots for composites (collages) you want to make sure you are using equipment and backdrops that keeps all the images consistent
But other than that you can take headshots using any camera you have. It’s a great service that doesn’t require a lot in order to get great photos.
Throughout the year universities and schools have graduations for there students.
A school may hire you and pay you directly or you may sell to the parents or students that you are photographing
Below are a few examples of services you can offer for graduation:
- Action shots while receiving a diploma
- Portraits with cap and gown
- Family and friend pictures after the ceremony
Besides photographing for a university or a high school graduation you can also photograph kindergarten graduations.
Kiddos can be so cute with there cap and gowns.
Most grade schools have a yearbook so that students can remember their fellow classmates and the year.
When photographing school yearbook portraits you are working directly with the school and the yearbook staff.
Typically pictures are taken right before the school year starts up and during registration.
I would consider this type of photography a volume-based business.
- You are photographing a lot of students
- in a short amount of time
- dealing with small transactions.
But the key is, even though you are dealing with small order amounts you are dealing with a lot of orders.
In order to be successful at this line of work, you have to have the right business processes in place in order to handle the volume and costumer service.
In addition to doing the school yearbook portraits, there are other services you can offer a school.
Most schools have team sports like
- Swim team
- Drill Team
All these sports want individual and team pictures so they can have in their programs and so parents have to cherish
You’re either coordinating through the athletic department or directly with the coach.
If you enjoy working with kids then you would love this area of photography.
Again I would consider this another form of volume photography, where you are photographing a lot of people in a short amount of time with a predetermined background and images.
It’s as easy as reaching out to a daycare or preschool and offer them to take portraits of the kids.
Typically you have two opportunities throughout the year that they want pictures. In the spring and in the falls.
You can set up a themed background, depending on when you photographed during the year.
This type of photography is not as overwhelming as photographing 1000’s of students at a school and is a great way to enter into volume photography without overdoing yourself
OK, so I’m going to be a little biased with this type of photography because I teach and train photographers on this site how to photograph dance portraits and how to pose for dance pictures
Every year you have dance studios that put on a spring recital.
Recitals are a way for the dancers to show off what they have learned throughout the year in class, wearing cute costumes.
Because every year they have different costumes they are looking for a photographer to photograph portraits or action shots of the dancers performing on stage.
You can learn more about making money photographing Dance Recital Portraits with this free 5-day eCourse
I have found that the benefits of photographing dance portraits are:
- Time flexibility (photographed during a specific time of year)
- High Volume
- Multiple Costumes
- Loyal Dance Studios
- Better Margins and Sales
There are many areas of dance photography that you can dabble into such as:
- Spring Dance Portraits
- Spring Dance Recital Action Shots
- Custom dance portraits and senior portraits
- Mommy and me dance pictures
- And so much more…..
Dance photography is a great way to make money as a photographer and highly recommend people get into photographing at least one dance studio. Check out the 10 reasons you should be a dance photographer
In most communities, you will have sports organizations outside of the typical school organized sports.
Some leagues are privately operated or by a city. Either way, these leagues want a photographer to offer portrait services or action photography.
The most common types of sports leagues are:
- Little League and baseball
- Dance Studios
This is a great opportunity to photograph a lot of people but just keep in mind that some of these organizations have board members or parents running the league
They sometimes change hands frequently or every year. So one year you may be photographing for them and the next your not.
It all depends on who is in charge at the time and what photographer they want to use.
Ok, so stock photography is a very massive industry and photographers will take photos from: People, objects, flowers, and even a desk.
You can upload to a stock website such as:
You name it, someone is photographing it.
Businesses, people, blogs all need images that can easily tell a story or get a message across visually.
This can turn a website or publication that looks boring into something interested.
You may not make that much off someone buying one of your images but if 5000 purchase the image then you can start making a healthy income from your photos.
Just keep in mind it takes a lot of time to photograph, upload, tag images and build up a good base of images to sell.
You also have to research and know what types of images sell the best. This is a great way to passively make some income from your photography but it does take time to build.
This line of photography is dealing with the publishing industry.
There is a slew of areas you can take pictures for such as:
- Local newspaper
- City guide / Tourism magazine
- Lifestyle magazines
- Modeling Agency
- And much more…..
Basically you are going to be a portrait photographer taking pictures of people to help a publication tell a story.
Being an event photographer is all about capturing people and documenting the event, like a wedding.
An organization or business may ask you to photograph:
- Candids (people casually talking without looking at camera
- Group pictures (with people looking at camera)
- Speakers talking on stage
- Action shots (if the event has things that move)
- Overview images (wide-angle shots of event)
- Details (food, programs, items that are apart of the event)
Typically you charge the organization a flat rate to cover your time, editing images, and the use of images.
Some photographers will charge a per image rate but felt that its best to have an all-inclusive rate and charge based on what serves and they want you to do
And trust me, there a ton of events out there to keep you busy.
I remember a time I photographed a festival that centered around Wiener dogs. It drew in over 10,000 people every year and people would race their dogs.
When I talk about competition photography what this entails is photographing events that are based around people competing.
There are many different types of competitions out there that need a photographer to capture action shots.
I mean some of these competitions are massive drawing in tens of thousands of people.
When you are photographing these types of events the name of the game is instant gratification and speed.
You need to be able to photograph and get the pictures in front of the customer, same day.
Typically I would use instant viewing stations or kiosks to showcase images for viewing and ordering the same day or have them mailed at a future date.
The other option you have is posting your images online for people to view and order.
As the title states photographers will take pictures of landscape, travel, or cityscape (images are taken of a city)
You can either make money by:
- Selling your images as stock images
- Private collection
- Or hired by a publication
I live in a medium-sized town that has a lot of local landmarks around the city. These are areas that my town is known for and is recognizable.
Many local businesses or hotels want images that they can have on there website or to have as decor at there location, which represents the local community.
Taking pictures of your town and then selling your images to business or the city is a great way to earn some money as a photographer.
Also, certain national or local publications are always looking for a new and edgy perspective of a city so they can use as a cover or with an article
There are many ways to capture a city:
- Aerial View
- People in the photo doing an activity with city in the background.
The beauty with this type of photography and stock photography is that once you have taken a photo it can be sold multiple times in the future.
I have had a lot of people purchase city and landscape photos from me because they are wanting something to hang up in their homes as wall decor.
If you have an image that inspires someone then people will buy your photos.
Woo hoo. If you have reached the end, thanks for sticking around. There are a lot of ways to make money as a photographer but it really all comes down to:
Picking up your camera and start taking pictures!
Thinking on how to make money being a photographer is not going to make you money.
Put in a little work in developing both photography and business skills will get you the results you are looking for.
I can say that being a dance photographer has been life-changing for me and making money as a photographer. I went from your average photographer to making over $100,000 just photographing dance studios 60 days out of the year, EVERY year.
Finally, if you have enjoyed this article, have any questions on how to make money as a photographer, leave in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you!