Making Money with Photography

You love shooting and you have everything you need – equipment, resources to travel, unique ideas and software for editing. Time to think of earning money from it. If you’re starting out, you would want to look at the options you have to turn your passion into a paid profession.

On the face of it, photography appears to be something simple – point and shoot, you’re done. When it comes to 360 degree cameras, for instance, it’s even easier. Dig deeper, and you’ll realize it’s actually an ocean out there with so much more to learn each day.

Consider an online professional course from the New York Institute of Photography. At the end of most such professional courses, they guide you on making money with your newly acquired skills. Courses not only show you how to create a captivating portfolio, but will also give you access to communities and certifications that add to your reputation.

The Basics:

Having sold hundreds of cameras to a niche market (360 degree photographers in India) one of the common questions I get from customers is how to monetize their work. The media and communications industry is so vast that there are college and diploma courses specifically for photography. This doesn’t have to be overwhelming or discouraging though – there are plenty of commercially successful photographers who hit the ground running, with minimal investment. Here are some basic points:

1) Portfolio:
Any potential client would want to look at your past work, so I can’t emphasize on the importance of this part enough. However, what would you do if you have nothing but just a camera and lot of drive?
Think of a focus area such as real estate or weddings. Go ahead and work on a few shoots for free. If you’re happy with the results, shortlist your best images and add this to your portfolio. For now, this just means having a number of files ready.

2) Visibility:
You have original images – how do you show the world that you exist, and available for hire? Almost always, potential clients ask for your Instagram handle. This is a free platform focused on visual content, as opposed to text. Go ahead and create a business account and upload your best pictures here. Rest assured, your well-wishers would be liking and sharing it – that’s a great start.
Next, create a website (apart from a Facebook and Instagram page) to showcase your portfolio and get more views. You would be surprised how inexpensive and easy it is to create your own website with absolutely no coding knowledge. 

Tip – If you buy a basic hosting account in GoDaddy, you will get a free domain for a year. Take your time and choose the best .com that’s unique to your interests.

3) Accelerate:
You have great content and a website, along with social media pages. Keep working on it every day until you’re satisfied and think that you’re ready to start advertising. This part can go on to hundreds of pages – to keep it short, you’ll be able to create campaigns to increase the number of followers, or just to appear in front of potential clients. Look into business.facebook.com for learning material on how to promote on Facebook and Instagram. Academy for Ads has plenty of video-based tutorials to help with Google Ads.

Credibility:

If you don’t have certificates from reputed institutes, look for other options which you can add to your pages. If you have a professional camera from Insta360, they let you get certified – learn more here: https://www.insta360.com/certified.

If you have a DSLR, you can enroll as a Google Local Guide, to shoot public places and grow up levels to become a master photographer. It may not give you an embeddable badge, but it’s still something you can mention on your site and post a link for verification.

For 360 degree photographers, upload at least 50 images in Google Street View to get the Google Trusted Photographer badge. If you have a team and a registered company, you can get the Trusted Agency credential. Learn more at https://www.google.com/streetview/contributors/

Software:

If you can invest a little, look into Adobe’s Creative Cloud plans, which start with very affordable rates for an individual that would not only let you use an app like Photoshop, but also enable you to create a Behance profile, which is very important in this field. Learn more here – https://www.adobe.com/in/creativecloud/plans.html

For 360 degree photographers, you might want to consider Premier Pro. Insta360’s software is free for mobile and desktop, while Matterport would require a subscription.

If you have an entry level DSLR like a Canon 800D, the official website would let you download the all software you’ll need – https://in.canon/support/EOS%20800D/model

Selling as Stock:

There is always demand for stock images and people worldwide are willing to pay for your images. You could start selling your work on Getty Images, Shutter Stock and many others. Click on this link – http://submit.shutterstock.com and submit your content. This is a great avenue to see where you stand. Not all images that you upload are going to get approved, but you can keep working on it.

If there’s one bookmark I would like to leave my readers with, it would be this one – https://www.shutterstock.com/explore/the-shot-list
Here, Shutterstock talks about the type of photos in demand that month. This would help remove a lot of anxiety in photographers who are faced with a plethora of choices. Just one glance at the 3-4 categories would offer so much inspiration that the plans begin to take shape.

Releases:

Were you aware that you would need permission to sell your images commercially? This is important when you click people or private property. It gets even more complicated to shoot children – you’ll need their parents’ consent in writing. Download the model release and property release forms here.

I would recommend using a mobile app for creating releases, and getting signatures from the models, witnesses and property representatives. Follow these legal requirements so that those who buy your images appreciate that you’re on a formal footing.

Take Google Maps, for instance – even if you upload images of public places, you would still need to blur faces and license plate numbers. Respect the privacy of others when you shoot images (especially panoramic) in pubs, restaurants, beaches or tourist destinations. Learn more here – https://www.google.com/streetview/policy/

The Community:

As you prepare yourself to accumulate funds, you will get connected to plenty of fellow photographers. If you come across a requirement in a different geography which you won’t be able to take up, refer that project to the contact. As you keep helping others, you’ll get referred too. This kind of community cooperation is beneficial for everyone involved.

Join communities and use them sparingly – always be respectful to everyone. Do not post a picture and ask the community to edit it for you. Also, search previous posts to ensure you’re not repeating the same questions asked earlier.

Having Fun:

How does shooting make you feel? Are you feeling drained like that of mundane office work or does it make you jump in excitement? If the motivation is natural, it would help with being patient for hours in a particular tourist destination to get that perfect shot, when there’re always someone getting in your way.
Take the above image for instance – how long did you think the photographer had to spend to get this result? You can see what I mean.

Have fun shooting and keep improving your skills at every opportunity. Showing your footage to friends or family and listening to their suggestions/feedback would help get some creative ideas. As a beginner, following the above steps should give you a head start. As you keep earning, you can consider advanced copyright protection methods such as Digimarc, which would also show you if your work is circulated online without permission. For now, grab your camera and go out!