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How Do Freelance Photographers Make Money?

April 03, 2023

How Do Freelance Photographers Make Money?

There are several ways to become a freelance photographer and develop a stable business. Want to know how to make money as a freelance photographer? Keep reading, as we’ll help you get started today.

Do you want to become a freelance photographer?

One of the benefits of pursuing a career in photography is that you don’t necessarily need formal education.

When hiring a photographer, employers are usually not expecting to see your diploma. They care about the quality of your previous work and whether or not it matches the style of the images they are searching for.

freelance photographer

Are you wondering how to make money as a freelance photographer? There are several paths to get there! To succeed as a freelance photographer and build a steady income takes time and dedication. However, you have to start at some point!

Where do I start?

First of all, direction, determination, and specific goals are essential when pursuing a freelance career path in photography. Make it very clear what you offer and how you offer it. Let’s take a look at what you need to get settled before diving into freelance photography.

Identify your niche 🎲

  • It’s critical to identify a niche and stick to it. This doesn't mean you should just shoot one form of photography, but if someone is searching for an architectural photographer, they are most likely looking for a photographer specializing in this particular field. What kind of photographer are you planning to succeed as?

Build your online portfolio 📲

  • An online portfolio is crucial in terms of showcasing your visions, qualifications, and style to your clients (Article - 3 Best websites to build your online portfolio as a photographer)
  • Choose a logo, beautiful fonds, and trending colors that match your personality in your online portfolio. These small - but very important - details will help your future clients to immediately recognize your work.
  • For brand building, check out our course called Building a personal brand for freelancers, it should definitely be helpful for you!

Find out who your ideal client is 👨🏼‍💼

  • When you know which types of clients you want to approach it makes it easier for you to define the tone of voice, shape your storytelling, and pick the channels in which you want to communicate. Think about what type of client would be most likely to need your services.

There are many different ways to become a photographer. Now, let’s look at some of the paths you can go down and start earning money very soon.

If you're hesitating how to create your portfolio, check our Building a stunning freelancer's portfolio website guide.

Skills needed to start 🛠

To become a successful freelance photographer, you'll need a combination of technical, creative, and business skills. Here are some essential skills to develop:

  1. Photography Techniques: Mastering the technical aspects of photography is crucial. Understand how to use your camera, adjust settings like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, and learn about lighting and composition to capture high-quality images.
  2. Creativity and Artistic Eye: Develop a unique and artistic perspective to stand out in a competitive field. Being able to see ordinary scenes in extraordinary ways will set your work apart.
  3. Photo Editing and Post-Processing: Familiarize yourself with photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom to enhance and retouch your images effectively.
  4. Client Communication: Good communication skills are essential for understanding clients' needs and preferences, managing expectations, and discussing project details effectively.
  5. Adaptability and Problem-Solving: Freelance photography often involves working in various environments and handling unexpected challenges. Being adaptable and resourceful will help you overcome obstacles.
  6. Continuous Learning: The photography industry is constantly evolving. Stay updated with the latest trends, techniques, and equipment to stay competitive.

Except of these skills you also should understand marketing, networking, legalities and other substantial things to become a top-notch freelancer photographer. But, don't worry if you're just starting out, time will come and you will learn.

How to make money as a freelance photographer?

Once you have identified your niche, built a portfolio, and found out who your potential clients are it’s time to make some money. Sounds great, right? As mentioned, being a successful freelance photographer takes time.

hiring photographer

However, there are multiple platforms and ways for you to get started. We’ve listed some examples:

Photograph small businesses 💼

  • Local restaurants
  • Clothing stores
  • Lifestyle and traveling
  • Real estate
  • Others

Whether it’s your local restaurant, supermarket, or clothing store - small business owners also understand the importance of presenting their products and services beautifully. Contact them and offer your service.

Shoot a wedding, birthday, or baptism 📹

Even though it’s a classic way to kickstart your photography career, it can actually be quite effective. Many freelance photographers have started their careers this way!

Furthermore, it will provide you with beautiful material for your portfolio. Let the people in your network know that you are capable of shooting beautiful stills or amazing videos for their event - and make them recommend you to others!

Stock photography 🗂

  1. Shutterstock
  2. iStock photo
  3. Unsplash
  4. Dreamstime
  5. Foap
  6. Others

It is a lucrative way to a passive income. It’s a competitive field but nonetheless an ideal career for you to pursue if you already have a stack of photos waiting to come alive. Basically, you sell the photos you’ve already taken. Stock photography allows your client to have multiple options and find the right image that suits their needs.

Participate in photo contests 📸 

A way to get your work in the spotlight! This is a great way to expose your skills!

  • Photography Awards and Competitions: Look for prestigious photography awards and competitions that offer cash prizes or significant recognition. Winning or being a finalist in renowned contests can attract the attention of potential clients, galleries, and art collectors.
  • Magazine or Media Contests: Some magazines or media outlets hold photography contests, seeking images for their publications or online platforms. If your photo gets selected, you may receive payment or exposure to a wider audience.
  • Travel and Tourism Contests: Tourism boards and travel-related companies often organize photography contests to promote their destinations or services. Participating in such contests can lead to paid opportunities for travel photography assignments.
  • Commercial Photography Contests: Brands and companies occasionally run photography contests to source images for their marketing campaigns or advertising materials. Winning such contests can lead to paid contracts for commercial photography work.
  • Local Art and Photography Exhibitions: Check for local art and photography exhibitions that include a contest component. These events can provide exposure to potential buyers and art collectors in your community.
  • Photo Book and Magazine Covers: Some publishing companies hold contests to select images for book covers or magazine covers. Winning such a contest can bring monetary rewards and increase your reputation as a photographer.

Editing and retouching jobs 🎞 

For some photographers it is a side hustle. But if you’re really good at it? Well, then you can start right away and make it a serious career path. Editing photos in a variety of different industries will also help you gain even more professional retouching skills!

Where to find jobs & clients

Now, more than ever, content is king. The demand for talented freelance photographers who can help business present their products or services in beautiful still images is very high.

where to find clients?

Here are some effective ways to find clients:

Create a portfolio website and work on SEO 🖥

Build a professional portfolio website showcasing your best work and photography services. Make sure it's easy to navigate and includes contact information. This will serve as your online showcase, allowing potential clients to explore your photography style and contact you for bookings.

Optimize your website for search engines (SEO) to improve your online visibility. You can also consider investing in online advertising, such as Google Ads or social media ads, to reach a targeted audience.

Utilize Social Media 📲

Use Instagram, Pinterest, Behance platforms to share your photography, engage with your audience, and attract potential clients. Utilize relevant hashtags and participate in photography communities to expand your reach.

Networking and referrals 🕵🏻

Attend local photography meetups, workshops, and events to connect with other photographers and potential clients. Word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied clients can also be a powerful way to get new business.

Online freelance marketplaces 📇

We've already told you about Upwork, Fiverr and Freelancer, all you need is just to find the right one for you. Create a compelling profile and bid on relevant projects that match your skills.

Collaborate with Local Businesses 🏤

Reach out to local businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, and real estate agencies, to offer your photography services for their promotional materials, websites, or social media.

Approach Event Planners and Wedding Planners 💒

Event planners and wedding planners often need photographers for their clients' events. Introduce yourself and share your portfolio with them for potential collaborations.

Print Marketing Materials 🎫

Design and distribute business cards, brochures, and flyers showcasing your photography services. Leave them at local cafes, community centers, and other places where potential clients may notice them.

Guest Blogging and Publications 📰

Write guest blog posts on photography-related topics for relevant websites and publications. This can establish you as an expert in your field and attract potential clients who read your work.

Reach out to potential clients, demonstrate your skills, and develop a strategy to help them understand your vision for a certain brand or business.

Your portfolio is your way in. Can you picture it? We see your breakthrough happening soon!

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