How To Make Money From Photography.
Photography has fallen victim to the law of supply and demand. While there will always be a demand for high quality photography, the supply of photographers with decent cameras is massive.
Who do you know who HASN'T got a camera these days? With more photographs taken than ever before, much of the mystique has disappeared from the process, and the number of photographers getting big commissions from book, magazine or newspaper publishers is dwindling by the month.
Meanwhile, image rates have gone through the floor – a friend of mine was offered less than £50 by a national newspaper website for some great images he took in India. That would barely cover the cost of one night in a cheap hotel. While it's definitely got harder to make money from photography, its not impossible, though, so here are some suggestions...
1) Weddings and family portraits
Wedding and family portrait specialists are weathering the storm better than most photographers. I recently read a silly article in The Guardian that said they too would fall victim to smartphones but this isn't happening (yet).
The bride and groom are still prepared to pay for a pro with a 'proper' camera to take high quality images, and while Uncle Bob with his budget SLR might volunteer, deep down he doesn't want the hassle and responsibility. Wedding photographers are seen in the same light as pro wedding caterers – a necessary expense.
So if you can pay your dues and learn the ropes, wedding photography can still make you money. See Keith Appleby's great course here. Cute images of younger kids and pets will always be popular, too. Smartphone users (or Uncle Bobs) rarely have the understanding of portrait technique and lighting to be able to make a decent stab at this.
2) Photo holidays
The backside has well and truly fallen out of landscape and travel photography, unless you have been doing it for ages or are very well connected. Why would a travel magazine pay a photographer to go out to Burma when there are thousands of keen enthusiasts out there with pro-spec SLRs who will let you publish their work for free in return for a credit?
It's very cheap to buy Burma images from stock libraries too. One answer to this sad state of affairs is to run photo holidays, which is something that a lot of pros are now doing – even big names like Nigel Hicks
While it's a lot of responsibility, get it right and you can still make money from photo holidays, and it can be rewarding to see students develop their skills. You may struggle to attract students if you are not that well known, though, but if you are live in an interesting area, what about running photo tours there?
3) Shooting for stock
Another way of making money is to to shoot for stock libraries. There will always be a demand for the kind of images that can be used in corporate literature or as general eye candy in newspapers or magazines.
A friend of mine gets a good income from providing images of police to stock libraries. So long as he removes their badge details, there is not usually any problem. Images of happy smiling business people or families always seem to do well, too. Stock library tycoon Yuri Acors has become a millionaire from providing this kind of imagery, however cheesy it can seem.
4) Corporate shoots
Related to the above, companies will still pay for a good photographer to take pictures of their top brass. It doesn't need to hang in the boardroom either. I recently got a job taking profile pictures of a company for their LinkedIn profiles.
So don't be afraid to contact local businesses if you enjoy this kind of work. It's never going to be great art, but it can provide funds to finance more interesting personal projects.
5) Write about it...
Ironically, you can often earn more money by writing about photography than you can by doing it. There is a still a large number of photography magazines on the shelves, as well as many, many more blogs and websites.
Brushing up your writing skills, or doing an evening class on feature writing, could be a very worthwhile investment of time and money. Many people go out and buy top-end SLRs without any real idea of how to use them.