10 good ways to make money from your photography

By Ed Gregory – City Lit photography tutor

It might surprise you to know that being a great photographer, an ok photographer, or even a not so good photographer, has no impact on the amount of money that you do or don’t make in photography.  Photographers, like musicians, and other artists, fall into three main camps:

  • People that care nothing about money and only live to satisfy their personal art needs
  • People that see the business opportunities in what they do
  • People that dream about making it work but lack motivation and sometimes courage to take the chance

None of these are wrong - they are just a statement of fact. We’ve all heard stories of the struggling photographer/artist/musician/writer making it big but for the vast majority this is not the case.  This leaves many people with negative feelings of helplessness and failure – it’s a very tough call.  What’s worse is living with the feeling that you are not as good as you want to be, or your skills are not as good as the people you admire. It often leads to depression, resentment, jealousy. To learn in life we need to feel safe, secure, comfortable and above all, confident that the people teaching us can deliver what they say. The same rule applies in business. Your clients need to feel safe, secure, confident and trusting towards you before he or she will part with their money.

Who are you?  Chances are, if you are reading this then you are already part of the club. Maybe you are in group 1 and you understand that to get your end result you need money. If you are not in group 1, you are already in group 2 and 3 sitting on the fence. In this article I will be talking to people who fall into groups 2 and 3. 

If you can frame a shot, get the exposure right, and download the result, then you already have the raw material to build on to get you up and running. Here are some of the skills you will need to develop to make that shutter earn you money:

1.  Develop a plan for your success from a social and business aspect. This means research the areas of photography that you want to move in and make sure that you review this regularly. I set aside one day every month to review my current competitors and markets.

2.  Find the people that can give you work and ask them what they are requiring at the moment. Do they have any up and coming events that need to be covered?  Do they need images for websites, social media and blogging?  Do they need family portraits for gifts?

3.  Use your communication skills.  Talk, text, email.  The photography business has a strong dependency on communication.  Only five percent of being a photographer is spent engaging the shutter.  A rest of the time is about engaging your client or potential clients. 

4. Manage client expectation. Ensure that you can deliver what you say and when you say. Will it be you taking the pictures or do you need to bring in another expert?

5. Use social media. These days your ability to work the social media or engage someone who can do it for you is a massive part of life and business.  So often people feel excluded from this more because of fear and lack of confidence. Make it your business to find out about Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and all the rest.

6. Build business to business partnerships. Which businesses have clients that can benefit from what your photography?  For example, you could give a local business a co-branded product that they can give away as added value to their clients.  I have a number of car salesmen who offer an all-inclusive shoot with my studio as a gift worth £400 every time a client buys a new car.

7. Develop good relationships with charities. Charities bring in 20% of my event income.

8. Develop great relationships with other professional photographers. Often I will hire other photographers that I trust to do a job for me. In my area I have regular meet-ups with other professionals to agree pricing.

9.  Education.  This now brings us full circle.  See it as your duty to yourself, and to your clients, to strive to become better. Good education and training will increase self-confidence from a business and an artistic point of view.  How do you expect others to invest in you if you are not prepared to invest in yourself?  The better you get at what you do, the better your business will be. 

But above all remember that:

10.  A business has to make a profit.  If it doesn’t then it’s not viable. Change your attitude - invest in yourself (time as well as money.)  Embrace strategic risk, and believe that you can do it.