There are many different ways to become a photographer. One of the advantages of choosing photography as a career path is that you don’t necessarily need formal education. People don’t always expect to see your diploma when they hire you as a photographer. What they care about is the quality of your previous work and if it fits the style of the pictures they are looking for or not.
There are a number of advantages to attending a photography school. It will probably speed up your learning curve, give you a network of professionals in the area, and give you access to equipment and locations to shoot at, among other perks. But the reality is, that you can learn photography and become an award-winning photographer even without ever stepping a foot in a photography school.
If you choose to learn photography on your own, your path to becoming a photographer could look something like this:
- You buy a camera and start taking pictures to get familiar with your new toy.
- You start getting interested in photography and decide to learn more about it.
- You study the different aspects of photography and practice your learnings with family and friends.
- You feel more confident in your skills and the quality of your work and think could be time to start charging for it.
When you reach the point to start charging for your work it can be a bit tricky. Many people focus only on the direct, more traditional way of selling your work which is charging for photoshoots. That’s what photographers do in the end, right? Well, yes. This is one of the forms you can generate some income as a photographer, but there are many other ways you can get some extra cash in.
In our free webinar, our founders Jonas and Julia talk about many different options to make (extra) money as a photographer and also shared some tips for positioning yourself as a professional. In this article, we are going to highlight the most relevant topics and give you a summary of what went on. If you want to see the full version of the webinar, feel free to check the video below.
This article is aimed to be a summary of the topics presented in the full webinar. We are leaving some information out in order to make it short and straight to the point.
If you prefer to watch the full recording it is available at the top of the article. There you will learn a bit more about Beazy and the founders as well as follow the Q&A section at the end.
The webinar is split into 4 main topics or parts. The first one is what we consider the must-haves if you want to position yourself as a professional photographer. Then we will jump into different ways to earn an extra income with your photos. In the third section, we talk about not earning money specifically, but opportunities to save money when it comes to gear. And last but not least, we talk about some of the legal issues you can come across and how to avoid them so you don’t need to spend your hard-earned money on lawyers.
1 - Must Have
First, let’s dive into what is essential to have, in our opinion, to start earning money as a photographer.
Build your portfolio
The first thing you have to do is to build a portfolio of previous work in order to show the possible clients the quality and style of your work. Your friends and family might trust your word that you will come out with nice photos, but if someone is paying for it, they will certainly need a taste of your work before they make a financial commitment. Here are some tips to build a solid portfolio.
Find your niche
When building your portfolio it is important to define a niche and try to stick to it. This does not mean that you should be shooting just one type of photography, but if someone is looking to get their portraits taken, they will most probably be looking specifically for a portrait photographer.
The same goes for other types of photography. Sticking to a niche will build yourself an authority in that field and could make it easier for people looking for that certain picture style to come across your work.
TFP, Events, and Workshops
Now, you have picked a niche you want to pursue. But how do you find people willing to be photographed so you can build your portfolio? Family and friends work wonders in the beginning. However, not everyone is very keen to be in front of the camera and eventually you run out of “subjects”.
When that happens a great option is to start working with TFP, attending photography events and workshops.
For those who don’t already know, TFP stands for Time For Print, which basically means that both the photographer and model are giving up their time in exchange for the “print”, the physical photograph back in the day, and currently mainly the digital photo. In other words, this is a collaboration between photographer and model where both are working in exchange for material for their portfolio, no money involved.
Attending events and workshops is a great way not only to practice your photography skills but to meet fellow creatives. Going to these events you might get to know models who work TFP, and also photographers who can refer your work to possible clients in the future or have a nice project in which you can collaborate. If the event is a workshop you get all the advantages we talked about plus you will be improving your knowledge while doing it.
If you live in the Berlin area, we (Beazy) hold both events and workshops regularly. You can check all the upcoming events on our Beazy Meetup Group
Volunteer and collaborate
This follows the same idea of working TFP and attending events. When you volunteer to be an assistant or work collaboratively in a project, you are not only learning from fellow creatives but also creating or expanding your network of professionals in the area. Moreover, you are also creating a piece of work that you can share on your portfolio for possible future clients.
Create your own brand
One aspect of the business sometimes overlooked by photographers is branding. Branding can make your work more recognizable and differentiate yourself from other photographers in the same niche.
The first part of branding is related to visuals and styling. Choosing a logo, signature, fonts and colors to use on your websites, proposals, etc will give your work a bit of your own personality and people will be able to instantly recognize your work thanks to all these little details.
Another important part of branding is storytelling. This means what is the story you want to tell your customers about yourself. You can think of it as telling others why they should shoot with you and not another photographer. What makes you relatable to them. Here is also important to take into account how you communicate with your customer.
If you want to photograph for car manufacturers or real estate companies, for example, you probably want to use a more serious and professional tone of voice. If you are more into portraits or events, you are able to be more casual. This is all part of telling your story, showing customers who you are, and why your work fits their needs.
Ideal client / Persona
If you ever did some research about marketing in general, you probably came across the term “Buyer Persona”. In case you have no idea what a Persona is, here is a quick definition: Persona is the representation of your ideal client. Who would be the person that would need your services and would find value in them?
Having a defined persona is important to shape your storytelling, defining the tone of voice you use when communicating with your clients and also picking what channels to use when promoting your work (more on that later).
When you have your Styling, Persona and Storytelling defined all you need to do is to be consistent. All the previous parts are part of a strategy. The only way to see if it works or not is to be consistent over time and slowly adapting.
Don’t change the way you present yourself or talk to your clients every other week. Find a niche you want to progress into, create your own styling and branding and then stick to it.
Pick your channels
Ok, so now you have your portfolio built, have chosen your branding and everything. It is time to promote your work. In this day and age there are many different channels you can use. There are so many platforms and ways to promote yourself that it can even get overwhelming.
Here, the persona you created in your branding process will be of great use. The reason is that each channel has its specific purpose, audience, and tone.
If you are a real estate photographer and want to work with big real estate companies, LinkedIn would probably be a great place to promote yourself. The people who use the platform are more serious and professional. However, if you want to explore more the portrait niche, then LinkedIn might not be the best option, you might be better off on Instagram.
Do some research and try to figure out where your audience is most active. You might find out that they could be in one or more channels. Another piece of advice is also not to try to be in all the platforms at once. Pick one or two that your audience is more likely to interact with and focus on them.
2 - Earn more
In the first part of the webinar we talked about what you should have in order to promote yourself and start earning some money as a photographer. Now it comes the many different ways that you can start making an income with your photography.
Social Media is a great place to promote your work and make a name for yourself. If you think about it, social media is where most people consume photography content on a daily basis. And it is only natural that when they want to look for photographers the first place they look for it is in Social Media. It is a great place to get in contact with potential clients.
Building a name and a community in these platforms is not that easy though. One good little tip from our founders is to actually be social. Meaning don’t only post your photos and wait for likes to come in. As the name suggests, is a place to start conversations, interact and engage with other people. Start engaging with other people’s content, be social.
Blog - Website/Blog
Although social media is a great place to promote yourself, there is a small problem with it. Your content is not guaranteed to even come up in your own follower's feed. The algorithms decide what kind of content they think is relevant for each person. That means that you are playing by their rules.
severalIf you want more control of what is shown to your audience and who you show it to, having a personal blog and website is the way to go.
There are many kinds of approaches to this as well. There are blogs that curate others people content, there are blogs that focus on sharing knowledge of specific segment of photography, and other websites which are basically publishers of photography related content like Fstoppers for example.
In case you are not a big fan of writing and blogging, you can still use your website to host your personal portfolio, sell some prints and/or even merchandise you create out of your photos.
Some easy ways to create your own website without any code are:
- WordPress + Elementor
Let’s face it. There are platforms for everything these days. Their idea is basically to bring together the offer and the demand for a product or service together, all online.
In this session of the live webinar Julia and Jonas gave a more detailed explanation of what kind of platform exists and how you could benefit from them. In the text version, we will not go through all of them in detail. But we will highlight some of them, and tell how you can make a little income from it.
The first type of platform our founders suggested are Job platforms, there you can find either freelance jobs or full time jobs as a photographer in your region. Some of the platforms mentioned were:
- LinkedIn - Full Time Jobs
- Glassdoor - Full Time Jobs
- Upwork - Freelance
- Fiverr - Freelance
- Lemon One - Freelance
- Star of Service - Freelance
You probably heard about stock photos. The concept is pretty straight forward. You put up your photos on the platform and if anyone wants to use your photo as content for their website, flyer, or anything, they pay a price to get the right to use the image.
The best images here are the ones that people can use to link to specific topics. Some examples would be a man driving a car, a family having breakfast, kids talking on the phone, etc. Everyday actions in a good quality photo can be a good choice for making some money on these platforms.
It is important to note that this is not a very stable source of income, so you shouldn’t really rely on it to make a living as a photographer, but it can get some extra cash at the end of the day.
Some Stock Photography platforms are:
- Unsplash (Not paid)
Prints and Digital Assets
As mentioned on the website section of the article, one way to make money with your photography is to sell your prints. You can do it on your own website with Print On Demand services like Printify or also on marketplaces like Etsy.
If you are into editing, another possibility is also to sell your digital assets like Lightroom Presets, Video LUTs and even Photoshop brushes and actions. If you think your work is good and someone would be interested there are platforms like Filtergrade which have a collection of digital assets for sale and many users looking for it.
Yet another way to make an income with your photography skills is teaching them online. Every day many people look for bite-sized courses to learn a new hobby or skill online.
If you feel like you have something worth teaching, you can create an online course about it and use platforms like Udemy or Skillshare to spread the word about it.
We talked about many different ways to earn money with photography online. However, as connected as we may be thanks to today's technology, the offline events always have their places.
Keeping it a mix of online platform and offline event, we have AirBnB Experiences. For those who are not familiar, when renting a place to stay in AirBnB, travellers have the option to also book local experiences in the destination they are travelling to. You can offer services like a Photo Tour, or a Portrait Photoshoot on the most iconic tourist attraction where you live.
We talked about online courses and how there are millions of people looking to expand their knowledge everyday. This also happens in the offline world, and in the photography field, even more.
A great way to generate income is to teach others a skill you have related to your niche. Hobbyists love to attend workshops. It is a place to meet people with the same interests as yourself and also get to learn from experienced professionals on the specific topic you are trying to learn.
Rent your gear or studio
Last but not least, a good way to make extra money with the gear you have is renting it to fellow creatives. As photographers, we all need some situational equipment. Could be a bigger softbox for a certain type of shooting, or even a specific lens to give a certain look to your photo.
When it comes to situational occasions like this, people tend to rent the gear they need instead of buying it, and if you have the gear they need, you can make some extra cash renting it out when it would otherwise be sitting on your shelf.
This is what we believe in at Beazy. For those who do not know us already, we are a peer-to-peer rental marketplace for audiovisual equipment.. That means that you as a photographer can list your gear on our website and other creatives can rent it out from you directly, no need to talk to a renting shop. And the best part is that you don’t have to worry about people damaging your gear. Every rental through Beazy is automatically insured up to 30,000 €. If anything happens, we got you covered.
Moreover, if you have a studio or a nice location for shootings, you can also list it at Beazy and rent it out to other photographers or productions. If you want to know more about how it works, visit our “Become a studio” page.
3 - Spend Less
In this section of the webinar Jonas and Julia gave some tips on how you can save money, especially when it comes to gear. We all know that audiovisual gear can be very expensive and break your budget even when you are already making money as a photographer.
Rent instead of buy
The first tip is to rent the gear you need or want before committing to buying it. This can be helpful in two cases. When you have a situational need for a specific piece of equipment for a certain project, or also when you want to try some new gear and decide for yourself if it is worth it or not.
Camera gear can be pretty pricey sometimes. Looking at specs and reviews can help when making a purchase decision. But we all probably have been in the situation where we ended up buying a piece of gear, used once or twice and then it ended up sitting on our shelves collecting dust. Renting the gear you intend to buy later on can turn out to be a great money saver.
At Beazy we have all kinds of gear and location to meet your needs, and the best part is that it is usually 40% to 60% cheaper than normal rental shops. If you are looking to rent something, have a look at our website.
Buy cheaper gear
Let’s say you wanted to test out a new camera you had your eyes on for a while. You go ahead and rent it to have a hands on experience and see if it does fit all your needs and see if you actually love it. Now, you are ready to commit and buy it. A great money saver is to buy second hand gear which is in great conditions.
A great place to look for quality second hand gear is the MPB website. MPB is a platform where you can buy, sell or trade your current gear. If you are looking for upgrading your camera body for example, you can give your current one, pay only for the difference and get the quality-assured new body from MPB.
Collaboration & TFP
We talked about collaboration and TFP before. It is a great way to take part in new projects and expand your portfolio. We are now going to look at the other side of the coin. Where you can benefit from people that are willing to work TFP and collaborate in your project in exchange for experience. TFP is a great way to save some money related to model fees.
There are many places to look for TFP models. The first and easiest is to search on different Facebook Groups. There are even groups focused only on TFP opportunities. But if you want to look for something a bit more professional, you can check Model Mayhem or also our community platform, the Beazy Gang
Most of the big players in the photography industry have their own Ambassador Programs. Being a brand ambassador basically means that you get free equipment or other benefits from the brand and in return you have your image associated with it.
Bear in mind that becoming an ambassador sometimes requires you to already have some recognition in the area. It is not for everyone. But don’t be discouraged. There are many niches that brands haven't explored with Ambassadors, send your application and cross your fingers.
4 - Work safely and legally
In the last part of our free webinar, we talked about working safely and legally with an emphasis in the German laws since we are based in Berlin. However, most of the concepts presented here will apply anywhere in the world, with a minor changes here and there.
We decided to include this part because infringing one of the laws while shooting can become very costly and force you to spend your hard-worked money on legal issues.
These pages state what other people are allowed to do with your content and also what you can do with the content produced in a project with them. Even if you don’t intend to use the photos you take in any commercial way, it is important that you have that written down in these pages.
It is one of those things that most people don’t ever really pay attention to or read anything related to it. Unless you are a lawyer, then this could be a gold mine. You don’t want anyone taking your gold away from you.
Sign TFP contracts
We already went to all the advantages of TFP in the webinar. However, if not done properly, it can give you some headache.
To avoid any problems while collaborating with models in TFP shoots, always sign a contract. This way you are ensured to be able to use the photos you are producing. If there is no contract and the model for some reason does not like the photos and tells you not to share them, you won’t be able to use the photos anywhere because of legal issues.
Don’t share/sell without third party authorization
This one can be obvious in some cases, for example when you have a person as the main subject of the photo. However, if you take a portrait inside a restaurant or cafe for example without asking any permission and share or sell the picture, you can be sued by the establishment.
This is also one of those cases that you usually won't have a problem with, but the one time you have, can cost you a lot of money. Therefore, better to avoid it altogether.
Register yourself as freelancer
This topic will vary from country to country because it depends on the legislation required to work as a photographer.
Here in Germany, you will have to register yourself as Freiberufliche Tätigkeit (Freelancer) so you are able to file invoices for your clients. It is also valid to point that when you are registered as a freelancer, you will have to do your taxes every year. If you earn less than 9,000€/year, you don’t have to pay any additional taxes, and if you keep your earnings under 22,000€/year, you also don’t need VAT.
Having camera insurance is essential especially if you want to make a living as a photographer, but it is also very helpful for hobbyists.
Cameras are expensive, especially the more capable ones. We are talking thousands of euros here. Even though you might take very good care of your gear and be extra cautious while using it. Unexpected things can happen, and the last thing you want is to be unable to photograph for a while because you don’t have the budget to fix or buy a new camera.
Another type of insurance that not many people think about and can save them money depending on their niche is liability insurance. It covers the costs of damage caused by you. Yes, yourself. You might think that this would not be useful in any case, but if you are shooting a wedding and while framing the bride and groom you accidentally hit a random table with a 3,000€ vase on it and you break that vase, then you will be glad to have your liability insurance.
Copyright and Watermarks
This last tip is related to protection against image theft. Imagine you go out and take some really nice landscape pictures on your last trip, then you are surfing the web and see one of your images being used by a travel agency promoting the destination you travelled to and not paying you a dime. A bummer, isn’t it?
To prevent this you have two strategies. First is adding Copyright Notices to your website. Having the copyright standard will clearly show how people can use your photos and if they use it in a way that does not comply with the Copyrights, you can be the one suing others now.
Another strategy to avoid image theft is watermarking your images. This makes it easier to recognize your work and less attractive to people who want to use it on their own projects without paying for it. They don’t always look the best on your photos, but it will put you on the safer side when it comes to image thiefs.
When it comes to making money as a photographer, there are a number of different ways to go about it. Some of them don’t even require you to be actively taking pictures.
Before you start making money, there are a few steps that you should take in order to position yourself as a professional photographer.
- Build your portfolio
- Create your brand
- Pick your channels
After the preparation is done, you can decide on one of the many different ways you want to explore the photography market. In the webinar we gave you a lot of tips on how to generate some income with photography both online and offline.
We also talked about ways that you can save money as a photographer. Gear, models, assistants, location fees, etc can take a good part of your budget, saving on those will also result in a more attractive bank account.
Last but not least we dove into the boring but important topic of working safely and legally. While this is not directly related to earning money, it is a very important bureaucratic part of the job. And when not done properly it can be very costly if you ever end up in court.
We hope this webinar was helpful to you and you could get something out of it. We at Beazy want to help you, creatives, as much as we can.