For most of us who ponder on the prospect of generating an income from our photography, what stops us is the thought of an oversaturated market combined with our own self-doubt and not knowing how to get started. Now if we told you making money from your photography would be easy, we would be lying. However, we aim to equip you with everything you could possibly need to know about how to improve your chances of generating an income and more importantly, keep the money coming in. What you do with this information is down to you. You might adore your day job and want to make a little extra cash to fund what can be an expensive hobby, take the first steps towards becoming a semi-pro or a weekend photographer, or it may give you the tools and the confidence to take the plunge and turn professional. Whatever your intention, there will be plenty for you to take on board in this guide and apply to your own money-making schemes We’ll take a look at the hard-core fundamentals of building a business, with advice from accountants and industry experts, as well as providing you with insight into the types of photography-related jobs that are on offer. And for those of you who simply want to earn a little extra pocket money we’ll be investigating the ways you can sell your images directly and indirectly to customers so you know where to invest your precious personal time and turn a profit. So stick with us as we not only build up your photography skills, but also your bank balance. For those of you who would eventually like to make photography a full-time or part-time career, our first nugget of advice is to make sure you get at least a few fully-paid photography jobs before you pack in the mine-to-five. Take the time to research the routes to establishing a photographic business and talk to professional photographers already working in your field of choice. Find out not only ways to get work but if there’s even enough work out there, as many sectors are shrinking. Try to hear first hand what life is like as a semi-or full-time pro. While digital may have made professional image quality more attainable, it’s also made competition fierce in nearly every sector. So while making a bit of pocket money could be quite achievable, if you want to make it so that half or even all your income comes from photography. you’ll need to be prepared to put in the work, as it won’t be easy.
Turn Your Pictures Into Money
Chances are that you will spend more time in front of a computer than you will a camera, editing pictures, chasing clients and uploading images, not to mention managing your accounts and marketing material, and if you’re a weekend photographer, it will be even tougher as you’ll have to find a way of doing all that while balancing a full-time job. A sensible photographer however, will keep their day job and work weekends and evenings, building their client base, experience and portfolio. It would be foolish to believe that if you turn professional you will instantly be on the receiving end of a full-time income, unless of course you manage to secure yourself one of the rare salaried photographic jobs In the industry. The vast majority of photographers, however, will have to earn their money through self-employment, which means starting a business. Not only does this come with a plethora of factors to consider such as taxes, banking, branding, marketing and insurance, you need to be prepared not to turn a profit in the first three years, as very few new businesses do. However, if photography is really your passion, what’s three years of working hard to build a business you love when it could lead to a lifetime of living the dream. Digital cameras and the Internet have opened up many more avenues for all levels of photographers to potentially make money, so the opportunities are definitely thereto cash in on. Though to really maximise the benefits, you need to be prepared to put in the time to develop your photography skills and market knowledge as well as sustain an unyielding. determination to improve and succeed. Too often talented photographers struggle to make money from their photography. while other mediocre photographers manage to have a profitable career all because they have the business acumen and perseverance. The title ‘professional’ is not necessarily a reflection of technical ability or creativity, it only means that you try to make most of your money from photography. There are many gifted amateurs whose images are capable of rivalling a professional photographers, so for this reason, just because you might not be a professional shouldn’t discourage you from pitching yourself as a photographer worth paying for, if you think your images are good enough. However, if you feel that you do not have the skills yet to go semi- or full-time pro, concentrate on your technique, building up experience, and start trying to make money slowly. If you’re ready to make some serious money and to put the effort in, you may want to start thinking about setting up a business. For anyone who’s never been self-employed this can seem like a very daunting prospect, but it’s actually rather simple. The first step applies to nearly everyone reading this, who earns more than £8.105 a year (2012-13) in the United Kingdom and is intending to sell their work to make a profit, however small, and that is to register with HM Revenue & Customs (Tax office) and other countries outside the UK may of course have different terms and regulations. You need to register with them once you’ve received your first pay cheque, and are therefore actively trading, You can either register as a sole trader, as a partner or as a member of a limited liability partnership or company. If you fail to let HM Revenue & Customs know within three months of trading, you might be slapped with a £100 penalty fee. and if you do not register at all, and therefore neglect to pay tax on your new earnings, chances are you’ll pay a lot more than this in fines and possibly even jail time. Well be covering topics including registration options, types of businesses you can own. tax and write-offs in more detail in the Business Matters section of this guide. But for the moment, generally speaking, registering as a sole trader is the way to go for most photographers who are making a little extra money, and semi-professionals. It requires no registration fees, you keep all your profits once they’re taxed as income and accounts are fairly straightforward to keep. The only downfall is that you’ll be personally liable for any debt that your business runs up. If you’ll be requiring business loans and a fair bit of investment, you might want to keep your business debt separate from your personal finances by registering as a private limited company However, while this means that if your business goes bust you’re not personally liable, it will open you up to additional fees, requirements and responsibilities, including registering with Companies House. Finally, for those of you wanting to shift career paths in one go and be your own boss, but need support to run a business, you could invest in a photography franchise You buy the license to use the established brand name, products, services and management support. Depending on the terms of the franchise agreement, you might have to pay an initial fee. ongoing management fees or a percentage of your turnover to the franchiser and the way you operate your business might also be dictated, but at least you do not have to start a business from scratch. Alongside registering, it’s worth arranging an appointment with your bank to discuss setting up a business account and potential funding sources that you might need for set-up costs such as photography equipment computers, software and even business premises like a studio Even though you may only be doing the odd weekend wedding or selling a few images via a stock library, it will be a lot easier to manage your income and expenses from a dedicated account, saving you time and stress when it comes to filling out your end of year tax return. You’ll also need to think about the type of insurance you need for your equipment and, depending on the field of photography you’re working in. whet her you need public liability and professional indemnity insurance too. Finally, you can get to the creative, and arguably much more enjoyable part of building a business: building a brand and marketing yourself. Now at this point, you’re either exerted and raring to get going, or terrified by the level of commitment needed, and questioning whether you’re ready to go part-time or full-time pro. Our advice is if you’re not sure, start slow and pick out the information that can gradually start to make you money – be it small amounts at first – until you’re confident you can take it a step further. Maybe you should pay this page/blog a visit for when you’re ready to refer back to it later. To make it easier for you to distinguish what stage you’re at, and what information to take on board.
What type of Photographer are you?
Three main types of photographer. By identifying with one of them you will quickly and easily be able to see how the information in this guide relates to you and how your chances of success vary according to the areas and topics of photography that we are covering You may find similarities in more than one description, so make sure to read all of our advice as it will help greatly improve your chances of making money from your photographs.
Beginner Inexperienced Amateur
You’ve probably been taking snapshots on a compact for a while, but haven’t had a DSLR for long. You’ve caught the photo bug and love taking pictures of anything and everything, but get frustrated that you don’t have all the fundamental knowledge needed to take full control of your photos. So you often shoot in a fully automatic mode when you want to be sure you get a decent shot, while experimenting with the various modes and learning from your mistakes. You regularly photograph your family and friends and you try to dedicate some spare time to shooting interests, such as the garden, landscapes or portraits. In terms of gear, you’ve the basics: an entry-level DSLR with a kit lens, possibly a budget telephoto like the 55-200mm. You’ve a nice little gadget bag. a basic tripod but few if any specialist bits of kit like a flashgun. You rate your photographic skills as ‘OK. but could do more’, but among your many near misses, you’ve some shots you rate as ’very good’ to ‘excellent.
Enthusiast Advanced Amateur
You ve used a DSLR for a number of years and quite possibly owned a 35mm DSLR too. You rate yourself as a very competent photographer who knows most, if not all. of the basic requirements to get a perfectly sharp, well-exposed image. You’re recognised by those you know as a very good photographer and most likely have been asked not only for copies of your images, but also to take some shots of friends and family too. Your passion for photography is as strong as ever and while you’ve a good level of expertise, you crave new ideas, techniques and skills to learn, to help expand your talents. You don’t earn significant amounts of money from your photos, but you’ve a strong idea that you could do based on comparing your work to others, from what you’ve been told and from your modest successes so far. which could involve shooting the odd weekend wedding to selling images on stock libraries. You’ve a decent camera outfit based around a mid-range DSLR (with possibly an older, entry-level model as a back-up) Your lenses are all good quality and as well as a good standard zoom, you’ve a telezoom, an ultra wide-angle and possibly a specialist lens like a macro, as well as a 50mm f/1.8 and a creative option like a Lensbaby. You’ve a flashgun, sturdy tripod, a good quality gadget bag or backpack and quite possible have, or are thinking of getting, a lighting system. You are fairly competent in Photoshop and other digital techniques and print your best images on a high quality inkjet printer.
Semi-Pro Advanced Enthusiast
You may not have a full-time job as a photographer, but you know you have the creative skills and competency to make serious money from photography. Taking pictures is a major passion in your life and you rarely go anywhere without your DSLR, as it would pain you to see a great photo opportunity and not be able to capture it. For this reason, you own a premium compact that you can carry around with you for when a DSLR isn’t practical. You want to live the dream of going pro but unfortunately, for whatever reason, the time isn’t quite right, but you have a rough plan and a strong desire to one day make a living as a pro. You’re skilled at most photo techniques, but read photo magazines for inspiration and ideas and to see how others earn a crust. You regularly enter photo competitions not only to try to win. but as a challenge to help you improve your skills. You earn a modest but good income from the odd job. such as portrait or wedding shoots, selling images to local businesses and from commissions from online stock libraries. You’re on your second or third DSLR, having upgraded to a model you’re now satisfied delivers the quality you need. You’ve a good mix of lenses, with some if not all being premium optics. Among your f/2.8 zooms you have a 50mm, 100mm macro, a premium wide-angle and maybe a teleconverter and/or set of extension tubes too. You’ve a decent collection of photo accessories including reflectors, lighting, a remote release, a couple of tripods and gels/diffusers to use with your dedicated flashgun.
Shooting to become successful
With so many areas of photography to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to invest your time, resources and energy for the best chance of a return. We take a closer look at what areas of photography offer you the best opportunities to earn money.
Every good image that you capture has the potential to make you money, it’s just a case of knowing how and where to sell it. By our reckoning, there are three main areas that a photographer can make money from: services, products and stock. Each one lends itself to some fields of photography more than others and. depending on the types of images you’re selling, has varying profit potential. Services refers to commissions, whether it’s shooting a wedding, a portrait shoot, for a newspaper or for the National Trust. Normally this will be a flat fee. however, if it’s a commercial shoot, it’s usually an hourly rate, normally amounting to between £500 and £1.000 a day. Services can also be extended to teaching photo courses, which hold huge earning potential for those photographers with the experience and expertise to run them. Products are where the money can really be made, especially in social photography, as you may often find that clients spend just as much – if not more – buying their images in their various guises as they do on the actual shoot. For many photographers, such as landscape, travel and fine-art photographers, selling images is their main source of revenue, whether that’s online, in stores or directly to customers. Stock is fairly self-explanatory, but we’ll be going into that in more depth later on. The very first thing you need to do is decide what field of photography you want to concentrate on. There are several areas of photography that are harder to get into than others and suit full-time pros rather than enthusiasts. For instance commercial photography, be it fashion, food, products or beauty, normally requires a few years working as an assistant before getting to know the right people and tools for breaking into the business. You could start learning the trade as a part-time assistant if you’re willing to wait even longer and probably not earn much money in the process. Photojournalism, again is a difficult job to get into by relying on commissions from newspapers and magazines, but a good way of kick-starting this career is to fund your own assignment and then pitch it to publications when you return. Other areas of interest might be film stills, press, beauty or corporate photography – there are a lot of different avenues to
investigate, each with different types of rewards to be reaped.
Target the people who pay
If it’s money you want, the biggest earner has to be social photography, which includes weddings, portraits and events. Not only will you be paid for the service, but the potential for selling products is massive because you have a captive audience wanting to pay for the images. While photographing weddings is a huge responsibility and shouldn’t be done unless you’re confident about your abilities, a family portrait session is more fun to do and you don’t need a studio: lifestyle portraits are perfect for the outdoors where kids can enjoy themselves and relax. Or you could invest in a lighting system and go to your clients’ house for the shoot. Depending on how involved you want to get. selling albums and prints. rather than giving clients a DVD of images can be a real moneymaker and it ensures that everyone they show your photos to is seeing them at their best. Often, if you’re trading, you can be eligible for trade prices on printing and presentation methods too. which can leave you room to apply a healthy mark-up for the customers, making you a tidy profit. How much you charge is up to you. there are no rules or regulations to guide you. but it’s a good idea to check out the local competition as you don’t want to price yourself out of the market. Weddings can range from £600 t £3.000+ depending on the package offered and the duration of the wedding. Even as a weekend photographer you have the potential to earn several thousand pounds a year The myriad of events you can photograph is endless but sometimes seasonal, for instance football tournaments. Christmas parties, proms and school dances. So grab yourself a portable printer and your camera, take shots of people on the night, print them immediately and sell them for £10 each. Normally the venue owner takes a slice of your profits, but you’ll still potentially walk away with a healthy sum.
A tough market to crack
Of all the different types of photography, landscapes is probably one of the most popular to practice, but also one of the toughest to make money from. Too many photographers shoot landscapes as a hobby and then practically give their images away, reducing the need for companies to buy them It used to be that landscape, wildlife and travel photographers could rely on stock agencies to supply them a solid income. But as this part of the industry is now overwhelmed by mind-blowing submissions from enthusiasts and amateurs, as well as the professionals, it has driven the price of stock down, making it difficult to earn a living from. There are some talented photographers who have managed to make these types of photography a full-time career, for instance travel photographer and regular jet sets around the world for stock library. There are also a fair few outdoor photographers who manage to sustain a full-time income, but it’s no longer from one main source such as stock libraries. However, it still has the potential to earn photographers a few hundred or thousand pounds over time. For pros to keep their head above water, they have to bring in different revenue streams. Some photographers do courses and workshops at home and abroad, get publishing deals or self-publish photo books and calendars, or work for photography magazines and the National Trust, while others try newer avenues such as selling their images printed on roller blinds. It takes initiative and funding to get ideas and products like this off the ground, but you could try pitching your images to companies that can create, or at least sell, the products for you. such as interior design firms or The Art Group.
Take stock of your image bank
You could be sitting on a gold mine and not even know it. OK, well maybe not a gold mine, but at least the funds for a new lens or digital camera. Most of us will have some great images stored on memory cards or on a hard drive that we’ve forgotten about, because we do not know what to do with them, but the stock photo marketplace is an ideal way to put these generic images to work for you. Joining a stock agency normally requires you to register and submit a selection of your best work. The agency will then judge the quality of the images and decide whether to allow you to contribute If all goes well and your images are accepted, they will show your best picture on their website for companies and individuals to license. You’ll get a cut of the client’s licensing fee. but how much varies from agency to agency. Alamy offers 60% of the sale, which is generous. While the industry is saturated by stock photo agencies, most are owned by Getty Images and Corbis Images, each with their own image standards and requirements, licensing rules (rights-managed or royalty-free) and prices. These big agencies can be very selective of who they work with, normally sticking to pros who have been providing them stock for several years. Microstock sites, on the other hand, such as iStockPhoto and ShutterStock, are open to all levels of photographer and reach a huge audience, however they pay less than the bigger agencies. As long as your images pass the site’s technical requirements for image quality. Microstock can be one of the easiest ways to make money, especially if you have the volume. You might only earn £1 per picture, but if you sell 1.000 images a year that’s a fair bit of money in your pocket. One way you could get involved with Getty Images is via its Flickr Collection. Instead of submitting images directly to Getty, click on the (Request to License) link on your photo page and Getty will assess your portfolio for their collection. It’s known for some contributors to have earned thousands through this partnership.
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