How To Make Money as a Photographer (online and in the real world)

how to make money photographer

In the world of photography, there are many options to make money doing a hobby you love. 

Some examples from our list include:

  • Making money taking pictures while you travel
  • Working with small local businesses
  • Reselling photographs online

There are tons more examples and ideas to make money as a photographer, below we are going to explore each one.

Before we get started, let’s discuss a bit about how much money a photographer can make.

Can Photographers Make Passive Income?

Photographers can certainly make passive income, if they consider some of the business ideas we present below. Some examples of ideas for passive income include Blogging, being a YouTuber, Reselling Licenses for Photos To Getty or other Stock Image Providers, and Self-Publishing your own book of photography.

There are many ways to get passive income for your photography, so keep your mind open and take notes as you review the different ideas I list below.

Is It Hard or Easy To Make $100k Per Year As a Professional Photographer? (Full-Time Job vs. Freelancer)

Many people who want to pursue the career of being a professional photographer want to know one important question, how much can I make?

With $100k per year as the target, let’s find out just how easy it would be to make that as a photographer.

First, we’ll review a study from Indeed on various salaries around the country, then I’ll provide you with my final answer below.

Based on this study from Indeed, here’s what I found.

Indeed: How Much Do Photographers Make? (With Salaries by State)

According to the study, the average national salary as of 2022 is around $43k per year. With some more experienced photographers who have 10 years in the profession getting $57k per year. The other factors that go into a photographer’s salary are things like location, season, and how specialized they are.

Examples of how location affects how much money you can make.

A big factor for how much money you can make as a photographer is the state you live in. Based on the study we just reviewed above, For California and Hawaii, those states paid the highest.

  • California = $55k per year.
  • Hawaii = $68k per year.

Keep in mind that the cost of living is also higher in California and Hawaii, so that might add to the inflated salary.

Other big cities like New York City also pay well, at over $52k per year.

If you are seriously considering a career in Photography, I highly suggest you review the entire list of locations to see which locations pay the best salaries.

How Do Seasons Affect How Much You Can Make?

For some photographers the time of year (season) is an especially big factor for how much you can make, just for the simple fact that you can’t control the weather.

So photographers who shoot photos for weddings, travel, or any other kinds of outdoor events which require good weather will be busier at certain times of year vs. not being busy when the weather is too hot or too cold.

So keep in mind the seasons, whether you are working a full-time job or doing freelance photography on your own.

So What’s The Final Answer? Is It Hard or Easy To Make $100k Per Year As a Photographer?

If we reference the study from indeed which we talked about above, the highest paid salary of $68k is in Hawaii. Then from there, the salaries get lower and lower.

So if you are seeking out a full-time career as a photographer, making $100k per year is going to be hard, unless you can use your photography skills to pick up some weekend gigs or freelance work to supplement your income.

If you are creative and can start your own photography business or can become a highly specialized freelance photographer, you are going to have a much better chance in the long run to make $100k per year as a photographer, than having a full-time job with a company.

With that said, I did a bit of research and rounded up the best photography ideas for making money as a full-time job, freelancer, or for starting an online business.

If you can take one of these ideas and become a highly paid freelancer, start a product, or launch a new business, you’ll have the best chance of making over $100k per year.

Summary of Photographer Opportunities

Recently, I wrote a detailed article about some of the Top Photographer Opportunities that you can make money with, I highly recommend you check it out.

The main takeaway from that article is that there is plenty of opportunities out there if you want to be a photographer. Whether you want a full time job or work for yourself as a freelancer, you’ll find something that can make decent money.

Some of the biggest opportunities include the following:

  • Promoting and selling your photography products or services through social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube or Pinterest.
  • Taking product photographs for an Ecommerce company.
  • Take and sell your own photographs or start a photography blog
  • License out your photographic creations.
  • Working and taking photos in the tourism industry.
  • Self-Publishing a photo book.
  • Teaching others about becoming a photographer
  • Resell your own photo prints online
  • Take real life photos for special events like Weddings, Company Business Parties, etc.
  • Work with Realtors and take photos of houses which are going up for sale.

4 Steps To Quickly Start Making Money as a Photographer

To help launch your dream for making money as a photographer, I’ll summarize a few quick steps below. These steps apply to both people who want to get a photography job or start a freelancing business.

And, most importantly! These steps will help a photographer who wants to make money online.

Step One, Decide What Type Of Photography You Want To Do

Depending on if you are just starting out, or have some previous photography work experience already, you’re going to need to decide what type of photography you want to do.

By this point, you’ve reviewed all the photography ideas I have listed in this guide.

If you are passionate about a photography idea, it’s easy to pick one out and go with it.

If you are unsure of which type of photography to get into, I recommend you just experiment and find an area of photography that gives you enough of a sustainable interest that you can make money with it.

Sometimes, following your passion can be overrated. It’s nice if you can make money with a passion, but if you can’t, something that you can hold an interest in to make money with is just as good in my opinion.

Lastly, the photography ideas I’ve presented here are not the end all, be all. So get on Google, Quora, and Photographer Forums to start researching any new photography ideas or trends that people are making money with.

Step Two, Establish a Portfolio With a Website and Social Media Presence

As a photographer, it’s important to establish an online portfolio where you can show off your previous work. I recommend you set up your own website with either WordPress.com, WIX, or do a Self-Hosted WordPress Site of your own.

Then, use Social Media to help promote your photography work, it’s easy to set up and best to start with Social Media platforms that are designed to be more visual than text-based.

So look into setting up an Instagram, Pinterest, or Vero account over a Twitter account.

Of course, LinkedIn can be good for promoting yourself as a photography professional, so definitely set that up.

A lot of people want to use Social Media only and not go through the hassle of setting up their own website.

I highly recommend against this!

Not only does it look better and more professional for your photography brand to have its own website, but you also won’t risk having a social media platform tell you that they don’t like some photos you posted, or worse, delete your entire account causing you to lose everything you built!

So if you can set up a Self-Hosted WordPress site, that truly is your best option for a website in my opinion! Check out Siteground web hosting, that’s what I’m currently using and it’s fantastic!

Secondly, if you want to use a web hosting platform with tools that make it easy to build a website with no coding required, consider using Wix.

Lastly, if you just want a free blogging platform with a simple design to it, WordPress.com is a perfect option.

Just make sure that you own your domain name, and keep backups of all your files!

Step Three, Maximize Your Earnings Over The Long Run

As you gain more photography experience in a given niche, and work on getting better and better with it, more money will follow you.

In the beginning, you’ll start with a lower pay, but as you get more and more job offers or freelance work, you can slowly ask for more money per hour, without the fear of losing work.

To really maximize your earnings as a freelancer, you could even start offering special photography packages and levels of service to your clients.

If you are working for a company and want to make more money, start pushing for a promotion, if the company is slow with responding, apply for another photography job with a higher ranking someplace else.

The last option for maximizing your earnings over time is to create an online photography business for yourself using one of the ideas we previously discussed. Such as selling prints, building a photography blog, or self-publishing a photography book.

The sky’s the limit on your earning potential.

Final Thoughts

This guide ended up being much longer than I initially anticipated. When I got into the research for making money with photography, I realized there was a ton of stuff to cover. Thanks so much for reading it, it means a lot to me.

Remember, the main takeaway with making money as a freelance photographer is that it’s a business and you have to provide a good professional service to people. So as you gain experience, you’ll quickly realize what types of jobs are the most profitable and enjoyable for you to do work on. Then, you’ll hopefully specialize and just take the jobs that bring you the most joy.

If you are working for a company as a full-time photographer, stay there as long as they treat you properly and appreciate your art for using a camera. If not, it’s perfectly fine to find a new place to work for, or just venture out on your own as a freelancer when you are ready.

If you have the entrepreneurial spirit and want to start a photography business online, go for it! The start-up costs are low, and you have nothing to lose.