Back in the days before I became a full-time photographer, I used to work as a human resources manager and had no idea about making money with art. It seemed like an impossible dream to reach.
After picking up photography as a hobby, I slowly and patiently worked on improving my skills and uploaded some of my images on a fine art website. It was free and I wouldn’t lose anything trying it.
Surprisingly, one of my photos was purchased as a large print shortly after the upload. It was a random shot I had taken inside a local café I used to go to with my friends.
I was incredibly excited.
Of course, being a complete beginner, I had priced my images low and I only made around $20 from that sale. But it gave me enough confidence to move forward and try again.
I started making more sales thanks to my improving skills, and I gradually increased my prices.
A year after I picked up my first camera, I finally switched from my cubicle job to being a full-time travel photographer living abroad.
Earning money with photos can seem complicated, but after all these years of experience I found that it all comes down to these three essential points:
1. Improving my skills and finding my style.
This is the obvious one and it’s very straightforward: the more photos I took, the better I became in photography. Fortunately taking photos is the fun part. I practiced every single day during my first year, even if it was just photographing mundane objects for 10 minutes at home.
Practice also allowed me to find my own style and develop my vision, which is an essential element in the success of any photography business.
It’s worth remembering that a client won’t buy a photo because of the actual subject, but because of howthe subject was photographed.
2. Showing my work online and marketing myself.
A photo that is left on a computer hard drive is never going to find a buyer. Uploading a photo online is the easiest way to reach millions of eyeballs, and the more exposure I have, the higher the chance someone will like and purchase a print.
I started uploading my photos on different websites very early in my photographic journey. It was intimidating and I was exposed to a lot of critique, but it also helped me improve with valuable feedback and guidance. At the same time, having my name constantly out there strengthened my brand and eventually allowed me to price my work higher than before.
3. Diversifying and thinking outside the box.
Photography is not just about selling wall art; you can also try different products and target specific people.
Here’s a quick story: a few years ago, I visited a small, rural town in Kentucky. It was my first time in the U.S. countryside and I spent the day walking around capturing local landmarks. The photos were decent, but definitely not strong enough for fine art. So instead of ignoring and burying them in my hard drive, I picked 12 of the best images and created a calendar towards the end of that year. Within a week, multiple copies were bought by the residents of that town, as well as the local bank and small businesses. It was easy and quick money that covered my Christmas expenses.
The idea is to avoid putting all your eggs in the same basket. I have tried different options including stock photography. This single image has been purchased over 1000 times as a stock photo without any additional effort on my part other than taking it and uploading it to a website.
I have been published in magazines, both physical and online, and have had my work used as music album covers. It’s all about diversity.
I’m probably not going to make $10k from selling one single photo. But with minimal effort all of the small sales quickly add up to a much larger amount, eventually leading to a comfortable passive income while I continue taking photos.