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How to Make Extra Money as a Photographer – 3 Levels Explained!

If you want to learn how to make extra money as a photographer, you’re in the right place!

Our approach to giving you the best solutions possible starts by breaking down how you can approach making money as a photographer into categories that depend on how much money you want to make. 

In this post, we’re going to talk about the best methods and strategies to achieve whatever goal you want to set out for – whether that’s just to make extra spending money, a part time income, or a full time salary with your own business. 

Extra Spending Money

How much can you make? <$10,000

Many people will pick up a new camera and see the potential in making a little extra side cash with it. This is actually how we got started on our journey to becoming full time wedding photographers – loving photography, starting to sell little cheap portrait sessions, and seeing the extra money pile up. 

Selling your photography, whether as a service or the actual images, is usually not too difficult to break into. This is especially true when you are looking for supplementary income that you can use as extra spending money (we sometimes call it “beer money”). 

The reason why this can be easier is because you will be more likely to charge low prices, so you can have a wide audience of paying clients who fit into a smaller budget range. 

As a general rule, people looking to make some extra spending money with photography will probably just take on the occasional work, not really making it a priority. A lot of these strategies can be scaled to part time or even full time income if you want to take on higher volumes. 

Strategy #1: Mini Portrait Sessions

Mini sessions are a popular service any photographer can offer, and it can be especially lucrative for someone who wants to compete on price to make a good chunk of money in a day. These are short portrait sessions (like 15-30 minutes) with a limited number of delivered images. These sessions can be marketed towards specific types of portraits (like headshots, family photos, couple’s photos) and are particularly popular around holidays. 

Example mini sessions could look like this:

You plan to host a mini session for families on a weekday. These sessions will be 30 minutes each and include 5 digital images delivered in an online gallery. You open up 10 timeslots, and charge $150 per family. That’s a quick $1,500 for one day of work (plus the editing and delivering). Even without a website or extensive marketing campaign, posting in some local Facebook groups may bring you all the clients you need for this.

Strategy #2: Sell Stock Photos

For any images that you own the copyrights to, you can put host them on online marketplaces for sale. This is particularly a great solution for non-portrait photographers out there who want to make some extra money as a photographer. 

Take beautiful landscape photos? Selling them to other companies to use in their marketing, blog posts, and billboards can be a great use of photos you already have sitting around. 

Where can you sell stock photos online?

Some platforms for selling your photos include…

  • Alamy
  • 500px
  • SmugMug Pro
  • Shutterstock
  • iStock Photo
  • Estsy
  • Getty Images

With popular images being purchased, this can be a great source of passive income for some extra pocket money. 

Strategy #3: Offer Photography Tutoring

While kids learn a lot in school, photography techniques are often not one of those things. In some high schools and colleges, photography classes might be offered as an elective course – but it’s easy to miss out on a good education on how to take photos. 

In the modern day where cell phone cameras has made everyone a photographer, people can really benefit from learning the ins and outs of operating a camera and taking higher quality images. 

You can become the go to person to teach photography to kids, teens, college students and even adults near you. 

Good sites to offer tutoring:

  • Facebook
  • Craigslist
  • Preply
  • Vedantu
  • Tutorme

Strategy #4: Become a Photographer Assistant

Assistant photographer jobs are abundant and typically offered on a contracted basis. Generally, pay for assistant jobs is around $15 – $25 an hour. Assistants support the main photographer by helping carry equipment and moving around flashes, among other small tasks. 

Strategy #5: Create a Photography Blog

Creating a blog can be an excellent way to share your photography and expertise, while also earning some extra money. 

A few years ago, we created a separate blog, Formed From Light, with the intention of sharing our photography and educating others in this space…and it currently brings in around $1,000/month in passive income through affiliate marketing and ad revenue.

We’re proof there is a lot possible in this space!

Part-Time Income

How much can you make? $10,000 – $30,000

The next income threshold we’re going to look at is the part time income. Making this kind of money does take a little more work in the world of photography, but it’s very much doable. 

The extra money making strategies we present here are the easiest solutions to monetizing your photography skills. While you could scale a blog or tutoring role to a part time income, these things typically will take much more time. 

Strategy #1: Become a 2nd Photographer for an established photographer

In the world of wedding photography, 2nd Photographers are like the backup. Many weddings are covered by two photographers to get multiple angles and more photos, with the 2nd shooter taking a more background role most of the time. 

2nd photographers are paid $50/hr on average throughout the United States, and generally work 8-10 hours per wedding. Finding these opportunities tend to be pretty easy when using local photographer Facebook groups.  

Strategy #2: Become a Lead Photographer for an established photography company

For more experienced photographers, you can take a lead role for an established photography company and photograph their clients as your own. Lead photographers often work weddings, events, portrait sessions, and more. Generally, lead photographers are paid $100/hr (or more – depends on experience) when they are shooting.

Like 2nd shooting, finding these opportunities on a contract basis is typically easy to do through Facebook groups or platforms like Shootwithme. For a more formal employer relationship, really large studios may also hire directly, and you can find job openings through sites like Indeed. 

Strategy #3: Start your own business 

Starting your own business will put a more professional face and brand to your photography services. This works for any type of photography – portraits, weddings, commercial headshots, real estate, etc. 

You can register a business and set up a website in just a few days for pretty low costs. With a really small volume of clients and part time focus, you could manage your business without some of the “essentials” we’d typically recommend photography business owners to have. For example – while many photographers end up paying for an online gallery service, with such low volume you would likely qualify for a free plan through platforms like Pic-Time or Pixieset.

As a business, you can expect to earn a part time income with your own photography business in your first year.

We talk in depth about our first years in business in our podcast. 

Full-Time Income

How much can you make? $40,000+

The solution to earning a full-time income is to start your own photography business. 

As a luxury service provider, you can take on more clients, charge more money, and book out your schedule. 

As full-time wedding photographers ourselves, our businesses have brought in over a million dollars in revenue combined since we started just a few years ago. While the money is great, the other opportunities our photography careers have presented us like more time with our family & friends and an ability to travel with more flexibility has made the decision to get into business one of the best we’ve made in our lives. 

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