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At no point in history have human beings taken so many snaps. Smartphones turn everyday people into amateur photographers, and social media networks are peppered with millions of photos daily. Although most individuals don’t monetize their photos, some people do. Take Viktor Hanacek, for example. In 2013, he created picjumbo, a free stock photo site, and user downloads exceed 6 million. Viktor’s website is a passive income stream machine. He generates revenue from Google Ads, membership fees, e-commerce, and more.
In this post, let’s explore the many ways you can make money with photography online. As with any business idea, your work ethic and engagement will determine your outcomes.
How to Make Money with Photography
- Monetize your website
- Promote products and services as an affiliate marketer
- Monetize your email list
- Create a premium membership plan
- Make money on YouTube by uploading videos
- Sell an online course
- Sell your photos independently
- Sell your photos on stock photo websites and marketplaces
- Sell print-on-demand products
- Combine your skills
- Collect donations
- Monetize your website.
If you don’t have a website, you should. Making money online begins with owning a piece of virtual real estate. A website or blog will allow you to generate income from ads, affiliate marketing, subscriptions, sales, and more. For example, Gratisography provides free photo downloads. They earn revenue from ads managed by Carbon (instead of Google Ads, which is common among site owners).
- Promote products and services as an affiliate marketer.
Gratisography does something else that’s clever. When users can’t find the images they want, they point them to Shutterstock, a stock photo marketplace. The Shutterstock link is an affiliate link as is the Adobe Stock offer.
Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing activity. An affiliate promotes a product/service online and receives compensation for achieving a specific objective or action. A merchant or advertiser specifies the goal, which is usually a valid sale. For example, a merchant will pay the affiliate a 30 percent sales commission.
Photographers who double as affiliate marketers typically promote camera equipment and accessories, photo-editing software, online courses, books, and stock photography sites.
- Monetize your email list.
A website or landing page is required to build an email list. You can use your list to keep in touch with subscribers and for email marketing purposes, for example, to promote a special offer. I use Bloom, a WordPress opt-in plugin, and MailerLite, an email marketing service provider to build my list and send emails.
- Create a premium membership plan.
Picjumbo gives free access to hundreds of photos, but members receive 5,000 photos, 100 collections, and 30 new photos every month. A Picjumbo premium membership cost as little as $10 a month or $79 annually. Considering what well-known stock photo sites charge, $10 monthly is a steal. Payhip and Podia sell membership software, and many WordPress membership plugins are available.
- Make money on YouTube by uploading videos.
Photography tips, tricks, and tutorial videos are a favorite subject matter on YouTube. There are many ways to make money on YouTube with the most common method being ad revenue. Many photographers have channels where they teach and vlog about photography, travel, lifestyle, food, and related topics. If you have other creative skills, you can cover them too, for instance, videography and graphic design.
- Sell an online course.
Creating how-to videos for YouTube is no different than creating them to produce an online course. Online education is a multibillion-dollar industry and growing globally. Photography and creative how-to classes are in demand and sold on several self-publishing e-learning websites. Instructors teach photography fundamentals, lighting, editing, retouching, staging, composition, camera use, iPhone use, and more. Conduct research to understand which gaps you can fill.
- Sell your photos independently.
Many photographers sell their photos. Payhip, Shopify, and other software providers facilitate digital sales and downloads. Also, there’s the Easy Digital Downloads WordPress plugin. (Read How to Sell Photos Online.)
- Sell your photos on stock photo sites and marketplaces.
Selling enough photos to reach your revenue targets will be challenging if you don’t get enough traffic or have a significant following. On the other hand, selling on stock photo sites and marketplaces can solve those problems. Millions of people flock to iStock, Shutterstock, Esty, and CreativeMarket to purchase high-quality images and digital media. Over the years, I’ve bought more than 50 photos for projects. These sites pay creators and artists royalties and commissions for product sales.
- Sell print-on-demand products.
Print-on-demand (POD) and just-in-time (JIT) products are manufactured to fill customer orders, for example, a t-shirt with a specific image is printed to fill a customer’s purchase. Although the POD apparel market tends to favor illustrations and text; home accessories, office décor, invitations, stationery, and wall art support photos. Zazzle, Redbubble, and Society6 have established POD marketplaces. Competition is stiff, but there’s always room for unique ideas and trends.
Freelancing is how thousands of photographers make a living, and many do it while traveling. Photographers get gigs through networking and marketing themselves. Your website and online presence will support your efforts and brand. For example, giving someone your business card, which contains your website and contact info.
Another opportunity involves photography skills. For example, many freelancers on Fiverr edit, retouch, remove, resize, enhance, swap, and do just about anything related to photography.
- Combine your skills.
Photography often plays a role in website design and social media management since both encompass imagery. If you possess these skills or are willing to learn, you can start an agency, for example, a web design agency. As the head of your business, you’ll prospect for clients and manage projects.
- Collect donations.
The income levers for your website don’t stop at ads, affiliate marketing, and memberships; you can collect donations too. You’ve probably seen “Buy me a coffee” popups on websites, which enable fans to make small monetary contributions. Collecting donations isn’t going to make you wealthy and will likely be infrequent. However, it doesn’t hurt to solicit. To set up donations on your site, visit Buy Me A Coffee and Ko-fi.