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An Income from Photography

Perhaps you are now planning to obtain a supplementary income, perhaps to supplement your lifestyle in retirement, perhaps you would like enough revenue to fund a growing range of lenses and for that new camera body when it comes out. Perhaps you would like your holidays to pay or perhaps you are thinking of a career change and looking more seriously at getting an income or larger income from photography.

This article is an overview of many of the areas that you may like to consider, and over time we will be covering more, so check the Photography Business section for additional links.

We also look at some places that you can find larger income opportunities associated with photography, as some of you may like to mix and match, part of your income from photography and a wad of income from another venture, providing you with the funding to then do exactly what you like.

If you look around at both the well known and others who are making a good living from photography you see that often its not a single area they are getting an income from but a range of areas, so you find many who sell prints are also putting images through picture libraries, undertaking some training, and often writing articles for photographic or other magazines, some are also looking at taking part in a range of television programmes. Others more local to you will find doing weddings, portraits, event photography some PR shots, possibly product and commercial work, as well as whatever pops up and presents an opportunity. It is this variation that provides the challenge and makes it so interesting. Of course if your requirement is for a supplementary rather than lifestyle income then you can develop just one or two areas and in any event most become proficient and get one area producing income before opening up the next. If establishing a business it can be beneficial to have a number of income areas at least to start.

Lets start at the top. Limited edition fine art prints. Often considered the pinnacle of photography, but attainable by very many with a little help. Technically of course the images selected have to be very good, and as art images to put on a wall people have to find them desirable for some reason, and want to buy them. This is the market where quality and marketing counts. You can make money with either but more when applied together. This is the nearest thing to being able to legally print banknotes, but to succeed you need to understated not only what people like hanging on their walls but also the art collecting area and more. For this reason it is often not the first choice for most photographers.

Smaller, but regular incomes, can be obtained from photographs for magazines, picture libraries, greeting cards and calendars. Although an area where many who have other income ventures, probably because it can be done in time around other activities and as no commissioning client is involved you only show your successes. Some photographers are generalists undertaking a wide range, others have developed a specialist far narrower interest, perhaps food photography, or the study of a target area that they find interesting be it steam trains, military re-enactments or an area in the sports category. There are millions of potential areas and with a little interest and study anyone can find a niche that they could occupy. Some will choose very popular areas, where there is larger demand, but also large numbers of photographers already supplying images, others will choose something more unusual, with perhaps no competition, but lower demand. There are quite a lot of statistics about the income earned by those putting images through picture libraries and although there are exceptions which do nicely out of a small number, most of the major earners have found the income is proportional to the number of images they have on the library. Picture Libraries are attractive as you donít have to undertake any marketing, you just concentrate on the photography, and of course working out what images are in demand and what you could supply that would produce an exceptional return.  There are also secondary incomes many overlook associated with this area, that come about from a share of the proceeds collected by the copyright agencies. There are separate ones for authors and photographers and you can often get a share of both. These are not huge but a years payment from these might buy you a new top end camera and a lens or two, if you have had a fair bit published over the years. We will look at this in more detail in a special article on this.

Magazine Photography. With over 8,000 magazines published in the UK alone and of course many times that worldwide there is an enormous need for images, some will be met by regular contributors but there are also many opportunities.  Getting your photographs into magazines, and copyright are covered in the following:-

  • Getting Photos in Magazines,  With over 8,000 magazines all looking for articles and photographs in the UK alone, you can see there are going to be many opportunities. We take a fairly detailed look at getting your work published.

  • Creating illustrated articles, the advantage of providing text as well as photos or working with others that do. This has been, in the past, the way we have had many hundreds of pages or our material, articles and photographs, published in UK magazines.

  • Rights in relation to magazines - When you grant rights for a magazine to use either your photos or articles, what is it that you are granting, what types of rights are there and what do they each mean. Do you for example know that you can sell the same article a number of times.

  • Copyright and Photographers in this article we look at copyright in relation to photographs, and and give you a good background in the subject, without getting too complicated.

There are many specialist areas within magazine photography, for example wildlife, gardens and travel. Within the reference section we are developing a Magazine section which shows you some magazines defining the type of images and other requirements that they have, this will grow over time.

Event photography, is an area that may appeal to those with other commitments, and has a range of potential areas. Areas include business and social events, many types of sporting events and competitions of all types, as well as just about any event where people are present. Event photography is about selling prints, reminding people of an occasion, experience or friends. In many cases you will get an attendance fee from the organisers, but may in some cases pay them a percentage on the sales that you make. Charity events would often be done in this way, as would corporate events, but in some cases companies will give at least some prints to employees or others attending, but if being given away on a larger scale you may need to quote them special rates. Increasing your takings in event photography may be as simple as carrying an order book or having an assistant to collect the orders at the time the photos are taken, especially at social and charity events where drinks are flowing and then perhaps people are inclined to order a lot more than they would otherwise. For competitions and the like you have the potential to take this to the next level by using a radio base or unit with your camera that sends the images directly back to your sales stand.

A wedding reception is like any other event, and this same technique to sell images at the reception as well as images taken earlier in the day is profitable. Many photographers start with weddings, they are fairly straightforward, you have a list of standard shots to get in a fairly short period of time, but with a shooting list in the right sequence and an easily learnable means to both make very rapid progress and maintain control. Add to this a collection of candid shots, and you have a nice collection representing the day both formally and in a more light hearted way. The standard of wedding photography generally is not that high, with many using cameras in point and shoot mode and not controlling either the exposure or colour balance fully. Gaining the skills to do a really good job of course will mean that you get far more bookings, as well as making many more sales.  Some enjoy weddings but after a while some will feel they are too repetitive, however you can create challenges in creating new shots, artistic images, night shots and more. A new area that has come in from the USA is a post wedding shoot, loosely titled 'trash the dress', and involves doing crazy things in the wedding dress. It is a more light-hearted day, and a fun way for the bride and groom to complete the often long and sometimes stressful process of a larger wedding.

Portraits used to be looked at by many as something that was done to fill up the mid week by wedding photographers, who were mainly busy at weekends. With more disposable income today and a greater desire to both record lifeís milestones and more families split over a larger geographic area, portraits have become a market that some concentrate on. There are a number of franchises that set up portrait photographers,  and many others who are now establishing themselves concentrating on this market. With the creative lighting system, a background and of course a little knowledge, results are guaranteed, there is even software available to make people look more attractive, and remove wrinkles and spots, often chopping many years of the age of subjects. Production line portraiture like school photography and employee photos are similar if often less interesting areas. At the opposite end you have portfolios for actors and models, as well as other promotional work. Boudoir photography is a similar area where you perform a make over with the aid of hair and makeup people, and present a glamorous and often artistic view of a not so young lady.

Property photography is usually about selling houses, and while the average estate agent has a point and shoot or perhaps a phone camera that they are happy enough with for quick snaps they will have properties that are either up market or require photographing better, that requires your skill and equipment. With houses not selling as fast and the need by many the get the maximum price they can there is likely to be an increased demand for better property photography. In some types of property photography there is a need to get the camera into the air, either using pole systems and blimps or even perhaps hiring a helicopter to take some aerial photos.

Another type of property photography is aerial shots of homes sold to the owners/occupiers. These are often taken not to commission but an area at a time and effort then put in to marketing them.  To try this out you could consider taking a few balloon rides, this is a relatively low cost way to get you and your camera into the air, although there is often little control over which way you go. To start of course this is not important as there are properties in all directions. With many take off points and a range of balloon companies this offers more opportunities than many photographers realise. Balloon flights are often either early morning or evenings when there is less wind, so you will need to be able to handle both exposure and understand how to use other camera features well.

All of the above and more can be done by just about anyone with a little training, and much of your competition will have had none.

Photographic training is another area, you could consider. Group courses have to run to a fixed agenda that you can practice before so is within just about anyoneís capability. If you go across camera makes, no one can expect you to understand all the controls on all makes and if the groups are quite large there is no time to handle complex questions from those attending. Large group courses are also the most profitable, one client recently with us had been on a day where the cost was just £65 but he estimated a 100 people were present, thatís £6,500 in fees for a single presentation. The smaller the number of people you train at a single time the less profitable it is, although the experience is of course far more valuable for those attending it. To get to the same level of understanding you need the equivalent of the time required for one person multiplied by the number present. Although I suspect this doesnít apply when you get to over 30 people. This is to the same level of understanding, if you took 15 people for 3 days you would probably get on average each to understand half of what a person could in a day, and in many situations this may be enough. The largest cost is not putting on the training but marketing the training places. Going to one to one training requires far more knowledge and the ability to answer questions, plus a wider range of equipment, however is far more enjoyable to do, and you get to see those you teach achieve far more than others.

Some run events for photographers, perhaps escorting them around a local area or arranging for a group of photographers to have access to a particular place, to photograph exotic wildlife, hiring trains and more. Like large group training this can be very profitable but it is essential to be able to market to fill the places available.

Going to the next level as a professional commercial photographer is quite a large step. These photographers are involved in advertising photography, photos for brand catalogues as well as scientific photography. To do this you need a far more in-depth control to know how to get just about any desired effect and more importantly to know what is and is not likely to be able to be achieved. Most types of photography you can get by with either taking more pictures or relying on your clients accepting your interpretation of the events. Professional commercial photography is different, you often have a brief that you are working too, the result is known before you start and your requirement is to have the technical and artistic ability to make this happen. This will often require more equipment, perhaps a special studio or set being constructed and frequently editing at a very creative level to complete the task.

The major difference between the amateur and professional is that while the amateur can get a number of good images selected from many, the professional has to be able to reliably produce satisfactory results on every assignment. Some areas are easy to learn such as wedding photography, event photography and production portraits, and there will be few major problems to overcome. Areas which are not commissioned like pictures to put on picture libraries, speculative Arial photography, and some others, you can get away with the concept of  shooting lots and select a few, although the more technically competent you are, the higher your success rate will be. Commissioned higher end work where you need to produce results every time requires more skills and experience.

Camera Images offers courses in all these and many more areas, with charges that you can easily recover from the sale of a single picture in many markets and where a range of days training can be covered from the profit on a single wedding or event photography project. In most areas getting more training not only improves the standard of your work and reliability, but will also usually make each assignment far more profitable. Another training provider that you could look at to improve your technical skills would be the Photography Skills Masterclasses.

There are many other types of photography, and over time we will define more of them, the best place to start is to look in the Photography Business section. This will also link you to many articles connected with the above areas as well as details about how to set up an run a photographic business.

The Controlling Costs sub-section  will also be of interest as it will show you how to get the equipment you require cheaper and how to both get around and gain entry at lower costs.


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