Becoming a professional photographer is easy. The only barrier is buying the necessary equipment and having a good eye. However, building a sustainable career is difficult. About 60 percent of photographers don’t last beyond their first year, and another 25 percent drop out in their second year. So, if you want to become a professional photographer and get paid to sell photos, it’s time to strategize. This guide will cover 10 ways to maximize your income, from attracting new clients to ensuring repeat business.

1. Offer smaller "mini-sessions".

10 Tips for Maximizing Your Income as a Photographer

Plenty of clients hire photographers for large events, like weddings, but may not consider hiring them for smaller sessions. They might think it’s expensive or time-consuming.

Offering mini-sessions is a great way to attract new clients who may later book longer sessions. Mini-sessions are ideal for less popular holidays, smaller events, or fun themes. They can be a valuable addition to your list of services.

Consider offering discounts based on order volume or the number of shoots per year.

10 Tips for Maximizing Your Income as a Photographer

A proven method: Provide clients with a discount for larger print orders or for booking a certain number of photo shoots per year. Statistics indicate that offering a bonus package can increase product sales by up to 73%, including bulk orders.

For instance, offer a 10% discount when clients purchase a specific number of prints (the exact quantity may vary between photographers) or allow them to use your services at a reduced rate if they book four times in one year.

Another option is to offer discounts for shoots scheduled during specific times of the year, such as spring, when the weather changes (which aligns well with other themed photo shoots – refer to tip 7!).

10 Tips for Maximizing Your Income as a Photographer

Do you have a talent for storytelling through your photography? Consider selling your photos on stock photography websites. This not only provides you with supplemental passive income, but it is also a relatively easy process. You can also choose to license your photos through platforms like Flickr, Getty Images, and 500px.

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The return on investment for stock photography depends on the number of images you upload to these sites. While individual images may only sell for a small amount, many photographers have a large portfolio on several stock sites. In 2009, the average monthly earnings were estimated to be over $800.

Photographer Brendan van Son shared, “I typically earn around $250 a month from microstock sales. One of the best things about microstock is that it is residual and passive. I don’t spend much time on it, yet I receive month after month income even if I stop working on it.”

To learn more about funding your startup, check out our article on 10 side businesses that can provide financial support.

4. Volunteer your photography skills for a cause

10 Tips for Maximizing Your Income as a Photographer

To be clear, working for free is generally a waste of time and doesn’t bring in any income. However, volunteering to take photos for a charity event is a great way to network, gain exposure, and do good for your community. Include your watermark on the photos and make sure you’re tagged on Facebook for best results. Alternatively, auction off a photography session for charity. This not only benefits a good cause and increases your name recognition, but it may also lead to a long-term client. Additionally, consider selling large-scale prints or offering unique materials.

10 Tips for Maximizing Your Income as a Photographer

Standard prints will help clients remember their special day; consider offering a wrapped canvas print instead. If clients are hesitant to pay for a large, expensive print, offer to display it at their wedding and set up a donation box for guests to contribute money. This will allow the couple to take the print home at no cost to them, resulting in a profit for you. Additionally, consider offering prints on nontraditional materials like metal or acrylic. Start a referral program.

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10 Tips for Maximizing Your Income as a Photographer

Offering clients a discount for referring friends and family has multiple benefits. It encourages client loyalty, especially if the discount is applied to their next session, and it also helps attract new clients.

There are various ways to structure your referral program. You can provide a discount on a future session or on prints. However, it is important to wait until the referred friend or family member actually books your services before offering the discount.

7. Provide themed photo shoots.

10 Tips for Maximizing Your Income as a Photographer

In addition to standard photo shoots for holidays, senior pictures, and weddings, consider offering fun themed packages for clients to choose from.

Many photographers offer boudoir-themed shoots, which can also help build a relationship with a local hair and makeup salon. You could offer their services before the shoot. Alternatively, offer shoots for less common holidays, like Halloween, where families can capture their children’s costumes, or take advantage of the changing seasons with seasonal shoots.

Collaborate with businesses your target clients frequent to expand your reach.

10 Tips for Maximizing Your Income as a Photographer

As a photographer, building relationships within your community is crucial. While your clients may have their own preferred makeup artists and hairstylists, it’s a good idea to establish your own connections as well.

For example, consider a boudoir-themed photo shoot. To offer a complete package that includes hair and makeup, partner up with a local stylist or salon.

Take this partnership further by offering a discount to new clients referred by the salon. Leave beautiful flyers or small cards at the salon to showcase your photography work, with a small discount for new clients.

You can also expand your reach by shooting promotional photos of the stylist’s hair and makeup work. Ask them to refer clients to you or mention your services on their social profiles.

Shooting sporting events or nightclubs is another way to increase your revenue. Look for events in your area, such as youth sporting events, concerts, or nightclubs, and offer your photography services.

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Even if little league or high school teams have already hired a photographer for sporting events, don’t let that discourage you. Ask for permission to take action shots of the players and distribute cards or flyers to parents, encouraging them to visit your site and order prints.

Club promoters are always in need of photographers to promote their events. Get in touch with local nightclub owners or promoters to see if they require a photographer for their events, or simply show up and start shooting.

Consider having a contest for a free photo shoot to attract more clients and generate interest.

10 Tips for Maximizing Your Income as a Photographer

Looking to grow your email list? Hold a contest for a free photography session. The catch? To enter, participants give you their email. Add them to your newsletter. To sweeten the deal, offer non-winners a small discount on your services. To make money selling photos, you don’t have to incorporate every suggestion on this list. Pick your favorites and add them to your repertoire. You’ll offer a more diverse selection of services and set yourself apart as a professional.

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