How to Make a Living as a Photographer|Picture Yourself as a Successful Photographer

Picture Yourself as a Successful Photographer

The Internet has made it easier than ever for amateur photographers to earn money while they learn their craft. Businesses, wedding and event planners, families, marketing agencies, real estate agencies, Web developers, and your local paper need your original images. Here's how to make money in photography--even while you're still in art school.

You may not be taking the cover shot for National Geographic just yet, but these three photography moneymakers could be your launching pad. Amateur-friendly clients and flexible hours make these photography gigs perfect for art school students.

How to get started in...
Wedding Photography
The 'Old Faithful' for generations of freelance photographers. Wedding photography brings in anywhere from $700 for beginners to $5000 for veterans of the trade. Not bad for an evening's work, plus development and equipment costs.How to break in:
  • Do several weddings for free (or at cost) to build a portfolio--on the condition that you can use the images for promotional or marketing purposes.
  • Shadow an experienced wedding photographer as an assistant.
  • Set up a website showcasing your wedding and other photography.
Portrait Photography
Portrait photography has evolved from the stilted, straight-backed portraits of the early twentieth century into one of the more creative areas of photography--which makes it perfect for an art school student. Think of the iconic portraits of time--the green-eyed "Afghan girl" of National Geographic's 1985 cover, for example, speaks volumes. As professional portrait photographer David Wilson puts it, "A successful portrait involves more than simply capturing a likeness--it's about communicating character and personality."

How to break in:
  • Practice on friends, family, and pets to gain experience working with live models.
  • Start with headshots for actors and models. Headshots are high quality portraits for clients who are often on a tight budget, and therefore open to working with amateurs.
Stock Photography
Why leave your photographs on your desktop "My Pictures" folder or your Flickr account when you can post them on a stock photography site and sell them? Sites like Corbis, iStockphoto, and the prestigious Getty Images allow photographers to post images for commercial use. Photographers may make about $1.50 or less per shot sold, but it's all about sales volume. According to's company forum, photographers with 1000-2000 pictures on the site "should easily earn around $600 per month."

How to break in:
  • If you don't have high quality equipment, look for sites with smaller inventories and lower fees.
With a little business initiative, you can take advantage of our media-saturated times and earn money on the side. Besides covering your equipment and art school tuition costs, your photography business can bring you exposure and experience as you learn the ropes.

All Things Photography
National Geographic Wilson, David. Succeed in Portrait Photography (London: Rotovision, 2005)

About the Author
Clare Kaufman is a freelance writer specializing in education and career advice. She has a graduate degree in English.

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