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25 Unique Ways To Make Money With Photography
Copyright 2017 – 2022, Jeff Napier
Table of Contents
1. Freelance Sports Photographer
15. Buy and Sell Photo Equipment
18, News and Magazine Freelance
21. Construction Site Photography
26. Pre-Filled Digital Photo Frames
Photography offers many excellent ways to make money. You get to be your own boss, your business can end up paying you more than an employee ever gets, and you can set up the business the way you want.
It has been documented that seventy percent of Americans – and, I imagine, many other’s across the globe – hate their work. Well, you don’t have to hate your job anymore. You can easily build your own business that’s truly enjoyable.
As the expression goes, ‘don’t quit your day job.’ Practice patience – it is your best ally. Let your simple little photography business build over time, and you’ll be absolutely amazed at where you can end up. These are not get-rich-quick schemes. They are get-rich-slow schemes.
This book will give you all the information you need to start any of a wide variety of photographic businesses safely and with little investment.
I inherited my interest from my father. When he was a high schooler in Ottumwa, Iowa, he had an expensive hobby. I’ll bet you know what it was: Photography. It was much more expensive then than now. Back in the days of large-format chemical photography, he had to buy film, darkroom chemicals and photographic paper. These days, all you need is a more ordinary kind of paper and printer ink. Taking pictures was more of a challenge then too. His camera was a Speed Graphic, a used, but top-of-the line camera. It is the kind Jimmy Olsen used in the old Superman series. It weighed around five pounds. In order to take a single picture, he had to determine the amount of light and the sensitivity of the film, focus carefully, set the shutter speed and diaphragm opening, cock the shutter, insert a film holder, pull out the dark slide, push the button to actually take the picture, reinsert the dark slide, and finally remove the film holder. The film holder held two sheets of film – one on each side, so it could be flipped over and reinserted for the next shot. Each film holder was the size of a slice of bread. In his carrying case, he had room for six film holders. That’s the way it was done in his day. Of course there were roll film cameras. There was even a roll film accessory for his camera. But serious photographers wanted the quality of large-format sheet film. Smaller formats that rendered good results were still years into the future. Even with roll film, one still had to focus, determine light, and all that, for each shot.
That’s not all. Once my dad took his pictures, he had to go into a darkroom, develop the film – the negatives, then expose sensitized paper with the negative images, and finally develop, rinse, and dry the paper prints. This required a dedicated room in his home with running water, where the temperature of his chemicals could be controlled within five degrees Fahrenheit. If he wanted to work with color photography, his chemicals had to be maintained within 1/2 degree of the right temperature. Most of the steps of the process were carefully timed. Get something wrong by a few seconds or a minute, and the resulting pictures would be blotchy, low-contrast, too dark, or too light.
Today, focus and exposure control is not only handled automatically, it is handled well. We no longer use chemical film. Instead of a darkroom, we have the option of using our computers or tablets to adjust photos in ways my father couldn’t even dream of. Our cameras are remarkably small and light, only being limited by the size of our fingers. The actual inner working part of the camera is often no bigger than a grain of un-popped popcorn. They have so much memory that you can take hundreds of photos without having to change memory cards.
So, the photographer today can focus on composition and purpose, rather than having to deal with all the technical issues, time, and expense that my father dealt with.
You’d think with the ease of use, and ready availability of cameras, there’d no longer be a use for professional photographers. As it turns out, most of the traditional markets for photography still exist, and new markets have opened, such as the Internet, which is hungry for millions of good new photos.
In this book, I’ll cover a wide variety of ways you can make money with photography. Some require almost no time, experience, or money. Chances are, you’ll find something that’s just right for you, or something that will give you some great food for thought that you can modify to suit your own desires.
Each section of this book covers a different photography business, but many are similar in that they use the same techniques to publicize, build and maintain the business, and some offer universal hints and tips for photographers. So, you may want to read everything in this short book to pick up these techniques, chapter by chapter. You’ll learn directly and by metaphor about exactly what you can do to enjoy making money with photography.
Enjoy and prosper! – Jeff Napier
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My father, perhaps like you, wanted to make money from his photography. He found a way that is as viable today as it was then.
He went to his local wrestling club and took pictures. A week later, he came back with small prints and gave them to the wrestlers. He told them that if they wanted full-size prints, he’d be happy to for $10 each. Most of wrestlers placed pre-paid orders. $10 was a lot of money back then, but hey, if you’re a wrestler, and if you can have a picture of yourself with another wrestler in a victorious hold, you’d buy it, right? It turned into a pretty nifty business for a high school kid. He went to the wrestling club every week, took new photos, gave away proofs (the small prints), and took orders.
My father went to the wrestling club, because that’s what was there. That was the big activity in his home town at that time.
What sports are in your area? Hockey? Football? Tennis? Skiing? Cycling? Pickleball? How could you adjust this business to fit modern times, and your local activities? No doubt you’re already cooking up answers. In addition to what you already know, you’ll find some great hints and tips scattered throughout the rest of this book.
You can also take pictures of sports activities for use by magazines, news agencies and websites, especially if the participants are celebrities. There is a book updated annually by Mary Burzlaff Bostic called Photographer’s Market, which is an absolute must-have to find markets for your work, whether you’re a sports photographer, or specialize in many other photographic fields. Not only does this publication provide thousands of listings of publishers who will buy your photos, but has a few chapters on exactly how to approach these publishers for best results. The current version is available through Amazon. You can save money on a used copy from a previous year, but this is probably a poor way to save money, since the market changes rapidly.
So my father, having been so interested in photography, thought I might like it too. When I was twelve years old, in a rather odd moment the way sometimes parents will do, he bought me a Speed Graphic. It was the 4 x 5 inch model, a rather huge piece of equipment, especially for a 12-year-old. The camera, flash gun with it’s four D cells, a pack of flashbulbs, six film holders, and a light meter filled my huge carrying case, which weighed at least 20 pounds.
With this, I started tromping around the city and in the local park, even carrying a tripod, and took a picture or two here and there. He also provided me with a makeshift darkroom in the basement of our house. I learned how to take pictures and develop pictures, which was not uncommon for a child of my age in those days.
At first, my photos were horrible. Some so dark or light you couldn’t make out the details. But the worst aspect was composition, or rather – lack of composition. I’d take a picture of a dog, and there he’d be, smack in the middle of the picture, with no emotional content whatsoever.
In time, my photos got better. I grabbed a shot of a garbageman lovingly cleaning the fender of his truck with a handkerchief. I got another dog picture. This poor old creature was chained up behind a fence on a cold wintery day. I got a shot of a couple of optimistic sunflowers which I tinted various colors (using transparent oil paint over the surface of the whole prints). I found a seedling growing at the base of a rotten old tree stump.
And, I had a problem. This photography hobby of mine was using up a lot of money. It took every penny that I had, and more than my father was willing to support. I had to think before every picture I took about the cost of the film. Many potentially good photos were never taken. I needed more money. The only way I could figure out to get money was to sell some prints.
Fortunately, I found a way to do that. I took six 8 x 10 inch prints, mounted on 11 x 14 inch black and white cardboard backgrounds to my school, and showed them to the school secretary who was also the receptionist in the school office. She seemed to like them – although in retrospect, she probably admired anything and everything the students showed her.
She offered to display them on the wall behind her desk. A couple of days later, it hit me! Why not put prices on them? She could sell them off the wall for $15 each, keep $5 for herself, and give me $10. I ran this past her, and my heart sank as she stated, “Well, we’ll need to take that up with the principal.” I knew him. He was like a brick wall. What were the chances he’d approve? But he did! And I was in business. Over the course of a month, she sold three or four pictures, and I was delighted!
I brought more photos to fill the spaces on the wall. I also offered the same thing at a few other places in town. I put a half-dozen pictures up in a restaurant, a dentist’s office, and in, of all things, a camera store.
Now, my photos were selling at the rate of 10 per week, which was a lot of money for a kid back then who’s only expense is his photography hobby.
I could have gone farther, but being a kid, I lost interest and moved onto other things. In how many places in your town could you hang pictures? What kinds of places? How about in places like 10-minute oil change places? Laundromats? Which restaurants might be interested?
And then there are galleries. Not only will they accept your work – if it is good, they want it! Their whole business is about getting art that they can resell. They typically keep 1/3 of the price a work brings. So, they can put your prints on their wall for perhaps $600 each, and every time one sells, you get $400. Hey, that’s enough to invest in frames, and make them look even better.
In this business, it is important to create pictures that have emotional content. People have to want your pictures. Can you take photos that reach out and cause people to think and feel?
Postcards are remarkably easy to create right from your own printer. Or, for larger quantities, you can send your photo to any number of professional printing companies that will do it for you.
Thousands of tourist locations already have postcards. If you can provide more interesting postcards than the one’s out there, the gift shops will buy them from you.
Then there are the thousands of other tourist destinations that do not have postcards. If you can provide interesting postcards for these out of the way places, there are independent stores that would probably want to sell them to their tourists.
Going beyond postcards, in most such situations, there is also a market for posters, framed and unframed photos, and photographic novelty items, which you can make yourself, or have made by professional novelty advertising providers.
To sell your wholesale photography to a retail store at the level of a tourist shop – meaning almost always a small, independently owned store, all you need to do is phone, email or drop in to make an appointment with the owner. Then simply show what you have and close the deal. Typically, they’ll only buy a small quantity at first to see if what you have is a marketable product. It helps close the deal if you provide display equipment of some sort – racks for postcards, counter-top boxes, or wall mount displays. A good source of low-cost display things is ULine.com. If your photographic merchandise is on-target, most store owners will say ‘yes.’ After all, they want inventory that their customers will buy, and they know it takes money to make money. If the owner is reluctant, possibly because the owner is short of cash, you might consider a consignment deal. In consignment, you leave your merchandise, and the owner of the store pays only for what sells after it has sold. This is no risk for the owner. There is a risk that the owner will sell some of your stuff, and then not be able or willing to pay, but this risk is small with most retail business owners unless they are in very dire straits. Owners who does not have money for as much inventory as they’d like, particularly love consignment, because they get to have more inventory without paying for it unless and until it sells.
With a Special Prop
Let’s say there’s a county fair near you. And let’s say you happen to have, or can borrow a pony. So, you call the people at the fair, and let them know you’d like to show up with your pony, and take pictures of kids sitting on the pony. They’ll probably be delighted, and ask you to show up for free. They may want to charge you a small merchant fee. They may, possibly, even pay you to show up.
The idea is that you let children sit on the pony for a couple of minutes, take their pictures, and then offer to sell the pictures to the parents. One way to do it is to have a wall display showing photos of other kids on ponies. Let parents know that pictures are $18 – or whatever you want to charge, and will be mailed once you’ve printed them. Another way is to have a printer right there at the fair and deliver them right away. One fringe benefit of this business, besides the fun of working with kids and a pony, is that a parent with more than one child will want to buy photos of every child in the family. You can expand your business a bit by saying, “Hey mom, you can go ahead and climb on the pony.” Then take her picture.
You’ll want to set this up so the background is either non-distracting, or shows off the rest of the fair.
Where could you do this besides fairs? How about everyday on an empty lot near a busy intersection? How about at the local flea market? How about at arts and crafts fairs? How about in cooperation with a large pet store? The pet store will even publicize it for you. They might call it “Pony Day” and advertise a special Saturday when all the kids who come to the store get to ride on a pony. They’ll sell a lot of goldfish that day, while you sell a lot of pictures.
Does it have to be a pony? No, of course not. Could be an elephant, or a llama, or a large tortoise (I think, I’ve never tried it). But how about something more appealing to a different audience? How about a decked-out Harley? How about a gilded royal throne? If you’re in a big city, how about in a wooded scene? It could be next to a Rube Goldberg contraption of some sort, or in a spaceship. You might get a python or boa constrictor, see who is brave enough to wrap it around their neck, and take their picture. You get the idea.
Tourists In Action
If my child is sitting on Santa’s lap, I’d want a picture. If I was given a chance to drive a race car, or even just a bumper car, I’d want a picture of that, too. If my family and I were visiting the Louvre, or a California lighthouse, or standing next to the Liberty Bell. . . yup, I’d love to have a picture. So all you’ve gotta do is be in the right place, and let people know you are the professional photographer. In many cases, you’ll want to contact the state park office, or the owner of the attraction, and make arrangements to be the official photographer. All it takes is the boldness to contact them and present your plan. Well, it’s also helpful to rehearse in advance what you’re going to say. What you say should be mostly about how they, or their institution or business will benefit. Worst they can do is say no. If they do, then a slight change in plans will fix everything. Instead of taking photos at a canyon, you might end up taking photo at a waterfall or famous building.
Sure, anyone with a little digital camera can take pictures of each other. So, you might want to make sure they understand how paying a bit for a professional picture will be to their advantage. You might have a small standing display of pictures you’ve taken of other tourists, showing how happy they are, and how perfect your pictures are. You can dress the part, whatever that might be. For instance, you might dress all cowboy-like, or wear a tutu, tap shoes, and tiara, a crisp suit and tie – whatever the particular tourist attraction dictates, and with the permission of the people who run the attraction. It also helps to have way more equipment than absolutely necessary. We all know that a home user point and shoot style camera that’s the size of a couple of packs of gum is sufficient. But you might prefer to have lights, reflectors, some stools to sit on, and a big SLR camera with a huge lens shade so you look more professional.
Now we can combine the ideas of postcards, special prop, and tourist in action. You can take pictures of people at the tourist attraction, sitting on or in something appropriate, wearing a bit of costuming perhaps, and while you’re at it, you can have postcards, posters, and photographic novelty items for sale.
Photoshop – Freelance
You’ve already got some ideas of ways to sell pictures, and you’ll have more soon. But what to sell?
Soon after I got started in photography, I discovered I was more enamored with the darkroom side, than the actual taking of pictures. My art was the editing of photos. These days, I would have used a digital darkroom. As you know, that’s what we call image editing programs. Much easier, and much more powerful than an actual darkroom, you can use Adobe Photoshop or other software to completely change backgrounds, set moods, retouch and complete modify pictures.
The concept of image manipulation has become a household word: “Hey, that’s been photoshopped!”
Adobe Photoshop is near the top of the line, but you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to get started. There are good lower cost image editing programs, and even free ones, such as Gimp, that you can download from cnet.com and elsewhere.
What can you do? You can start with one or more photographs that you took yourself or anything from the public domain. You can combine them or modify them to create something new. Once you have your new photoshopped image, you can sell it any way you’d sell an ordinary photograph. For instance, you might have a little table, chair, backdrop and tripod in the tourist area of San Francisco, in which you take pictures of tourists, and then in a couple of minutes – with practice – you entirely change the background so that you have pictures of your tourists standing right in front of the Coit Tower, on the trolley, at the Fisherman’s Wharf merry-go-round, or on the World War II submarine in San Francisco. Or maybe photos of them with the mayor, the President of the United States, or any celebrity they want.
What else? You can make custom photoshopped pictures for industry, for websites, for theater, or for anyone who wants unreal images. More about selling to some of these customers later.
Photoshop – On Request
If you are pretty good at image editing, you might consider setting yourself up as a person who does that professionally. Many people know the basics of eliminating red eye, changing tint or brightness, or even replacing a background. They’ve tried once or twice, and their pictures either come out less than ideal, or take forever to complete. When they have a need for something special, they’ll be willing to pay you any reasonable fee to do it for them.
How might you start such a business? I’d start with a website showing off some of my work. I’d make the website like a funnel. First it has a wide mouth. It draws many people in. They may originally come just to see your amazing, humorous, or unbelievable pictures. Then the mouth narrows. It directs the people to discover that you can edit photos as a service for them. The neck of this funnel is the action step: They can email their photos to you, along with a description of what they want done, and click a PayPal button to send you an up-front payment. You do the work, then email back the completed image.
But a website, great funnel though it can be, will not draw people in by itself. You’ll need to do some things to seed it. Then, if your photos are intriguing enough, people will tell people who will tell other people, and your site will go viral. (Truly going viral is rare, but if that happens in a big way, you won’t have to photoshop anything. You can just collect money from people who’d like to advertise on your site.)
To get your first people, you can do a number of things. You can make business cards with your URL and what the site does for people, and distribute the cards any way possible. For instance, you may know an eBay seller who mails out 20 packages a day. You could pay this person to include one of your cards in each package. SEO, Search Engine Optimization, can be a better approach. Here’s a one-paragraph tutorial on SEO:
Research under-utilized keywords with the Google AdWords Keyword tool, which is free with an AdWords account, which is also free. You can look up “AdWords Keyword tool” on Google to learn how to use it. This will tell you how many people have looked up keywords in the past month. Keywords are actually key phrases in most cases. For instance, looking up “Kodak” will bring up thousands of websites, some of which have to do with photography, some with pharmaceuticals, some with business. But the keyword “Kodak Rochester New York” will limit the search to the actual company in Rochester. You want to find a commonly searched specific keyword in your area of expertise, then when googled, doesn’t bring up a flood of websites that use that specific phrase in their titles or beginning text. That way, if you put that keyword in the <title> tag and in an <H1> tag early on your page, your website may be one of the top ones displayed by Google (and Yahoo, AOL, etc) when people search for that keyword. You can learn much more about SEO online and there are several print and Kindle books on the subject.
If you choose to work locally, you can have an office with a sign, advertise locally, and focus your SEO on a community name.
You can let everyone know that you are seeking more business. If you do a good job, in time, your reputation will bring you more business than all sorts of advertising.
You can buy Google AdWords. This is advertising that appears in search results and on cooperating websites. You pay Google a certain amount for each person who clicks on the ads and comes to your website. Adwords costs range from 10 cents per click to over $200 per click, depending on how prominently you want your ad placed (near the top above other ads, or not), and how many other people are bidding on the same keyword. AdWords works best if you target a very specific market. For instance “Professional Photo Editing” probably won’t bring much business. “Modified Fashion Portraits” will probably be at the top of the list for a very small cost, for anyone who types that phrase into Google. (I haven’t actually checked this phrase).
As your business builds, don’t be surprised if you get a single customer, perhaps a small, medium or even large business, that has so much work, you don’t have room for any but the one customer. You might even end up hiring other image editors to work for you for your major customer(s).
Since other people in the business may have had that success already, they could be very happy to have someone to offload their new customers onto. That can be you. All you need to do is contact the established photo editors and let them know you’re available.
There is no end in sight to the number of websites that will be developed. There is pretty much unlimited need for photo editors. All you have to do is be noticed by the potential customers. Another way is to email the website owners directly, being careful not to spam them, and let them know you’re available to help them with their specific needs. You might start your email with a compliment to their site. Find something about it you genuinely admire. Then let them know in what way you could improve their graphics, and how this will benefit them. Finally, let them know the cost up front.
I once read in a book that was more than 100 years old, a book written before movies, television, radio, or anything other than print advertising, that you should always state your prices up front. Otherwise, people will automatically assume you cost too much, and not look further into what you can offer. If you do show your prices, even if they are ‘too’ high, people will start to rationalize how they might pay for them. It’s almost as if they are assuming they’ll be using your services. “Hmm, maybe if I skip lunch all next week. . .” I think that advice is at least as good today as it was back then.
Day In the Life
Remember the pony? Along the same lines, you could put together a photo collection called something like “A Day in the Life. . .” What you’d do is follow a child around all day and take pictures. Then you put the best of these pictures into an attractive album, onto a DVD, or otherwise present the collection to the proud parents. They’d probably hire you every year, for every child in the family.
You could take it beyond parents and children. What about ‘A Day In the Life of an Executive?’ ‘A Day in the Life of a Musician?’ ‘A Day in the Life of a Carpenter?’ Can you imagine how many people would like such an album about themselves, or their loved ones? Might industries hire you to honor some of their employees? Might people give this kind of album as a gift?
How would you start such a business? Being a local business because you’d actually have to be on-site to take pictures, it could be started with business cards and flyers distributed locally, local advertising, and especially local publicity. Since it is a rather unique business, I don’t think there would be much trouble getting the local media to do a ‘Day in the Life’ of you doing a ‘Day in the Life’ of one of your clients. You might contact the TV stations and newspapers, and propose just that. Free publicity generally works much better than paid advertising, and this would be eccentric enough to interest the media.
Even with free publicity, it will be a business that’s inclined to start slowly. If you have the patience to stick it out, eventually, by reputation, you’ll have a huge clientele, and they’ll be willing to pay ever increasing prices.
This can also be publicized by a website in the usual ways. Even if your website is not your primary first contact, it is an almost necessary second contact. Local people who have heard of you will naturally go to your website to see samples of your work, find out how to contact you, and find out how your business works and how much you charge.
Speaking of websites, I believe websites are going to be the biggest consumer of professional photography, if they aren’t already. I know for a fact that you can get paid to provide photos to some websites. These wouldn’t be the big sites like Facebook or Amazon. These would be little and medium up and coming websites that want to wear the best possible face. Years ago, I heard that there are one billion such websites. Surely there are even more by now.
For instance, you may come across a website about yoga, written and maintained by a yoga instructor. This person may have some fairly good photos of yoga classes, postures, clothing and accessories, and the site may (or may not) be making real money. Once the instructor discovers that you can provide better photos, she’ll want to pay you so she can bring up the quality of her site with your photographs. Within this example, she might not have good photos of her classes. How can she set up and take good pictures when she, herself, is teaching? But as she teaches, you could take the pictures she needs. She may have a line of yoga mats that she sells. Her specialty is yoga. So, she probably doesn’t have the experience to take the most appealing photographs of those yoga mats. But you do.
Of course you’d have a website offering your services to provide high-quality photos to other websites. This will probably not be particularly effective for first contact. In other words, it will not help people to discover your website. Oh, maybe a little bit, especially if you do the SEO as discussed earlier. Where it will be useful is in second contact. Someone has heard of you, so they’ll go to your site to see your work, and find out how to contact you. Again, publishing your rates is important, so they won’t automatically assume you cost too much.
You could use Google AdWords to bring people to your site, but my guess is that will not be cost-effective.
You have at least two other ways to bring new customers, besides local publicity and advertising. One is to write to people who have seemingly up-and-coming websites that need better photographs. You’ll want to set your email apart from the spam they get. One way is to take a moment to study their site, and find something specific that you can comment on – hopefully something you can compliment. Then you offer your services.
Another thing you can do is to start participating in all relevant online discussions. This might be anything from Usenet newsgroups to dedicated forums on websites. This is not about spamming. You participate in the discussions legitimately. Let’s assume you’re particularly interested in fly fishing. You find websites about fly fishing and post real information or ask real questions. At the end of each post, you have a link to your website, and a very brief description of what you do. Here’s an example from the top of my head:
jeffsflyfishingsite.com – Great photos for your own fly fishing website.
Chances are, anyone who is enthusiastic enough about fly fishing to create a blog or website about it, is going to follow some of the discussions. Such a person may read your post, and notice the little line at the bottom. This person may have never even thought about improved photos for his website, but now you’ve got him thinking, and he’ll pretty much have to click through to see about your photos.
Your site could contain photos for sale – probably watermarked or thumbnail size so people won’t just take them. And/or it could offer your services to create custom photos.
OK, you have a website. But your photos are just too good! You want everyone to see them. You don’t want to display just thumbnails, or to sell them to other websites. What can you do?
You can make your website a destination. Perhaps your big interest in life is taking pictures of vacuum cleaners. You can put together a website containing photos of vacuum cleaners. With the usual SEO and publicity, you can bring some people to your site. If it inspires enough interest, the first visitors will tell their friends who will then check out your site – bring their friends, and so on. In time, your vacuum cleaner site goes viral, at least among vacuum cleaner enthusiasts.
Then, you can make money in a variety of ways. You can use a service called Google AdSense, which is the opposite end of AdWords. Costing you nothing, you can sign up, copy some code to paste onto your web-pages, and it is all set up. Relevant ads will show up on your website, probably ads about vacuum cleaners. When visitors click on these ads, you make a little bit of money, paid monthly to you from Google.
You can advertise your services as a photographer. You can sell poster-size pictures of vacuum cleaners. Anything you want.
Taking your vacuum cleaner site one step further, if you can photograph all sorts of unusual vacuums, then you can create a virtual museum. You might or might not like to write up extensive descriptions, add videos, sound bites, a blog, discussion area, and so on. You could have a membership area, where those who pay a small monthly fee get to see otherwise hidden pages. Some membership sites are free. Instead of charging money, you give a membership to anyone who is willing to give you their email address. Then, perhaps monthly, you can send them an e-letter with advertising for collectible vacuum cleaners or whatever. If there are serious vacuum collectors, you could buy and sell vacuums on your site, or link to your eBay listings. You could even charge money for people to post classified ads on your site.
Is there a way to go beyond a virtual museum? You bet! How about a ‘real’ museum? Perhaps your interest is railroads. You’ve traveled over the country taking pictures of steam engines, rail lines, signal trees, water towers, stations, engine repair shops, and so on. All you need is a small storefront. There, you build stand-alone ‘walls’ to display all your photos. No doubt you’ve collected some hardware, some of which may be antique. Perhaps some spikes, a coupling, a bell or sand dome, maybe even an entire small switch engine. You could build a replica station or engine shop. The interesting thing about many such small museums, is that they are mostly photographs. You do not need an extensive collection of tangibles to make it appealing. In your little storefront, you charge a per-head admission. You get to talk ‘railroad’ all day long with other interested parties. Ideally, it brings a sufficient income so that you can travel around the world taking more railroad photos.
For most privately owned museums to succeed, it is very helpful to be in just the right retail environment. Areas crowded with tourists are best. If you are in the right location, most of your business will be walk-in traffic. If not, you’ll need to provide brochures to the Chamber of Commerce, all the hotels, restaurants and other venues that attract tourists in your area.
I remember a motorcycle museum on the Oregon coast between towns. It had a large inviting parking lot, with signs that could be easily seen from Highway 101. That highway hosts two million cars a year. I doubt the museum had to do any advertising or publicity. Just being there was sufficient.
There are many websites that maintain databases of what are called ‘stock’ photos. Someone who has to make an industrial PowerPoint presentation, someone who needs to illustrate a website, or someone designing teaching or advertising materials can go to these sites, browse the photos, and buy rights to use the ones that suit their needs.
Stock photo sites vary considerably in the way they work. A typical one is iphoto.com in which you can upload your own works, and are paid from 15 to 45 percent when someone purchases them.
Others, many of which aren’t stock photograph sites per se, such as deviantart.com will take a wide variety of uploads, and will sell copies or prints of your work, giving you a portion of the profit.
On etsy.com you can sell completed, individual works, such as prints with or without frames, as well as photographs made into novelty items.
Still others, such as cafepress.com will make your photos into T-shirts, coffee mugs, or other novelty items and have various ways of sharing the profit with you.
General stock photography is no longer profitable. If you just go along taking pictures of fire hydrants, doorknobs, people stepping into taxicabs, you’ll find that there is already too many photographs out there competing with what you can do. So, the chances of selling your photos are small, and the payments are tiny.
The way to succeed with stock photography is to provide something unique. When someone needs guitar photos, and you’re the only one that provides a variety of guitar pictures, it’s likely that they’ll pay almost any price to use them! This is especially true if you can provide unusual guitar photos. Perhaps you know that there is interest in finger-picking. A general photographer wouldn’t know that, so maybe no one has ever posted close-up shots of finger-picking to a stock photography website. You win.
You can create your own website to sell your stock photography. The downside is that you’ll probably have to put in long hours to bring visitors to your site. If you put your stock photos in one of the big sites, the work of getting visitors is already done.
People need passport photos, and are often disappointed by less than desirable pictures taken by friends and relatives with point-and-shoot cameras.
People like to have nice photos of friends and family for their albums and to hang on their walls.
People who are consultants, practitioners and performers need high-quality photos for their websites, album covers, portfolios, business cards, and so on.
Ever since photography was invented, there has been a market for portrait photographers.
If you enjoy working with people, this could be your gig. It helps to really know about the right lighting, how to elicit the right facial expressions, how to position people so they look natural, how to adjust clothing, and how to arrange backgrounds. In some cases, photoshopping in alternative backgrounds is a possibility.
In many cases, using some photo editing techniques to enhance the pictures is considered part of the business.
Having a variety of backgrounds, furniture, and especially costuming is a big plus.
A branch of portraiture is glamour photography. If done respectfully and tastefully, you can provide clients with photos that will delight them.
Another branch is pet photography. There are a surprising number of people who care so much about their pets that they want high-quality photographs and are willing to pay what it takes.
All of the techniques discussed earlier for a local business apply to portraiture. I have seen many studios set up in particularly busy retail neighborhoods. I believe this proves that one of the best way to get local business is to be visible to people walking by. . .”Location, location, location!”
eBay can be a photographer’s dream. Not only is it a great way to pick up equipment for reasonable prices, but it can be an outlet for your photography. However, it is not an easy market to crack.
If you are an eBay member, which is free and easy to set up, you can use their search tool to discover what sells and what doesn’t. You can go to the “Art and Collectibles” category, then “Art,” then “Direct from Artist,” then “Photographs.” From there, you scroll down a few inches on the left, and select “More Refinements” then “Show Only” and finally “Completed Listings.”
You will be given a page showing all the listings that have closed during the past 30 days. If a listing closed without a sale, an auction that got no bids, or perhaps because the seller deleted the listing, the price it was offered at will be shown in red. Items that actually sold will have the purchase price displayed in green.
Bad news – you’ll see that almost all the photographs listed did not sell and those that did brought little money. This doesn’t necessarily have to be discouraging. In fact, it can be good news. You can see right away what doesn’t sell well, and avoid any similar photographs. More to the point, you can see what does sell, and focus on that type of photography.
But overall, you have to admit, eBay may not be a good market for photography. Unless you can find a niche that excites people enough to pay reasonable prices for your photos. That’s the trick. For instance, there was an oil painter who specialized in photos of yellow bicycles. Why? Who knows? What’s interesting is that she sold a good number of these paintings for a profitable price.
As with freelance photography elsewhere, if you can bring out emotional responses from your viewers, it is more likely to be successful.
One of the nice things about eBay is the cost is very little, so you can experiment. You could take a wide variety of photographs and present them in a wide variety of ways. You might try sending your digital photo files by email. eBay’s policies can make this tricky, and seem to change from time to time on digital media, so check it out carefully. Selling actual prints is completely within policy. Selling framed prints may be more profitable, or not. Selling huge prints may be a good idea. Or maybe little tiny ones. Or maybe you can make the prints into business cards or postcards and sell them that way. Possibly customized, and in bulk. Reprints are completely acceptable, as are limited editions, as long as you let the buyers know what’s what. Since you’ve discovered what sells, you can sell the same picture over and over again. You may find that out of 100 different photos you list on eBay, only the same three or four sell over and over again.
If you have the patience to work this magic out, you can be successful with eBay as your only outlet.
eBay’s buyers depend on a feedback system. While eBay offers protections to buyers in case a seller doesn’t deliver as promised, most buyers will want to see some positive feedback before they’ll buy from you. Every time someone buys something from you, you get one point. If you are a seller who has built up hundreds of positive points, you’ll do better than someone with few points, or even a bunch of negative ones.
If you have no feedback, you can quickly fix it by selling a bunch of something really inexpensive, such as second-hand paperback books. Or better yet, some of your prints for a very low price. You can also get a feedback point for everything you buy on eBay, but smart buyers can tell the difference between feedback for buying, and feedback for selling.
The best way to make sure you get positive feedback is to communicate courteously and promptly with your buyers. Especially if someone has a problem. Sometimes an item can be lost or damaged in the mail. Sometimes, when the pictures arrive, the buyers are disappointed for one reason or an other. Perhaps it is smaller than they thought. Perhaps it just doesn’t excite them like it did when they bought it. This should be their problem, but unless you deal with it, it becomes yours and you could get a negative feedback point. I just give refunds to everyone who is not satisfied. Sure, it may cost some money here and there, but it’s just part of the cost of doing business.
The other way to avoid negative feedback is to be truthful in your descriptions. Always state the size of your prints, or the resolution of your electronically delivered media clearly, for instance: “575kb jpg file.” If it is imperfect in some way, state that. Let them know exactly what they are getting, such as: “8 x 10 inch, unframed print on 50 wt glossy paper, slightly curled edges.”
Buy and Sell Photo Equipment
How else can you use eBay? While not ‘making money with photography’ exactly, you may find you can be quite successful in buying and selling photographic equipment. The trick, as always with eBay, is finding a source of something that people want, and which other sellers are not falling all over each other to sell.
An area in which this can work is in antique cameras. Crown Graphics and Speed Graphics, the old tankers that I learned on, can be bought and sold at a profit. You can look for cameras that are just listed with the Buy It Now option for less than market value (don’t forget to include the shipping cost), or auctions about to end with a low price. Generally, if an auction is ending at a lower than market price, then something’s wrong. Ideally, what is wrong is that the seller listed it in the wrong category, or misspelled something in the title so other buyers didn’t see it. More likely, it is not really under market value. For instance, a bellows camera with worn bellows is worth far less than one with bellows in good shape. And, of course, if the lens is missing, it’s worth far less than one with a lens.
What if you can find one with worn bellows or a missing lens going for far less than market value? Check to see if individual parts for that camera have been selling on eBay. There may be an opportunity to sell the parts of it at a profit. Keep in mind that eBay and Paypal (their money-handling branch) end up with a percentage of your sale. A rule of thumb is that if the parts from a camera haven’t sold for more than three times its price during the past month, it is not a good enough buy.
You may find a market in tripods, lighting equipment, darkroom equipment, digital darkroom software, shutter releases, lenses, you name it. You may be able to find a wholesale supplier for new equipment, but I think you’ll find anything and everything that’s new, and that people will want to buy, is not available with a large enough markup to end up with a profit worth your time.
One way new equipment can work is to find something that’s unique, and not being sold on eBay. This would typically come from a small manufacturer who has had a unique idea. They might have a new little widget, that if you can photographic it and explain it on eBay in such a way that people understand how it will benefit them, you’ll sell lots of them. I recently saw a new kind of glue that fits this description. It was more of a putty really, but one that sticks to anything, can be had in various colors, and is obviously better for repairing many things than any other kind of glue. Unfortunately, it is already being sold on eBay, for what seems like remarkably small quantities at a high price.
Mixing and matching your eBay used equipment business with craigslist and other local venues can be quite profitable.
Sometimes you can buy something on craigslist for next to nothing because the seller needs money right away, is moving out of town, or simply doesn’t have the need to get the full value. This is something you can then sell on eBay for a good markup.
Sometimes you can buy things on eBay that will do very well on craigslist. When someone wants a light meter, they probably want it right away, today, rather than waiting for it to be shipped. You can often find interesting photo equipment at garage sales. You can consign equipment to camera stores. You can even set up a little store of your own in a flea market, or even a genuine small retail store. Because of department stores, eBay and so many other sources of brand-new equipment at remarkably low prices, you can’t compete in new merchandise. But there are few if any stores specializing in second-hand equipment. If you buy on eBay – or anywhere for that matter – check everything carefully. A piece of equipment will be dead in the water if it doesn’t function properly. Imagine the difference in what people will pay if you have to sell a camera with this caveat, “Sometimes you need to shake it a couple of times before it will focus.” You may also want to remember that last’s year’s technology is worth nothing. The world’s best 3.1 megapixel digital camera is probably worth about $20 these days.
Every wedding needs a photographer. It is a specialized field. If you have little experience with wedding photography, you can learn a lot by looking at other wedding photographs.
There is no room for excuses in this business. The wedding photographer is paid well partly because s/he must, absolutely must show up on time, and the photos can’t be blurry, too dark, too light, poorly composed, and so on. Pretty much any other kind of photographer can be less reliable. The wedding photographer knows how to get those special moments, like when when the bride tosses the bouquet, and when the groom feeds his wife that first piece of wedding cake.
Keep your files, because you might get reorders even years after a wedding.
How do you get started as a wedding photographer? You might convince a family member or good friend that you can be their photographer, even if for little or no money. That’ll be one wedding in your portfolio, and with that, you are on the path to becoming a true professional. The usual approaches will work to build your business, such as handing business cards to everyone within reach, and building a website, but it may be slower starting than many other kinds of photo businesses, because ultimately, it is very much a reputation, word of mouth based business.
Since a wedding photography business is based on a local clientele, you can use SEO effectively with your website. The keywords would be “wedding” and all the communities you can serve. If you live in a big city, there will be many other wedding photographers who also have optimized websites. But they may miss the trick in which you name all the suburbs. So, if you live in San Rafael, California, you might make sure your SEO includes “Fairfax,” “San Anselmo,” “Point Reyes,” “Greenbrae,” and so on.
A realtor stands to make a few thousand dollars commission on a sale, so it is worthwhile to get the best possible photographs of that house. Once you’ve become established with one or more realtors, they’ll want you to take all their pictures, knowing your service closes sales more effectively than their own photos.
Perhaps you have an eye for this sort of thing. You might know that showing off the high, open-beam ceilings is important. You might think it is worthwhile to bring in a dining table, chairs, place settings and food, to take a picture of the dining room in the most appealing way. You might realize that taking a picture with a wide-angle lens can make the yard seem larger. I don’t know all the tricks. Perhaps you do. If not, you’ll learn them.
In addition to realtors, you may find a market with many of the people who undertake to sell their homes by themselves.
In a large city, you might even specialize in rural or commercial properties.
News services, local newspapers, magazines, TV stations and even some websites will pay quite well for news photography. If you know how to get to fires and accidents – without getting in the way, if you know how to get photos of celebrities, or are particularly good at special interest photos, you’ll have a market.
I mentioned it earlier in this book: To sell to the news editors, Photographer’s Market, available through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1599636131 is almost a must. With this book, you’ll know who the editors are, how to reach them, what subjects they specialize in, what formats they prefer, and usually how much they’re paying.
Then there’s photojournalism. One can go to college for this, but it isn’t necessary. All you need to do is take good pictures, write well, and know how to approach the editors who will buy your work.
Photojournalism is easier to sell because you’re providing the entire package to the editor. Otherwise, in order to use your photos, they also have to find someone to write the text.
One of the downsides to providing freelance photos or complete articles is that most publications don’t pay very well. After you’ve sold a few freelance projects to editors, they’ll start to seek you out and they generally pay much more for assigned pieces.
Nightclubs and Beaches
Years ago, when people were enjoying a night out, a photographer might come to their table with a Polaroid, take a flash picture, and then sell it to them. This is not as common as it once was, but in certain clubs it would still be a big hit. You might even help the concept of nightclub photos (using digital technology) to make a comeback.
Starting would be easy. All you need to do is to convince a club owner to let you give it a try, and see if your presence seems to enhance the festivity of the club.
Along the same lines, you could take photos of people on the beach. Some people go to the beach to be seen, and would be honored that you think they’re worth photographing. This wouldn’t be a candid thing. You would walk right up, bristling with fancy-looking equipment, and let them know exactly what you’re about. And they’ll be honored to have their picture taken!
Since most people don’t carry cash on the beach, you’ll want to make a note of their contact information. Later on, you can correspond by email, using PayPal to collect the payments. I don’t know whether they’d be more interested in buying the pictures as .jpg files or in buying prints. You can experiment and find out for yourself.
A bit of a downside to this business is that people may not be as enthusiastic about buying the pictures after they’ve come home and thought about it.
On the plus side, you get to hang out on the beach, work your own hours, and in your own way.
Having access to an airplane or helicopter puts you in a unique position. You get to take arial photographs. Not only is that fun in itself, it can be profitable.
Many homeowners would love an arial view of their houses. I mean, who hasn’t gone to Google Earth to see if they can find their own home viewed from a satellite. The problem is the resolution is poor. I know I’d be likely to spend $10 or $20 or even more for a closer arial photo of my home. And I might like one of the creek and ponds behind my house.
The biggest customers might be businesses, however. I would think car dealers would all buy arial photos, as would any retailer who has a place that looks interesting from above.
Perhaps the best way to sell arial photographs is the simplest. Just go up, take the pictures, then contact the homeowners or businesspeople with proofs by email or in person.
Another possibility is to take commissions to specifically photograph certain places. Because this would probably necessitate special trips, it would take more time on your part, and so you’d have to charge more, and ultimately may be harder to sell. On the other hand, once people know what you do, they’re likely to say something like, “Hey, next time you’re in the neighborhood, could you swing by and take a picture of my brother’s house?” For this, you could charge more than the freelance photos, but wouldn’t have to charge as much as for a special job.
If you have a website or people can find out that you do this other ways, there may be use for your services in lawsuits as well. If you could provide photos of an intersection where a crash occurred, for instance, no doubt a lawyer would pay handsomely for it to demonstrate the details of a case in court.
Anyone can go by a construction site and take pictures. Imagine a business where you do exactly that, going by some construction sites every day and documenting the development of houses and buildings. Once they are built, you can sell your photos to the lucky home or business owners.
Most resumes can be submitted as all text, on a plain piece of paper. If there are 400 applicants for the job, something added may make one resume stand out. What might that something be? Hmm. . . How about a photograph?
In most cases, these photos would be portraits of the applicants themselves. But in some cases, perhaps photos of their work is more appropriate. For instance, a carpenter trying for a job with a big construction company might submit a photo of a complex spiral staircase s/he has built. Or even better, a picture of the carpenter in action, finishing the staircase.
I knew a welder that specialized in custom-made utility racks for pickup trucks. He had an album that showed many of his finished racks, completely decked out in the tools and equipment the rack owners used. He showed this album to everyone, and it closed many sales for him.
Some resumes require a photo, such as people applying to modeling agencies or as TV reporters. These applicants will certainly want a high-quality photo.
You can use the usual approaches to start this business. It will most likely take a year or more to develop it into a full-time occupation. As with many such businesses, once it is going strong, most of your business will come by reputation, not advertising or publicity. This is a business, however, in which small display ads in your local newspapers may be helpful. Since craigslist is free, that would be another good place to advertise if craigslist is available in your area.
What could you do with an old bread truck? How about make it into a rolling studio? Depending on your specialty, if you serve a local market, this could be great free publicity. Of course you’d put signs on the sides. Then, you could make house calls. You could carry a generator or batteries and have lighting, furniture, a few costumes, and backgrounds set up just perfectly in the truck for portraiture or pet photography.
Or, you might go to flea markets for portraiture. You might add a unique flavor, such as providing witch and wizard costumes, placing your clients behind a crystal ball or handing them a wand before you take their pictures.
Perhaps there are eBay sellers in your city who would love to have a rolling studio come by once a week and take professional photos of their merchandise. For that matter, some of the retailers might like you to use your rolling studio to provide photos of their items that are going out in sales flyers that week.
Some people enjoy speaking before groups. Photography gives you that opportunity. If you have photographed something interesting, you can provide a lecture with a slide-show. You may have traveled somewhere exotic, you may specialize in taking pictures of microscopic bugs, or perhaps you and your camera have toured with a famous rock band.
There are several ways to do this.
One way is to rent a venue that could be anything from a coffee house to a major auditorium. You then publicize or advertise the event. Finally, you sell the tickets or collect admission at the door. You can start small, perhaps initially presenting to four or five people in your own home.
That way sounds kind of difficult, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it be easier to work in cooperation with an entity that’s already set up for presentations? You could work with a church. Most will work cooperatively with a wide variety of events. They’ll provide the space and publicity. Their congregations may even talk up your event and sell tickets. You can also work with event centers. Most communities have them. Another venue is community adult education programs. Almost all of the schools host one-off events.
Another approach is to ride on someone’s coattails. Perhaps there’s another presenter who has a similar topic, and would love to have you as an opening act with your slide show. S/he will have done all the renting, publicity and so on, so you don’t have to do any of that. She may even have a following and experience, so you can know how many people to expect.
Yet another approach is to do it under the auspices of a like-minded organization. The payment options are as vast as your imagination. You can propose anything you can think up, such as a percentage of ticket sales, or a flat fee.
If your slide-show is of interest to students, schools may pay you directly to present in their auditoriums or classrooms. If of interest or benefit to employees, especially if it will cause the employees to be more effective for their employers, companies will pay for your presentations. For instance, if you have been to India, and you know of a company with a number of employees who frequently communicate by phone with India, they’ll benefit from your lecture.
Or, forget the lecture, just present the slide-show, as a background behind a musical group.
There are companies that can print copies of your photo onto just about any little trinket you can think of. It can be made into a little keychain viewer, can be made into lapel buttons, business cards, tiny books, embedded in the clear barrels of pens, you name it.
The most common use would what’s called novelty advertising. If a car dealer gives out little tape measures that can be put on key rings, people will remember this dealer when it is time to buy a car. If the tape measures have an appealing picture of the dealership or one of their cars, all the better. If a music store gives away T-shirts with their name and a picture of a guitar, they’ll get more business. It just so happens that you’re the one who can take the guitar photo.
Novelty advertising can take many forms such as coffee mugs, baseball caps, and USB flash drives.
There are many companies that can print your pictures onto things. One way to go is Newton Manufacturing newtonmfg.net. You provide the picture, you order something from their catalog, and in short order, 100 or 1,000 or however many you want of the item are sent to you. You then present these to the car dealer or music store, and collect your payment. Another is Cafe Press. They will work out all sorts of interesting arrangements with you, in which you can sometimes have as few as one copy of an item made up and shipped.
Pre-Filled Digital Photo Frames
You’ve seen the prices plummet on digital photo frames. These are the little flat devices that look like an ordinary picture frame that you can hang on a wall or set on a desk, except they provide a slide-show of whatever photos you want to load them up with. They provide a whole cornucopia of opportunities to the photographer.
You can buy these frames for around $20 and on up. Even less if you buy them in bulk. You can fill them with specialized photographs of interest to people in various fields. An employee could have pictures of the company’s products in a frame. In fact, a company may want to hire you to take the pictures of the products, and then fill orders for a frame for every worker in the company.
A bicycle enthusiast may want a frame filled with racing photos, and would be happy to spend $100 at a bike shop to get it. So you would sell them or consign them to bike shops.
A family might hire you to photograph their reunion, then order a bunch of filled frames from you.
A band’s agent might want frames showing the musicians playing gigs. The agent will then give these frames away to promoters, so the band stays foremost in the promoters’ minds.
A company that manufactures gear-cutting machines would order gear-cutting machine photo-filled frames to give away to potential clients.
These may even be a good eBay play. Just find a specialty, one in which you have good photos or can take good photos. Make up a frame, list it on eBay and see what happens. If your first attempt doesn’t sell well, try another approach; or photos about something else, and list another frame, until you discover exactly what sells on eBay, then flood the market with them!
Would you agree that most people walking around flea markets and fairs with smartphones have many pictures of friends, family, places, and things of interest on their phones? What would happen if at the fair, they came across a person with a large printer who was willing to make prints on the spot, of their favorite pictures from their phones for the reasonable price of, oh, let’s say $12? Perhaps you could charge even more. Maybe $12 would be for an ordinary 8-1/2 x 11 print. If you have a large printer, that’s a fairly rare thing, and you might be able to charge quite a bit for large prints.
If you are not very familiar with printing, you might immediately think that ink is prohibitively expensive. For most name-brand printers, if you go to a retail store for their ink cartridges, they’ll cost anywhere from $20 to $40 each, and will only print a handful of pages before they’re empty. The trick is to buy them on Amazon or eBay. You want the kind of printer in which the print head is part of the printer, not the cartridge. Then you can get cartridges for as little as $4 each, shipping included.
The only real downside of this business is that it doesn’t make use of your skill as a photographer. It’s just about printing other people’s photos.
Another business that doesn’t make use of your photographic skill is equipment rental. Is there a place in your community to rent lighting? Reflectors? Or a big printer? You might offer to rent such equipment. Once you reach a level of success, you can invest in your business, widening your line with more inventory, such as a large paper cutter, chairs, party supplies, yard care equipment. . . Well, that’s getting pretty far afield, but you get the idea. You can also carry supplies, such as printer ink, replacement bulbs, and photo paper.
Some people enjoy teaching. Others would, but have never tried teaching, so they don’t know if they’re good teachers or not. A good teacher is one who enjoys working with people, and has a knack for breaking subjects down into easily managed chunks. For instance, I could tell you all about exposure, F-stops, shutter speeds, and all sorts of technical things. I could try to teach you all at once, but that probably would leave you more confused then you were before. Or, I could start by explaining only one thing: F-stops. I’d just tell you that if you block some of the light coming through the lens, you’ll have a darker picture. Then, after you get that, I could tell you that each F-stop, even though the numbers seem odd, lets in exactly twice as much light as the stop before. In small chunks, you’d get the whole picture without confusion. If I could do that, I’d be a good teacher. Are you a good teacher?
If so, you might get a kick out of teaching photography. There are many subjects within photography that you could teach. You might start with an absolute beginners’ course on how to use a digital camera. Intermediate courses might include photo composition and lighting. Advanced courses might teach those crazy F-stops, even though no one really uses them any more. Or you might teach digital darkroom techniques using Corel PhotoPaint, Adobe Photoshop or Gimp. You might teach a course on file formats, so your students will understand the difference between lossy and lossless compression, and the reasons for, and maybe even the history of.gif, .tiff, .png, .bmp, .jpg, and so on.
You could wallpaper your town with flyers, send out press releases and pass out business cards in your community. You could then hold your classes in your home, or in a venue ranging from a coffee shop to a church auditorium, depending on how many people sign up.
That’s the hard way, but you get to keep all the money. An easier way is to teach at a community adult education centers. Most communities have these. They offer quarterly catalogs with a whole range of classes such as Spanish, ballroom dancing and bicycle repair. All you need to do is visit their office, or email them with a course proposal.
Some of these schools pay a small flat rate, typically around $15 per hour, and some such as OLLI (Osher LifeLong Learning Institute) pay nothing at all.
What you want is a school that pays a percentage of their gross sales. In other words, they give you 40, 50 or 60 percent of the course fee paid by each student.
The great communication teacher, Dale Carnegie, started this way. He taught his course, How to Win Friends and Influence People, at the local YMCA on a commission basis. I think he started with just four students. In time, he was lecturing to stadiums filled with 20,000 people.
Or, you could teach for free. In that case, as you are teaching, you also offer something that your students may want to pay for, such as individual tutoring, a local photographic service, or advanced courses. You might even build up a reputation as a teacher through the school that doesn’t pay, and when you have a waiting list of a hundred students, you move away from the school, and offer your own classes, in which you charge a reasonable fee per student.
If you make your classes lively and fun, students are more likely to encourage their friends to sign up. This is especially true if they really learn the subject and find value in what you have taught.
All through this book I’ve been assuming you’re primarily interested in still photography. You may also have an interest in videography. As you can imagine, most of the still photography opportunities, with just a bit of adjustment, will work well for videography as well.
I once met a videographer who had a specialty that seemed especially appealing. She interviewed elderly people. The point was to make what she called “living testimonials.” At some point in the future, her clients would pass on. Their bodies would no longer be with us, but at least a record of what they thought, felt, wanted, loved, and remembered would be left behind. What a great gift idea, don’t you think? Who would you buy a living testimonial for? A grandparent or parent perhaps?
In order to do this well, you have to be an empathetic interviewer. With skill in drawing a person out, and asking questions that illicit in-depth, authentic answers, you can conduct a good, even compelling interview.
Almost all of the ideas presented in this book can be expanded – if that’s what you would like. Some people keep their businesses small on purpose. As a business grows, the owner frequently becomes more of a manager than one who does the actual work s/he intended to do. They like exactly what they’re doing, and do not want to expand.
If expansion is your thing, know that by simply and patiently running your business every day, growth is automatic. You’ll know when it is time to offer additional products or services. You will probably come to a time when you need to delegate some of your work to partners, contractors or employees. As these things come up, if you take each new situation in stride, you’ll find nothing is too difficult to learn and you’ll end up making more money, and being happier than you could ever be as someone’s employee.
The Final Bit
Now you have everything you need to start your own photography business, If you can stay focused, motivated and on track, you’ve got it made!
Enjoy and prosper! – Jeff