Virtually anyone can make money from photography even with just a pocket camera and a roll of ordinary film. Many projects included here require no special knowledge or experience and some need only everyday photographic equipment such as most individuals and families already own.
These tips will help you get started:
* Draw up a list of suitable projects and make notes about what to do next. List ideas, markets and venues for you to photograph. Then start one by one to develop a portfolio of profitable projects. The range of opportunities and profits is enormous and most people should easily fill their days and their bank accounts from ideas contained in this guide.
* Take your camera with you everywhere you go. Opportunity can strike anywhere, at any time. The person who recorded Bing Crosby's fatal heart attack during a round of golf earned himself a fortune!
* Have plenty of spare films and accessories on hand. A back-up camera is essential. Aim to offer black and white and colour photographs in respect of most promising opportunities.
* Keep your eyes and ears permanently open for profitable opportunities. Make a diary of events, deadlines, anniversaries, and so on.
* Start an ideas book and keep it constantly updated. List ideas for markets, new projects you'd like to try, and so on.
* Always do the best you can and remember the very best advertising comes from referrals and word-of-mouth recommendation from satisfied clients.
* Keep on developing and improving your techniques. Attend a refresher course if necessary and keep abreast of ideas, markets and techniques gained from photographic magazines and newsletters.
* Have a business card produced and pin it wherever prospective customers will see it: on notice boards in libraries and community centres, in shop and post office windows, in factory and office rest rooms, hospital and GP's waiting rooms, in online photographic libraries, on print on demand sites like Zazzle.com and Café Press.com, and so on.
* Advertise direct to your target audience. Small classified ads. in local newspapers and freesheets will attract clients for wedding and family photographs. Niche markets such as dog lover's magazines and mother and toddler publications are ideal advertising sources for portrait photographers specialising in children and pets.
* Write to likely prospects. Local newspapers, for instance, are prime targets for photographers specialising in local events, on the scene newbreaks, profiles of local celebrities, and so on.
A Handful of Profitable Photographic Opportunities
This is the popular name for photographers who follow the personality trail, sometimes hounding Royals and politicians, television and film stars, even nine-day celebrities like football pools and lottery winners, kiss-and-tellers and dishonoured dignitaries.
Photographs of royals and celebrities sunbathing topless or scantily dressed, even just exercising, can net the opportunist thousands, sometimes millions of pounds.
Such photographs are in high demand everywhere and the world rights to one exclusive photograph can be enough to keep you in luxury for the rest of your life. Remember, however, that risks are greater than for landscape and events photographers; so too is the pressure and public outrage you might encounter.
Keep a diary of dates and events where famous and infamous subjects might be. Study the area well and arrive early to get a good position. Always take plenty of spare film and equipment. Think how disastrous it would be to get there first, find a wonderful vantage point, aim your camera at the celebrity looking directly at you, and suddenly realise your camera isn't working. Real professionals carry two of everything, always.
National and international newspapers and magazines are your most likely, and most profitable markets for celebrities with wide appeal. For subjects to interest a small section of society, such as a local dignitary coming to open a county fair, local and regional newspapers are a market worth trying.
Working With Agencies and Photograph Libraries
This is perhaps the most rewarding and profitable category of all for the freelance to consider. Payment is good and established agency photographers can expect regular guaranteed work for several years. Agencies usually sell on commission, paying a fixed percentage back to the photographer. Some agencies work exclusive online, some offline, many do both.
End users for pictures range from newspapers and magazines to advertising specialists, model agencies, and so on. Hundreds of agencies and libraries operate in Britain alone, but that does not mean the market is easy to break into. It isn't and only the very best photographers will make it. When you do find an agency for your work, regular commissions are likely, and the agency will expect you to commit yourself to a long working relationship.
One successful freelance photographer writing in Freelance Writing and Photography tells how he lodges most of his pictures with libraries, leaving him free to continue taking photographs while still expecting a useful income from them. He further talks about granting restricted rights to some clients, such as postcard manufacturers, meaning he can offer the same photograph to non-competing end users. Recycling, it seems, offers high potential for the organised photographer.
Study agency requirements before submitting. Send only your very best work samples, not photographs others have refused. Photographs must be clear, bright and sharp. Perfect, in fact. Stick to the exact specifications for your target market: subject, size of print, type, number, colour/black and white, and so on. Don't send one or two photographs to an agency then sit back and wait for the profits. It doesn't work like that. Most agencies want literally hundreds of photos before accepting you onto their books.
Postcards, Greetings Cards and Calendars
Take a look in any good newsagent or large book shop and you'll see hundreds of cards, posters, calendars, and other items decorated with photographs of all shapes and sizes. Most are taken by freelance photographers and submitted to manufacturers of the products. If you decide to do photography for this sector, decide whether to produce the items yourself or to send photographs 'on spec' to established publishers.
If you work alone look for likely outlets among gift shops, newsagents, souvenir shops, art galleries, hotels, tourist information centres, and so on. Offer a commission on all items sold through them. Quality is of the highest standard, making this a tough market to break into. More than this, careful market study is what distinguishes the successful photographer from the also-ran You must know exactly what your target market requires and make sure you offer them nothing less. Competition is fairly tough in a sector where rewards can also be very high.
One very successful photographer specialising in postcards reports high earnings from taking, making and marketing cards himself, without involving shops and other distributors. He says marketing is the key to success, emphasising that it's pointless to be able to take great photographs for postcards everyone wants to buy if no-one knows where to get them from. He tells us, no surprise, that most postcards are purchased by tourists and holiday-makers and says the real business of selling should be through shops and retailers in popular tourist areas. Our subject began by studying popular tourist areas, including London and York, where he looked at cards already on sale in these areas, noting which sights were most popular, what photographic techniques seemed most common, whether black and white or colour was the order of the day, and so on.
Then he took some photographs himself, based on the findings of his market research. He began by shooting popular subjects from unusual angles and trying to create other things different about his pictures. He markets his work through traditional retailers offering cards on a sale or return basis and returning regularly to replenish stocks, take his earnings, and maybe add new pictures to the range.
Find useful contacts in Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and place your images on print on demand sites like Zazzle and Café Press where greetings cards are popular sellers.
Fancy being able to travel the world, almost free of charge? Even better, how would you like to be certain that every holiday and trip you take from now on is going to earn you money, not cost you?
Anyone who likes to travel, preferably to unusual, faraway places, can take photographs of scenes, people and events to interest countless end users, including editors of magazines and newspapers, photograph libraries, restaurant owners and hoteliers, and many, many more.
More than this, did you know you can even finance your trips in advance and generate a lot of spending money by liming up clients for your work before you embark on your journey? You didn't? Well, do we have news for you!
Offer articles to accompany the photographs you take and the world truly is your oyster. Alternatively, how about collaborating with a freelance writer and planning worldwide trips from which you can both earn high profits, as well as getting to see something of the world as you go? As a travel photographer there's virtually no part of the world you'll be precluded from visiting, however remote or uninviting. Naturally, you will want to visit places that interest you, however, as well as generating plenty of photographs for clients.
Remember that not everyone likes being photographed, sometimes for cultural, religious or superstitious reasons. Always ask permission first. In some countries it is absolutely forbidden to take photographs of military installations, docks, airports, religious shrines, and numerous other sites. Make sure you know in advance what you can and can not photograph. Ask tourist offices or buy a selection of good travel guides.
Markets are truly plentiful coming from all sections of industry, business and commerce. For the main part, travel articles and photographs sell to local and national newspapers and magazines, as well as to publishers of travel books and periodicals, and firms with general or specific interests in the country or countries you visit. But many other markets await you, such as restaurant owners interested in popular overseas menus and dishes, businesses needing information about their foreign competitors, even writers needing photographs to accompany their own work, and so on. There are many publishers, in Britain and abroad, whose main interest lies in travel and travel-related themes. Refer to Writers' and Artists' Yearbook for a comprehensive listing.
Specialise in Local Events
Local events are popular with everyone, young and old. Photographs of the occasion also have very wide appeal, to participants and others keen to report on the event, such as newspapers and magazines, even schools newsletters and trade journals, depending on individual circumstances. There's scope for anyone adept at taking action photographs to earn a useful income purely from photographing at these events. Try visiting a few local events with a view to taking and submitting photographs to appropriate magazines and freesheets. Alternatively, take photographs of visitors and participants which you can offer to send when developed in return for a small deposit paid in advance. For venues, consider: school sports days, gymkhanas, cross-country events, rallies and exhibitions, and so on. If you are good, local newspapers might ask you to cover local events exclusively for them. Send a few sample photographs to local editors. Visit local tourist information boards for details of forthcoming events and keep your eyes open on the 'What's On' columns of local and regional newspapers.
This is another potentially insatiable and very profitable market for photographers, especially if unusual end products are offered like jigsaws, photographs glazed onto china, Christmas and greetings cards, and so on. Advertise in pet shops, shop and post office windows, through advertisements in local newspapers, at dog shows and obedience training classes, in pet lovers' magazines, etc. Alternatively, turn up at dog, animal and agricultural shows, where you might work to commission. Ask a deposit for photographs you will later post to clients with an invoice for the remainder due. Horses, pigeon and bird shows offer similar opportunities.
Images of pets and other domestic animals appear on many bestselling items at print on demand sites like Zazzle and Café Press.
Children represent a very lucrative market indeed, whether you work to commission or set yourself up in schools and supermarkets where customers approach you direct. You can offer your services at swimming clubs and galas, school plays, mother and toddler clubs, soft play sessions in sports and leisure centres, etc. Another very profitable option is birthday parties and family celebrations.
When working in schools, it's always a good idea to give a donation to the school in return for a ready welcome next year. Many people think photographing children at school is unnatural, mothers having dressed them up for the occasion, meaning the whole thing is manufactured and false. That said, however, most parents disagree, believing up-market professional images from you will compensate for a preponderance of their own pictures of scruffy, badly-behaved, 'won't sit still for their parents' children. Professional photographers always seem to bring out the best in their subjects, producing pictures, which although stage-managed, usually seem to present children at their best.
Keep accurate records about schools, classes, groups of children to be photographed together, and so on. Always take a brush and comb, disposable ones if possible, to tidy up your subjects. Background is essential, comprising a velvet curtain or other self-coloured material, but nothing too bright or patterned. Good lighting and flash equipment is vital.
For larger jobs like this, check round local photographic firms to get the best rate for high-volume developing. A regular mailshot about your service to schools in your area should keep you fully booked for months ahead.
Special Events Photography
Visit well-populated events such as: craft shows, antiques roadshows, leek championships, gardening competitions, art and craft shows, sports events, and so on, offering to take photographs of the winners and others on commission. Distribute cards to visitors and take a deposit with the remainder payable on receipt of the photographs. Contact organisers and ask permission to attend the event, if needed, in return for a share in the proceeds.
Most tourist information boards hand out lists of future events in their area. Better still, most offices have addresses of other boards throughout Britain, meaning you could plan your entire year travelling to events all over the country.
Readers' Letters Pages and Filler Markets
This may seem a relatively lowly opening for the experienced photographer but it's actually a market to which many very well-paid photographers, and writers, exploit during their spare time or when more lucrative longer assignments are at a premium.
It can, in fact, represent a very lucrative opening for anyone who takes time to study the exact requirements of the many magazines and newspapers requiring photographs (sometimes with accompanying captions or letters) for their readers' letters and fillers pages. Rewards range from a token pen or stationery set, to high prize and cash awards.
Notice whether editors prefer particular subjects, say dogs or children, landscapes, and such and if a caption typically accompanies the photograph. Then focus your work on fulfilling editors' and publishers' exact needs.
Keep an eye open for highly popular silly shop signs and names, odd signs on the highway, ambiguous notices, endearing animals and children, and anything unusual or related specifically to your target magazine.
Obtain a few back issues of target magazines and study the photographs they contain. And, remember, you don't have to wait for unusual or interesting things to happen, you can always set them up for yourself.
Aerial photography is popular with householders, business and government organisations alike and is simply a case of researching possible clients for aerial shots of homes, business and government premises and expecting to sell a high proportion of pictures taken. Cost of taking pictures is low and potential sales particularly high. Your role is simply to hire a plane with pilot, organise the flight path, and take photographs on route.
If you can, line up buyers in advance, for commissions photographs, request an upfront deposit which can be used to finance cost of aeroplane, photographic equipment, and whatever photographic and flying assistance is necessary.
When commissioned photographs have been fulfilled and payment received, sell other items door-to-door or offer via advertisements in local and regional newspapers as well as from advertisements in shop and post office windows. Don't forget to offer sales on commission through retailers, estate agents, tourist shops, and other potential high street shops and offices.
Offer a Range of More Exotic and Elaborate Photographic Albums for Traders
For example, take ornate photographs of cakes and gourmet dishes, items the company may produce very rarely, but still wish to have some means of displaying to clients, in this case photographically. Likely clients include confectioners, bakers, cake decorators, wedding cake specialists, caterers and restaurants. Visit prospects in person or by mail but always with a few sample photographs from earlier clients.
Offer to Restore, Touch Up or Re-Photograph Old, Faded, Torn or Damaged Pictures
Earlier photographs were far less durable than today digital versions. They fade fast, damage quickly, and in just a few decades few physical memories remain of the subject. However, using today's technology, a great many of those earlier specimens can be darkened, re--photographed and restored to near-original quality. Either offer to restore old photos to resemble their modern day counterparts, or produce an authentic sepia-toned type. Advertise in local and national newspapers, photographic journals and newsletters, via postcard and ephemera collectors' magazines, and personally at postcard clubs, genealogy groups, and so on.
Visit Well-Populated Events
The lies of craft shows, antiques roadshows, leek growing championships and gardening competitions, art and craft fairs, sports events and more. Offer to take photographs of winners and anyone else who commissions you to depict them and their creations. Hand out business cards in case anyone later decides they'd like a memento, too. Contact organisers of such events and request permission to attend. You may have to pay a stall fee or sometimes you'll be asked to offer a fixed share of the taking back t organisers. Either way, it can be a great way to make money fast.
Take Photographs of Children Visiting Santa's Grotto
You can charge customers or else ask organisers, normally shops, to sponsor you. Sell you idea to stores as a means of generating after-Christmas custom, typically by taking photographs and a deposit on the day and giving customers a date on which to return for the finished photographs. Evidence suggests that most customers return for their photographs and therefore bring increase custom to the store. A great selling point for retailers!
Offer to Glaze Photographs onto Plates and Other Items of China
You don't necessarily have to take photographs yourself, customers can bring their own, but it helps further your career and profits as a five minute photographer so aim to cover the whole spectrum. Advertise in publications or take a booth at shows and fairs, alternatively arrange to operate from space in another firms' premises, say a high street store or market hall. Suitable glazing materials and equipment can be obtained on eBay and other online marketplaces.
Turn Photographs Into Jigsaws or Table Mats, Wall Prints, and Other Popular Novelty Items
You can take photographs at various events or using pictures taken in the course of other of your business ventures, by offering clients the chance to have ordinary photographic prints transformed into collectible novelty goods.
Market by direct mail or via stands at fairs and markets, exhibitions and special events. You might also take photographs on the day and arrange the transfer process later.
Alternatively, or as well as, upload your images to print on demand sites offering hundreds of different product types. The best include Zazzle and Café Press.
Start a Line of Reproduction Prints of Old Photographic Street Scenes and Special Events
Nostalgia is big business and most people, though they can not afford the hefty prices asked for original photographs (sometimes running into hundreds of pounds) are keen to obtain copies for souvenirs or decorative purposes. We recently purchased and reproduced photographs of the Titanic to coincide, very profitably, with the film and intense media interest of anything related to the ill-fated liner. Photographs can be purchased as original or reproduction postcards at postcard, ephemera and collectors' fairs (be careful not to breach copyright) and can easily be re-photographed or scanned as computer printouts. They will just as easily sell in high volume door-to-door, through retail shops and souvenir outlets, at craft fairs, or by direct mail to likely buyers.
Reproduction views sell particularly well on eBay and Amazon, as well as on products at print on demand sites like Zazzle and Café Press.
Tourist Spot Photography
Install your camera at some busy tourist spot and take pictures of visitors, with or without their prior approval, but be careful not to breach convention and social codes. Approach subjects and request a deposit against later fulfilment of finished photographs.