Recently, I was having a discussion with the extremely skilled veteran photographer Bob Krist about how the photography industry has changed in the freelance editorial niche. Often in the past, as long as you were dependable with a solid portfolio and willing to knock on some doors, it seemed inevitable that you would land a magazine, publishing, or newspaper gig. And once you had several outtakes from any shoots you did, you could sell them as stock photographs for a healthy profit, because once upon a time stock photography was a booming business. Even better, many magazine and publication stories that you completed were often capable of being sold again to overseas publishers.
This was before my time, but he is only one of many veteran photographers to tell me this. Today, these methods can still be used, but it’s much more difficult to get traction. Wistfully, I often find myself thinking I missed out on the golden age. Alas.
Or have I? While current money-making models have changed in the photography industry across the board, we seem to have so many more opportunities to generate income from our photography talent than ever before.
However, the approach is a bit different, in that you have to be more savvy and strategic. Let’s look at two main ways of generating income: developing your brand and being an educator.
1. Developing and Nurturing Your Brand
While it’s important to able to take a solid photograph, you also have to learn how to communicate your brand to your tribe and nurture them. This is perhaps one of the biggest changes (and challenges) we face today. You are not just taking photographs. You are cultivating an audience.
Working to develop your “brand of me” (as Bob Krist so skillfully called it) is key in setting yourself apart from other photographers, while also attracting the right clients to you. I encourage you to think about what you bring to your brand. This can include (but is certainly not limited to):
- the style of your photos
- the approach you take with interacting with your clients
- the experience you give your clients during the shoot
- how you follow up with them
- the packaging and presentation of your final product
- how you interact with them online, including your email newsletter.
While this takes time and may not seem to immediately put money in your pocket, I believe it is one of the most important ways you can set yourself up for success. The “following” you develop today is ultimately one of your most valuable assets, because these are people who will potentially purchase from you in the future. It’s a pool of potential you can draw from.
2. Being an Educator
Many photographers today have also found it lucrative to focus on a second audience: other photographers, ranging from other professional photographers to amateur photographers. Through helping other fellow photographers hone their skills, they are able to bring in additional income for themselves.
One of the most common ways is to conduct in-person photography workshops, and charging each attendant an appropriate fee. This even includes photo walks. For example, here in the metro Detroit area in Michigan, the most common photography workshops I encounter often charge $35-$50 a person for several hours of instruction. Another way to incorporate additional income is to become an affiliate with various camera gear and software companies, and then sell their products at your workshops.
Here are some additional educational opportunities for you to consider:
- If you want to offer training country or world-wide, you could create online photography courses. Today, we have many online tools that make it relatively easy to publish interactive, online, video-based courses. This can be an asset that you create once, and then have bringing in income continuously.
- It’s also easier than ever before to publish on demand print books and ebooks. For example, Amazon CreateSpace is one example that makes it relatively easy to publish in-demand print books.
- You can also help educate other photographers through your blog, or even writing for other photography blogs. Through writing educational articles and reviews of the products that you personally use as a photographer, you can also drive affiliate sales, which puts money in your pocket.
Another benefit is that all of this is a great way for you to gain exposure, build credibility, and meet interesting people.
These days, making money to pay the bills involves so much more than simply taking photos. Interestingly enough, I often finding myself helping other photographers as often as I am shooting gigs. You have to have a well-rounded set of skills.
I challenge you to think of yourself as more than a photographer. This is the crux of the new business model for photographers today.