How to start making money doing photography

One of the questions I had at the start was how to find a job. How do I turn my hobby into money? Advice on the internet was scarce. So here’s my advice to anyone who wants to take the next step and make money from their art.

I know the stress of going to a paid concert for the first time. You are afraid of ruining everything. Just know that if you got to your first paying gig, you did everything right. All you need now is to show up, shoot and deliver the files. But let’s get back to the part where you get this gig, because that’s the unclear part. Honestly, online authors make it look really easy, but in fact, it’s not. It’s one thing if you already have some work experience, but it’s another if you’re straight out of high school.

In this article, we won’t go into the practicalities of building a portfolio, finding a niche, and developing your own style. These things come much later. Instead, we’ll just talk about how someone with a camera can get money for their work. The three easiest genres to get started are events, weddings (with a catch), and portrait photography. There is a fourth option, but it’s icing on the cake.

Event photography

I started out as an event photographer, and that’s how I earned my first income. You don’t need almost any portfolio to do this, and usually there’s someone who needs their event covered by someone taking pictures. All event photography must, in general, be paid for. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t start charging if you’ve covered two or more events and the “customer” was happy with the photos.

While I don’t mean that event photographers are all beginners, I do say the entry point is relatively low. Professional event photographers are amazing people with a million eyes that capture every little detail. I admire people who can run with gear around their necks. I was by no means a professional event photographer. On one of the jobs, I had a single camera, a single lens, and a half-functioning speedlite from Neewer. The photos were fine.

One way to get into shooting events would be to offer your services for free to someone who is in charge of organizing events. Then, at this event, network and say nicely that you are filming events. There will almost certainly be an employment lead for future paid work. If you want a paid job now, try to Google as many events in your city as possible and email the organizational teams.

Wedding Photography – There’s a catch

Please, please, please don’t ruin someone’s special day by taking bad photos. Don’t say you can shoot a wedding if you can’t. I’ve never shot a wedding in my life and I don’t want to change that. These photos will be horrible, despite all my event experience.

At the same time, you can join a wedding photographer as a second shooter or assistant. Knowing how busy and hectic weddings can be, photographers have no easy task. Being on your feet for 12 hours, having to wear strobes and staying in a good mood can be detrimental to anyone’s health. This is why many wedding photographers have second shooters and assistants. An average wedding kit includes at least 3-4 lenses, 2 housings, a bunch of strobes, mounts, and more. Your job will be to capture the process from a different perspective, hold the light for your boss, and just be a helping hand.

The way to get this job would be to contact a few wedding photographers in your town and ask them if they need someone to help them.

head photography

Everyone needs a headshot. Getting a good headshot takes years of practice. But taking a simple white background shot with basic lighting is pretty straightforward if your people skills are up to scratch. Just find a way to set up a 1-2 light setup for headshots and you’re ready to roll. My personal choice for headshots is a simple two-umbrella setup: one at the back for the fill light and one to the right or left of the subject for the key. If you want to dive into the art of portrait photography, check out our tutorial with Peter Hurley.

So how was it done? It’s actually fairly easy. All you have to do is bring in a few friends, make sure they’re properly dressed, and take several pictures that you can use for commercials later. Now that the marketing is done, create a page on Eventbrite. Make it as simple as possible, something like “20 minutes of studio shooting, two edited images in two weeks”. You don’t shoot King Charles III, you do a batch headshot shootout. Make it affordable, based on the cost of a headshot in your city. Eventbrite is particularly good at this because the whole organization part is largely automated.

Many photographers have an ego proportional to the cost of their camera. To that I say: read Ego Is The Enemy. If I never attended, I wouldn’t photograph fashion. My very first contacts in the industry came solely from helping out on a shoot. Attending isn’t just a way to build new relationships, it’s also a way to see how professionals work. Good assistants always get benefits from photographers. A good assistant is someone who makes your shooting day infinitely less stressful and infinitely better. So far the best assistant I’ve had, Brandon, has given a world class neck massage on set (besides knowing exactly where it all goes).

Getting into good graces with a photographer can bring a lot of benefits, trust me: everything from jobs to contacts, to being allowed to use the studio and equipment for free.

Final Thoughts

So here we are, a guide to start earning income in photography. Of course, these are just the beginning. A long and exciting journey in the creation of images awaits us. And creating images is, for me, the greatest joy I have experienced so far.

About Julius Southworth

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