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Photography: Going Professional & Monetizing Your Work

Professional camera equipment has never been cheaper, or easier to use. This presents a problem for up-and-coming photographers hoping to make it in an increasingly crowded industry and monetizing their shots, but don’t be alarmed by the raw numbers. Manufacturers certainly are selling a lot of DSLR cameras and high-quality lenses these days, but a large portion of them are going to hobbyists whilst still more are being bought by those who are just hungry for a better camera.

Technology advances so fast nowadays, a top of the range DSLR from just a few years ago can now be outshone by the cameras in this year’s smartphones. Once you include the much talked about “planned obsolescence” that some manufacturers are being accused of using as a method to sell more cameras, the field isn’t nearly as crowded as it first appears.

Getting Started

Now that we have calmed your nerves a little, let’s also be realistic; it isn’t going to be easy to make a living as a photographer. But the changes as a result of the new digital age are not all bad for those with photographic ambitions. Multiple new avenues have opened for those wishing to monetize their shots, some of which you may not have thought about.

Before you start looking to earn money from your work, however, take a moment to stop and think. Do you want to attach your real name to your work right away? If the answer is no, is this because you are not yet confident enough in the quality of your photographs? And if this is the case, should you concentrate on improving your work first, or are you eager to take the plunge perhaps using a pseudonym to see what kind of feedback you receive when placing your photography for sale?

If you feel your work needs further improvement, one thing to remember in all creative disciplines is not to fall into the trap of convincing yourself your work is only disappointing because of your equipment. Sure, you’re not going to be taking many amazing photographs with a $20 camera, but you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to get great results either. Work with what you have, and only spend more money once you are sure you are extracting the best possible results from what you already have.

I’m Ready: How Do I Monetize My Work?

We mentioned earlier that there are plenty of ways to make money with photography in the digital age. We reviewed several of the top photography sites and guides, and picked these as being the best and most common ways to monetize your work and become a professional photographer:

Sell Stock Photography

Selling your images is undoubtedly the endgame here, but with so many photographers already established, how do you get your name out there? Selling via stock photo sites probably won’t make you your first million, but it will get your name out there and is a good way of making a little income on the side.

You should compare the rates different sites are willing to offer for your photos – prices usually range from $1 up to a couple of hundred on stock photo sites. To get the best out of these sites you’ll need to put some time into writing great descriptions of each shot and adding keywords to ensure you get as many sales as possible, but once it is all set up you can look forward to a little extra income each month.

Create A Website

Setting up a website using a site such SquareSpace requires no specialist programming knowledge and gives you a direct connection with potential customers – definitely a step up from using stock photography websites.

You can join affiliate programs and add advertisements to generate passive income from your site, review camera equipment or write a blog to attract visitors, and of course: have a gallery of all your best images and all your contact details prominently on display.

Promote Using Social Media

Even if you aren’t a fan of sites like Facebook in your regular social life, you can’t deny they are great places for self-promotion. The larger your online following, the more likely companies are to attract you and want to work with you, so set up a page specifically for your photography and put as much time and effort as you can into attracting people and gaining followers.

Sell Your Images Directly

Once you have your connections from your website and social media presences, and a large number of people coming to you for stock photography, you should start to get enough attention that you will be able to sell your images directly.

The best outcome from here is that companies will eventually approach you and want to feature in your social media. They might even offer to pay for you to visit places and take photographs on their dime – what could be better than that?

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