Making money from photography is an extremely challenging way to earn a living. For many people, professional pictures are a luxury, making it difficult for a photographer to build a business in a slow economy. Fortunately, there are a few ways to attract clients and sell your photographs.
Start by taking on commissioned work. While many photographers want complete control over their work, the easiest way to make money is to take pictures of what a client wants. The most common way to do this is to advertise to take portraits and/or special even photography. It’s definitely possible to make a living off of this type of work, and many photographers are able to convince their clients to take a risk once they have built a relationship with the photographer.
While a lot of photographers cringe at the idea of becoming a “wedding” photographer, working on commission is a good way to earn a steady income. This work can get your name out to a lot of new customers, and it can free up a lot of time to do the work you want to do.
Next, think beyond selling framed photos. While this is the traditional way to display your work, your target audience is very small. Consider putting your photos on t-shirts, making them into a cloth print, or transforming them into wallpaper or other home décor items. People who would never consider spending hundreds of dollars on a framed print will spend ten dollars on a coffee mug with a favorite photograph. Rather than print these items and hold them as inventory, make mock-ups of the items and then take orders through a website. When you have enough orders, get the items printed.
You might also want to consider smaller, postcard sized prints of your photos. These are typically cheap to print in high volumes, and they can get your work to a large audience. While these cards don’t usually make a lot of money, there are photographers who produce high volumes of them, making enough money to live off of.
Finally, consider selling photos for ad work. Much like other commissioned work, you will not have complete control over the work, but this type of work often pays very well. While magazine work can be very hard to come by, a lot of websites are willing to pay new photographers for pictures for their website. Some larger stores use their websites to test out new photographers, then promote their favorites to magazine work.