Freelance Photographer Guide to Earning Online (and Offline)

A freelance photographer as we understood growing up was the one who clicked and sold photos to newspapers and magazines. Over the years Internet has created more opportunities for creative photographers to earn a decent income while pursuing their passion. Not to mention a few uber successful photographers who are contracted for big marketing contracts or magazines.

A freelance photographer is a photographer who is his/her own boss and gets clients and orders by themselves. Freelance photographers can work in varied genres like weddings, babies, nature, travel, media & advertisements, travel and much more.

Freelance Photographer Job Types

1. Stock Photography Job

There are online stock photo marketplaces like depositphotos.com and istockphoto.com who have huge collections of photos. (Read the 3 different types of online freelance marketplaces) These photos have been contributed by freelance photographers who click and sell on these platforms. If a stock photo buyer comes to the website looking for photos for his client’s website, he will search, select, buy and download the photos. The freelance photographer gets a cut anywhere between 25 to 50% of the price of the photo. This of course depends on the website policies.

As a freelance photographer, you can just upload your photos and the money comes in steadily – a passive way of earning. Moreover, you have the freedom of what you want to shoot. Many freelance photographers have mastered the art of stock photography and make their living on this. To be successful here, study what are the most in-demand photos and their characteristics. Use that knowledge to take the winning pictures and sell. The demand might change seasonally e.g. during festivals, important global / local events etc. Keep that in mind while reviewing your strategy.

Here are some of the websites where you can sell your photos:

2. Direct Sales

This is the most profitable source of income for a freelance photographer. In this type of work, the freelance photographer approaches or is contracted by a business / firm in need of photos. The high income implies that the photos should be top quality. This means that you are now at your ‘A’ game – congratulations are in order!

How does this happen? The potential client is referred by your network or comes across your portfolio on your website, likes what they see and contact you. They then give you a creative brief, you take beautiful pictures and make top dollar. Of course there are other steps in between, but those you will figure out. These assignments are the dream of every freelance photographer and it needs a good professional network as well as marketing. You can outsource marketing to experts on online freelance marketplaces.

3. Offline Jobs

The best way to get offline jobs as freelance photographer is to contact magazines and marketing companies. Point them to your portfolio on your website. You may face rejection, but then which businessman or freelancer doesn’t?

How to be a successful freelance photographer

To become a successful freelance photographer, you should equip yourself with the right equipment, knowledge, a first-rate portfolio, website and a marketing plan.

1. Select Your Photography Equipment

To succeed as a freelance photographer, you will need to make an initial investment in good quality photography gear:

  • An excellent camera – you can find used equipment in excellent condition at https://www.bhphotovideo.com
  • A range of lenses for the camera
  • A tripod for mounting the camera.
  • Other camera accessories like flash, cables, bag etc
  • A good quality computer or laptop for editing your photos and running your business
  • A drone camera (optional)

2. Increase Your Knowledge & Skills

Photography is an art because it allows for an expression of emotion. It requires passion and creativity to successfully capture the essence of an image. At the same time it is also a science, since you need understand how digital photography works. A freelance photographer has to know about the lenses, focus, exposure etc. Moreover, the editing especially post-production editing requires skills in software like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom or similar tools. Hence take courses available online – I recommend as a start.

3. Create Your Portfolio

Every freelance photographer needs a portfolio to showcase their best work and attract clients. While learning about photography and also while experimenting with your photos, you will begin to like some subject more than others. Perhaps you like to take photos of people more than nature. Use this passion to create a portfolio skewed towards your strengths. Add photos of other genres as well to showcase your skills. If you are just starting as a freelance photographer, one suggestion is to do some work for free to build your portfolio.

4. Set Up Your Website

As a freelance photographer, you will need an easy to navigate website to showcase your portfolio. This website will also enable you to communicate with clients, manage your orders and payments, and also deliver your work. IMPORTANT: I have written an exhaustive post on how to create your website easily in ONE day, on a secure platform and at the cheapest cost.

5. Market to Your Potential Clients

As a freelance photographer, marketing is an important function you need to make time for. Reach out to potential clients through social media, company websites, seminars and exhibitions. Get your business cards printed and pass them on to people during meetings, seminars and other professional and social gatherings. Send emails, contact on LinkedIn or also ask friends and family for references. You must invest in marketing – nowadays social media marketing can be done from anywhere, but it is easier said than done. My advice is to outsource it to social media pros on online freelance marketplaces like fiverr.com and freelancer.com.