Five Ways to Get Paid Without Photographing Portraits

Five Ways to Get Paid Without Photographing Portraits

In a saturated market of incoming photographers each holiday or tax season, it is easy to get discouraged when you are trying to get paid clients in the door. When we think of photography sessions we generally tend to lean on the idea of photographing only people in portraits. Families, boudoir, fashion, and even underwater sessions. With so many other creative ways out there to get paid why not tap into another resource for marketing?

Many years ago I photographed weddings prior to my days of boudoir and underwater photography. To be honest, I loathed them. While I love the clients and the images, the passion was not there nor was the energy needed to shoot for ten hours or more. Photographing women and underwater work became something not only I excelled at, but also was very energetic about. During a slow season, I decided I wanted a bit more passive income so I turned an underwater shoot into something more profitable all year long. 

1) Unique Wall Art

Creating art for living spaces is easy when you are already photographing that topic. If you shoot landscapes, food, or even architecture chances are someone out there has wall space that needs to be filled. If time is an issue, take a few shots when you are already on a session at the beach, or a floral arrangement in your studio. Upload them once a month to a site that can sell them for you as Etsy or Society6. Set your prices on prints, canvas or even other items for custom made decor. This image was shot underwater and continually sells for images in clients kitchens. Simple one-shot yet brings in income year round. If you chose a site that prints directly to the customers home you will even cut out the handling of all prints with a small fee from the site. 

2) Food Photography 

All over social media food plating and photography has taken off. Everyone is making sure the world knows what they had for lunch. If you are skilled at stylizing food this is a great way to get into client-based paid gigs.

  • Restaurants
  • High-end grocery stores
  • Meal delivery websites
  • Magazines 
  • Blogging

Just a few ideas on where you can sell work that has already been photographed, or how to start building a relationship with new locations. Make sure to approach the client prior to selling yourself. Busting in the door with your camera in hand will not go over well since many already have established photographers on board. Once you find the right fit for you, start working on ideas to promote the work even further in terms of cookbooks, their websites and social media campaigns. Start local with owners you know from your daily coffee stops or lunch breaks from the cafe down the street. In the beginning, the budgets will be low but it will give you the training to go to the bigger markets. 


Image courtesy of Grafmex Pixabay

3) Automotive 

If cars are your thing off camera why not put that to good use on camera? Alex Ventura had a hobby of cars prior to photography so this was the natural direction. He attended many car shows each year to make his connections. Dramatic angles and lighting are extremely important when photographing cars to take an image from selling on craigslist to fit for selling to a high-end client. 

Image courtesy and with permission of Alex Ventura

Photographing cars can be tricky at first but Nino Batista had some great tips to get you started. "Approach shops that do automotive tuning, modification etc of cars. Car owners are harder to get their attention at first. Major automakers even harder. Resale shops (boutique automotive resale/used cars) is what I mean. Not some used car lot. People with normal cars never pay for photos. Major automakers have in-house media people. So resale and tuning shops are the best start. They build cars and need to sell cars."

Image courtesy and with permission of Nino Batista

4) Landscape Photography

If you love to travel, selling prints of landscapes is the obvious way to get your online print shop up and running. Selling online prints is how Brett Missick creates his passive income. In his vast travels, he has padded is Etsy shop with hundreds of creative shots for home and office decor. He wrote that the hardest part of selling online was learning SEO (search engine optimization). Getting people to his online store was tricky at first, but after some time he was bringing in money for what he loved to photograph. "As with any website at startup, there is some heavy lifting that needs to be done but once the infrastructure is in place, it kinda does its own thing. However, in the end, this has been a great way to earn passive income for me and get my work out there into the world. The best part is hearing the little 'cha-ching' tone on my phone whenever I make a sale."

Image courtesy of and with permission of Brett Missick

5) Parks and Rec

Designers of parks and recreational areas at the infancy stages are usually looking for photographers to either photograph the building stage or the end product of their structures. They need these images for their own websites and many times for the chamber of commerce in that area. If you are looking to photograph these areas, start with the chamber of commerce or city hall to find out who designed the park. Contacting them can lead to that particular park and many more in the future as they tend to build in surrounding counties. 

Image courtesy and with permission of Mrganso on Pibabay

There are so many other ideas for photographing for passive income as well as a full-time position that does not have to involve people (in the photographs at least, as you will still have to deal with an actual human client). Take your camera out as much as you can to explore what you truly want to photograph and less what you think you have to in order to be a paid photographer. Some routes will be more time consuming to get off the ground but that could be well worth it in the end. 

Lead image with permission and courtesy of Alex Ventura.

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4 Comments

Lee Stirling's picture

While I'm shooting for fun and as a hobby now, I could also see approaching local sports teams or parks & rec departments about photographing games or facilities for their use on websites, brochures, mailers, etc. I have kids that play sports and frequently share my images from their games with coaches and parks & rec. I'm not getting paid, nor am I contracted to photograph anything, but I could see how one could possibly turn this into a seasonal gig or offer to sell prints to other parents from the team. Having kids in the game allows me to feel comfortable shooting with more professional gear instead of feeling like some kind of a creeper.

Dana Cole's picture

Loved your article ! Very informative and gave good ideas for those who may want to venture from photographing people only.

Karl Johnston's picture

Love this piece - especially the bottom rec idea. Never considered that before.

Jayson Carey's picture

Don't expect automotive photography to really pay the bills unless you're one of the top shooters in the world. It's a super saturated market and the bar is set incredibly high.