Can Photographers Actually Make Money on Patreon?

I've been hearing about Patreon for a while, and I'm officially curious. Join me on my experiment to see if Patreon is actually a viable income source for photographers.

As a photographer, there are numerous opportunities to earn money in this diverse field. From weddings to headshots, wildlife, product, documentary, and music photography, it offers a wide range of niches to explore. Personally, I find it to be an excellent and rewarding profession. However, it's essential to acknowledge that the field is highly competitive due to the significant number of photographers out there.

To thrive in this competitive landscape, diversifying income streams is crucial, especially considering how fast technology is evolving. Apart from traditional avenues like photo shoots, print sales, courses, stock photos, and leveraging social media, there may be one more promising stream of income for photographers: Patreon.

Patreon is a platform that enables creators and artists to offer exclusive content and perks to their supporters, allowing them to access various tiers of content based on their preferences and interests.

For photographers and other creatives, Patreon serves as an excellent way for their audience to support their work. Content creation is a demanding and time-consuming process, and supporting the creators who inspire you is vital.

Instead of giving away all your content for free on platforms like Instagram or Facebook, Patreon allows you to share more in-depth and exclusive content for a monthly fee. This approach ensures that your dedicated supporters receive special content while also providing you with a sustainable source of income. 

Pros of Patreon

  • Financial support: Patreon provides a stable income stream, enabling creators to receive consistent financial support from their audience.
  • Creative freedom: With direct backing from patrons, creators gain independence and creative freedom, allowing them to pursue projects close to their hearts.
  •  Community engagement: Through Patreon, creators can foster a closer bond with their audience. Patrons become part of an exclusive community, accessing behind-the-scenes updates and exclusive content while feeling connected to the creator's journey.
  • Diversification: For creators, relying on a single income source can be difficult. Patreon offers a means to diversify revenue streams, reducing dependency on a single platform or source of income.
  • Feedback and collaboration: Utilizing Patreon, creators can gather valuable insights and feedback directly from their patrons. Before releasing new content or business ideas on mainstream social media, they can seek input from their dedicated supporters.
  • Ability to share knowledge: Patreon is a wonderful platform to teach and share knowledge that adds value to others, but you might not necessarily want to give away for free.

What excites me the most about Patreon is its tier system. The platform offers multiple levels, allowing creators to charge varying amounts for access to different tiers of content. This presents an interesting opportunity for photographers. We can utilize Patreon to share exclusive content such as unreleased photos, behind-the-scenes insights, valuable tips, advice, and more while earning from dedicated supporters. 

It is often said that the artist behind the art can be just as captivating as the art itself. People are intrigued by the creative process, the equipment used, and where the inspiration comes from. They also love hearing about mistakes you’ve made or personal lessons you have learned on your creative journey. I see great potential in Patreon being the perfect platform to share this type of content, allowing Facebook and Instagram to be the space for showcasing the finished products. Patreon enables artists to connect intimately with their audience, providing a behind-the-scenes look at their journey and fostering a deeper appreciation for the photography.

Image courtesy of Jada and David Parrish |

Cons of Patreon

  • Dependence on audience support: Patreon's success hinges on the goodwill and financial backing of your audience. If your fan base is limited or lacks high engagement, generating sufficient income through Patreon can be challenging.
  • Income volatility: Patreon income can fluctuate, especially if you rely solely on it as your primary source of revenue. Patrons can come and go, and their support levels may change. 
  • Pressure to deliver exclusive content: Attracting and retaining patrons may compel you to create exclusive content or perks for them, adding pressure to your creative process as you strive to meet their expectations.
  • Additional administrative work: Managing a Patreon involves administrative tasks, such as creating and fulfilling rewards, communicating with patrons, and handling payment processing. These additional responsibilities demand time and effort.
  • Platform dependence: Building a significant portion of your income on Patreon means relying on the platform's continued success and stability.

I think the two biggest challenges with Patreon seem to be: How do you reach people and build a community? And how do you show consistent value so that people continue to subscribe each month?

Those are two big challenges to overcome, but if you can crack the code, the potential upside is tremendous. I have no idea how hard that is to do, but if you can figure it out to the point where you can even earn a couple hundred extra bucks each month, it can be a helpful additional source of income that compliments your regular shoots. 

But the question arises: How much effort does it truly take to run a successful Patreon? Is it worth it? One common downside to Patreon is the perceived level of time and energy investment, making it seem not worth the trouble. But does it really take that much time and energy? 

The Experiment

Personally, I have contemplated creating a Patreon for a while. While giving away content for free in exchange for likes and kind comments is nice, having a few dollars accompany it is even more rewarding. I’ve been hesitant though because I’m just not sure if Patreon is a platform people really want to spend time on. The biggest thing that’s been holding me back though is time. Time is valuable, and I don’t want to waste a ton of my own time and energy with minimal results. But I don’t want to regret never trying, so I decided to just go for it and do it as an experiment to see what results I can produce within the next six months. 

My husband and creative partner, David, and I recently launched our own Patreon, offering five different membership tiers starting at $3 per month. We plan to provide behind-the-scenes content of set builds and shoots, unreleased photos, extended blog posts, works in progress, and more. We have a decent following on Instagram, and I am curious to see if those supporters will follow us over to Patreon or not. Currently, we have nine patrons, bringing us a total of $67 per month. I am fully committed to being consistent with it for the next six months to gauge the results. Throughout the process, I will be fully transparent and share my experience and findings with all of you, assessing whether Patreon is a worthwhile platform for photographers and determining which type of content resonates best.

If you have tried Patreon, I welcome your opinions and insights in the comments below!

Jada Parrish's picture

Jada is a photographer and director specializing in conceptual portraits. Her work is known for its bold, colorful, and surreal style. Her creative style of portraiture lends itself nicely to work in both fashion and the music industry. She is one half of the creative duo Jada + David.

Log in or register to post comments