Several Ways Photographers Can Earn a Little Extra Income

Several Ways Photographers Can Earn a Little Extra Income

There are a lot of variables to consider when discussing the income we generate from our photography. Aspiring professionals often site a lack of work when defending their status as either hobbyist or part time photographers, but the truth is often a little more complicated than that. When times get tough, many creative photographers use the skills they’ve collected to generate income in other ways.

Graphic Design

I know what you’re thinking. “He said ways to make side income as a photographer, not a…” and you’re right, but hey, income is income and there’s a good chance that the skills and knowledge you’ve developed as a photographer also make you a decent graphic design artist. If you’ve ever created a watermark or logo for your business, you’re that much farther ahead than the next guy, who assumes a vector layer is just another layer of the atmosphere. Make the most of your skills and cash in on easy jobs like logo design, which can produce an extra couple hundred bucks here and there and don’t consume much of your time. I know you’re busy.

Website Design

Here’s where traditional web designers are going to hang me out to dry, but most of us have become pretty proficient in the use of the many online DIY website designers, like Squarespace. If it’s something you enjoy enough to be able to make a site for a friend, you could be cashing in on that time spent. I won’t venture to provide a number when it comes to the value of web design, however a quality website is worth a fortune in my mind.

Companies like Squarespace make it easier than ever to create professional looking websites.

Photobooth

These little devils are popping up everywhere. In fact, I can’t say that I’ve shot a wedding in the last couple of years that hasn’t had a Photobooth for its guests to have fun with. Initially I hated the idea of what I essentially viewed as a robot, taking pictures of guests that I could be taking myself. The idea has grown on me, and I now appreciate them for what they’re for. I mean, have you ever had an annoying guest that insists on having their picture taken over and over? “Hey dude! Look at me now!” I’m happy to direct those guests over to the robot to have their picture taken.

The Photobooth Supply Co. offers several complete kits.

Many photographers are beginning to invest in Photobooths and they charge accordingly for their presence at events like weddings. A slightly large initial investment for sure, but it’s one that could pay for itself in short amount of time.

Workshops

Assuming you’ve honed your skills to level worth passing on to others, workshops can be a great means of generating extra income. It's important to note that not all workshops are created equal, and the amount you charge for yours should fall somewhere within the appropriate price range. By this, I mean we all likely know who Peter Hurley is, and what he's best at. If I’m looking into workshops to attend, his name is going to add value to the workshops, and rightfully so. With that said, who are you? It’s definitely something to consider before you go pricing your workshops the same as some of the more noted professionals out there.

Closing

These are just a few ways you can boost your income as a photographer, both during slow months and busy months alike. While some, myself included, prefer to focus on fewer crafts (all of which deserve their respect), in many situations there’s no excuse for a lack of work. As the talented individuals we are, our creativity is often enough to supplement our income rather nicely - it all comes down to how hard we want to work to get things we feel we need.

What are some ways you’ve used the skills you’ve collected as a photographer to supplement your photography income?

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22 Comments

Jonathan Klempa's picture

I would like to add that restoration & retouching can be very lucrative and fulfilling side hustles as well. Thank you for the good read, Dusty Wooddell!

Dusty Wooddell's picture

Good point! Thanks for sharing.

Chelsey Rogers's picture

ok so I absolutely love doing this, it's so calming! I had no idea people would pay for it though! Off to do some research...

Patrick Hall's picture

Don't forget selling stock images and video. If you vacation and can shoot 4K drone footage at beautiful locations, there seems to be pretty decent money in it. Elia Locardi recently made some bank licensing a drone shot of the Vatican to the recent John Wick movie.

Jonathan Reid's picture

As a matter of interest, did he need the Vatican's permission to sell the footage?

Patrick Hall's picture

I don't know about all of that. I do know he capture the drone footage a few years ago before all the drone laws became so crazy so you probably couldn't fly the drone over the vatican today but there are plenty of places you still can.

Jonathan Reid's picture

Thanks. My concern is laws over places that you wouldn't expect to be illegal. As a poor example, the National Parks. As a non American, if I visited on holiday, there is a good chance I wouldn't know the law. Then when I publish the footage, I receive a retrospective fine. Not cool.

Patrick Hall's picture

We recently worked in a bunch of National Parks here in the US and were educated on the laws. It's a pretty weird and unfortunate situation but basically if you are a tourist from another country it is almost impossible that the country you are visiting will come after you once you leave. I guess they could suspend you from visiting their country again but they would probably also offer you a fine. We have found that the fines aren't that crazy and in many cases it might be WAY easier to just pay a fine down the road then to actually get the proper permission upfront. I'm not advocating breaking the law but if you are making money commercially, the fines are more of a cost of doing business than something that will deter you from producing your content.

All in all, what basically happens is videographers and commercial photographers are punished from shooting at parks in their own country while tourists from other countries go unpunished. This means we typically can produce content hassle free around the world but can't film as much here in the US (we weren't able to get a permit to fly our drone anywhere in the US Parks). The opposite happens from visitors, they fly drones and produce content all over the US and will never be fined yet they can expect a lot of fines if they do the same back in their own country.

It's pretty frustrating especially when you are willing to pay any permits and have all the certifications and training to film/shoot in a respectable manner. Go to Iceland and New Zealand and no one will bother you what so ever, but if you do the same thing in America they hunt you down like violent criminals. Hopefully at some point every country will make it easier to film and promote their natural beauty but at the moment it's best to press your luck when you need to and pay the proper fees and fines when you can up front.

Jonathan Reid's picture

I've just come back from shooting in Puerto Rico which had areas under US state park control. No one seemed to know what the laws were, but they all seemed to think drones were not allowed.

Chip Kalback's picture

Check out the Airmaps app! It's been really helpful in knowing if I can fly somewhere legally or not. It also tells me if there's a small regional airport or heli pad nearby too which is nice to be aware of.

Jonathan Reid's picture

Thanks for the info. I've been using a guide that shows no fly zones, but not buildings which are illegal to show (for example, el Moro in Puerto Rico)

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Good idea, Patrick but would be even better if it was easier to fly drones. It seems everywhere people are freaking out about them. My question is - does it matter when Elia shot the footage? I mean law is law, if it's illegal to shoot and sell footage now why would be legal to have his older footage for sale? Thanks!

Patrick Hall's picture

The laws always start when they were enforced. Inside the Vatican, the Chinese have restored Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. They actually now own the copyright to that painting because they restored it and it is now their work. Because of this you cannot take photos of it without breaking copyright. However, if you have photos from before the restoration, those images are apparently not breaking the same copyright law because you photographed the original paint by Michelangelo and not the work of the restorers.

If Italy did not have a formal law on the books about flying drones commercially when Elia filmed his footage, it's unlikely anyone will go after him. Same thing with the US national parks. If you filmed footage before the government banned drones in the park then you are good to go because the law didn't exist when you shot the footage and therefore you did not break any laws.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Right. Thanks! I understand but what I'm saying is if it's illegal (in Germany for example) to post images of anyone without their permission, then it would also be illegal for me now to post a picture of someone I shot a year before the law passed. Same idea.
Respect to Elia though. I love his photography!
I wish drones were looked at in a more positive way.

I would suggest finding alternative options in the same wheelhouse. The restoration service is a good idea. Pitching yourself as a graphic designer or a web designer is not unless you truly have skill there. Focus on making better images. Practice your art and fill up your portfolio with improved work that you could also throw into a stock portfolio. One of the biggest reasons creatives succeed is iron-willed focus.

Derek Yarra's picture

Retouching, selling stock, and doing workshops are definitely great ideas. I would really stay away from graphic design or web design unless you are actually trained and skilled at them. In fact, I think photographers tend to need professional graphic designers more than anyone because they think that because they are visual professionals they can do it. We all know how much it sucks to get undercut by uncle Bob's or Joey in the office with a 5d and I think photographers trying to half ass pose as a graphic designer is just as bad.

Plus, trying to get freelance work in a separate field is just as hard as getting work as a photographer, so I don't see a point in putting in equal effort to a separate creative field if your focus is to make it as a photographer.

Dusty Wooddell's picture

I mostly agree with you. I'm not suggesting photographers start advertising web design or graphic design, but it is something people ask of me a lot. When I can, I oblige them and welcome the extra income

Michael B. Stuart's picture

Great article Dusty. In regards to the web design idea, almost all great websites have great pictures. But there are also a lot of bad sites with great pictures. The great pictures don't overcome the poor web design or graphic design. I would suggest teaming up with an established web designer as their go to photographer instead.
Obviously for sites like Squarespace their templates represent the talented web designer so simply supplying pictures is a good fit in that case.
I notice presets isn't mentioned. I've always wanted to sell some of my Lightroom presets but fear the effort would yield zero $

Hi Dusty,

I've found that assisting for other photographers is an interesting side gig for me for several reasons. First of all because I get to stay active in the field I love all be it not (yet) in the position I'd like to be in. Secondly, it gives me the opportunity to see photographers and the people they work with at work, gaining valuable experience. And lastly because, while not raking in the tons of cash we all dream of, it's still a decently paid job.

Jonathan Barge's picture

As a graphic designer first who has branched out to photography let me tell you – the skills a photographer generally has is NOTHING compared to what you need to know to be a graphic designer.

Yes, I've studied and have a degree in graphic design and there is so much that I've learnt through that and over 10 years working in the industry a photographer wouldn't know. Just because you can use photoshop doesn't make you a graphic designer, the reality is Photoshop is probably one of the least used Creative Cloud programs for many graphic designers.

As a graphic designer, before moving to doing allot of the photography work myself to getting to a point where I'm almost doing more photography than graphic design I had worked with many photographer, commissioning them to do much of the work I now do myself. One of the reasons I did start doing allot more of my own photography is because of how little the photographers understood graphic design and the design process, and what was involved in working in tandem with a graphic designer.

I would often ask for very specific images, yet allot of the time photographers can't disassociate themselves from the images enough and try to get too 'arty' and do it their way instead of exactly how it is asked for. I get they have insights into how to take an image but working for a graphic designer is a far-cry from working for someone wanting 'art' or something to hang on the wall – let alone actually creating the design work.

I find it insulting that you suggest the skills a photographer has can translate. In going the other way from graphic design to photography yes, I found allot of the skills I already had helpful but it doesn't mean I just wandered over to taking photos, there have been many years in the meantime building skills, practicing and studying to get things right – thats before I even felt I had built up enough of the skills needed to actually offer the service to paying clients. (No I didn't work for free, I just didn't offer the photography services until I felt I could actually do the work to a high standard of finish and professionalism).

In much the same way, yes, a photographer can go over to be a graphic designer and the skills they have will be useful – but the fact this article seems to just assume someone can just dip their toe in the water is a bit of a joke. If someone did want to move from photography to design then by all means try it, but do it properly, study, work hard, practice. Don't go offering services to potential clients until you have the skills necessary, it's an insult to the paying customer, the design industry as a whole and yourself. Don't just assume you can do one because you can do the other. It takes hard work and dedication to switch professions, not a whim or reading a silly short article on the internet.

This is a poor article trying to give potentially desperate people hope. Nothing is easy, work hard, experience, try, practice and try again.

I agree with you. Graphic design is a whole 'nother animal and being a photographer has given me zero skills in that arena.