There are plenty of opportunities for bringing in a few extra bucks while doing what you love—and you won’t have to quit your day job. Here’s how.
You’ve invested in camera gear and you love taking pictures, but you’re not interested in a full-time photography career, especially when pros these days don’t exactly have it easy. Still, you can earn a little extra with your camera—if you’re willing to put in the time and effort—and keep your weekly paycheck, too. Whether you want to shoot weddings or portraits, sell prints or stock, or capture local sporting events, here’s the skinny on getting started.
Wedding photography is almost recession-proof and, since weddings are seasonal and often on weekends, it’s relatively easy to shoot part-time. Freelance wedding photographer and writer Nathan Chandler splits his time between shooting and writing, and explains that his start in wedding photography began when family and friends saw his landscapes and casual portraits and assumed he could photograph nuptials, too. After about five years, Chandler was enjoying wedding photography enough that he begain actively trying to get wedding jobs. The Nebraska-based photographer now shoots about 20 each season.
Seattle-based Chloe Ramirez started out as a second shooter for other wedding photographers. “That gave me the background and confidence to start photographing weddings on my own,” says Ramirez, adding that she didn’t go out on her own until after a solid year of second shooting.
She also suggests styling your own wedding shoot for portfolio images by working with local vendors—make-up artists, venues, etc.—and exchanging pictures for their services. From there, send the final images to a wedding blog, says Ramirez. “If it gets picked up, that gives you and the vendors exposure for your businesses.” And, she adds, “Ask vendors if you can refer your brides and grooms; they will most likely return the favor and that will get you more inquiries.”
During the three-to-four month wedding season, Ramirez shoots full-time, accepting up to four weddings per month, and puts her three-year-old daughter in daycare two days a week so she can concentrate on editing. “That way, when I am home with my family, I am present and not trying to juggle both [family and work].”
Child and family photography is a growing market and a realistic—and often fun—option for photographers who want to earn a little money on the side.
Amy Grace, a parent of two and an active member of the family photo website Little Bellows, got her first DSLR two years ago. She began by shooting personal images, spending a lot of time photographing her children as well as friends and family. About a year ago, she got her first paid job and found that the “wisdom, patience, and attentiveness” learned from photographing her own children was “invaluable” for working with other families. Grace currently takes limited sessions—preferring no more than one client a month—so she can care for her children, but expects this to change in the future.
She posts weekly on Little Bellows and writes a column called “Motherhood With a Camera.” She says, “The weekly posts have increased my audience; the feedback and connections from readers are inspiring and encouraging, and it confirms that there is so much depth, talent, and purpose behind the often-dreaded moniker MWAC [Mother With a Camera].”
In addition to the inquiries from Little Bellows readers, Grace finds that her clients come to her via word of mouth—whether locally or via social media like Facebook.
Photographing since high school, Lora Swinson only started shooting portraits when her oldest son was born. Soon after, she asked everyone she knew if she could photograph them to get experience. “My biggest tip for anyone starting out is to ask your family members and friends for their help. Word-of-mouth is your biggest tool in this industry.” But, she cautions, “be honest and open about your skill level and what they should expect.”
Selling your images—whether via galleries, online, or at art fairs—can be a challenge, but it isn’t impossible. Landscape and fine-art photographer Derek Jecxz combined research, persistence, and a portfolio of extraordinary images to sell his work. He entered competitions from “reputable” museums and galleries, which helped him get into other galleries. After a couple of years, licensing company Bruce McGaw Graphics approached him with a contract to reproduce and distribute his work.