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.
New York City-based Deborah Gilbert makes hand-colored silver gelatin prints, and she has traveled far and wide to sell her work at art fairs. While she’d once do as many as 43 shows in a single year, she now concentrates on those in the Northeast. She suggests that newcomers start small with local shows where tables rent for for $20-$25. Larger shows may cost up to $2,000.
Gilbert points out that you won’t necessarily make more money at a higher-level show, especially after deducting fees. “You can make more at the smaller local shows at the Kiwanis club,” she says. She mixes both local and higher-end shows and recommends that if you’re traveling, pick locations where you have family or friends that you can stay with to cut down on hotel expenses.
Gilbert offers framed, original hand-colored photos for around $500, but also sells smaller, matted reproductions that cost less. Her matted works are standard sizes, so buyers won’t need a custom frame.
Both Jecxz and Gilbert caution photographers to do their research before handing over money to any online site since there are some organizations that really don’t deliver useful— if any—services. And to find lists of national art shows, Gilbert suggests subscribing to Sunshine Artist magazine.
Photographing your team from the bleachers isn’t much fun, so why not combine your passions for sports and photography? Pennyslvania-based Den Sweeney and partner Ho Chuen Kan (a.k.a. J-Kan) get hired by universities, high-school programs, and parent groups to shoot games as well as athletic portraits. In addition to showcasing your work using social media, Sweeney suggests that photographers shoot for fun to improve. But, adds the former hockey player, coach, and recruiter, “know the sport that you’re photographing.”
And don’t forget about the video setting on your DSLR. Lion Creative Group, headed up by Matthew Leone, recently added high school sports recruitment videos to its services. As Leone explains, there are many top-notch athletes vying for the attention of scouts and college coaches, but “college program budgets are getting slashed, so the best way to get noticed is a top-quality video.”
For those new to the field, Leone suggests approaching the “athletic directors and high school coaches of top programs; those are the ones that sniff out talent. The athletes trust their coaches and ADs. Get a coach and an AD to trust your service and they will help you multiple times.”
If extreme sports are your thing, check out Chris Garrison’s work. Garrison, who shoots wakeboarding and snowboarding, knows both sports well and, equally important, knows the athletes. He started by shooting for magazines part-time, submitting images to various publications, and last year he was able to make the switch to shooting full-time. “I think of editorial as paid advertising for my work, because that’s how the manufacturers [of extreme sports gear] find you.”
While pros now depend less on stock, there are still plenty of opportunities for amateurs with companies such as Shutterstock, iStock Photo, and Getty’s Flickr collection.
Scott Braut, VP of Content at Shutterstock, notes that the “images that sell best often express both concepts and literal subject matter. An image of a rock climber can be used to illustrate an article about extreme sports but also signifies business concepts.”
He suggests that contributing photographers pay attention to “advertisements, the news, lifestyle trends, fashion trends, political and social issues.” And, he says, upload images often. “The secret to a top-selling portfolio is to keep putting new work in front of customers.”
Jennifer Huls joined Shutterstock in 2012, less than two years after she first started learning to use her camera. A mother of three, Huls says that being a parent “takes up most of my time, but it is nice to have a part-time job that I can do from home.”
She submits 20 to 25 images a week to Shutterstock, about 90 percent of which are shot in her basement studio. So far, Huls reports, “I have met all of my earnings goals and hope that this year is as good as the last.” Her advice? “Shoot what you are passionate about and don’t worry about what will sell. Some will sell and some won’t, but at least you won’t get bored with it.”