I receive quite a few emails every day from people who are seeking to make money with their camera. Some people seek unique ways to do this, however, the vast majority of these messages read very similar… The common attributes are that the individual would like to make money with their camera by shooting weddings, portraits, and maybe some sports. They expect to start a portfolio website and use photos that they have gathered from second-shooting and from gigs attained through friends and family.
Let me start by saying that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach. Although it is more challenging than a decade ago due to the proliferation of professional and semi-professional gear across the population, there is plenty of reward for a solid photographer willing to commit to a concise, quality portfolio and sales/marketing skills suited to the task.
My responses to this question are suited to the experience and characteristics of the individual, but there are a few common themes. I often ask if the individual is passionate about their chosen subject matter… Or if they have chosen those areas because they have the highest financial yield. The reason why I ask this is that the most common forms of photography are also the most competitive. Sales and marketing skills are paramount when entering a competitive field. For me, constant networking and word-of-mouth marketing are my weapons of choice, as they are best suited to my personality and drive.
The question to ask yourself are… What do you want to shoot? Have you chosen weddings, portraits, and sports because you love those things? If you had 100 million dollars (or mass quantities of your currency of choice), what would you take pictures of?
Here’s the deal. It may be faster to make some money in the most common fields of photography. Will you enjoy this week in and week out? Almost anything can seem like fun until you HAVE to do it often. What will get you up in the morning? Before you thought about making money with your camera, what were you taking pictures of? Weddings, models, sports? If so, terrific! If not, look at your existing portfolio. Did you attend your son’s (or daughter’s) BMX competition or your daughter’s (or son’s) dance recital and capture fantastic images? Maybe BMX and dancing is your niche? Are you the best BMX and dancing photographer? Maybe not. BUT, are you willing to consistently attend, photograph, and network at those events? If you are, that could easily be your start. When you are there and taking pictures, you can readily become the de facto event photographer, regardless of whether or not you are getting paid. This is a longer process and potentially less rewarding early on than ‘hanging a shingle’ as a wedding photographer, but the financial and FUN rewards can be much greater.
The bottom line. Chase money if that is what you are after. But if you are willing to chase your passion, the financial reward can be as great while the enjoyment factor can be off the charts.