How to make money with photography

Jun 9, 2017

Nicholas Goodden

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How to make money with photography

Jun 9, 2017

Nicholas Goodden

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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“Please could you tell me how to make money from photography?” This is a question I get asked quite often by email, a majority are students entering their adult working life and trying to figure it all out.

And yet I don’t think it’s the right approach when pursuing any passion to obsess about making money. Get a full-time job first to pay the bills, that’s my main advice. but don’t do it so long that it poisons your creativity, individuality and drive as there’s a very real risk of that happening.

Then go on and pursue your passion, let it take over gradually to one day become your full time thing, it’s how I did it.

It’s, I think, a lot safer and logical.

That is if it is really a passion, not just a temporary interest.

“But how do you I which it is?”

If you find yourself thinking about it all the time, day and night for a few years… you know it’s passion. When you wake up on a Sunday at 4am to get that sunrise an hour away from home, don’t get it, but go back the next week… it’s passion and tenacity.

If you’d rather sit on your sofa and pretend you’re taking photos… it’s a temporary interest. If you spend more time obsessing about cameras than being out shooting… well you get it…

OK so before you can even think about making money from photography you have to ask yourself a few more questions and figure out the answers yourself.

First and foremost, why do you want to photograph?

Define what it is you are actually after, what do you feel would be success? Everyone has a different vision of what success represents.

Let’s use me as an easy example.

I’m not looking to become rich, I never have, I left the safety of a super well paid job and career in London to live a more simple life that photography could afford me.

I love nature, being in the country, the thought of growing a garden, being free. Ideally away from people most days. I want to have so much free time that it allows me to explore my creativity on many different mediums. Photography is not by any means my only artistic interest.

I have never enjoyed working nor did I put up much with authority. Yet I patiently put up with it for 20 years while I came up with a plan, to teach myself photography.

When I say I never enjoyed working, I mean as we are conditioned to think is a normal working life: 9 to 5, stuck in the tube, watch the news to remind yourself what to think about the rest of the world, stressed and pursuing the illusion of a career and the endless need for progression. Pay the mortgage, have kids, fit the mould.

When in reality we’re turning into robots all coming out of that very same mould.

And when I say authority, I mean that shitty boss we’ve all had who has his own insecurities and pointless life, abuses his so called power, and takes it out on his employees he pays peanuts.

I’ve had my share of these bastards (except my last) but I thank them for being a key part in my desire to break free.

Anyone in my life, teachers, family, friends, who didn’t believe that much in me has in fact motivated me.

You see all this has been my drive, I initially got into photography following some pretty tough times I went through (Why Photography Matters), but gradually as my photography improved and worked my arse off, well naturally people started being interested in my work.

I say naturally because it’s not that hard, I mean the basics aren’t hard to understand, it’s how much you take in, how tenacious you are and how good you are at applying these, every day, again and again until success finds you and until then never give up.

Fast forward to today, nine years after picking my camera for the first time and I am making a humble living out of my photography, my passion. Is this success? To some it is, others it isn’t. But I’m happy. I work with huge brands like Peugeot and Adidas regularly and still sometimes have to pinch myself or remind myself that I AM a freaking photographer.

But I took things one step at a time, living in reality and not some delusion, worked a full time job until I was ready to make the move to focus 100% on my photography business.

So find out why you want to photograph, just do it well, put all your heart into it, be a nice person.

Also don’t be afraid to network, market yourself and what you do, some people will look at it as shameless promotion not understanding basic rules of business but that’s ok, it’s your business not theirs.

Keep working hard at it while others are having a pint at the pub, maybe you’ll lose a few friends on the way who won’t understand why you have no time or why you have different dreams.

It doesn’t leave much free time with a full time job and practising your photography aside.

But if one day you can break free and make a living out of it, not necessarily get rich, but live free?

It’s all worth it.

About the Author

Nicholas “Nico” Goodden is a professional London photographer specialising in urban photography, street photography and attention grabbing micro video content such as cinemagraphs and timelapse. You can see more of his work on his website and say hi on Facebook, Twitter, Vine and Instagram. This article was posted here and shared with permission.

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4 responses to “How to make money with photography”

  1. Gato Gato Avatar
    Gato Gato


    The easiest and fastes way to make money with photography is: Sell your camera!

  2. Twinzy Manny Avatar
    Twinzy Manny

    Join vindale research and earn $100+ daily

  3. Reed Radcliffe Avatar
    Reed Radcliffe

    I’ve shot with a passion for nearly 40 years. I spent 20 of those years in the Navy and an additional 13 years in the corporate world. Like Nick, I was recalcitrant and got really tired of the double standards of my corporate job, which, unbelievably was way worse than my Navy career. One day I just got fed up and quit, thinking I would make money with my camera somehow. I’d sold a few photographs and I used it for product photography when selling stuff on eBay (I mean, lots of stuff over almost 15 years). I knew I would take a serious pay cut, but I have health insurance with my military retirement so I figured I could adjust to the lower pay and still be safe regarding health care. It took a few years to get established and now I am making more than I did with the corporate job and way more than my Navy career. I worked hard to get where I’m at – I have very little formal training for actual art, but I got in early in computers, so that is at least half the battle. I pretty much made sure I understood what I was up against at every turn and that I had something to fall back upon so I could survive. It was worth it. I figure I’ll shoot for others for a couple more years and then retire a third time to shoot with passion just for myself. When I see young people graduating college with a degree in Photography I just SMH. I figure they must have ten times the passion for it than I ever did, and passion will take you far. However, it doesn’t make a good sandwich.

  4. Matt Avatar

    Judging by his company accounts filed online, this guy will be eating fresh air sandwiches and dancing barefoot with unicorns in the morning dew.