Photography is a hobby for millions of people, and wherever there is a beauty spot, tourist attraction and holiday location there are usually plenty of amateur photographers snapping away.
It may be a hobby for you, but try reconsidering it. By reading this article you will soon realise that the camera is a versatile piece of equipment that you can use as the basis of a highly profitable business. It is a business where you can literally call the shots, depending on which area you wish to specialise in. For something that can make you a lot of money, photography is also great fun.
Whether you have a camera or not, have plenty of knowledge and previous photographic experience or not, whether you wish to work part time or full time, or whether you wish to specialise in one type of photography or not, there are plenty of ways to make money from your camera.
Obviously, the first requirement is a camera, and there are many types of cameras in various price ranges which could prove suitable for the job. There are four main types of camera.
These are the cheapest types of camera available, and tend to be small, light and have automatic focus, and any other functions are usually automatic. There are some excellent compact cameras around of the point and shoot variety, which are perfectly acceptable for taking pictures of landscapes and buildings, although if you wish to concentrate on portrait and fashion photography, it is best to consider buying a different type.
SLR (SINGLE LENS REFLEX) CAMERAS
SLR cameras are more expensive than compacts and tend to have more user operated functions such as focus, exposure time and zoom. The advantage with these is that, although they require more skill to operate, they can be used for various different applications. For example, it is possible to alter the lens and also add colour filters to suit your particular subject. SLRs are the best option for taking portrait and fashion shots. These are the best option for the new semi professional photographer, as even the cheapest SLRs can take excellent portraits.
MEDIUM FORMAT CAMERAS
Mostly used by professionals, medium format cameras are the most costly type of camera in common use. If you wish to upgrade your equipment there are highly specialised professional models which can be purchased, although they are not required for any of the photographic businesses described here.
This is definitely the future. Each year sees the prices further reduced and the resolution increased. They still have a long way to go to compete with the resolution of film (the 'pixels' of which are molecular in size) but for many applications, a digital photo is perfectly adequate. The great thing about digital photos is that they can be stored on computer and emailed. Very soon, digital cameras will be used for all but the highest quality photographs. Even family snaps lend themselves to digital. People can store their photos on writeable CD or DVD and only print out the photos they want on their home colour printer.
This will be required if you wish to take photographs indoors. Studio flash guns can cost over £100, but second-hand models can be picked up for as little as £20. You will also need a flash gun brolly to reflect light from the flash, although it is possible to make one of these yourself.
Investing in a good quality tripod is essential as it helps avoid camera shake, enabling you to take better and sharper photographs.
Once you have your camera and equipment, it will be time to get started. Remember, once you begin to make money you can put it back into the business and buy better quality equipment, enabling you to take better pictures and charge more money for them.
It is essential that you are well organised and present a businesslike image. It is a good idea to get professional letterheads, invoices and business cards printed - these can be handed to any potential customers.
Depending on what you wish to photograph, you may or may not require a studio. It is possible to set up a temporary studio in your own house, assuming you have enough space and suitable lighting, but you should keep the space looking tidy and professional at all times.
You may wish to take a photographic training course before you start. Local schools and further education colleges will almost certainly offer photography classes. Jessops, the national chain of photographic shops, offers a training course, and there may also be courses advertised in photographic magazines.
It may be useful to take out a subscription to one of the major photographic magazines, as they offer photographic tips, advice, equipment news and reviews, new and second-hand ads and ways to get in touch with people with similar interests. Also consider taking out membership with the British Institute of Professional Photography.
Insurance is necessary, as photographic equipment is very desirable to criminals. Household insurance will not usually cover cameras used for business purposes while out on shoot, so take out specialist insurance. To work as a freelance photographer you will need to contact the Inland Revenue, who will send you a tax return form to complete every year. However, any costs such as travel, advertising, the cost of camera equipment and film, and camera maintenance, can all be claimed back as a business expense.
Here are various ways of making money from photography. You could specialise in one particular area or you may wish to combine them, particularly in the early days while you are still making a name for yourself.
1. Start A Photography Business - School Photography
Schools organise annual photographs of pupils as a way of raising money and updating records. You do not need much experience to take these simple portrait pictures, so consider approaching schools in your area with a view to getting the work. Try to get some idea of what the schools pay other photographers for the work. They will usually already have existing arrangements with photographers, but if you can offer a lower price, then the schools may use you instead. When the school has agreed to use your services, arrange a day in which you can come to photograph every pupil in the school individually. You could also take photos of class, year and teacher groups, and sports teams. A teacher will usually organise the times when pupils come to be photographed, so all you will have to do is set up your equipment and shoot.
When you get the photographs developed, try to negotiate a bulk discount with the processing company. You will also require cardboard frames and wallets to hold the photos.
Offer the photographs to the school pupils on a sale or return basis - about 65 per cent sales to 35 per cent returns is an average response - with a commission going towards school funds. After completing the session, make sure you arrange with the school a date to return the following year.
2. Start A Photography Business - News Photography
Interesting and newsworthy photographs are always required by newspapers to stand alongside news reports. They usually use freelance photographs for this purpose, or buy in photographs from particular individuals or photographic agencies. This is a service that you can offer, assuming you can demonstrate that you can be in the right place at the right time and take decent shots. It will be necessary to build up a portfolio of photos to show any prospective clients and employers. Try and develop contacts with news reporters who will tip you off when any news breaks, so you can quickly get snapping at the scene of any newsworthy events. Approach newspapers and news agencies, who, if they are interested in hiring you, will ask to see your portfolio. Whether they agree to use your pictures or not, get straight to the scene of any news event and start taking photos without waiting for authorisation. A single photo, if sufficiently newsworthy, could earn you thousands of pounds if syndicated to different newspapers and agencies. When you have built up a relationship with a newspaper, they will call you out on assignments, paying you per photograph rather than by the hour.
3. Start A Photography Business - Trade Photography
This tends to be of a higher standard than news photography, although you will have much more time to set up shots as it is largely studio based. Companies often require good quality product shots for their packaging, or for trade magazines. Similarly, there are many consumer and trade magazines requiring regular supplies of high quality photographs. Try contacting magazines and the product marketing departments of large companies with a view to getting them to use you on a regular basis. Make an appointment to see them, to which you can take your portfolio.
4. Start A Photography Business - Fashion Photography
This is an area of photography which is highly competitive and can be tough in terms of hours, although it is fun and can be very lucrative. Fashion retailers, magazines and designers all require fashion photographers and will either have their own staff photographers, use freelance photographers, or buy in photos when needed. Your portfolio will be of the utmost importance as you will need to demonstrate that you have good technical ability, a distinctive style and an eye for what makes a good fashion shot. Although it is a tough area to get into, the rewards are enormous.
5. Start A Photography Business - Landscape Photography
Taking photographs of attractive landscapes, buildings and places of interest is one of the easiest ways of making money from photography. You could frame and sell the pictures yourself, or sell them to shops and other places, such as pubs. You could take pictures of local beauty spots, churches, bridges, monuments, streets and stately homes - anywhere that is popular and admired by local people. Decide when the best time is to take the photographs. Sun is generally a requirement for a good photo, with morning and evening times providing the best light. Snow scenes are also popular.
Take various shots of your subject, if possible from different angles, and choose the best one. Following that, get some copies made and have them framed - they should be at least 10" x 8". Then approach places who will sell your pictures, such as gift shops, craft shops, home furnishing shops, and even restaurants and pubs. They will probably agree to take them on a sale or return basis, although ideally they will buy them outright. The price you charge per picture should depend on cost, charging £15 to £20 for a standard 10" x 8" picture which will cost around £3 to produce, with shops getting a commission of between 10 and 15 per cent. The more you expand your business, the more popular and better known you will become, and you may be able to take on special photographic commissions.
6. Start A Photography Business - Media Photography
Photographs of media and entertainment events and celebrities are required constantly by magazines, newspapers and the colour supplements. Indeed, some virtually base their sales upon printing candid shots of personalities. Although the general standard of photograph will need to be fairly high, the main requirements is to be in the right place at the right time. Concerts, film premieres, parties, theatre productions, public appearances and signing sessions - all these generate excellent media photo opportunities if you can worm your way into the right position. Once again, your portfolio will be all important, although a good photo will be bought by magazines, newspapers and news agencies alike, perhaps all over the world. When you are starting off why not offer your services on an expenses only basis, which will give you a chance to develop a portfolio?
7. Start A Photography Business - Sports Photography
Photographs of sports people and events are the staple diet of tabloid back pages and sporting magazines. This requires a particular skill as you not only need to get into the right position, but you need to be able to photograph people moving at high speed. You will also need a camera and film that allows for fast, and possible multiple exposure times, as well as a zoom lens. You will often require authorisation to take photographs as this can interfere with the event taking place. Again, develop a portfolio and offer your services to magazines, newspapers and agencies.
8. Start A Photography Business - Property Photography
One possible lucrative photographic opportunity is to take pictures of people's houses and property on behalf of estate agents. An attractive colour photo is an essential requirement of estate agents to sell properties, so they may be interested in employing you to take their photographs. Contact as many estate agencies as possible in your area with the aim of getting a regular order from them - there is no reason why you can't work for more than one. You could offer to take initial photos for free, to give them an idea of what you are capable of and establish a rapport. Stress to the estate agents that slow selling properties should be re-photographed regularly in order to help boost the amount of work. Once they agree to use you, try to establish the best angle to photograph the property from. You need a shot that enhances the property as much as possible, so if the house has peeling paint, piles of rubbish in the garden, or rusty cars parked outside, you should try not to get them in the picture.