Staying afloat as a photographer means having several revenue streams. Here are seven ways I had not expected to be paid as a photographer.
If you are any business, you have probably heard the saying that you should have a minimum of three income streams. When I started out, I thought I would make my living by taking photographs. To start with, I did. But as the jobs got bigger and the overheads started getting out of hand I started to find myself having cash flow issues. A £2000 - £10,000 payout probably puts me £500 to £3000 out of pocket in expenses before being reimbursed 30 or 90 days later. This becomes a real issue when you have 15- 20 jobs in a month and you don’t have bags of cash sitting around. After seeking some advice, I was advised to take on a few instant cash hits as weekly jobs. I wasn’t keen on any of their ideas, so I tried to think of a few areas where I would both do a good job and enjoy doing the work. After all, I left my day job to pursue a career in photography.
As a precursor, In the UK (where I live), talking about money and how you make or how you make money is a bit of a taboo subject, so bear with me whilst I skirt around the subject and cringe from the inside. I feel like I am being a bit rude even broaching the subject of being paid for anything, but here we go.
I work in food photography and before that I was a portrait photographer. When I did portraits, I kept my locations close to my chest, when I got into food, I kept my props to myself. Then I had a change in mentality. What I should have done when I shot portraits was charge for a location finding service and what I do now as a food photographer is offer a prop and backdrop rental service. Much like the studio rental, rather than my props gathering dust on a shelf, why not rent them out to someone who doesn’t have the space to store their own? I am sure this can be applied to loads of photography assets. I haven’t ever gone down the line of camera and lens rental, but it is viable. The one thing that has stopped me doing this is the insurance issues in the UK as posting thousands of dollars of gear to an unknown entity is a risky business, probably best left to those with deeper pockets and a targeted group of customers.
I have had a studio for years. For some bizarre reason, the thought had never occurred to me that I should rent it out to other photographers and videographers on my editing and admin days. Renting however, doesn’t come without its risks. Letting strangers into your studio can be stressful and often not an overly pleasant experience. I find that some other photographers perhaps don’t treat your space and equipment as you may, but if you charge enough, you can offset the damage over the years within the rental fee. I now see it as being paid to do admin. Whilst I am sat in my office doing editing, I have another photographer utilizing my space. It feels good and everyone is a winner. The other photographer doesn’t need to take the risk of running a studio full time and you get paid to do admin (kind of).
Clients often need advice on the direction of their photography. Sometimes they need help building an on site set up and system, other times they need advice of the aesthetic that their brand should be looking to follow. I didn’t even know this role existed when I first got into photography, but there is a lot of work out there in advising clients on where they should be taking their brands photography.
There are 8 universities near me and loads of colleges. Before I had even left my day job I started getting asked to run sessions or give work experience talks. Like a lot of these jobs, they do not pay the big money that photoshoots do, but the small little kicks of money here and there really help keep the cash flow in a healthy state. They also cost nothing to do, unlike a large production.
About 3 years ago I started to get approached by people wanting answers to very specific questions. So I started meeting people for 1-2-1 training sessions when I thought that I would be able to point them in the right direction. When I couldn’t I tried to find someone who could help them. It isn’t something that I advertise, but it’s certainly something that is worth looking into. I do 2-3 a month. I also keep in touch with almost everyone who comes along. It’s really nice to see people then move toward their goals.
This took a few years for me to get into. I had 10 years of teaching experience, so in hindsight, it seems daft that I hadn’t started sooner. Starting a low cost and regular workshop series as an alternative to all of the naff camera clubs has been great. It is something that I really look forward to each week. And I try and work it in a way that it covers topics that are not as easy to find online for free. This has also moved into teaching at other studios and doing guest talks at certain accreditations over the last two years. It is something that I am not actively pursuing and also looking to build on over the years.
I thought the last time that I would write in any formal sense would have been during my MSc. Then I started getting brands and online magazines asking me to write articles for them for a small fee, I then started to approach companies and magazines offering my services as a writer. Granted, it isn’t a life changing monthly income, but every little helps and I find it a nice break to sit in a cafe and write up a few articles.
When I first started out, I thought we charged for a photoshoot and that was the end of it. I then started to learn about licensing. The first time I got paid for a license fee it felt like a free pay day. I had already been paid my day rate and then I got a larger chunk of money on top of it. For the last 4-5 years we have been working with larger clients where this is the norm, but at first it was certainly something I had never heard of and didn’t know I would get paid for.
What do you get paid for within the photography industry that you never thought you would make money from?