If you’ve been wondering lately about how to step up and join the ranks of professional photographers, you’re in good company. There’s been a general increase in amateur and semi-pro photographers suddenly finding themselves with more time on their hands than they would like, and they’re looking to make additional income. I’m in that position, working as a teacher in a rural district where budget cuts have led to layoffs two years in a row. I don’t have extra time, but I’m using the time I have to build an internet and photography business.
You can find a lot of great advice on the internet on how to increase you income with photography, but these are the steps that have helped me out the most:
- set up a blog/website: I’ve developed websites using the free Blogger platform and the WordPress CMS. My WordPress sites GregAitkenheadPhotography.com and CanyonArtPhotography.com function as my portfolio and as a portal to web sales. The first is a straightforward virtual business card designed to attract art directors and media contacts. I wanted a portfolio that was simple but had the punch of a flash based site, so I went with the Minimatica theme (I’ve written a number of posts describing Minimatica setup–including this and this). The latter gives me a platform to discuss one of my obsessions, Native American rock art (re: Anasazi petroglyphs and pictographs), and is a the foundation of my web sales efforts (see below). Blogger’s great for getting a website up an running quickly, but WordPress offers more flexibility and visual appeal. Before rushing off to establish an online presence figure out who you want to attract, and what niche you want to explore, and pick an approach that matches your goals. Simply want to blog and share your interest in a particular aspect of photography–go with Blogger and get busy. Want to impress–start with a simple WordPress theme (go here and search for “photoblogs”), use forums and tutorials, and make it so.
- set up a mailing list: It’s good to keep in contact with your peeps–I use MailChimpwith a link on my portfolio site.
- be a Flickr heavyweight: Flickr, plain and simple, is Facebook for photographers. I don’t use Flickr to drive traffic to my website(although I’ve gotten into the habit of including a link to my portfolio site using <a href=”website address”>website title</a> in the description of photos I also put on my portfolio site), I use it more as a tool to improve my photography. Join some groups, make some contacts, comment on the photos you like and add them to your collection of favorites–time spent playing on Flickr is bound to improve your eye and help you decide what style of photography you want to pursue. It is possible to make money using Flickr via Getty Images, but I haven’t broken into that world yet. Getty, a stockagency dealing in royalty free and rights managed photography, offers a way for established photographers to sell online. Click here to find out more about linking your Flickr images with Getty.
- create & sell your artwork online: My second website, CanyonArtPhotography, gives me a place to write about and post photos of rock art imagery found throughout the desert southwest. I plan on including trip reports, landscape photos, and a link to my Etsy site, where I’ll be selling magnets and postcards created through VistaPrint. It’s easy to pick a genre, create a physical, salable product, and represent you new business online.
- freework to improve you photography/website development skills: I was inspired a few months back by this Tedx video about the benefits of offering your work to experts for free. Think of freeworking as an informal (or formal) apprenticeship program. One of the easiest ways to get this started is by becoming active in local photography clubs, finding the super stars in the group, and asking if you can assist them on their next shoot. Head over to PhotoHow2 and check out “5 Things I Learned Freeworking With A Professional Photographyer.” Another great way to make connections is by offering your services free to local businesses in need of images for websites.
- show your art work for real: Again, photo clubs are the way. If you don’t have a group in your area, cart your photography around to every coffee shop you can find–I’ve show in City Council buildings, converted apple sheds, and independent coffee shops as big as my living room. No venue is too small. Save some money by getting creative with framing. I’ve seen photographers wedge their prints between sheets of plexiglass, and glue photos to foam backings to create inexpensive, hang-able artworks.
For more great ideas check out How To Market Your Photography at ezinearticles.com, Methods to Turn Your Camera Into a Cash Machine at photographytalk.com, and 5 Ways To Dip Your Toe Into The Business of Photography at the Digital Photography School.