How to make money as a photographer at the start of your career

How do I get started in making money from photography? How do you build a successful photography business? The ICS team has prepared the most interesting directions for a photographer and recommendations on how to make money in different niches.


Working with private clients B2C (Business to Consumer)

This type of business is the easiest for a novice photographer. The entry to it is symbolic. As a rule, all you need to start providing services to individuals is a camera with good optics. And, very importantly, the client pays the money at once in cash. To work with a private client, you don't have to open a company and hire an accountant.

But there are disadvantages. The most important disadvantage of working in the B2C market is the length of time it takes for the client to return. As a rule, it is between a year and a year and a half. In the beginning, a girl orders a photoshoot from a photographer. For Facebook or Instagram. Then she gets married and needs a wedding photo shoot. Then comes pregnancy, and after that, a baby shoot with the happy mum. Most of the time, that's where it ends, but sometimes people get divorced. So the circle can start all over again. And in between these major events, sometimes a reportage photo shoot is ordered.

When working with private clients, if we take ten shoots a month as a benchmark, a photographer needs about a hundred clients a year. We've discussed ways to make money from photography, the pros and cons of working with a private client, and finally, let's define what services a photographer can provide in this field.

Wedding photography

This is one of the most competitive areas, where you have to be not only a good photographer but also a good organiser and manager. You will have to charm all the employees of marriage agencies. Every  toastmaster in your town should be, if not your friend, then a good acquaintance.
The bride and groom are excited, parents are anxious, guests are excited. The wedding photographer has to set everyone up, organise them, and make them smile at a certain moment. Be sure to find out from the bride before the wedding what kind of photos she wants. Remember, she's your main customer who will recommend you afterwards. And earning money from wedding photography is the most attractive option for many aspiring B2C photographers.

The way to get started in wedding photography is this:
  1. Do staged shoots of wedding outings on a co-promotional basis with other contractors. Find interesting models and match them with make-up artists, stylists and hairdressers to create wedding looks.
  2. Negotiate with a bridal salon for a free shoot of a new collection of wedding dresses. You can put a lot of portraits of brides in beautiful dresses in your portfolio.
  3. Ask to be a second photographer for the wedding shoot, offering to help capture various details of the wedding day and give support in setting up and managing the lighting equipment.

Love Story Photo Shoot


People in love tend to love everyone around them too, so it's a pleasure to work with them. For photos of couples in love, you need to invent and experiment so that each story is special and your portfolio is filled with diverse work.
This niche can be combined with a wedding theme. Invite young people who book a wedding photo shoot to create their own photo story of the relationship, which can then be shown at the wedding.

Family photo shoot

It's a challenging niche that many people try to work in, but you might be the one who can do it better. Here you need to be able to photograph children of different ages, be supportive of the mother who wants it all at once and the father who does not understand why.
If family values are important to you and you know how to express this in your photos, you can work in the niche of family photo shoots. And your earnings from photography will grow many times over.
Using targeting advertising tools, find those who celebrate wedding dates in your city. Use family, maternity and baby celebrations as an excuse to offer photo shoots to your potential clients.

Pregnancy photo shoot

I don't know any happy mum-to-be who wouldn't want to capture the pregnancy process. A maternity photo shoot is an excuse for an expectant mother to feel the significance and uniqueness of her condition.
This specialty opens up a huge field for imagination and creativity. From taking one shot a week at a time and then editing the time lapse, to creating cool staged photos.
Find perinatal centres, women's gynaecology clinics in your city on a map, and advertise there. Also use geo-targeted advertising based on coordinates.

Newborn photo shoot

A newborn photo album is a trendy subject. I would recommend it to those who can't imagine life without interacting with babies and other mothers. And agreed, it works better for girls photographers because they communicate more naturally and intimately with babies.
Plus, you have to know at least a little bit about the stages of a baby's life. For the first 14 days, you will photograph babies sleeping. Older babies might be naughty, and from the age of 3 months, some babies do not like strangers. This is important to bear in mind when devising a scenario for a photo shoot.
Find maternity hospitals in your city on a map and place your advertisement there. Also use geo-targeted advertising based on coordinates.

Baby photography

Many parents are willing to pay money to photographers to preserve their children's growing-up moments. This is the only specialty where the client's return period can be around six months rather than a year or a year and a half.
Baby photography involves knowing how to make contact with children, and also how to find places to take photos, which is not easy. 
To start, call in on children's centres, kindergartens, and playgrounds with the proposal to photograph their visitors conditional on advertising. Later, offer those interested in full-fledged photo shoots.

Private portfolios

This is a specialty through which many camera owners get into the photography business. At first, a budding photographer shoots his girlfriends and friends, and then people start coming in from the outside who are willing to pay money for this service.
A separate topic in the private portfolio is the photos of models, or girls who aspire to become models. A model's portfolio is a fundamental tool for a career and success in modelling . You should be able to create an image in your pictures in which advertising and modelling agency directors can discern a rising Cindy Crawford.

Erotic photo shoot

A separate kind of photo shoot, loved by many photographers. After all, it is nude photos that gather a huge number of likes and reposts on social networks. To work in this subject, you must have a good sense of proportion and good taste.
Besides, you have to understand that, despite the flashy cover, it's just as much a job. All the eroticism and seductiveness of erotic photo shoots is over for you after one or two shoots. But the creative urge should remain. Then you'll be able to create photos that will be called true art.

Children photos for schools and kindergartens

Probably the least favourite specialty among photographers. Often, newcomers treat this niche with disdain: the competition is high, the money is small, and there is no fame.
But if you like it, it's also possible to make a steady and  good income from children's portfolio photography. The key to success is having the right organisation. Creating vignettes and shooting children's events are always in demand. Negotiate and sign one contract with the director of the school or kindergarten. The school takes care of the financial issue, allowing the photographer to keep his job - creating quality children's photos and albums.

Pet photos


Pet photo shoots are not as isolated and small orders as they may seem at first glance. A huge number of breeders of rare breeds order pet photo shoots, and many owners just want to take a few shots of their pets as a keepsake.
If you love animals, this type of photo shoot is for you. As in many other specialties, you have to be on-topic to speak the same language as your customers. Pet photography is a category that's challenging but interesting.
Find kennel clubs, local training grounds, cat cafés, and animal shelters. Offer your services for advertising, mentioning your contacts on social media. Monitor the response to your work and offer more to those who are interested.

Reportage photography

If you like to be in the know and you like to party, then reportage photography is your way of fulfilling yourself as a photographer. The photographer's job is to capture the event, to make it history. It's not an easy specialisation for a photographer, because every time you shoot in a new environment, you won't be able to change and tweak it for your own purposes; there will be no staging, the right composition, and accessories. There will be no repeats or takes, especially for you, so you need to know the script and be instantly oriented.
On a reportage course for photographers you’ll learn how not to get lost in any situation, how to work with the bounce of an external flash and how to capture the right moment in the frame.

Party and birthday photography for private clients


These shots reflect people's emotions and help you get a handle on them. The people around you pose with gusto, while you sharpen your skills and gain useful experience. In particular, you need  self-confidence, which is essential when communicating with potential clients. 
Get the word out about the upcoming event by using targeting advertising tools. For those interested, suggest photo shoot options: individual photo shoots, holiday or party shoots.

Concert and music event photography

Photographing stars during concert tours and music festivals is a speciality that doesn't immediately come to mind, but it's a fairly successful niche for the dedicated. If you're a fan of music and musicians, this is for you .
The media and online communities are in constant need of professional photos of showbiz stars, so create your own circle of journalists and editors who will get you to the shows and for whom you will work. Start with young but up-and-coming bands so you can build up your portfolio and then move up the ranks of popular performers. It's also a good way to make money from photography in the long run. After all, if you've shot a budding band or artist beautifully and they've achieved a global following a few years later, you can safely resell your photos to magazines and online publications over and over again.
Do a search for local music bands, keep track of mentions of the creative team's concerts. Later, contact the editors of newspapers and social media groups in your town or neighbourhood with offers to supplement your reports with unique photos. This will start to build your brand as a reportage photographer.

Sports event photography

The sports photography niche gives you the opportunity to create striking and even dramatic images. If the saturated colours of a sporting struggle and the heated atmosphere of the contest make your heart beat faster - that is your subject.
Sport photos are important for all sorts of media, so as with musicians specialising, make some useful contacts in the media. Also, look for different angles to portray events at the stadium. Take photos of the players, catch the most exciting moments of the action; and don't forget about the fans and coaches - it is in their faces that you will see the real atmosphere.
Approach the local amateur volleyball, football, or tennis clubs with offers to film the tournament or the competition at town level. The coaches and organisers of the clubs are happy to support the initiative to promote their organisations. And you will have potential clients.

Social photography


Social problems always worry society. The synthesis of photography and sociology allows you to showcase the "wounds" of the modern world: poverty, drugs, emigration, conflicts. The aim of social photography is to evoke a wide resonance in society and to get a response to social problems.
Photographs that illuminate social problems are used in documentaries, and they are needed by book publishers, television and print media.
Track important events by popular hashtags on social media, and team up with artists and individuals who run installations. Valuable footage can later be sold to local newspapers.

Street Photography

This is a photo shoot on the street, with no room for posing or staging. The photographer shows contemporary society, the interactions of different characters, and the situations that arise around them.
If you are fascinated by life in the city, by the raw emotions of people, by the possibility of showing a moment that will never happen again - street photography is your direction.
It's less creative, but a great way to practice is to shoot missing data for Google Maps. A great option is to offer facade and signage photos to local businesses. Frequently, owners simply don't have time to keep up with everything, and your help in attracting visitors through selling photos will be invaluable.

Travel photography


Dreaming of seeing the world? Become a travel photographer and you can do it. Travel photography is about places many people want to visit. The most important quality for a travel photographer is the ability to photograph a known location that has already been shot a hundred times before, from a new perspective, off the beaten track.
To work in the travel photography niche, you have to love travelling  and exploring new places, and accept the fact that 350 days a year you won't be at home.
Your clients here are museums, cafes, restaurants, hostels, and hotels. They all need a steady flow of customers and will be happy to work with you.

A promotional photo shoot B2B (Business to business)

A commercial client is usually more demanding, both in terms of the quality of services provided and in terms of the service itself that the photographer can offer. That's why this kind of service won't suit a beginner, but as the next step on the career ladder, it's obvious.
Advertising photography requires professional equipment, and you will not manage with  an entry level camera and a kit lens as you might do when working with a private client.

Another disadvantage of working with commercial clients is a complicated system of photo session organisation. You need to be able to draw up a proposal for a client, have experience of working with a brief, know what the target audience is, and keep documentation. More often than not, the entire organisation of photo shoots falls on the shoulders of the photographer. The photographer has to have his own team and contacts of specialists who will be needed at the photo session.

But at the same time, there are advantages. The most obvious one is the client's return period. When working with commercial clients, it can range from three months to six months. Therefore, a photographer who works in the b2b sector needs around 30 regular clients. Agreed that this is much less than when working with a private client.
And the second big plus - a commercial customer realises  the importance of photography, that it can sell better, and therefore he is focused not on the price, but on the quality of these very photographs and on the stability of the photographer.

And considering that in this area they cut off a stratum of beginner  photographers who dump prices and produce photographs of inconsistent quality , the commercial photographer has no more than a dozen competitors in one region. That is why working in the b2b field is the best way to earn money with  photography. And after a while, once you have built up an extensive portfolio, you can start working with production agencies.

Production agencies

In the field of advertising photography, in addition to working for a specific client, there is also work with production agencies. Essentially, these are the organisers of complex advertising shoots for big clients such as Coca-Cola, McDonald's, or Loreal, for example.

If you want to work with these big brands, there's no point in making your way directly to them. Your letters and calls will go unanswered. Such brands work like this:
  • The brand develops a product and gives the advertising agency the task of creating an advertising campaign.
  • The advertising agency, once the campaign has been developed and agreed upon, puts out tenders to production agencies.
  • The production agency invites professionals from its base to do the photo shoots.

You understand that if you want to do a photoshoot for Coca-Cola, you are not looking for contacts inside the brand, but for the production agency that works with Coca-Cola. And make sure you get into their base.

This way of working is interesting because you only need your portfolio, experience and hands. Everything else: the equipment, the shooting studio, assistants and other staff - that's the headache of the production agency.

So what kinds of services can a photographer offer a business?
Let's start by dividing advertising photography into three types: object, catalogue and image. These are different types of photoshoots, and, naturally, the experience and equipment for each type are different.

Catalogue filming of clothes and shoes

There are more and more designers and manufacturers in the light industry these days. On top of that, many clothing dealers from Asia are entering the market, and such manufacturers do not provide photos that are adapted to our market.
Here, it should be understood that a catalogue photo shoot can be of two types. On a model and on a mannequin.

Image photoshoot of clothes and shoes, or lookbook photoshoot

It is a follow-up of the previous paragraph, but it is not a photoshoot of clothes on a homogenous background, usually a studio one, but a more complex image-shoot. The client chooses ten or fifteen images and creates a particular image understandable to his audience (or he can create an incomprehensible image, but which can surprise her).
The shoot takes place at a pre-agreed location, it could be in a nature setting or an interesting interior. Often, a designer or clothing manufacturer will hire different photographers for catalogue and lookbook shoots. One is cheaper, the other creates interesting photos.
Check out Etsy pages, handmade product groups on social media and small clothing shops in your town. Contact the business owners and offer to boost sales through interesting photos.

Model portfolio

Working with modelling agencies is a great way for aspiring photographers to earn a steady income in photography and also get good shooting experience. Globally, the cost of one test shoot for a modelling  agency is approximately one hundred US dollars.
One would ask, how is this kind of shooting different from a simple photo shoot for girls? There are two differences. The first is psychological. The agency pays the photographer, but this amount is deducted from the model's salary. So the model actually pays the photographer, but after the shoot. And it's easy for the agency to part with the money, knowing that it will come back to them in a month or two.
The second difference is what kind of photos you need for the modelling agency.

Business photo portrait


A huge number of business people and politicians order their photo portraits for company brochures or campaign booklets. Or, to illustrate articles in magazines, not trusting the process to an in-house photographer.
And that's where the enterprising photographer has the advantage. On top of all that, it's interesting to create a unique image of a person. 
For local businesses, it's essential to show the face of the business or the work of the master himself in the process. And this is where your services are indispensable. Scroll through Google Maps, find organisations without photos, and offer your services.  

Architectural and interior photography

Architectural and interior photography is good for those who don't like working with models and for whom the catwalk world is as far away as the international space station.
There are a lot of hotels or apartments that need to be sold or rented out. And the photographer has a certain commercial objective. To make the guest look and fall in love. Photos of interiors should convey the atmosphere and comfort of each room. 
Keep track through traveller services, websites, and organisation listings where photos can be and should be replaced. These are all your customers. 


Object photography

This section is for real introverts. If you're like that, and you find it hard to communicate with models, think up poses, and listen to their whims, then choose to work with inanimate objects and be happy. But know that you have to work with the whims of the customer in any case.
Object photography can also be divided into catalogue (filmed against the same background) and image (building complex compositions).


Jewellery photography

If you want to become a master of rings, you need to become a master of light. It's the right lighting that shows jewellery in all its glory, and you could spend the whole day perfecting the lighting. . You'll also master macro photography to perfection and learn to see the jeweller's artwork.
Precious photographic skills are needed by the many jewellery factories and workshops that are becoming more and more numerous, because girls love diamonds.
Follow Etsy shops, and handmade product groups, and convince them of the need for quality photos to increase sales.

Photography of flower arrangements, plants and still lifes

Floral photography is becoming more and more popular. Photos of beautiful flowers and floral still lifes decorate not only the pages of specialist publications, but also interior design magazines and even fashion magazines. 
Commercial customers need photos of bouquets and floral arrangements, photos of indoor flowers, and photos of halls decorated with flowers. Creative photos can be taken using macro photography, which allows a detailed penetration into the texture of the flower. Such images are often used for decorating interiors, screensavers etc.
Offer your services to flower shops, decor studios, plant lovers' clubs, and seed shops. They are happy to work with a keen photographer.

Food photography


In today's world, hundreds of restaurants are open every day. And many of them build their advertising campaigns around social media. So they all need good, high-quality food photos.
Food photography is a fairly new specialisation, having emerged seven or eight years ago, along with the popularity of social media and a period of declining print prices.
But with the growing popularity of Google Maps, mouth-watering food photos are relevant in electronic format. Cafes, burger houses, and coffee shops would welcome collaborations that bring them customers.

Types of filming that require non-standard equipment and skills

The narrow specialisation you read about at the beginning of the article is also good because the more you dive into it, the harder it is for your competitors to reach the heights you are at.
If you can scuba dive or fly a drone, you can safely occupy a niche where you will have no equal, and a good professional is always well paid. And making money from photography with the ability to wield special equipment will multiply your chances of leaving your competitors far behind.

Creating 3D panoramas

3D photos allow you to see an object from all sides, take a virtual walk through a restaurant hall or  view a house for sale from all angles. Three-dimensional imaging has become popular with the advent of e-commerce.
The online shopper can't take an item of interest in his hands, twist it around, and look at it from all angles. He does it on a website with a 3D photo. According to statistics, 3D panoramas boost sales by a third and significantly increase the time a user spends on a website, which has a positive impact on its search engine "reputation," according to statistics.
Google has a lucrative partnership for photographers. You can become a certified expert and shoot 3D panoramas of buildings and interiors of organisations for money.


Macro photography

Macro photography gives you a new perspective on the subjects around you. Close-up photography requires your own solutions and skills that can come with experience if you focus on macro photography.
Macro photography isn't just of practical interest to flower and insect lovers, as many believe. It's used in research, medicine, law enforcement, and commerce.

Underwater photography

In the past, underwater photography could afford few novice photographers because the price of special equipment was exorbitant. Now everything is more affordable, so you can try your hand at this specialty.
The underwater world holds a lot of secrets that oceanographers, scientists, and researchers want to know, and your photos can help them. And underwater photography is also popular in the advertising industry; it gives you the opportunity to create stunning images for brands that are somehow related to water.

Aerial photography with drones

Aerial photography allows you to add an unexpected perspective to your usual photo shoot scenarios. A bird's-eye view reveals the full panorama of an event (wedding or music festival) and enhances its beauty and scale.
Aerial photography is good for photographing real estate and hotels in the resort area. It is indispensable for flash mobs and can be demanded by extreme sportsmen. As you can see, the range is wide, and you can try different directions.

Making money from photography for advanced photographers

A photographer who aspires to be a professional is in constant development of not only photography skills but also allied skills. This includes production, advertising, SEO, styling, retouching, event management, and more. All this generates  a huge increase in income and demand for the photographer. Let us consider the most interesting directions below.


Earnings on photostocks

These are gigantic repositories of photos, pictures, videos, and other media, which anyone can download and use for their own purposes. As a rule, such files are in demand by content managers, website and media editors, bloggers, and manufacturers of various products, such as photo wallpaper. All of them need images for their products or advertising campaigns, and they don't have their own large base.
How much you can earn at stocks depends on the activity of the photographer: the more photos he uploads, the more his sales and higher income. The rule is: the more photos are bought, the better it sells. That is, the system evaluates photos that are frequently purchased  as more valuable and promotes them to the top so that they sell even more.
It is also important to develop keywords for each photo. These are the keywords by which your photos are found and bought.

Serving photographers

A professional photographer is not just a person with a camera; it's a whole team of people working on the same idea. After all, the photography business isn't just about being able to shoot beautifully, it's also about organising photo shoots, selling your services to clients, and just hanging out.
And if you know that all of the above specialisations don't appeal to you but your love of photography beckons you into this field of business, try your hand at specialising as a photographer's assistant . This is a photography career for real, communicative people.
You'll need experience in photography or sales, and, for some spots, you'll need some start-up capital. But you may well have these abilities, so let's discuss what services you can provide to photographers.

Setting up a photo studio

Studio photography is used in many different areas of the photography industry. But maintaining your own studio is costly, and many photographers simply don't need it on a regular basis.
That's why setting up a photo studio is a great business. Here you can earn money from the studio's own staff photographer, from renting a studio for commercial and private shoots, and from renting equipment for photo shoots outside the studio.

A photographer's agent


Even the most talented can find it  difficult to make their way on their own. You need an agent or, as they say nowadays, a producer. A photographer's agent is a professional who will organise photo shoots and cool projects, interviews in magazines and on TV, master classes and simple meetings.
Earnings from photography are made up of a percentage of orders and sales of photoshoots. And a nice bonus is free visits to master classes and photo exhibitions.

Producing photo shoots

Such services are usually required by large media outlets which want to get a high quality photographic product. Here you have to be able to choose the right team, to set tasks clearly, to coordinate the process, to form and not exceed the budget and terms, to control the publication output and indication of rights.
This is a serious business which requires not only creativity but also management of resources and people. If you have these competencies, this is your field.

Light setter

Light staging plays a key role in photography. Light makes for a harmonious, high-quality and impactful picture. Constant light, generator light, LEDs, softboxes - are these things appealing to you? Then this is your niche. 
In a course for photographers we study in detail the basic techniques and logic of light staging in order to create a coherent light pattern, and the peculiarities of working with soft and hard light. Even if you understand light intuitively, the knowledge and practice here is invaluable.

Stylist: Fashion stylist, food stylist, decorator

A trio of professionals: the stylist-photographer-decorator makes a good photo shoot result. This team works together to create chic reincarnations and new images, as well as design ideas and style solutions.
According to the stylists and decorators themselves, their work is a difficult job that doesn't pay as well as they would like. You'll be running around from morning till night looking for things and accessories, spending hours negotiating, falling asleep, and still generating ideas. But if this kind of rhythm is your dream, and you feel euphoric when you come up with a new look, welcome to this profession.



A photographer is an artist who paints a picture, and a retoucher finishes it. He works with light, with colour, adds the necessary strokes, removes unnecessary details. This way, the harmony and finality of the picture are created.
The retoucher is the photographer's "right hand," so it is important that the two professionals understand each other and have the same vision of the final result. If you're a bit of a perfectionist and like to get everything spot on , consider this option for self-realisation.
For a start in monetising the skill, offer to cooperate with wedding photographers to speed up their work. Make-up artists, stylists, and dating services are also interested in working together.

Vintage photos restoring

We still have a lot of old, or even very old photos in our families. Time does not spare them - they fade, they break down. Many people want to preserve the memory of their past, and that's where specialisation in photo restoration can help.
The first works, done as advertisements for museums and exhibitions, will help get clients among those who want to restore family archives and build a genealogical tree.

Photo club organising

If you are a club person, if you like to socialise and can't imagine every day without another party, and if you also like taking pictures, then you are the perfect organiser for a photo club.
A photoclub is about people obsessed with photography. Gather like-minded people, organise events, meetings, get-togethers, training, and don't forget about membership fees. Any club with photography as its focal point is your ideal workplace .


Photo competitions organising

A photo competition is an effective tool to promote a photographer, an opportunity to show your work to a large audience, and get feedback from critics and a professional jury. It is also a good opportunity to look around and see what your colleagues are doing. It is important for any photographer to be in the top 100, top 10, top three, and to be the winner of prestigious awards and prizes. This is recognition of skill and professionalism.
To organise a photo contest, you need a good idea first of all. Then you can find participants willing to pay for participation and sponsors. If it is a social photography competition highlighting the problems of society, you can get grant support for it.
If the theme of the contest is the fashion industry, well-known clothing and shoe brands will sponsor the organisation.

Photo exhibitions organising

Photo exhibitions are important for a photographer's career not less, if not more than, competitions and festivals. An art exhibition not only shows individual photographic works, but also a united project with a common point of view; a photographer can tell his photo story.
The organiser of a photo exhibition is not only the person who selects the venue, makes the necessary arrangements with sponsors and provides media support. A professional organiser will work out what the ideal location for the work would be , what sort of viewer the images would appeal to. His income, which is usually based on the percentage of pictures sold, depends on how well he exhibits the pictures.

Photo tours organising


Travelling around the world to create new photographic masterpieces requires a lot of expertise, knowledge, and money. If you're not ready to go it alone, your best bet is to book a group photo tour.
Make an appointment with your instructor and get a group together to travel to a distant (or not-so-distant) but beautiful country to learn and add to your portfolio. You'll have to coordinate everything both before and during the trip, but you'll get invaluable experience, an interesting trip, training, and pay for your work as an organiser.


It can be difficult for a novice photographer to make money in photography because of the great competition. There is one solution to this - niche making. Determine one, or a maximum of two areas in which you will work while making money from photography and become the best in them. To do this, develop additional skills in advertising, retouching, sales and negotiation.