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The Business Of Photography This is the place to ask questions about the business of being a photographer -- including but not limited to business set up, marketing, copyright, and the ever popular how much to charge.

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Can I Make Money With Photography?
Old 03-07-2010   #1
Bike Tourist
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Can I Make Money With Photography?

For many years I have been augmenting my retirement income with microstock sales. I have noticed every now and then that people on RFF will ask if it is practical to use their photography to add to their income, possibly to help finance their hobby. Here is the most honest and comprehensive article I have read recently that should answer that question:

http://www.johnlund.com/2010/03/jim-...-of-stock.html

For some time, I have thought that stock photography, like music and writing, was going to diminish as electronic media keep driving the prices for arts-based services down and down. Jim Pickerell seems to agree.
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Old 03-07-2010   #2
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An honest, realistic assessment. Some people are making a living with photography in general still. But, that standard of living probably isn't what most folks would want. As for stock photography, it's been on it's way out for years. Things change.
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Old 03-07-2010   #3
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Old 03-07-2010   #4
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I don't earn money with photography but I am a user of microstock photos. Because they are so cheap now I can use microstock stuff to pimp up my internal presentations to sell my ideas better. That's only possible because my department pays 1-2 EUR for one small web sized photo. The low prize is good for us as a user, but I can't imagine how someone can make a living from that.
But times change. One part of my family has a strong farming background. 30-20 years ago all of them were full time farmers. Now the children who took over the farms are only part time farmers and they need another job to make a living. Probably it was hard, but they adapted to changing situations.

Last edited by tom.w.bn : 03-07-2010 at 07:07. Reason: typo
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Old 03-07-2010   #5
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Stock photography takes a lot of energy to do I found. I decided my heart was not in it when I saw the returns compared to how much money I could make doing other things.

Actually for the most part, I found my heart not in photography much anymore after doing a few years work in it and now just shoot the odd commercial assignment to supplement the two other jobs I have.

The problem really is the drive and motivation to keep with it even after some slow times. I wish you luck with yours.

I have a friend right now who shoots stock photos in England to get a little money but she shoots mostly nude female body parts so that may be a different idea as well

Last edited by Avotius : 03-07-2010 at 14:51.
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Old 03-07-2010   #6
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when I was freelance... I reached this same conclusion... made more money on more enjoyable commercial art projects... then I just got a real job for money and went back to fineart photography and rediscovered my passion for photography... and when I have my stuff in a show, no matter how small, or not selling, it doesn't matter.

A friend of mine is going into fetish photography... apparently that is big now... if that was just my kink, I can see how it would be fun and *rewarding*... but cameras and sex don't do it for me... memories are always so much more forgiving.



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Originally Posted by Avotius View Post
Stock photography takes a lot of energy to do I found. I decided my heart was not in it when I saw the returns compared to how much money I could make doing other things.

Actually for the most part, I found my heart not in photography much anymore after doing a few years work in it and now just shoot the odd commercial assignment to supplement the two other jobs I have.

The problem really is the drive and motivation to keep with it even after some slow times. I wish you luck with yours.

I have a friend right now who shoots stock photos in England to get a little money but she shoots mostly nude female body parts so that may be a different idea as well
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Old 03-07-2010   #7
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The best way to make a small fortune in either photography or farming, is to start with a large fortune.
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Old 03-07-2010   #8
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Quote:
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The best way to make a small fortune in either photography or farming, is to start with a large fortune.
That's a good way, Frank. Here's another: Sell your equipment!
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Further clarification on "large fortune"
Old 03-07-2010   #9
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Further clarification on "large fortune"

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Originally Posted by FrankS View Post
The best way to make a small fortune in either photography or farming, is to start with a large fortune.
Start with a large fortune that, as it dwindles down, will still be considered a large fortune for some time.

It's much like the book on "How to Become A Millionaire"...

Page 1.... First, get a million dollars.....

As far as the topic goes, I am a firm believer that marketing properly is the key to making money in any profession. I have some good friends in the art gallery trade and know a few photographers striving to make income.

My consensus is that artists and photographers in general are terrible at marketing, but not willing to part with the percentages that agents and galleries take.

So to keep their income all to themselves the rule that applies is that 100% of very little is still very little. And while it's agonizing to some to share with agents and galleries, 50% of something could actually be 2-300% of 100% of very little.

(Sorry, did someone complain about vague income figures?)

But the fact truly is that with little or poor marketing, success is hard to attain without connections and wonderful accidents.

Last edited by kuzano : 03-07-2010 at 08:36.
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Old 03-07-2010   #10
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Quote:
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The best way to make a small fortune in either photography or farming, is to start with a large fortune.
I've hear this said about owning a railroad or an airline as well...
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Old 03-07-2010   #11
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Quote:
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I've hear this said about owning a railroad or an airline as well...
Dear Al,

I first heard it of publishing...

Cheers,

R.
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and oil!
Old 03-07-2010   #12
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and oil!

Quote:
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I've hear this said about owning a railroad or an airline as well...

And in the oil business as well!
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Old 03-07-2010   #13
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... or sell the farm.
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Old 03-07-2010   #14
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It seems me that many photographer, with an outstanding reputation worldwide, have a collateral activity like teaching photography. This let me think that it is not so easy to make money just with photography ...
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Old 03-07-2010   #15
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I'm not sure why anyone would you really want to do photography as a job anyway. It's more enjoyable when you don't have to photograph what and how others tell you to. You'd have to be young and intense and dedicate your life to this and forsake meaningful long term relationships.
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Old 03-07-2010   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankS View Post
I'm not sure why anyone would you really want to do photography as a job anyway. It's more enjoyable when you don't have to photograph what and how others tell you to. You'd have to be young and intense and dedicate your life to this and forsake meaningful long term relationships.
actually Frank my wife is one of my biggest assets. she pushes me when i need pushing. she tells me to forget it when i am chasing ghosts. she packages things, organizes, fundraises and handles my biz when i am off the grid.

your point about "why without 110% dedication" is VERY valid. my wife often tells me i am crazy but then the next day comes with me all over town packaging up work to entice some unsuspecting group with $.
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Old 03-07-2010   #17
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Quote:
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I'm not sure why anyone would you really want to do photography as a job anyway. It's more enjoyable when you don't have to photograph what and how others tell you to. You'd have to be young and intense and dedicate your life to this and forsake meaningful long term relationships.
Because I'd rather shoot myself than work at walmart, which is the only 'real job' left in America.
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Old 03-07-2010   #18
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I know one fellow making good money as a photographer. He has an old motorhome parked at the local drag strip with a computer and several printers. He cruises around on a golf cart with a G10 and some dslr's with longer lenses. He takes lots of photos of the cars and drivers and sells 8x10 prints for $15.00 each. It is a weekend job and he has other jobs during the week but he is making money. Joe
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Old 03-07-2010   #19
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Because I'd rather shoot myself than work at walmart, which is the only 'real job' left in America.
Nah, I work at the local Amazon warehouse. We work harder than a WallyMart, for about the same pay...

That said, it does seem that most of the jobs remaining in the USA are retail or some sort.

(I pick books off of shelves and load them onto library carts to deliver them to the sort line)
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Old 03-07-2010   #20
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Quote:
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I'm not sure why anyone would you really want to do photography as a job anyway. It's more enjoyable when you don't have to photograph what and how others tell you to. You'd have to be young and intense and dedicate your life to this and forsake meaningful long term relationships.
Dear Frank,

Not necessarily.

You just have to be prepared to live on very little.

I've met surprisingly many people who do it, especially at Arles. Some are in stable, long-term relationships.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 03-07-2010   #21
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Quote:
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Dear Frank,

Not necessarily.

You just have to be prepared to live on very little.

I've met surprisingly many people who do it, especially at Arles. Some are in stable, long-term relationships.

Cheers,

R.
That's harder in the USA. Remember that we have NO social safety net for young men who cannot make enough to live, and women here largely still expect men to support them, especially in the more culturally backward parts of the USA (anywhere in between the east coast states and the west coast states!)
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Old 03-07-2010   #22
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i find it utterly amazing, in this day and age, with all the TV coming out of the US promoting how much the women are not just equal but , well more...that, you said that, if i were to presume you speak on behalf of your fellow countrymen, utterly amazed! its just not the impression thats being exported by you blokes is all!
What I said is the truth. My fellow countrymen may not be willing to admit it, but that doesn't change the facts.

Where I live women are openly hostile to the feminist ideal of women's equality. Those who do wish to work still expect their husbands to pay the bills. I have a friend who's father and stepmother divorced because his $75,000 a year job couldn't support her in the lifestyle she thought she deserved. This woman is an attorney earning over $200,000 a year but she flat out refuses to pay any part of the house payments or utility bills or any other family expenses. Her money is hers to spend on fancy vacations with her daughter from a previous marriage (my friend and her dad were not included in these trips) and on expensive clothes and purses.

Most women here don't make that kind of money though and haven't any ambition. They just want to be housewives. Most of you know I am a student at Indiana University working on my Masters degree. Last year I had a female professor for a history class who just exploded one day because she heard some of the female students talking of how they're only in school to meet a man who will earn big bucks someday so they can be housewives and live off the guy's work.

She told our class that women like that have no business being university students, that they were a disgrace and their presence in her class made her sick! She told them in no uncertain terms that in her opinion those women were committing fraud by accepting student aid and taking up a place on the class rolls that could be occupied by a person who actually desired an education.

A few days later, I met the professor to discuss a paper I was working on for the class and i mentioned to her that the attitude she railed against was simply part of the local culture. She told me she was not from the midwest and was shocked the first time she heard girls in her classes talk like that, and that she has heard it many times in the few years that she has taught here.
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Old 03-07-2010   #23
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I can't answer the OP's question, but can provide some data on people trying: at a local restaurant, a photographers works are up on the walls. They look like digital snaps, but are printed on an Epson Inkjet printer on Epson archival paper with K3 inks. He charges around $170-ish for the print plus matte.

The photos are nothing special, homeless people in SF, general mountain and seascape nature photos, mix of color and b/w.

However, framed, he charges about $230, and his nice wooden frames look like the high end ones at walmart which sell for $20-30.

So he may be making a nice markup on the frames, so it seems fair that he allows his prints in 7x10 and 10x14 to be sold sans frames.

I have no idea if the restaurant gets a cut of the sales (if any).
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Old 03-07-2010   #24
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I can't answer the OP's question, but can provide some data on people trying: at a local restaurant, a photographers works are up on the walls. They look like digital snaps, but are printed on an Epson Inkjet printer on Epson archival paper with K3 inks. He charges around $170-ish for the print plus matte.

The photos are nothing special, homeless people in SF, general mountain and seascape nature photos, mix of color and b/w.

However, framed, he charges about $230, and his nice wooden frames look like the high end ones at walmart which sell for $20-30.

So he may be making a nice markup on the frames, so it seems fair that he allows his prints in 7x10 and 10x14 to be sold sans frames.

I have no idea if the restaurant gets a cut of the sales (if any).
Just because they're on the wall with price tags does not mean any of them actually sell. I exhibited in galleries for years and sold very little. Restaurants and such are even worse for sales. I've sold more off my website in the last year than in 15 years of exhibiting.
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Old 03-07-2010   #25
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Get a few good shots of some multimillionaire sports figure or politician cheating on his wife. Big bux.
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