There's a saying :
" How do you make a small fortune with photography ?
........ Start with a large fortune " !
Actually it's not that bad , just don't expect it to be 'easy money' .
At the end of this article I'll let on 'my secret' idea that I know will work .
But seriously , there are ways , but just be wary of how fast things change in this world .
They bring out cd's and DVD's . Next thing someone buys a big machine for $50 000 that can "re-surface" your scratched discs and charges $10 a time ..... expecting to make their money back on the machine and make a comfortable living for the rest of their lives .
6 Months later the stores are selling diy repair machines for $19 each , cd's and DVD's are much cheaper anyway and some guy is sitting with a $50 000 piece of scrap metal and $45 000 worth of debt .
Image Libraries :
A few years ago I started submitting pictures to an ''image library " where you could upload "good" pictures you have taken and they would sell them for you for half the profit . I sold one image for $150 and received $75 just before the company went down the tubes because "microstock" companies were now selling the same images for $10 each ... dealing with large volumes at lower prices but essentially making more money by gaining all the customers . Is it an ethical issue or simply the evolution of the industry ? That's a different topic entirely but it is being done and we can't change that .
So don't expect any money making venture to be 'secure' because maybe one day people will be giving away images simply to sell advertising on their sites .
One good 'side effect' of joining someone like istock is that they are very strict on image quality and you will receive a wealth of information simply on rejections of your images for various technical reasons .
If you have the right kind of images you can actually make a living out of microstock but you have to be really good and have the right type of images ... people pictures [ with a signed model release form for each person in the image ] and concepts - things that people will buy for ads and the likes .
basically I have about 200 images up on istock and have a balance of $81 after 16 months .... most of my images are landscapes which are easy for almost anyone to take so they don't sell too well .
It took hours of uploading and rejections and driving around looking for 'money shots' ..... before I decided to just sit back and leave it as it is for now .
Wedding photography :
I think this will be one of the few aspects of photography where people can still make a living for a while to come . But with more intelligent compact cameras and so many 'advanced scene modes' it is becoming easier for people to think that "Uncle Bob" can do the same job as a professional wedding photographer to save some money .
We know that isn't really true but many people are becoming less fussy about image quality as we become a society of people who can take 300 pictures in a day with a compact - And no longer think much of the idea of having the Mona Lisa hanging on our wall all our lives when we can have hundreds of "acceptable quality " images popping up on a digital frame on the wall every few seconds.
Either way wedding photography is an entirely different beast and not something you just decide you are going to do next month .... and it's definitely not easy money though you can do well once you are into it !
Event photography :
"Make money from your images , sell your pictures on our site !"
Sounds easy and exciting doesn't it ? I once spent a weekend in another town photographing a 24 hour cycle event . I took 4000 images , sorted through them for two days , uploaded 1800 of them , 40 at a time , and 'made' $80 .... or basically recovered $80 of the $200 and 4 days it had taken me .
My secret method :
I've had this idea for a while and since I haven't 'had the time' or 'need' to implement it since I have a day job and my weekend time is precious to me I thought I may as well throw it out there for someone else to use .
Horses , or 'dressage' events involve a compact group of events happening one after the other with a lot of snobby people with more money than brains wanting to show off their wealth ... and ride horses in between . Ok , they're not all like that but there are some like that amongst them .
I was in a store talking to the salesman about photography and making money . He told me the following story ....
" I was at a dressage event firing away /practicing with my camera when a woman walks up to me and says " That's my daughter on that horse - do you have any pictures where all 4 feet are off the ground ?" . I looked through the images and said "yes I do" . She said " How much do you want for that image ?" and before I could answer and tell her she could have it for free she said " I'll give you $300 for that image" ....... I downloaded them to the laptop and told her that there were three to choose from and she said " I'll take all three , I'll give you $900 " ..... I tried to stop my jaw from hitting the floor , burned them onto a 50cent disc and took the cheque ......"
Ok , so that's not going to happen every time but it's one of the few places where it can happen .... people racing bikes and stock cars and skateboards don't usually have spare money for photos .... or they want them cheap - horse events , well that's a very different group of people .
Now I once tried taking my laptop and a battery and inverter with a table ... set it all up , took a bunch of pictures - sold $15 worth of prints [3 at $5 each] to a girl who said " My next event is at arena "D" in 15 minutes if you want to take some more pictures for me " .
I went to the arena , took 70 pictures , we went back to the table and I said to her " This idea of printing is taking too long , I'll sell you the images for $20 each and you can print them later any size you want for cheaper ..... or for $100 you can have all 70 " . She took all 70 and gave me $120 so I could also make her another 4 prints from the images I had just taken so she could "Show her friends" .......
Now that's $135 from one girl after I started figuring it all out .... it was time to start packing up by now but imagine how it could have gone .
So here's my big plan .
You get something like my photovan and either some charged up batteries or a small "quiet "generator to run a laptop or two plus maybe a small printer for 'show off to friends' prints .... and a whiteboard with the arena numbers listed down the left side and the times of the events across the top .
Now you find some other people who want to make some money with their cameras and send them each to an arena .
Write across the top of the board " We have images of the following events " and tick off the boxes of the arenas and times you have taken photos .
Tip: There is usually a car parked at the end of each arena - take a picture of that car before you start and when you finish each event - it will be easier to sort later .
Now you have someone collecting memory cards and downloading images in separate files using the arena numbers as a reference and 'sort by date taken' to keep them in the right order .
When the customers come along you can just charge them $100 , or $200 for all their images on a disc .... 50 cents worth of disc .... or sell them a 4 gig memory stick to add more images to later .
With the occasional prints done at $5 each , you pay your other photographers a whopping 50% of each lot of their pictures sold and if there are 4 of them you make 4 X as much as any one of them .
20 events for the day in each arena ... 80 events at $100 - $200 each ... maybe 'only' half of them sell , but then most of the people there will want to show that they can afford it ........= lots of $$$
I know this will work and do well but there's not much sense keeping it to myself if I'm not going to get around to doing it so all I ask is that you deposit the first million in my account and then you can keep the rest for yourself !
Oh yes - don't ever expect the 'donate' buttons to bring in any money either ;) .
Update : 29/06/2010 . I applied for 'adsense' nearly 6 months ago . Every time I checked my submission was 'awaiting approval' . After quite a few questions on the forums I was told to 'delete cookies' and try again . It was up and running in half an hour last night - it's a pretty shoddy setup because I could have probably had it up and running 5 months ago if their program was more efficient , but anyway once you get approval you can earn money from ads on your site - from the last 20 hours since placing ads my balance is sitting at $1.50 - nothing amazing but it's also not costing me anything to earn it so we'll see how it goes :) .