HOW TO MAKE A PASSIVE INCOME AS A PHOTOGRAPHER: 6 PASSIVE INCOME IDEAS
How to diversify your photography business with passive income, using your photography skills.
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time diversify their income and/or have multiple businesses. The entrepreneur’s life is not for the faint of heart, but you can ease some of that stress by having income coming in from several revenue streams.
Diversifying your photography to make passive income is not only lucrative but smart. It makes the slower booking months less stressful, gives you the freedom to re-invest in your business (which in turn helps you grow it even more), and allows you to take time off for vacations, maternity leave, or just a creative re-boot. Not to mention you could actually start saving for your future.
1. USING STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY AS PASSIVE INCOME
I’ve been selling stock myself since 2014 with an average of 4 figures a month in extra income. The beauty of stock as passive income for photographers is that you have hard drives full of images just collecting dust that could be making you money. Stock isn’t a high dollar income, but it is evergreen and as your portfolio grows, so does your average revenue. I know photographers in the industry that have made stock their full-time job and generate an average 5 figure income each month. Stock photography passive income can fluctuate monthly based on the season, your portfolio and your continuous contribution to it. With the stock industry, you get out of it what you put in it. The more you build your portfolio, follow the trends, and continually upload the more lucrative your stock career can be. I’ve personally been on and off again with it so my income varies, but even on the months that I don’t even touch it, I am still able to pay some bills with my stock photography passive income.
There are a lot of stock agencies out there that vary in body of work and commission. Be sure to take some time to study them all and find what fits your photography style and income goals the best. For some, this could mean tapping into the interior photography market; for others, it could be outdoor landscape scenes. I work with Stocksy United, but recommend Offset, Adobe Stock and Ghetty Images as well.
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2. SELL PRINTS ON YOUR WEBSITE
Just like stock photography, you can tap into that stash of images you have been collecting on your hard drives for years and pull together a collection of fine art images to sell online to prospective collectors or home decor enthusiasts. Today with easy to put together e-commerce sites like Shopify, Squarespace and Wix you could have an online print shop up and running in a matter of days. And if you’re still putting together a collection of photos, editing tools like presets and profiles can go a long way to boost efficiency and deliver a higher quality end result. Selling prints online as means of passive income for photographers will take a little more work than stock since you will have to have the images printed and shipped, but these processes are getting more and more streamlined and not too hard to do. Companies like Loktah, Indie Film Lab and Artifact Uprising make it easier to get fine art high-quality prints.
A couple of our favorite individual photographer print shops are:
KT Merry | Melissa Schollaert | Justine Milton | Clary Pfeiffer
3. SELL PRINTS WITH A CURATED ONLINE SHOP!
If you don’t want to build a new website or deal with having prints printed, packaging the prints, and then shipping, consider selling with a company that curates fine art prints and does all the work for you! These companies curate collections of art and photography and offer a percentage of the sales back to the artist, making it an effective, hands-off solution for those sekeing how to make passive income as a photographer. I personally sell with 2 different companies and all I needed to do was submit my work and they chose what fit their curated galleries. I collect payment for anything that sells each month or quarter. This is a super easy source of passive income for photographers, but revenue can vary since you are at the mercy of the online shops promoting and marketing to get the prints sold. I sell with Eventide Collective and The Weekend Type, but I also suggest Minted and Art Crate.
4. OFFER DIGITAL EDITING SERVICES
If you find you are very good at editing, enjoy it, and have time to take on more editing work outside of your own work, you may want to consider adding an editing service to your photography business so you can derive more passive income from photography. The beauty of this is you can take on as little or as much as you would like so it can mold around your seasonal schedule. Katie Rivera of The Photo Editing Guide has a wonderful course on learning how to build a successful editing business and helping others earn a passive income with photography. Just use Refined Co presets when you edit 😉
5. BECOME AN AFFILIATE FOR BRANDS YOU LOVE TO PROMOTE
You have probably seen a lot of this on social media with influencers promoting their favorite beauty products, clothing items and home decor finds. Some are making MILLIONS doing nothing more than promoting other company’s products. Just like I mentioned in the stock photography section you get out of this what you put into it. The more you promote, the more you can potentially make as passive income for a photography business. The commission ranges from 3% per click or sale to 50% depending on the type of affiliate program and how much the individual company is offering. You can read in more detail about the different types of affiliate marketing and its benefits here. Affiliate marketing is a great option for passive income for photographers if you focus on products that you already use and love. It makes it easier to promote items that are relevant to your following and that you already talk about and truly believe in. Types of affiliations for photographers would be your favorite gear, presets, labs you use, help promote webinars and online courses of fellow photographers/coaches, and click-through ads on your blog.
6. CREATE DIGITAL DOWNLOADS OF YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY FOR PASSIVE INCOME
If you have been in the photography business for a while, chances are you have something you can teach or that you are very knowledgeable at. Creating digital download educational content is a good way to put that knowledge to use and create evergreen content that can generate steady passive income for photographers. Evergreen content is content that you create, post to sell online and doesn’t really need to be messed with again other than promoting or marketing it. You can download templates to create digital booklets/pdfs from online sources like Creative Market. Popular topics for photographers to share with other photographers are Posing, Pricing, Shooting Film, Shooting Tips and Tricks, In-Person Selling, Newborn Posing, etc. Maybe you’re passionate about portrait photography and decide to write a series of blogs about shooting and editing portraits. Anything that you feel like you are an expert at, and can put it into an educational format for others to learn from, you can develop into evergreen digital income.
I hope this gave you some inspiring ideas on how to make passive income as a photographer. Whether you just want to make the slow months a little more financially secure, buy yourself the freedom to take some time off from shooting to reboot those creative juices, or upgrade your gear, diversifying your income with work you’ve already produced is the easiest way to do just that.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you make passive income with photography?
Yes! As I detailed above, generating passive income in photography is achievable through various strategies such as selling images on stock photography sites, offering print on demand services, and creating and selling content. Monetizing a photography blog or vlogging channel, engaging in affiliate marketing, and licensing your images for different uses are also viable avenues. Ensuring consistent quality in your work (by using tools like Lightroom presets), optimizing online marketing efforts, and staying updated with industry trends are crucial for sustaining and growing your photography passive income streams over time.
How do independent photographers make money?
To earn passive income as photographers, you can follow any of the approaches mentioned above. And remember: Diversifying income streams is key. So combining the photography itself with related activities like offering photography workshops and monetizing photography blogs can be quite beneficial. Lastly, networking and building strong relationships within the industry and related fields can open doors to collaborative projects and referral business, forming a holistic approach to a sustainable photography career.
Can photography be a side hustle?
Photography can serve as a lucrative side hustle, letting you monetize your passion or skills outside your regular employment. Following the above ideas for how to make passive income as a photographer doesn’t just apply to full-time photographers; you can enjoy photography as a passionate side project and still generate an income. Balancing this side hustle with other commitments requires good time management, but with a strategic approach, you can indeed generate a substantial passive income with photography on the side.
Where can I sell my photos for passive income?
Stock photography websites such as Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, or Alamy, let you upload your images for sale to a wide audience. Or you can create your own online gallery or use platforms like Etsy or Redbubble to sell prints or digital downloads of your photos, with the added advantage of setting your own prices. Also, licensing your photos through agencies or directly to clients for use in advertising or on merchandise can provide passive income for photographers. By exploring multiple platforms and methods for selling your photos, you can create diverse streams of passive income while showcasing your creative work to a broader audience.
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