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How to Earn an Income Online with Photography

Updated on January 27, 2018

What Do You Need to Start?

If you are interested in making a side income or developing a career online by providing freelance photography services and/or selling your personal photographs, there are a few common starting routes to consider. First and foremost, you could potentially be required to become more geographically mobile, as the content and locality desires of freelance contractors and businesses will naturally vary. Through gradually building a presentable portfolio and a positive reputation, it is possible to transform yourself from a hobbyist into a remote freelance photographer. When it comes to equipment however, there are no universal set and stone requirements or standards, and they all vary based on the photo sharing service which you utilize; and the demands of the business which may potentially contract you. If you decide to base your work around freelance contracts, take note that many businesses nowadays will prefer if you also have experience and ability in photo-editing along with the usage of photo editing software. As with building a businesses however, your success as an independent freelance or contract photographer can depend on your ability to build a reputable portfolio which can bring businesses to you as customers. Overall, if your goal or desire is to work completely remotely, free of geographic bounds or any commitments to a business/website, then following the route of self-licensing and perhaps building your own website would be the more desirable option in the long run; of course however, do not hesitate to start small if you have to.

Where Can Freelance Photography Work Primarily Be Found?

There are a multitude of websites and businesses which are always looking for freelance photography services, and in some areas these can appear on job listings as steady job offers. The variety in scale, focus, and desires of such businesses and/or websites is immense, and competition generally increases based on the organization's size, and especially if it is a journalism or photography firm. If more unhinged freelancing work is not a safe or convenient enough option for you, then larger organizations or journalism firms will clearly be the safer option, although with enough time and personal investment into equipment and a portfolio, you could also potentially build up a more stable income by maneuvering between smaller businesses requesting photography services.

Websites/Businesses With Freelance Photography Opportunities

Opportunity Types
Freelance Work Database
Freelance Work
Employment Search Engine
Primarily Steady Jobs
Freelancing Platform
Freelance Work

Example Upwork Freelance Opportunities Example Opportunities Example Freelance Opportunities

Special Considerations for Upwork/

Freelancing databases such as Upwork And can be especially flexible for finding photography related work if used properly, as they both contain work opportunities for quite a few sub-niches within the broader category of photography; such as Photoshop, image cropping, and retouching. So you could easily find yourself earning an additional income on the side of your own photography services if you also have skills with photograph software and editing techniques. is notably effective in this regard, as their broad range of categories can be found within a few clicks of their "find-work" section from their home page. The example image I provide below is only a narrow keyword search (Ctrl-F), you can also find photography related sub-niches by filtering other keywords such as "image." Example Category Search

Photo Sharing Websites

There are numerous photo sharing websites, each providing different options and policies when it comes to maximum storage, frame sizes, photography niches, and content regulations, and photo licensing/royalties. Not every photo sharing website will allow licensing, royalties, or pay per download with their default utilities, although there are some ways you can use a non-licensing photo sharing service as a base for selling your photos with third party applications. Content regulation is an important topic, as if your photography involves any content which could be considered "Not Safe For Work" (NSFW) or explicit in nature, you will need to choose a photo sharing service which best suits the subject matter you wish to base your photography around; as such content can void or change your ability to license and be paid royalties for such material. I will list some example services with varying licensing policies in the table below.

Some Online Photo Sharing Resources:

Subscription Free?
Photo Licensing/Royalties?
Photography Community
Pro Membership - Yes
Portfolio/Self Promotion
Pro Membership - Yes
Creative Commons
Photograph Sharing
Advanced Membership -Yes
Primarily Creative Commons
Photograph Marketplace
Yes (Varies by Plan)
Royalty Free (Paid Per Download)
Photograph Marketplace
No (Adobe ID Login)
Royalty Free (Paid Commission)
Photograph Marketplace
Possible Licensing Fee
Royalty Free (Paid Commission)

Licensing Your Photographs

Photo sharing communities/services such as 500px (with a pro membership) will allow you to license your photographs so they can be sold and re-used with royalties paid to you. 500px offers the most flexibility when it comes to royalties and licensing of the services I have listed, providing options such as exclusive and non exclusive royalty free sales licensing, and an extended products for resale royalty license. Shutterstock is a unique case, as they do not permit re-use royalty licenses, albeit you can be paid per each download (also with one of their membership plans). With enough reputation, you could potentially develop this system into a career, albeit it would clearly not be the most stable of options for photographers just starting out as your income is based on the attention and demand solely on your photographs. As mentioned before, websites such as Flickr do not come with convenient built in utilities to help you license and sell your photographs, although it is possible to link your content posted on Flickr to a stock image service such as Getty Images where you could have your photographs licensed from third party sources or individuals. It may also be possible to link a said photo database to a social media service for resale.

Building a Personal Photography Website

Your own photography website (if well formatted and presentable) is arguably the most ideal type of portfolio you can build; and it could also become your own base of operations for selling and promoting your own personal photography. A serious advantage of having your own personal photography website is how you can build it around your own character or persona as a photographer, and the website can then be used as a means for potential customers and businesses to contact you directly for your services. Like with any online business however, attention and traffic towards your material will become key, so you will need to have some means of promoting or driving traffic towards your website and work. Having your own photography website also allows you to sell and license your own works on your on terms and rates.

Resources for Building a Personal Photography Website

If you do not have the necessary technical skills, time. budget and/or interest in building your own website from scratch, then you could consider using a free or paid website building/hosting service such as Wix, Wordpress or Weebly. All of these services will cover domain hosting (with premium plans available for increased bandwidth/storage) along with the design of your website. All of these services will also have a variety of pre-built website templates (also be sure to check out templates created by others) which can cater to the style of a photography portfolio.


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      16 months ago

      Hi guys,

      I am new here and I hope it will be educative ,informative and fun.



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