PAID PHOTOGRAPHY: The 5 main Categories

There are several ways to get paid with your camera, and you may have found yourself dabbling within each of the following categories.  Glance over the lists and leave a comment about the ones that I missed!
Photography & Blog by Jake Garn

FIVE broad categories OF PHOTO BUSINESS

1. Commissioned Shoots (Personal)

The most common type of photography services simply because there is a huge demand for this sort of work.  Which means a lot of photographers are doing it.  It seems tempting to be the jack of all trades in commissioned work but from my observations the most successful photographers in this category are the ones that specialize!

To get started build a portfolio of work and show it around.  Let people know you offer the services, let people know you appreciate their recommendation.   A style goes a long way in selling out your appointments, but don’t forget the need for prompt communication and delivery.   If you want to shoot weddings and bridals go find a friend or recent bride to come model their wedding dress for you.  Offer a low, low rate or even donate your time for the sake of practice.

Types of Commissioned Photography

  • Weddings / Bridals / Engagements
  • Family / Portraits / Newborns
  • Boudoir / Glamour Shots
  • Concerts / Events
  • Head Shots / Modeling
  • Pet Photography
Getting Started
-Pick a specialty!  Developing a style is hard enough, it will be even harder if you don’t have a focus!-If you find yourself competing by having the lowest price then re-think your strategy!  Yes, low prices will catch clients but many times the cheapest clients are  sometimes the most expensive clients to deal with!  Not a long-term business model.

2. Commercial Photography (Commissioned)

Commercial photographers can be freelance or have professional representation.
They create the photography we see on billboards, magazines, menus, brochures and websites every day.  A commercial photographer can be hired direct by companies, publishers or even advertising agencies.  The highest budgets are for national campaigns, images reproduced across the country can call for budgets in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Types of Commercial Photography

    • Fashion  / Editorial / Catalogs
    • Photojournalism/Concerts/Sports
    • Food / Jewelry / Cars / Products
    • Architecture / Interior
    • Aerial / Drone


Buyers of Commercial Photography

  • Advertising & Design Agencies
  • Professional Services
  • Newspapers and Magazines
  • Restaurants
  • Retail Stores & Catalogs

3. Stock Photography & Licensing

Most stock photography usage is commercial, yet it is not commissioned. Meaning, the photographer creates the images first and offers them for sale or license afterwards. There is stock photography available within every conceivable genre of photography.  Photographers can license images directly with a company or through a stock agency.  The best stock agencies are quite picky about who they represent, whereas the “crap” agencies will list just about anything and everything.

Rob Haggart has created a massive list of Stock Photography Agencies here.

Types of Stock Agencies

  • Royalty Free – The fee for royalty free images are generally lower, and also non-exclusive, meaning images could be licensed by competitors within the same industry. After the one time fee usage is typically unlimitted.  
  • Rights Managed – The agency manages the rights and usage needs to be paid for each time, generally rights managed images are not licensed to multiple companies within the same industry.
  • Micro Stock – With the creation of the internet came huge libraries of ‘micro stock’ which is basically low cost licensing.  Instead of hundreds or thousands of dollars to license an image the cost can be less than a dollar.

4. Fine Art

People have been putting art on walls for thousands of years and as a photographer in the 21st century there are thousands of ways to sell your art.

Places You Can Sell your Art

  • ​Art Festivals & Art Galleries
  • Restaurants & Coffee Shops
  • Online (Web Site, Etsy, eBay)
  • Book Stores (Retail, Amazon)
  • Professional Spaces (Hotels, Dentists, etc.)

5. Education, Blogging and Affiliate Links

All the other ways to make money were about selling or licensing photography, but what if instead of selling the photos you sold your secrets?  In the information economy how you made something can be just as valuable as the creation itself.

What did I miss and what do you do?