After shooting street photography for 6 years, I’ve discovered the ins and outs of how people can earn a living doing what they love.
You can earn a living from Street Photography by selling prints, photo books, zines, entering competitions, teaching street photography workshops, selling work in galleries, commercial and editorial work. If you intend to make a living in street photography then you’ll have to wear many hats and find new ways to make extra money! Your success in street photography will of course be determined by your abilities and your understanding of your audience. There are many career street photographers that earn a good living.
If you want to understand how to earn a living in street photography and the different ways to approach it then read on!
How Street Photographers Earn A Living
Of course, for most us, we start shooting street photography because we love the endless wandering and the meditative qualities of tuning in to your surroundings. For many of us this artistic endeavour has a lot of meaning and I’m sure that if we could do it for free and still sustain ourselves then we would.
Life isn’t that simple though and if you love shooting street photographs and want to earn a living (or part of a living) doing what you love then this article can help give you some direction and ideas about how to put that in motion.
There are many street photographers that have become successful enough to earn a living and some are well known and some are not, it really depends on what your product or service is within street photography. There are also many photographers that work a normal job and sell prints or photobooks on the side, producing a mixture of stability and artistic enjoyment that a lot of people need. For most people, I would initially suggest working and shooting, then later down the line you’ll understand whether you’ll be able to take it ‘full time’ or not.
There are a couple of ways to approach this method and it depends on what kind of an identity you’re trying to pursue. Some photographers that have a good following and an audience that loves their work, can sell limited runs of prints for a moderately high value. Selling prints in this kind of way would usually be through the photographers social media, website, galleries or by having some prints available at a local store. This kind of method allows for the photographer to maintain a more artistic identity and it also gives some scarcity to the photographers works.
Selling prints is a part and not the whole of a street photographers potential income. At first I would certainly not assume that you’ll make much money, however, if your profile rises and people genuinely like your work then quarterly releases of new works could provide you with a much needed boost!
When using this method, your audience will want quality, unusual and beautiful images that they identify with and possibly a signature to identify your work as an original.
Another print selling method could be totally on the side, while you shoot day to day life you can also shoot things that you know everyday people may potentially buy, make them available on a site like etsy, totally unrelated to your street photography work and earn some side income by utilising the time that you’re already out on the street.
Selling Photography Zines
Selling a photography zine is another great way to make a little extra money, this will spread your photographic identity to a wider audience. A zine is a small book or ‘magazine’ of your work, it’s not quite the size or quality of a book but it’ll showcase your work for a fraction of the price. Usually priced around $5-15, this isn’t really a way to make a lot of money but it will allow you to put together a body of work and write about it for your audience.
For most people, you’ll put together a zine which is a limited run, then you’ll promote it on your social media with the hopes of selling your full run of zines. Alternatively, you can also get in touch with local independent book and magazine stores to see if they want to stock some of your zines. This can be a great way to push your work out to even more people.
Selling Photo Books
For many photographers, this can be one of the biggest ways of making money. This is often determined by your profile and how well you can market your work. Obviously, people have to actually like and be interested in your work in order to want to buy a photo book.
There are a few different ways to approach photo books. If you’re just starting out then making a small run and selling the books through your social media is a good way of finding out how large your audience is while also being able to learn the process of creating a good book. Later down the line, you may want to contact small book companies to see if they would stock your books, this is great way of getting your work out to a much wider audience and to sell more of your work.
People buy photo books for a number of reasons, many see it as a long term investment because they’re usually very limited runs. Other people also really want to support you and love your work and they’re happy to spend $25+ to help you continue making work!
There seems to be a competition running every other day, of course, many people enter competitions and there are only a couple of winners. It’s worth looking out for free, or very cheap competitions that suit your style of photography. There’s no point in entering a landscape competition if you shoot street but a lot of street photography shots may fit into a number of different competition types.
Competitons aren’t usually worth all of your focus, it’s a nice thing to try out every now and then because there are some very large rewards however, I wouldn’t suggest that you attempt to join the more expensive comps.
My tips for competitions are to look at passed winners to get a good idea of the standard. Spend time thinking about the brief and don’t get too caught up with it!
Street Photography Workshops & Photo Walks
Some way down the line, once you’re an ‘expert’ with street photography, you could make money from street photography workshops or photo walks. Selling your knowledge is a great way to earn a living in street photography and many people do just this!
This does require you to really understand what you’re talking about and to be able to guide people along the beginning of their journey. Once you’re comfortable in your abilities and understanding then this is a really good step to take. And if you think that you could be doing many of these steps at once to earn a living then it’s quite exciting to think that you could make a pretty good wage from them all if you’re good enough.
Selling Work In Galleries
If you’re lucky enough to find your work in a gallery then you may be able to sell some work at a premium there. You may have a few ‘one off’ pieces that end up in gallery which collectors may want to snap up, usually in this case you can charge a premium for your work as it’s a one off piece of artwork.
Commercial And Editorial Work
As you’ll see in this article, you can’t sell street photographs for commercial jobs without releases, but you can sell them as artwork etc. If you gain a certain amount of popularity then you may get asked by brands to shoot commercial or editorial work in your specific style. This can be a good way of making money on the side, many big photographers used to earn a living by shooting for magazines and editorials. If you can get this work then take advantage of it right away!
Making a living in street photography isn’t easy, many people will not achieve it, some will. If you love photography and you want to make a living in it then sometimes it’s about finding balance, shooting and making a living off photography while working part time could be the ideal thing for you. It’s always about maintaining a balance and ensuring that you don’t make yourself broke in the process.