Looking for photography business ideas to create an online business around?
There are many opportunities to create an entrepreneur photography business. However, it’s a competitive area so you need to work hard to stand out.
It isn’t enough to just own a camera. After all, most of us carry a smartphone and the cameras in these devices are excellent for general use. However, your clients might not consider your phone snaps as “professional photographs.”
Money is not always readily available when you’re turning a hobby into a side business. So do you need the most expensive gear to succeed?
So you require photographic expertise, equipment and experience to turn your photography-related business ideas into reality. There’s something else important to add to that list. Your passion for all things photography!
Before you get carried away, I have to bring you back down to earth and remind you that a successful business also involves doing the paperwork, keeping track of appointments, organizing your photos and marketing yourself.
One of the best ways to market your business is to have a website. This online presence will let people find out about you and your business, give you somewhere to upload your images for your clients to look through before choosing their prints, or even somewhere for you to teach others about the joys of photography.
But before you register a name for your site, take the time to do some research. You need to know what type of photography sells, and whether you can provide it. Solo Build It! can help you here. Its Action Guide will walk you through the minefield of keywords and search engine optimization even if you don’t have a clue what either of those are!
With the basics covered, let’s look at some photography-related business ideas that you might not have considered to earn extra money for your upcoming retirement.
Food Photography Business Ideas
When you visit a restaurant, do you pull out your phone and snap a record of your meal to share on social media? If so, food photography might be the ideal niche for you to pursue.
You might not make money from your quick pix, but the restaurant might commission you to take photos of their dishes for their menu or website. It’s an ideal first step into the genre. It may involve traveling to the customer’s premises, but you can do the editing of your images at home or in your studio.
Then use your website to present the proofs for approval. Solo Build It! allows you to password-protect pages so that only your client can see them.
Your photos could end up on websites, brochures, and even in recipe books.
Keep in mind that commercial food photo sessions normally include the services of a food stylist who will prepare the mouthwatering dishes for you to photograph. However, you might not wish to eat them. They sometimes use non-food items to enhance the look of the dish, such as pouring white glue, instead of cream, over cereal!
Besides your basic camera kit, you might find a macro lens useful here. Professional quality macro lenses can cost quite a lot, so more economical methods of getting closer to the food include screwing close-up filters to the front of your normal lens, or inserting an extension tube between the camera and lens.
Macro Photography Business Ideas
If you love photographing tiny things up close, there’s a market out there for you.
I’m sure you’ve seen beautiful photos of jewelry and watches with tremendous detail. Or how about those shots showing electronics with minute components? Companies that manufacture these products need professional quality photographs for their brochures, websites, and ads. If you have the skills, why not use them?
One thing to note here is that when you bring the lens close to the subject you can stop the light reaching it. Investing a little in some daylight-balanced LED lights will resolve this problem. They’re not expensive.
If you’re not familiar with macro photography, the major difficulty is getting everything into focus from back to front. The closer you get, less will be in focus, so you might need to take 25 or more photos of an item, moving the point of focus ever so slightly each time. We’re talking about millimeters here! Then you’ll need software to stack them together, forming an image that’s impossible any other way. Not every in-house photographer has the time or expertise for this so your service could be invaluable.
Keep in mind that If the items you are photographing are expensive, taking them home to shoot may not be an option for security reasons.
Wildlife Photography Business Ideas
I enjoy taking macro photos of insects such as dragonflies, butterflies, and bees that I meet on my walks in the countryside.
Ross Hoddinott, a 12-year-old from Cornwall, UK, did just this when he photographed a damselfly and entered it into a TV photo contest. After winning the junior category, he entered other competitions and eventually won the British Wildlife Photographer of the Year award. After press and TV appearances, many doors opened for him.
He’s now the author of many photography books and runs photo workshops and tours in his native county and beyond. He uses his website, dawn2duskphotography.co.uk to advertise these.
My wildlife photography career has traveled a similar path, although I have not yet reached Ross’s heights. In 2019 I entered several photo competitions and achieved success. The Wildlife Trusts included one of my photos in their annual calendar.
My Great Egret featured on the home page of a local wildlife reserve’s website, after being a category winner in their competition. These wins, along with posting my images on social media and my own website, have helped to build a following and get my business off the ground.
My major investment for wildlife photography was a long telephoto lens. This effectively brings distant creatures closer without intruding into their personal space. These lenses vary in price. The more expensive allow you to shoot fast moving birds in low light conditions, but if you have sunshine, and are not photographing cheetahs (the fastest land mammal), you can get great photos on the more modest equipment.
Stock Photography (With a Twist)
Website owners who don’t produce their own images often turn to stock photos. Stock photography libraries connect photographers with their target market — photo buyers.
If your photos are good enough to get through the approval stage, you’ll upload them and then have a choice of ways to license them — rights-managed and royalty-free.
This will determine whether the buyer is the only one who can use your photo (for a set time), or if it’s available to everyone. The amount you earn differs depending on the option offered.
Istock is a popular library, but don’t neglect the more niche markets out there.
For example, artists are always on the lookout for photo references but can’t always travel to take these themselves. One enterprising family-run business, wildlifereferencephotos.com, has accumulated a database of wildlife photos that they then sell on a royalty-free basis to those wanting to draw or paint from them. They accept submissions of suitable photos from photographers like you.
I provide a similar, if smaller, service as a pre-retirement hobby, allowing artists to draw from my photos. It will never make me a millionaire, but it all helps to bring in extra cash.
This got a little weird once, when two people drew one of my owl photos and entered the artwork into the same competition. I was one of those artists and was happy to win a Highly Commended award.
Your Own Photo Products
Don’t hide your stunning photos away on hard disks. Instead, why not get them printed so that other people can enjoy them while they also earn you some extra income, before and during retirement.
You may find that local coffee shops or cafes (anywhere people sit for a while), will be happy to display your framed photos and sell them for you, on a commission basis, especially if your photos show views of picturesque local landscapes. A card placed below each picture could give your website so people could also order online.
Whether you print them on a large format printer yourself or use a local or online company to do that job, you could offer posters, framed pictures, calendars, greetings cards, or postcards. Many printing companies will allow you to order a few at a time, reducing the money tied up in stock, although it’s often more economical to order in bulk.
But why stop there?
There are several companies that offer a printing and distribution service to photographers and artists. They will produce garments, furnishing items, stationery, phone cases and gifts, all featuring your own artwork.
Upload a top-notch photo to their website. You choose what products you want to offer and how much you want to earn above the base price. For example, RedBubble’s default earnings are 20%, but you are free to edit that if you wish.
They then make the products featuring your photo and send to the buyer “on demand.”
Portrait Photography Business Ideas
People are probably the most photographed subjects. Portraits offer many options for the hobby photographer turning pro.
Think of the reasons people might want portraits taken and why they might pay for them.
It’s difficult getting a group photograph without having someone missing from the picture. This could be a family, a bride and groom, or even an entire sports team.
You could also come up with ideas that local companies might not have thought of, such as an environmental portrait of a craftworker creating a piece of art, or staff members posing in the area in which they normally work. They can then use these images on the business’s website, in newsletters, or even advertisements.
I will end with one of the most innovative photography business ideas I’ve heard of recently. Before Covid my friend Peter offered portrait photo sessions in his home studio. As lockdown put a stop to this, he tried something different.
He photographed family groups, standing in their front porches or doorways. Using a longer lens meant he could exercise social distancing so that everyone was safe. As his subjects were in their own homes they did not need to wear face masks. He created great photos to look back on in years to come, showing the family together with part of the house they lived in.
Photography Business Ideas: Your Turn
Have these ideas helped you consider how you can put your passion for photography into a potentially successful online business? It can be done!
What’s the first step? Get out there with your camera and practice. And don’t forget: you need a platform where you can show off your skills. Building a website is not as difficult as it sounds — and it’s great fun!