Like a lot of “creative types,” I’ve always been a visual person. Growing up, I was happiest and most focused with a pencil or paintbrush in my hand. But—as my fellow creative types know—most adults discourage “art” as a life path.
Artists starve, after all. Or at least that’s what we’re brought up to believe.
Fortunately, after a few lucky breaks and a little stumbling around before settling on photography—I’ve come to find that it’s simply not true. As an artist, you can thrive—even if you’re an introvert, a perfectionist, and a procrastinator, like me.
As a French major, I lived abroad and traveled the world as much as I could in my 20s, and I didn’t want it to stop. Once you get a taste of travel and living like a local…it’s hard to go back to a “normal” life of staying put and commuting to a cubicle every day.
Writing—and then photography—was a means for me to have exactly the life I wanted.
The great thing about photography is that it’s portable. You can do it from anywhere in the world. You can work from home. You can embark on adventures and get paid for them. And you get to contribute something that no one else can. Your own style—and the unique way that you view the world—become your living. And it feels amazing when people show their appreciation for your talents by hiring you again and again.
The first photos I sold were shots of my hometown of Portland, Oregon—quick snaps to go along with short articles about things to see and do in the city. It was a small online publication at the time, and I was thrilled with the $150 they paid for each article/photo package.
If you don’t mind writing a short, simple article, editorial is a great way to start selling your photos. You can start with online publications, and you can cover anything right there in your hometown…wherever in the world that happens to be. Once you get started with smaller publications, it becomes easier to move up to bigger, higher-paying magazines and websites.
The second place I started selling photos was through online stock agencies. Selling photos as stock is a great route for beginners and advanced photographers, alike. You upload your photos to their websites—and you can send the same photos to multiple agency sites—then add keywords, and you’re done. Your photos can sell multiple times over while you’re off doing other things. It becomes passive income, and it’s fun to watch your photos sell and see where they end up.
After getting up-and-running with editorial and stock photography, I started to become known among my social circle as the “friend with a camera.”
Once that happens, folks start asking you to take photos for them. It could be headshots, family photos, weddings, photos of things they want to sell…
Doing that led to finding paying clients through word-of-mouth— and before I could set up a website and start marketing—regular gigs came rolling in on their own. When you start taking photos for clients, it does help to grow a base of people within one town or area…but that place could be anywhere. Especially if you live somewhere with a strong expat community.
The three markets above are my top photography income earners. Each of them are markets you can approach from anywhere you’d like to live…and if you’d like, you can do all of them at the same time. It makes for a varied and interesting life. Exactly the kind of life I’ve always wanted—completely devoid of cubicles.
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