Hello! Today, I have an amazing interview to share with you that will show you how to make money from photography. I recently had the chance to interview Christian of The Click Cartel, who explains how this may be a possibility for you.
Christian is an NYC-based photographer working part-time from home and he earns over $100,000 a year. By the first year, he believes that someone should be making between $25,000-45,000 a year with a photography business, depending on their niche and investment of time.
If you are looking for a new career, business, or even just a side hustle, this may be something that you want to look into.
Check out the interview below for more information on how to make money from photography.
Christian also has FREE access to the beginning of his Quick Start to Photo Cash course. I recommend signing up for it now!
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Please give us a little background on yourself, how you started with photography, and how it’s going for you right now.
I’m a NYC-based photographer working part-time from home and making over $100,000 a year. I’ve been making money from photography for over two decades, but I haven’t always made six figures.
Let me back up…
My love for photography goes all the way back to my childhood. I’ve always been a “photo nerd.” I got my first camera when I was 9 years old, and an SLR when I was 13. At 14, my brother and I converted part of our basement into a darkroom.
A few years later, I moved to NYC for college to study — you guessed it — photography! An hour after I got off the bus, and before I’d even set my bag on the dorm room floor, I had already landed a job as a photo assistant. I was focused!
College was great, but it wasn’t the best way to learn how to make money in the profession. None of those instructors were out there in the market making six figures, so they didn’t really know how to teach it.
I graduated shortly after 9/11, so budgets for things like photography had been slashed, and I ended up driving a truck to make ends meet. I also hustled up some internships that eventually became paid, and ended up assisting a fashion photographer. Since I had no idea what I wanted to specialize in, I tried to get jobs in the field I was working in.
In the meantime, I needed extra cash, so I made use of some of my contacts in the event-planning space and booked some wedding shoots. I’d always had a low opinion of event photography, but I figured it was a pretty quick way to earn some decent money. It turns out that I was not very well-suited for weddings, but I did realize I might have a knack for some other areas of event photography.
After my brief wedding photography stint, I ended up working for an agency shooting events for the magazine and fashion industry. Eventually, I parlayed that experience into a job at Women’s Wear Daily. At that time, it was the daily newspaper for the fashion industry.
I had great experiences in the fashion and magazine industry, and gained access to people, places and events I would’ve never even dreamed of. But I knew the real money was in working for myself. So while I was shooting for them, I was also working on events for private clients and building my own business.
After a lot of trial and error in a few different industries, I ended up getting hired as a bar mitzvah photographer. It turned out to be a great fit! Luckily, it was also good money, so I started focusing on that niche more and more. I did a lot of research on running a successful photography business and stumbled across a system for setting up the sale that would get me 2-5 times my booking fee after each shoot. My booking fee is around $7,200 a day, so to double that on a job is not terrible!
What’s great about this system is that it can be applied to almost any type of photography (not just events), and I teach my students how to successfully implement it in their own businesses.
My journey to becoming a six-figure photographer was much longer than it needed to be. I didn’t have guidance, a mentor, or any kind of map. Becoming a profitable photographer takes work, but it does not need to take years of your life. There are hacks and shortcuts that will get you there much quicker.
It took me years to create a profitable photography business, but now I teach people how to do it in a matter of months! I wish I’d had this system when I started out!
I do want to mention here that anyone who is interested in learning to run a successful photography business is welcome to sign up for my free course before committing to the full intensive version.
Are there any clients of yours that some of us may know of?
Yes! Here are some clients I’ve worked with: Vera Wang, Marchesa, Jean Paul Gaultier, Campari, Hennessy, Lancôme, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, YSL, Gucci, Moët et Chandon, Vanity Fair, Glamour, InStyle, New York Magazine, Dwell, and WWD. My private clients include a lot of millionaires and a handful of billionaires.
But I don’t want anyone to see this and think you have to have fancy clients to make good money.
I know plenty of photographers who make over $250,000 a year in all kinds of niches, most of them without famous clientele.
How exactly does a photographer make money? Who are the typical clients?
Photographers make money a few different ways.
They get paid for their time shooting, digital and physical products, and in some cases, the rights of use for an image.
Photography is so vast that it’s hard to say who the typical client is. Clients can range from an art buyer at an advertising agency to a mom who wants to have family photos. Photography is an investment product. Buyers are investing in their business, family, or personal life. It’s important to understand this because price is determined not by how long it took to snap the picture, but how much that picture is worth to the client.
You’ve mentioned wedding, family and fashion photography. What other types of photography can someone make money in?
There is literally a market for almost any interest you have. Just off the top of my head, some specialties include maternity, pets, seniors, product, architecture, fine art, parties, real estate, babies, children, engagement, automobiles, food…the list goes on. And each of these niches can be profitable if you have the tools and knowledge to run your business the right way.
How much can a new photographer expect to make? How much can a person expect to make around one year after they start?
There is no cut and dry answer, and a couple of factors will determine this.
The first factor is commitment. Like any work-at-home business, the amount of time you are willing to commit will determine how much money you make and how quickly you make it.
The second is specializing. Most photographers (myself included) make the mistake of not finding a niche early on. That increases the amount of time it will take for your business to be lucrative. Having a niche means that you don’t have to know everything about photography, just the tiny fraction it takes to get the great results your clients will pay top dollar for.
Then, there’s sales. I see a lot of photographers (not just newbies), who don’t understand how to structure their sale, and leave thousands of dollars on the table. Learning a simple technique for sales sky-rocketed my business and turned me into a six-figure photographer from only 20 shoots a year. I teach my students how to package and sell, so that they are getting the maximum profit from every job.
Once a photographer is up and running, it’s quite common to make over six figures a year. I would say that by the first year, someone should be making between $25,000-45,000 a year, depending on their niche and investment of time.
What are the positives of being a photographer?
There are many great things about being a photographer.
The first is that you get to do something you are passionate about. Because there are so many different niches of photography, you can work with something that really speaks to you. Do you love fashion, architecture, people, jewelry, or travel? There are ways to make money photographing all these things.
Also, photography is a great work-at-home option. Some types of photography can be 100% work-at-home, especially if you can make part of your home into a studio. But even if you do need to do some shooting outside of your house, 95% of that work can still be done at home or on the road.
I also like to point out that most photography is seasonal, so you can choose a niche based on the time of year you want to work. My business aligns with the school year, so I have very few jobs in the summer or during holiday breaks. Because of this, I get to take summers off and travel. How great is that for work-at-home moms?
Another fantastic thing about photography is that most of the work can be done on your schedule. If you want to edit or retouch images after the kids have gone to bed, or early in the morning when you have the energy, you absolutely can. If you need to schedule in-person meetings, you can do that on your own time as well.
All of this is great, but the most rewarding thing about being a photographer is the ability you have to positively impact people’s lives. One such time for me was when I had a client whose father had died shortly after her youngest child’s bar mitzvah. I was able to send her images of her father and her sons from the years we had worked together. Being able to help her remember the time they had together really meant a lot to her, and it was an honor to be a part of it.
Your work can also impact a person’s self-concept. If you are a portrait or boudoir photographer, you have the unique ability to capture a person’s beauty in a way that they may never see when they look in the mirror.
I’ve even taken online dating photos for people (a great niche by the way), and they’re always thrilled with the results a good photo can achieve.
What are the negatives of being a photographer?
Good question. There are a few negatives that anyone wishing to become a photographer needs to consider:
All the available information can be overwhelming.
New photographers tend to spend lots of time on technical information, but fail to focus in on the photographic skills they actually need in order to deliver a great product to their client. When new photographers don’t work at getting competent in those small skills, it affects their confidence in what they can deliver. That lack of confidence means it could take a while to start earning money.
Because photography is such a vast subject, people can waste time on dead ends that don’t get them any closer to making money. If you decide to start your business alone, without guidance or a plan, you will probably waste a lot of time and become extremely frustrated in the process.
I teach my students how to focus in on a lucrative niche that they love, and then get good at the skills they need to deliver something their clients will pay top dollar for.
It can be a lonely business.
Once you’re working as a photographer, you will probably spend a lot of time at home. This can be a bad thing if you’re single and don’t have a good social network. There have been more days than I care to admit when 5 PM rolled around and I was still in my PJs.
It can be difficult to force yourself to work.
Being a photographer requires a high level of self-direction. Since the work can be done on a flexible schedule, it’s tempting to put it off until “tomorrow.” Good time management is essential in any work-at-home flexible business, and photography is no exception.
Networking can feel scary.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, getting clients can seem daunting at first. Specializing in a niche helps a lot, but it also helps to know how to connect with people and structure your contacts effectively. This way, you get a stream of pre-qualified clients sent to you by other people.
How can a person start their own photography business?
The intensive course I teach actually lists the 10 exact steps I would take to start a six-figure photo business with little technical knowledge (at first). But here is an overview to get you started:
- Start by picking a niche you love. If you love what you are doing, it’s going to be much easier to find clients, you will care more, and have a lot more fun in the process.
- Get good at that niche by deconstructing great photos you love in that field and recreating them. The trick to gaining confidence as a photographer is becoming competent. If you know can deliver great images to your client, you gain confidence from that ability and understanding.
- Once you know what you can deliver, and are confident, it’s time to start making money! In order to do that effectively you need to understand the pricing model that is going to work best for your business, and where the upsell is. It’s all about the upsell! The first time I used an upsell, I took a $0 job and turned it into $5,000. Not too shabby!
I left something off this list on purpose. It’s where new photographers waste a ton of their time and delay their profits…
Don’t get me wrong — a good website is important. It’s where potential clients can go to research you, see that you’re legit, and view samples of your work. However, it is NOT where the high-value clients will find you. What I mean by that is, I have yet to hear anyone say, “I’ve never heard of you, but I stumbled across your website and you look cool. Can I pay you $7,000?”
How much does it cost to start this type of business and how much on a monthly basis to maintain it?
The start-up costs of photography can seem daunting at first, but they really don’t need to be. People look at the top-of-the-line camera equipment and think, “How am I going to afford a $2,500 camera?”
The answer is, by making money with a camera you can afford until you know you are going to make that $2,500 back (and more).
Look at photo gear like a worker looks at their tools. Once you know the job you need to do, then you can figure out the right tools for the job. As long as you don’t buy things you can’t use to make money, you won’t be wasting your resources.
In other words, keep it lean and mean! If you need something special, rent it. I have one job that requires me to use a $7,000 200-400mm zoom lens. I have needed it exactly 3 times in my career, and even if I need it a 4th time, it makes the most sense to rent it.
My gear cost under $20,000 for cameras, lenses, flashes and strobes. But I didn’t spend all that at once. I added equipment over time as I could make more money from it.
Other possible expenses when starting out are business cards, web hosting and design, samples of any physical products you’ll be selling and insurance.
You don’t have to buy insurance when first starting out, but I strongly suggest you do. I cover the different kinds you will need in my intensive course.
Everything else is on a per-job basis, like rented equipment or transportation. But these should be factored into the price of each job so that you always come out ahead.
Are there any other tips that you have for someone who wants to learn how to make money from photography?
Get ready for a pun…
Focus is an acronym for “Follow One Course Until Success.”
This is especially true for photographers just starting out. Once you have tried out some different niches and found the one you love, don’t keep messing about. Own that niche. Get good at it. Learn to sell it!
Photography is an avenue to a life you can’t even imagine. And you can do it! It takes dedication and patience with yourself, but if you stick with it, and have the right attitude, it will pay off!
Photography can open the door to amazing opportunities you’ve only dreamed of, go places that most other people can’t, and get paid very well in the process.This year, I have all-access clearance at 3 parties for the musical Hamilton (you know — the one no one can get tickets to). Not only did I get backstage access at all of these parties, but they handed me a check and some free tickets to boot!
Lastly, I know you offer products to help others create successful photography businesses and learn how to make money from photography. What can a person learn from your course?
First of all, you won’t find anything like this anywhere. I know because I looked!
This is the course I wish I’d had when starting my business, and that’s why I created it. There’s tons of information online about posing, lighting, backdrops and cameras, but where is the information that tells you how to turn all that stuff into a money-making machine?
I created my course as a step-by-step guide for exactly how I would start a lucrative photography business from scratch as quickly as possible, even if I had very little technical experience. It’s a course for anyone who would like to make money with photography, but needs a step-by-step formula to make it a profitable and fun business.
I start with how successful photographers get 99% of their clients, then move on to the nitty gritty of setting up a photo business for long term success. Next up is finding a niche you love and then getting good at it, while simultaneously building your portfolio, growing your network of clients, and building social proof.
In other words, I teach my students how to get a steady stream of pre-qualified clients.
Other things you will learn include creating promotional assets, systematizing sales, client management and production.
Until now, I’ve only shared my techniques with my one-on-one consulting clients. But after years of being asked to share it with others, I’ve finally decided to give up the goods.
Because I know my system works. I know that when you follow my system exactly as I lay it out, you will see results.
Here’s what happened to a couple of my recent students:
One student who shoots headshots for actors, was able to add $1,000-2,000 per month to his bottom line within the first month of taking my course.
And another student, who is a very talented food photographer, was able to go from $400 a day to over $2,400 a day, almost immediately!
These are the results I love to hear about! I want nothing more than to see my students succeed in this business. It’s not a competition. It’s a community.
Are you interested in learning how to make money from photography?