Freelance Photography:How To Begin Your Career

By Colin Hartness


Photography is a vast world. There are many different types of photography and many different kinds of people that enjoy it. It’s a hobby that be relatively inexpensive or one that you can invest a lot of money on. Photos are so special because they give us memories of times and places and events in our lives. We can hold onto these memories forever with a photograph.

As much as people love photos, many people love taking them even more. Whether It’s a mother who takes photos at every of her children’s moments in life (first smile, first step, first spaghetti meal) or maybe It’s the father who never forgets his camera for a football or basketball game, or maybe It’s the young girl who loves nature hikes with her camera; these people are not exceptions. They all have an eye for those special moments and they all appreciate the camera’s ability to capture that moment and freeze it in time forever.

What is Freelance Photography?

What if you love photography so much you wish you could do it for a living? I mean, you actually get paid for your photographs! But you work solely for yourself, selling each photo or series of photos individually. You don’t have a boss. You work sometimes on assignment and you may sell to magazines. That is freelance photography.

Freelance photography may be your entire career or it may start out as something you do in your spare time but begin making money from it. It’s just like freelance writing in this sense that many people turn it into a career and enjoy the freedom of working essentially for themselves on their own time and making money doing something they love doing anyway.

How to Build a Portfolio

To start getting jobs as a freelance photographer, you need a portfolio. A portfolio will show samples of your work. Even if you have never had photographs published or publicly displayed, you can start a portfolio of your best work and then add onto it if you win photography contests or start receiving paid work.

How to Get Jobs

As we mentioned, building a portfolio is the first step in submitting your work for pay but when it comes right down to it, It’s the quality of the photo that will determine if you get paid for it. Some people have more of a natural talent for taking great pictures than others but it is a skill that anyone can learn. There are schools dedicated to the art of photography and you can even get a degree in it. If you are just getting started, you can look into classes provided by your local community center or community college. Some cities have photography groups that meet to share photos and tips. There are also many groups online dedicated to photography and freelance photography.

You need to view as many famous photographs as possible. Take a look at what is getting published and compare it to your own photos. This allows you to compare and learn from other’s work. It takes more than just point and shoot to get a great photo. You need to learn about focus, lighting, colors and backgrounds and much more.

Once you start learning about photography and creating a portfolio, you can start submitting your photos to contests and magazines. Get a list of photography markets and start submitting to ones that accept your type of photos. Don’t expect to make it to the big times right away. Few people actually achieve this but you can start small and eventually make your way into a nice living from freelance photography.


About The Author

Colin Hartness


Copyright 2007 Colin Hartness. Used with permission from iSnare. Source: www.iSnare.com. You may reproduce this article for personal, educational, non-commercial and non-Internet use, such as in a local photo club newsletter or school project provided that the author’s name and links are included. For other uses, contact the author.

Comments

Comments


Reply by JK

October 18, 2016

I am really happy that I stumbled on this page, now I know exactly what to do, thanks so much for the good job and the great help.


Reply by Rpba.81@gmail.com

September 18, 2016

Great article Andrew.

I am a full time employee, photography is a hobby and I have been doing it for a couple of years. I have learned techniques over time. I have a portfolio online which I mainly use for feedback. However I would like to break into freelancing. My question is, how do i market myself?


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

November 15, 2016

Hi RPBA,

Determine what type of photography you want to do, define a niche for yourself. Then approach sales channels, people or companies that might need that type of photography. You might want to offer your services for free initially, or on consignment (pay later if your like it), just to get some work going. Then you can build out your business.

Best wishes,

Andrew


Reply by

September 12, 2016

Sir, I wanna become a world photographer. I don’t have that much of cost to buy a camera but it is my inner felling that this is best way to live. So can you help me to become one.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 12, 2016

All the help I can give is posted on this site, under sell. Best wishes!


Reply by Anonymous

September 8, 2016

Hello,

I’ve just came out of college and I studied media but I’m more into photography. My camera comes everywhere with me. I recently took some pictures for a carnival for free but I’m more into taking pictures of people.

How do I start to become a photographer??


Reply by Gaurav

August 5, 2016

hay this is gaurav

is it worth to go to a photography college and learn photography?


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 2, 2016

No.

You can learn photography for free by reading the many articles available online. With a digital camera, you can experiment with your photography for no cost.


Reply by Anonymous

August 4, 2016

Hello,

I want to start my photography career, so suggest me the best way as soon as possible.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 2, 2016

Try reading this article!

Decide what type of photography your want to do, and start doing it. Contact people who might need photography and offer your services for free, just to get started.


Reply by Anonymous

July 12, 2016

I want to become a fashion photographer but there is no one who guide me...plzzz guide me how and from where I start my fashion photography.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 2, 2016

You can learn a lot for free by reading articles online. You can get experience by working with student fashion designers and photographing friends and budding models. You could offer to work for free for a local fashion photographer to learn about the business.


Reply by Rao

May 4, 2016

I want to be a photographer.....where will I start I don’t understand....is there any institutions for photography??? And how will be a good carrier in photography??? Is it very expensive course?? In this professional will a person earn money more ??


Reply by Anonymous

April 17, 2016

Hi Andrew. I need some advice. Should take a photography course or not? I need to know is it important to do so as it will cost money.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 7, 2016

I would say no, do not take a course. Most photographers I know did not take a course, they just started taking photos. You can learn a lot for free on the Internet.


Reply by Prana

April 14, 2016

Hi I’m 17 now from India. I recently purchased DSLR as its my passion to click pics of whatever I feel to, specially unique subjects. I want to know that what I have to do to be a professional photographer? Please suggest some sites were I can upload my clicks and make money. Waiting for your valuable reply.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 7, 2016

Hi,

Read my article on microstock. That industry is the easiest to start and get feedback from. Some sites I would suggest are Shutterstock and Dreamstime. There are more sites listed at Microstock Top 40.


Reply by Suvam

March 14, 2016

Sir I’m from India. Though I’m now in college and this year is gonna be my last year. I’m 21 and I just love to take pictures and snatch moments from out there. Yes, it’s true that it’s a vast world so each and every corner we can see or find many special moments or objects or people that can surprise us. Now it’s pretty high time for me to choose my career, so I decided to be a photographer. It’s not that photography is only a hobby for me. Day and day out I spend my time to think that what, why and how I’m gonna start my career upon that. Parents do not support me for certain reasons but I do really want to make my career upon that. One thing what I’ve realized that “Photography gives you Freedom, Freedom to explore the moments what is happening around the world.” I love traveling so there have been always a wish that to travel the entire world. I hope you understand how much I adore photography. So have I got enough time to be a professional photographer? How can I start from the beginning?


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 14, 2016

Hi Suvam,

There is always time to learn something you love.

Go out and take photos and try to improve your work. Submit your images to microstock sites and see what the response is. Use the Internet to get free tips and learn your trade.

Best wishes,

Andrew


Reply by Tgond

March 10, 2016

Hi Andrew,

I’m a 17yr old guy. I love photography, people tell me I have a great eye for photography.

I love travelling too. I did some research lately and I’m confused whether which field in photography I should choose or should I go to a film academy? If I choose travel photography, how should I start?

Please help!


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 14, 2016

Hi.

You do not need to go to a film academy.

Start local. Take photos of travel subjects near where you live. Find photographs that you admire and try to copy the style. There are many websites where you can learn about photography for free.


Reply by Anonymous

March 10, 2016

Hi, Andrew

How can i be accreditated with the UN MEDIA COMMISSION. My genre is people and news

ur page is awesome it’s helpful, thanks.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 14, 2016

You would first need to be accredited by a real media company.

“Media accreditation is strictly reserved for members of the press (print, photo, radio, television, film, news agencies and online media) who represent a bona fide media organization. ... Accreditation will only be given on proof of a track record of reporting for media organizations on international affairs.”

UN.org


Reply by Shravan

February 17, 2016

Hi. I am shravan from India Sikkim. I want to become a travel photographer but I don’t know how to start off. I can do work is take pictures or I am not interested in any other occupation. Please show me a way through. I can travel plus I can earn.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 14, 2016

Hi Shravan,

The easiest way to start is to take photos and submit them to microstock sites. See microstock and sell photos.


Reply by Teagan

February 9, 2016

Hi Andrew,

I am about to complete my Bachelor of Media with a major in Journalism. I am interested in freelance writing and travel photography as I will be travelling for a few years. I am not sure where to start to try and kick it off to see if it is possible for me to achieve. Is it best to start a website or go straight to Facebook, or just do both?

Thanks for your help!

Teagan


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 14, 2016

Hi Teagan,

Both! I like the idea of a website — you could write and post articles about your travels. That would give you experience and exposure.

Many publications publish travel articles. Look in the travel section of local newspapers and magazines. See what types of articles they publish, and the approximate word length (e.g. 600 words). Then write and submit something similar, along with some photos. Since you’re just starting, offer a “non-exclusive license” at no cost. If they accept your article, although you won’t get paid, you can see your work in print and have something to add to your resume.


Reply by Anonymous

February 1, 2016

Hi. I am Anandu. I have some photos I taken. How can I sell them? Please help me.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

February 1, 2016

Hi Anandu.

Please see sell photos online and microstock.


Reply by Anonymous

February 1, 2016

My name is Arka and I want to be a world class photographer but parents not on my side but this year I am joining college to become a photographer so can you suggest me how can I achieve my goal?


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

February 1, 2016

Hi Arka.

Please see sell photos online and microstock.


Reply by Crush R

January 30, 2016

Hello Andrew,

I have a question. I have already taken that first step and has already established a portfolio that includes celebrities, presidential candidates, and a host of other iconic things. I have been contracted through The Weather Channel and New York Daily News. I have had my work featured on many different high view websites as I already upload editorial stock. I feel like I am missing one final piece to the puzzle that keeps my income and assignments consistent. It is really really depressing. If there is any insight you can offer, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thank you,

Crush R.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

February 1, 2016

Hi Crush (cool name!)

You could “brand” yourself. Build a website and focus on one area, a market niche, something you feel passionate about, and promote yourself as the best in that field. Then you something to focus your efforts around and clients looking for your type of work will find you first.


Reply by Jonathan

November 24, 2015

My name is Jonathan, from africa Ghana. I have the passion to become a professional photographer and thinking of applying for a film school the US. I’m 19, what do you suggest I do?


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 8, 2016

Film school is expensive and time-consuming. You can do that if you want. I would suggest getting a free education online via Google searches and YouTube. Buy a used digital camera and start taking photos. You can upload images to microstock sites and see how your work is received.


Reply by Athar

November 6, 2015

Hello,

My name is Athar and I am very much passionate towards photography. Moreover I tend to like photographing landscapes, wildlife, insects and macro too. I have just started my career as a software developer but i miss my camera and don’t know how would I start my career in photography.

I have some good photos and a great great passion towards it.

Please suggest me something.

I’m just 20 and want to spend my whole life photographing nature.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 11, 2016

Hello Athar,

See sell photos online.


Reply by Lak

October 31, 2015

I am very much interested in photography. I have some photographs which are awesome captured by mobile which is liked by people a lot. I love to be professional in it because I love it very much.


Reply by PLibb

August 6, 2015

This is such a good website. It told me everything I needed to know about freelance photography for my boy scout merit badge.

Thanks for the info.


Reply by Anonymous

July 9, 2015

I am a 14 year old aspiring photographer who would just like to get out there and maybe earn a little extra cash, would you recommend just selling copies of images so the client can then go on to print it off themselves or actually printing the image out for them to buy? And i was also wondering what type of pricing to include, would you go off experience or the quality and popularity of the image? Thanks for your time in advance.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 13, 2016

Hi.

1. This depends upon what you want to do. If you just want to get on with taking photos, you could let the client do the printing while you get on with the next project. That is what I do. But if you want to make the most money from this project, then you could do the printing for the client, and make money on the printing. That is what many portrait and wedding photographers do.

2. Pricing depends on what you think the client would pay. You could see what established photographers in your field charge. Photographers often have an hourly rate, a daily rate, and a percentage markup on products.


Reply by Abby

May 4, 2015

Thank you for a great article. I am at the beginning of my journey as a freelance photographer. I took several years of film photography in college and fell in love. Currently I do not own a digital camera, but am saving to purchase one. Recently I began taking photos with my iPhone more intentionally to get the ball rolling again. I have been using the app Foap as motivation to take pictures everyday. As I continue to save for a camera and build my portfolio, are there any websites or other apps you would recommend that would either help me make a little extra as I am saving or be worth spending time on? Thanks again.

-Abby


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

May 19, 2015

Hi Abby,

A good place to start selling your photography is with microstock agencies. To learn more, click here.


Reply by Melinda

April 30, 2015

First of all, I really appreciate how you actually respond to the people in your feed.

That being said, I am just starting to step into freelance photography and I can’t figure out how to get copyrighted and things like that. There’s just no info on it that I can find. Basically, the legal side of it is difficult for me to find answers to. Do you have any recommendations on where to start and how to start the process of getting my legal side of it in order? Thanks!


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

May 19, 2015

COPYRIGHT

Hi Melinda,

Thanks for your question. Yes I have lots of info on that subject. Please visit copyright. Essentially you automatically get copyright when you take a photo, but for additional legal protection you can register the copyright. You can register a group of photos for one fee ($35?) at U.S. Copyright Office.


Reply by J

April 20, 2015

Encouraged a bit...and so it will do .. pictyy thanks


Reply by James Doman

April 16, 2015

Andrew, I will soon be 55 and love taking shots! I would like to transition to photography as a 2nd career. What is the best way to get started in a new area? If I had the funds, I could do well. Quite a few people say I have an "eye" for pictures and like my photographs! Any suggestion?


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

April 21, 2015

Hi James,

Happy 55th birthday soon!

Focus on the type of photography that you are passionate about. Deliver high quality and become a leader in your chosen niche market. Microstock is the easiest place to start -- just submit good photos and money should trickle into your bank account. You could sell postcards in local shops, or offer portrait services to friends and businesses. Start simple and see where the market takes you.

Good luck,

Andrew


Reply by Anonymous

January 30, 2015

I want to start my career as a photographer. I have already done my internship as a photographer but don’t know what step to take next.


Reply by Veronica

December 16, 2014

This page is pure awesomeness!


Reply by Shak

September 17, 2014

This article inspires me a lot.


Reply by Sagar1992ahuja@gmail.com

April 15, 2014

Hi, the article really helped a lot. But still needed more advice. I am from India and into photography from the past two and a half years. My genre is people, fashion and potraits. I have been assisting a photographer for the past one and a half years in various fashion assisgnemnts. And fortunately I did my first fashion week coverage with Vogue India. But as I am into total freelance I am finding it difficult to market myself and my work hence resulting in no assignments. Any help would be appreciated.


Reply by

April 10, 2014

Hi am Signet ave tried making up my porfolio but dnt knw how nd i want u 2 pls give advice, ave ben working as a commercial photographer but dnt know how to go about taking spontaneous pix nd freelancing which i luv doin compare to what i do now


Reply by Alan F

March 7, 2014

Hello,

Great page, thanks. :)

I dont normally do this but you seem very helpful and there’s a few things I could do with answering.

I’ve been to college, got qualified, been practicing hard for the last three years. I’ve gathered equipment I’m happy with, editing software, etc. Due to recent unemployment I now feel the time is right for me to follow my dream and work for myself. I have opened a shop on Etsy selling fine art photography but now want to also go freelance. As soon as I finish typing this I’m going to adjust my website to suit a freelance photographer.

If you’ll be so kind my questions are:

Can I simply send a link of my website to magazines, book publishers, etc. Would they bother taking a good look? Or do I really have to tailor the selection of images I send each potential customer?

I know certain companies will want files prepared in certain ways such as Jpeg, Tiff’s, etc but can I simply say all files are available in Jpeg only? Would that affect the chances of making sales?

I plan to sale mainly nature, wildlife, environmental images, etc. Going back to the first question, it seems I literally need to hastle customers with new images, is it acceptable to once a month send a list of new images they may be interested in if they’ve ignored my first few emails?

Is there any advice you can offer me please? I realise I’m asking alot! Hahaha

Kind regards

Alan


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 20, 2014

GOING FREELANCE

Hi Alan,

Thanks for your comment.

1. You could simply send a link, although magazines probably get lots of such links. You’ll be lost in the crowd, a small fish in a big pool. Try focusing on a niche, a particular type of freelance work that you like to do. Then you can stand out, as a big fish in a small pool.

2. There’s no need to say anything about JPEG/TIFF at this time. Make yourself look easy to work with. If someone wants to work with you, you can discuss the details then.

3. Going back to my first answer, there are a lot of photographers offering nature and wildlife shots. Find something that you are particularly good at. You could package your work for customers you want to work with. For example, if you want to get into a particular magazine, add some text and turn your work into an article, ready for publishing.

Good luck!

Andrew


Reply by M Weathers

January 9, 2014

I have many photos, good and some even great. My issue is where and how do you find freelance work? Like, where would you look to find it? I have a full time job, I live in Alaska and would love to freelance and be able to quit my full time job for my love of photography. I have all the gear imaginable, I just need a starting point on where to look for freelance work. Your input would be greatly appreciated.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 13, 2014

Hi,

You could place an ad on Craigslist and/or in your local newspaper. Offer free photography to your friends to spread the word and hopefully get referrals. Cold-call local businesses to see if they need photography. Offer your photography at local street fairs to meet people and hopefully get some business.

Good luck!

Andrew


Reply by Fran

January 5, 2014

Hi My Name is Fran and I’m 53 and rather be my own boss somewhat in this world and I just got a Rebel Canon 3ti with the works I love to take scenic pictures and animals and weather, post most of random things on my Facebook ,what and how would I go about getting paid for what I love to do?


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 6, 2014

Hi Fran:

The easiest way to start is with microstock.

Good luck!

Andrew


Reply by AJ

December 10, 2013

Correct email:

ajstyle000@yahoo.com

I’m just starting out with photography and am soon to begin projects with the homeless and I want to know if there is an inexpensive camera that would be good for a beginner like me.

Later I want to get more in tune with some freelance work in photography.

Please help me in know about cameras.

I read on another post, you mentioned Nikon50 or Canon 600D.....are those very expensive??Comment


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 6, 2014

Hi:

For the latest DSLR cameras, see cameras. All the cameras on that page are good, so pick one that fits your budget.

Andrew


Reply by

November 11, 2013

Hello um I’m barely a teen still and I wanted to know if I could gain a bit on selling photos on the internet is that possible since photography is nice I like it but am I qualified to do it


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 6, 2014

Hi.

If you can take a photo then you’re qualified!

A good place to start is microstock.


Reply by Diane Delsite

March 11, 2013

Hi there, I have been doing photography for a long time now to include portraits and nature/scenic types. I am currently working towards my BA in photography. I want to get into freelance photography because I think it would be fun and exciting. I have several online portfolios and hard copies. You mentioned sending a portfolio in, but where to? And is that digital or hard copies? I’d appreciate any help and info.

Diane


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 12, 2013

PORTFOLIO

Hi Diane,

I don’t review portfolios, but you could try befriending a local photographer for advice. There are several places on the Internet where you can upload digital files for other photographers to review. (See photo sharing). If you are on a BA course, your lecturer (or other students) might provide feedback of your work.

Best wishes,

Andrew


Reply by Arun JM

December 5, 2012

Good day.. I am basically a designer working for airbus.I am writing this from India.But i want to quit this job and want to completely in the world of tour and photography. To click I used to travel a lot. And more Over I want to be a travel photographer. How should I begin.Personally I feel my Photos are appealing, but how can I know this Does The same for others Too ... Can I sent You Some Of my snaps.I may Sound Weird, But I tried with My Family And Friends, They all say my photos Are perfect, But I know they are saying this for my sake.. Help me please...


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 5, 2013

DESIGNER FOR AIRBUS

Hi Arun,

Your job sounds fun, perhaps you get to travel with your work.

Unfortunately I do not review photos. Manyi people ask and my wife says I should wet that up as a service, so maybe in the future.

The only true way to see if your photos are suitable to sell is to try and sell some. Pick a microstock site and upload some of your photos. (Try Shutterstock or Dreamstime.)

If your photos are good, they will sell, and you will make some money. If your photos need some work, the microstock site will say what the issues are.

Good luck, and thanks for the planes!

Andrew


Reply by Missy Mcwilliams

December 3, 2012

Hello,

I have always had love and passion of photography but no that I am more serious about it I need to know how to start. I would say I am freelancing but getting taking photos for my portfolio and not payment. I dont have a studio or even much supplies or backdrops or anything for my photography..I am starting fresh in so many words. What is your advice that I should do to things the proper way, step by step so I can get recognized and get paid.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

December 4, 2012

STARTING FRESH

Hi Missy,

Congratulations on starting the journey.

You are off to a good start. Keep photographing for your portfolio. Decide what sort of photography you want to do. Concentrating on a niche allows you to target your development, your portfolio and your marketing.

You could start by offering your services for free and let your customers pay if they are satisfied. That will allow you to get your foot in the door and build some contacts and experience. One job often leads to another and you charge more as you proceed.

Good luck,

Andrew


Reply by Fari

December 2, 2012

Hi Colin,

When it comes to photography, what is a portfolio? What kind would help me build a career? I’m a beginner. Could you please suggest what things should I do and keep in mind to start my career?

Regards,

Fari HG


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

December 3, 2012

WHAT IS A PORTFOLIO?

Hi Fari,

A portfolio is a small presentation of your best work, for a potential client to review and be impressed by.

Start by deciding what sort of freelance work you would like to get. Then work on taking impressive photos. Your portfolio might be just six to ten photos, but it generally requires many photos to get the best shots.

Things to keep in mind are that focusing should be sharp, composition should be simple, color and lighting should be effective.

Best wishes,

Andrew


Reply by Jabbar Abu

November 14, 2012

Good day sir,

In this field I am beginner. But I know what I am. Some years ago I had with YASHICA MINITEC and I have taken some interesting pictures. But I have lost negative. I am going to buy a new camera CANON EOS 600D Kit II (EF S18-135IS) or NIKON DSLR D5200.My budget is same as above. Can you suggest which one is better. After purchasing my valuable things I am sure I can do something.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

November 15, 2012

CAMERA CHOICE

Hi Jabbar:

They are both good cameras. If you can, go to store that allows you to try them both out. Pick the camera that you feel most comfortable with, that you can understand how to use.

Most photographers have a preference. Personally I like Nikon so I would get the D5200, but many photographers prefer Canon and would likely recommend the 600D.

Best wishes,

Andrew


Reply by Lori Bockheim

October 14, 2012

So in a portfolio do you need a resume? Because I thought I read somewhere you needed one.I have just started to do freelance photo’s.But I have always enjoyed playing around with a camera.The pictures I have done have gotten good commnets.I’m checking into a photography class.Hope I find one close by.I also work 40 hours aweek. Thank You Lori


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

October 26, 2012

PORTFOLIO AND RESUME

Hi Lori:

Just with photography, there are no rules! You can provide whatever you like. A well-edited selection of your very best work may suffice to get you freelance work. A list of big-name past clients looks good, but if you’re new and don’t have that yet, then skip that.

Good luck,

Andrew


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