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How To: Make a Living from Photography

With the explosion of technology, social media, and multiple apps, it’s now easier than ever to shoot and share pictures. But could you turn your hobby into an income generator? We catch up with talented photographer and owner of Lumo Photography, Elizabeth Surtees-Roberts, to find out.


When it comes to photography, there are so many ways to turn your hobby into an income, and while people tend to underestimate the time, skill, and patience it requires to capture the perfect picture, you shouldn’t let that put you off. If you have the passion and persistence to work at it, the chances are others will buy into that philosophy (and you) as well. Here are some tips to help you get started.

1. Create a portfolio

Your portfolio should be a concise collection of your best work, showcasing your skills across a variety of subjects. Photography is constantly evolving, so don’t be afraid to keep taking pictures, so that you can evolve and improve as well. Have a broad selection of photographs – colour, black and white, landscapes, people etc – to demonstrate diversity, and ask others to help you choose your best ones. After all, it can be difficult to look at your own work objectively.

2. Understand your work – and your audience

Before you can make money you need to be confident about what you are selling, and who you are selling to. Don’t feel like you need to cover every genre of photography, play to your strengths. Photographing fabulous landscapes and a newborn baby require very different skill sets! If you can decide which area you would like to focus on, you stand a better chance of making a success of your work professionally.

3. Promote yourself

There are so many photographers out there, so how do you get noticed? The first and most important thing you need is a website. Choose a simple, memorable name and domain. Your website is the first port of call for your customers, so keep it clear, easy to navigate, and filled with your best work. Link your website with all the social media you can; Facebook, Twitter, blog, Pinterest, Instagram etc. These are all free platforms for you to share your work with a huge international reach, and make sure you watermark all your images so nobody can steal them! And never undersell your work – a great photograph requires much more than a press of a button; each job is your time, effort, equipment, editing, and delivery.

4. Collaborate

A great way to network and build your portfolio is to make a list of businesses or people in related fields who might be interested in working together. Start small, build relationships, and work your way up. Working with others is a great opportunity to impress and get recommendations; you never know where it might lead in future.

5. Advertise

Research your target market; what they read, where they search, and what’s on trend – this is where you need to be seen! As advertising can be expensive, the best scenario is to exchange your work and time for promotion, rather than payment. Magazines or websites will often be happy to share a link to your site or publish a small advert, instead of paying a fee.

6. Sell your images

Want to make money from amazing photographs you already have? There are a number of ways you can:

  • Upload images to stock websites like Shutterstock, where you will receive a percentage of any sale.
  • Check out companies like Smugmug who will link to your site and display and sell your images online.
  • Approach local businesses with empty walls! See if you can display your work there, with your details below.
  • Hong Kong has an array of markets, like Discovery Bay and Island East, where you can sell your work for a small stall fee.
  • Offer your photography services at local events. Take your camera and business cards along and after the shoot upload your shots to a gallery site like Zenfolio where customers can view a gallery and order prints online.

From baby bumps to beautiful newborns, precious family moments to fairytale weddings, Elizabeth has captured it all. Check out her gorgeous shots, and drop her a line if you would like to know more about how to make a living from photography.


Read more! Explore our How To section to find all the best advice to help you improve your health, well-being, and general happiness.

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