8 Actual Ways To Make Passive Income with Photography

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INTRODUCTION
PASSIVE INCOME, REALLY?

Welcome, and I hear that you want to know the secrets to earn passive income with photography. Since the “ancient” days, most people have thought photography to be a paid service, otherwise known as “do a shoot, get paid for it”. But with today’s technology, it has opened up new doors of opportunity.

With the Internet, we can work anywhere, anytime, and make money even when we sleep. Is this possible with photography? Over the years, I have explored a few ways to create that passive online income. Now, I shall share my personal experiences on what worked and expose some of those ugly lies.

 

CONFESSION
AN HONEST DISCLOSURE

Quick, hide your wallets! I am an affiliate partner of Google, eBay, Adobe, and more. There are affiliate links and advertisements on this page. Whenever you buy things from the evil links that I recommend, I will make a commission.

Nah. These are just things to keep the blog going, and allows me to give more good stuff to you guys - for free. So thank you if you decide to pick up my recommendations!

 

 

NAVIGATION
TABLE OF CONTENTS

Method 1
Stock Photos

Method 2
Selling Prints

Method 3
Selling eBooks

Method 4
Training Videos

Method 5
YouTube

Method 6
Sell Resources

Method 7
Charity

Method 8
Blogging

Closing
Onward

 

 

METHOD 1
SELLING STOCK PHOTOS

Do a search on the Internet for “make money with photography”, and you will find a ton of people recommending to sell stock photos on sites such as iStockPhoto, ShutterStock and Adobe Stock. It sure sounds like the holy grail of passive income, but is it really that good?

 

WHAT IS STOCK PHOTO?

For you folks who have not heard of stock photos, think of it this way – The “old ways” work by companies hiring photographers, and paying them for work. But now, stock photos work by photographers selling works on a website instead.

Anyone who is interested in a stock photo can make a purchase through the website, and the photographer will make a small sales commission. Technically speaking, this is a win-win situation where the companies pay less, and photographers potentially earn more with their photos getting purchased by many people.

 

HOW TO SELL STOCK PHOTOS

Very simple. Just snap some photos and sign up with a company that will sell your photos, here are a few of them :

Next, upload your photos, and pray for the best.

 

DOES IT WORK?

Out of curiosity, I tried putting a hundred random photos onto ShutterStock a few years ago. Everything from landscape, to street, to food, and my dusty old keyboard. Thus after a year, I received a total of $0.00 in payment. Nope. Mind you, my photos are not that bad.

So just what went wrong with the golden promise of making passive income from stock photos? An overly over-crowded market. As at the date of writing, ShutterStock has over 160 million stock photos.

Yep, you get the picture. How do you stand out above 160 million photos? Also with a dozen stock photos sites now, there are probably close to 1 billion stock photos online. Good luck trying to sell stock photos… I am not saying it will not work, but it will definitely require a lot of work and marketing strategy.

 

SUMMARY

Difficulty
Effort
Potential

It is definitely not difficult to get started with selling stock photos. Just sign up, upload, and done. The biggest problem is, your stock photos will be drowned in a tsunami of stock photos. What will you do stand out? I have no idea. Stock photos may work in the early days, but I think it is past that age now.

 

 

METHOD 2
SELLING PRINTS

If selling apples didn’t work, what’s the next best thing to do? Sell oranges. If selling stock photos didn’t work, sell the actual prints of it. Makes sense? After all, there will always be people who are interested in art.

 

WHERE AND HOW TO SELL?

There are plenty of “print on demand” websites on the Internet – Fotomoto, Red Bubble, Zazzle, and Fine Art America. Works pretty much the same as stock photos. Just upload your photos, and they are ready to be printed and shipped worldwide.

 

THE PROBLEM

As much as this sound exciting, the prints are not going to sell themselves. The websites will only give you a platform, and you will have to figure out the marketing yourself. Again, simply “selling a photo” will not work here.

You will need interesting ideas to sell. Personally, I did not manage to sell any prints, but have seen some interesting ones fly off the shelf. Fancy buying funny portraits of pets and wildlife? Somehow, the cute cat posters always get sold out…

 

SUMMARY

Difficulty
Effort
Potential

Selling prints is also easy to get started with. Just sign up and upload your photos. The difficult part is with marketing. You will need some brains and effort with that. Quick inspiration – I have seen photographers set up an Instagram page, and self-promote themselves with paid ads. After a couple of years, they gain a huge following and business is good.

 

METHOD 3
SELLING EBOOKS

Are you good with words and photography? Then consider writing your own book. The beauty of photography is that you do not need to write a thick geeky book that teaches photography. A simple photo album full of epic photos will sure attract buyers too.

 

HOW TO GET STARTED

Book or album, technology made things simple these days. All you need is a copy of Microsoft Word or the free LibreOffice. Yep, that’s it. Start writing your book and look for places to sell it. I will recommend the good old Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Otherwise, if you are looking to publish albums, try Blurb or ZNO.

 

MARKETING BUGBEAR

Thus I have tried to write my own book. After 2 months of intense brain damage book writing, the curious me published an eBook on Kindle. The results… $0.00 profit. Amazon sure doesn’t promote the book for you, unless you are a “trending best selling author”. The key to success again, is marketing and how you promote that book. Oh well, at least it was an experience, and I can now call myself a “published author”.

 

SUMMARY

Difficulty
Effort
Potential

Should you decide to create an eBook, you need to put some serious effort into writing, taking photos, and making illustrations. Otherwise, the rest is pretty much just administration. If you are planning to publish on Kindle, do use their Kindle Create App to convert Word documents into Kindle friendly format.

Getting sales is the next question mark. My marketing skills kind of suck, but I have seen people who have gotten very successful with selling crappy eBooks for $2.90 each.

 

METHOD 4
TRAINING VIDEOS AND COURSES

Are you good with words, photography and not camera shy? It’s weird, but some photographer ARE camera shy. If you are not, you can consider making a series of training videos, and sell them online.

 

WHERE TO GET STARTED

There are 2 sites that I know of that allows people to upload and sell their video courses – Udemy and Skillshare. You will, of course, need to plan your lessons, film your own training videos and edit them before uploading.

 

THOUGHTS

Personally, I think this is the way to go, and I might dive into the video world. People are getting less patient with words on the Internet, and even I think that videos are more interesting. Having a blog is cool, but it’s time to evolve beyond words.

 

SUMMARY

Difficulty
Effort
Potential

Signing up is a breeze, but you will need some serious presentation skills, video gear, and editing skills. But once the training videos are up, a little promotion can potentially go a long way.

 

METHOD 5
YOUTUBE

Who has not heard of YouTube these days? The top YouTubers are killing it, making millions online. But as a small time photographer, the best bet will probably be posting humble photography tips and slowly build up an audience.

 

WHERE TO GET STARTED

Just sign up for a Google account, and start a YouTube channel. Alternatively, there is DailyMotion.

 

THOUGHTS

Personally, I have mixed feelings on this one. Maintaining a YouTube channel seems to be even more work than maintaining a blog. New channels will not make much money, and the YouTube circle is getting more competitive as well. But at least it is a good start, and this can potentially drive traffic to your products and offers.

 

SUMMARY

Difficulty
Effort
Potential

Starting a YouTube channel is not that difficult. Figuring out good contents, and constantly making new videos are the challenge. With YouTube slowly becoming more crowded, I am not so sure about the returns for the amount of effort though.

2018 Update: YouTube monetization has just become even more difficult. New channels will not be able to monetize their videos until they have reached a certain level of maturity.

 

METHOD 6
SELLING RESOURCES

In the world of photography, it is not always about services and photos. There is something else that every photographer needs – resources. Stock photos, Photoshop brushes, Lightroom Presets and Plugins. The tools of trade go beyond a camera.

 

WHERE TO GET STARTED

There really isn’t a place to sell all these stuff, and you will have to start your own online shop to do this. Which is kind of complicated, and way too much for me to put into this guide. But the simplest? Look for Shopify or SquareSpace (I am not sponsored by them, but they are 2 ways to get started).

 

RETURNS?

I am not so sure about selling resources for Photoshop and Lightroom. Even as they are kind of the “default editing software” for photographers, Google Trends shows a different story. The interest in Photoshop is slowly dying over the years… Maybe because of the slew of mobile editing apps.

 

SUMMARY

Difficulty
Effort
Potential Unknown

Well, at least you can consider this to be a full-fledged online business that sells on auto. I don’t think many people are doing this either, and the only one who is quite successful is Sleeklens. Problem is, a lot of effort is required to make this work – Setting up a store, marketing, and coming up with good products.

 

METHOD 7
CHARITY

Well, this is an interesting one that I can think of, and it is not exactly passive… But there is still a good chance to earn some money while doing things that you like, and at your own time.

 

THE IDEA

If you guys have not heard of “cyber begging”… or the nicer way to put it “cyber charity”, check out GoFundMe and Patreon. No, the idea is not to scream “please give me money”, but to start a meaningful project.

Maybe create a photo album for children who are fighting cancer, and donate 90% of the earnings to charity. You get to keep a small amount to keep the project going, while helping children to fight cancer.

 

SUMMARY

Difficulty
Effort
Potential

Some people might cringe at the idea of feeding on the misery of others, but I think otherwise. If you have a gift that can help the others and help yourself, then why not? It is a win-win situation. While this is not exactly passive income and it will not make you rich, it will definitely help a lot of people in need.

 

METHOD 8
BLOGGING

Some people may think that blogs are dead, and they are relics of the past… Truth is, they are far from dead, and you are reading a blog that is making passive income. Maybe not a lot, but with some careful planning, you can potentially turn a blog into an online business.

 

WHERE AND HOW TO GET STARTED

Depending on how much work you want to do, the easiest is to sign up for free blog services such as WordPress, Wix or Weebly. But those will not get you far… A “serious” blog is what should consider, with the possibility to expand into an online shop or membership portal.

The core of a passive income blog is not rocket science. Provide useful content, truthful reviews and recommendations while making some money off it. How? Poke around my blog and you will see – Advertisements from Google, sponsored reviews, and earning small commissions off eBay sales.

 

SUCCESSFUL BLOGGING 

There may be some technical challenges and you will have to pay for the online hosting. But so far, blogging has been the most successful for me. So much that the income from the blog is paying for itself, and giving me some pocket money. I can leave this blog alone for months, and it will still be making money.

Sounds interesting? But I have to be completely honest – There is quite a learning curve to it. Maybe I shall write another comprehensive guide on “how to create a passive income photography blog” sometime in the future.

But for now, if you guys are interested in starting a blog or online photography business, please do check out a free-to-join program called Wealthy Affiliate. This is the exact program that got me started with a money making blog.

 

SUMMARY

Difficulty
Effort
Potential

“Serious blogging” is not an easy path. But give it time and patience, the blog will pay for itself and give you freedom eventually.

 

CLOSING
ONWARDS

So here comes the end of the post, and all the possible passive income for photographers that I know of. If you have more interesting ways or thoughts, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Whichever path you choose, I wish you all the best, and good luck!

 


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