For photographers, the image is the product. But photographers also have knowledge and that information is an asset that can be sold too. Here are five ways that photographers can turn their photography knowledge into new revenue streams.
When Paul Van Hoy moved to Rochester, New York in 2005, it didn’t take long for the young photographer to form a friendship with local photographer Brady Dillsworth. Van Hoy’s work had already won him a write-up in Professional Photographer Magazine, both photographers were working on their own books, and shooting at the high end of wedding photography, they both found that clients would speak to each of them before making their choice.
And both wanted to help other photographers build their studios. The pair have now expanded their businesses to include jointly-held wedding photography workshops.
They’re not the only ones. Denis Reggie, the founder of wedding photojournalism, organizes regular workshops with photographer Joe Buissink that cost from $699 each.
The format of a workshop can range from a few hours in a classroom to a weekend retreat with models and formal poses. They’ll require a bit of marketing and plenty of organization but they can be an enjoyable way to turn knowledge into income without selling pictures.
A workshop will take some hands-on effort and personal interaction but blogging you can do from home.
You won’t make $699 from each reader in that way that you can sell tickets to your workshops for large sums, and you’ll have to work pretty hard to bring in users and monetize them. Despite the hype surrounding the money-making opportunities available to professional bloggers, when AdSense ads deliver clickthroughs of around 2 percent and revenues of $1 to $1.50 for every thousand users, even a relatively successful blog with 10,000 monthly users is only going to make $10-$15 a month. For every Strobist, there are thousands of photography blogs that do little more than help a site’s SEO.
It’s one more revenue stream but unless you’re willing to put in the promotional work needed to hit the big time, don’t bank on a blog doing much more than supporting your other photography services.
Workshops and blogging sell your knowledge of taking great pictures. But building a successful photography business also means developing an understanding of marketing, client relationships, leadership and management. Those are also skills that can earn revenue.
Kathleen Ferry spent ten years in advertising before taking some photography classes and opening her own photography business. Many of the clients that her Firefly Photography studio now wins though aren’t serviced by her personally. Instead, her skills bring in the business which she then outsources to part-time photographers who shoot the weddings on her behalf.
It’s a different kind of photography business, one that turns the photographer into a manager rather than a hands-on image-maker. It still requires an understanding of photography and a photographic eye — the company will only be as strong as the skills of the photographers you hire — but it’s one that puts the emphasis on the business side of photography rather than on its creative aspect.
The advantage is the business’s scalability. A wedding photographer who works alone or with a single assistant is limited by the number of hours in a week and the number of weddings they’re prepared to shoot in that time. Bring in additional photographers and you can dominate your market by taking on more photographers to meet additional demand.
The downside though is that few photographers enter the industry because they’re inspired by the idea of building a successful business. Most are inspired by the idea of creating beautiful pictures; the management, marketing and selling are just the process they have to go through to win the opportunities and make revenues. Photography is also so artistic that a studio’s brand tends to be closely tied to the photographer him or herself. Clients usually want to hire a particular photographer and receive that photographer’s style rather than the work of an impersonal studio.
The scalability of an outsourcing studio is horizontal, not vertical. Selling your business skills might build you a bigger and more profitable studio but it won’t improve your photography or deliver the satisfaction that comes from shooting the very best images. But again, it’s another way of turning your professional knowledge into a revenue stream — and there’s no reason you can’t both outsource and charge a premium to shoot the images yourself.
Volunteering for a non-profit won’t create a new income stream directly. You’ll be shooting for free and supplying pictures for nothing. But it will open a new niche and give you a new area of specialized knowledge. Whether you’re shooting animals in shelters (as leading pet photographer Grace Chon did to kick start her photography business) or helping out on a campaign, you’ll pick up both contacts and an understanding of one new subject that can help you develop your business.
It’s a way of picking up knowledge and leads that can generate revenue later.
5. Your own exhibitions
And one way to convert that specialized knowledge into cash is to put on your own exhibition. Mounting exhibitions in galleries is always difficult but there’s no reason you can’t show your work yourself, either in your own venue or in a café, an increasingly popular option.
Instead of focusing on artistic shots though, a topic that will only attract photography lovers, you can focus on a particular subject, using your knowledge of urban degradation, local wildlife or sewers to bring in people who want to see not just good pictures, but images of a topic in which they have an interest.
While it’s an approach that relies on the images themselves (and the accompanying catalog) to generate revenue, the sales are as dependent on your expertise in the subject as they are on your ability to communicate that knowledge through imagery.
For the most part, you’re going to be generating revenue by selling pictures. But with those sales difficult to make, hard to depend on and dropping in value, any other asset that you can use to support your photography can only be a benefit.