How to Keep Your Job and Be a Part Time Photographer

Photography: coxy

Not everyone wants to be a full-time photographer. There are plenty of people who love shooting images and taking beautiful pictures — and who still want to keep doing a day job they enjoy and which they can count on to pay the mortgage.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t also turn their photography skills into a source of income.

Here’s how you can do it…

Moonlight at Evening Weddings
For most professional photographers, events are their bread and butter, the one sort of job they can rely on for high-value sales. But many events take place in the evening and at weekends, making them an opportunity for part-time photographers who aren’t available from nine to five.

The time limitations might mean you have to be a little selective — photographers are usually the first to reach the aisle so you might have to be quick out of the office door — and you’ll need enough talent and good samples to compete. But if you don’t mind the odd late night followed by an early morning for work the next day, wedding photography could make a fun second job.

Take a Little Extra with Microstock
If the idea of spending your spare time drinking Champagne and eating salmon or chicken doesn’t thrill, then microstock could be a good alternative.

We talk about microstock a lot here because it’s an easy way to make your first image sale. Remember though that to get the multiple downloads and permanent customer base that top microstock photographers rely on, you need to shoot commercial images that sell, not offer your top artistic shots and hope someone will buy them because they’re nice.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can shoot microstock whenever you want. While top-earning microstock photographers shoot full-time, you can generate some useful extra income by shooting at the weekends and editing and uploading in the evenings.

Sell Photography Products
Photos aren’t the only things that photographers can sell. Put your images on t-shirts, mousepads or magnets and you’ll have a whole new way of converting your talent into income. Zazzle and Qoop are two places that let you create photography products but you should also be able to find local printers that can produce at a high enough quality for you to start marketing at craft fairs, stores and online.

You could even team up with a designer and put your photos to a truly original use.

Write a Book
It’s the dream of almost every photographer — professional or amateur: to create a photography book that contains their images and which people are actually prepared to buy. Low-cost, print-on-demand services like Blurb have now made that possible.

But the same principle that applies to microstock applies to creating photography books — if you’re as interested in selling them as you are in making them, they need to be commercial. The easiest way to do that is to think about the subject matter as well as the composition. Local landmarks could sell well in nearby bookstores; cuddly animals tend to sell well.

You’ll still be able to take the shots you enjoy in the time you have available but you’ll be getting paid for them too.

Check out our post on becoming a wedding photographer and tell us how you manage to fit your photography around a full-time job.

[tags] part time photographer, freelance photographer [/tags]

8 comments for this post.

  1. Lincoln Barbour Said:

    Microstock is an awful business model. By selling your photos on sites like this, not only are you devaluing photography prices in general, but you are losing money every time you sell a photograph.

    If you want to get a real idea of how much it costs to be a professional photographer, even a part time one, then do yourself a favor and learn about Cost of Doing Business. You'll never sell a photograph for $.25 again.

    Here's a CODB calculator provided by the National Press Photographers Associaton:

  2. David Said:

    I consistently make a $100 a month from a small portfolio of 120 photos that I have not added to for over a year.

    There is a lot of money to be made from microstock if the quality of your work can be applied commercially, the market has changed with a lot of small companies (website designers, marketing firms)catering to other small businesses who need need a website or print work done.

    No longer is there just a market for selling images to large corporations and govt agencies and small business related stock is now an ifinitely larger market than the traditional large corporation market of old.

    Those who say it is awful do not understand the microstock model and have never tried it, and most of them most probably still shoot only in film.

  3. Ed Said:

    Microstock is a double edge sword. Fortunately, I am a designer and photographer and see the benefits of both the microstock agencies and the regular stock agencies. I also know the drawbacks as well.

    I have a lot of small business clients that can't afford full blown rights managed images. As a designer, I rely on Microstocks to help give them an improved image. This helps their bottom line as well as their identity. In turn it makes me look better as a designer.

    Even with that said, you have to look very thoroughly on microstock sites for a quality image, whereas on the larger stock sites its a much easier task to find, but albeit more expensive.

    I think they both have a place, however can admit, the ms-sites have really cut into the larger ones, which is likely why getty bought istock.

    As a part time photographer, I really rely on my event work for my revenue and don't contribute any to microstock sites as even there, the commissions are low (< 20%). I can make much on an assignment job that generic stock.

  4. Gregor Said:

    Microstock is is like playing the lottery - everyone loses in order to support a system that celebrates the one in a billion "winner" which is all done to distract from the fact that only the corporation that's created the system is winning and it's doing it by destroying the market.

    Yeah, it's a great idea. You can have a fun career with no work at all...

  5. Djabues Said:

    Microstock works and you can make a little bit of change on it BUT don't sell your best stuff.
    I have an "alt" persona for my Microstock sites where I dump my not so great photos and left overs from projects.

    I keep the good stuff for me and real clients.

    In no way should you consider this a source of any real income. But it's a good way to get some money on crap you would otherwise never use.

  6. Ivan Said:


    Just shoot weddings part time and make 10-15k extra every year.


  7. Joni Griffin Said:

    I just had to write..THANK YOU THANK YOU! I love to create concept photos and have decided to join the stock photo market. I bought your book "Digital Photography" yesterday and not only read the whole thing last night but can't seem to stop reading from all your sites today. You have taught me so much already! The information you share is invaluable and is so appreciated.
    Joni Griffin
    Conceptual Intentions

  8. jeni Said:

    I have taken the Weddings Route... the hard thing is saying no. I only accept one a month to keep it fair and keep me sane. Then in between there are meetings with the bride, portraits, family photos and the list never ends. But that "one special photo" keeps me coming back. Oh, and the groom that hugs and says I'm the best!

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