If you’re a freelance photographer, you’re probably feeling some financial stress caused by the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak by now. This is an unprecedented and stressful situation for just about everyone: social distancing is in effect, businesses are temporarily closed, and events are postponed or canceled. All of this doesn’t exactly leave much room for traditional photoshoots, so it’s time for photographers to get creative and come up with inventive ways to make money during COVID-19.
The good news is that as a photographer, creativity likely comes naturally to you. There are lots of ways you can still earn money without risking your health or that of those around you. Check out our roundup of ideas for how photographers can make money during COVID-19 for all the inspiration you need during this difficult time. Who knows, you might even end up growing your business in unexpected ways!
Sell your photo prints online
Since photographers can’t really book new photoshoots during COVID-19, it’s a good idea to think of ways to make money online until social distancing recommendations are lifted. There is no better time than the present to create or update your online store to reflect your best work and maximize your sales. We’ve even created a guide to optimize your Format Store to make print fulfillment as easy as possible.
The easiest way to do this is to use a website builder that has a built-in e-commerce platform so that you don’t have to deal with plug-ins. Go through your archive and include any shots that you think are worthy, and make it easy for your potential customers to make a decision by clearly displaying prices for different print sizes.
This option is best for photographers who specialize in types of photography that people might want to display in their homes. Landscape photographers, we’re looking at you!
You can also run temporary promotions for the duration of COVID-19, like a discount if people purchase multiples of your prints at once, to encourage larger orders. Leverage your mailing list or social media accounts to remind people that photo prints make an awesome gift that they can have shipped directly to their loved ones.
Create a home product photography studio
If you’re lucky enough to have a home photography studio, or even enough equipment and some space to create a makeshift studio, you just might be able to put it to use for some extra photography income during COVID-19.
One way to do this is by shooting product photos. Maybe you’re already a product photographer, in which case you know the ropes. But even if you aren’t, this is a service you can offer while still maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Many other businesses might be using this time to update their websites and create new content for Instagram, which is a great chance for you to sell more photos. Just have them mail their product to you, and create product photography magic from your home.
Sell online photography workshops
COVID-19 has many people stuck at home with more time on their hands than usual, and lots of them are turning to online course providers like Skillshare to learn new skills. Why not give them an option to support an independent entrepreneur by selling photography workshops online?
If you’re comfortable speaking to a larger crowd (even if they are just watching you online), you can host an online Zoom workshop on Photography 101, or on a more specific aspect of photography that you specialize in. If you’d rather provide one-on-one classes, that’s an even better way to gear your lessons to your client’s specific needs.
Your workshops or lessons don’t have to be limited to photography: what other skills do you have that you can share with others? Maybe you can provide Adobe Creative Suite guidance, or share freelancer business tips.
Create an ebook
Okay, maybe the whole teaching online thing isn’t for you. If the thought of doing a live presentation adds more stress to an already stressful situation, another way for photographers to make money during COVID-19 is to create and sell online resources, such as ebooks.
The cool thing about creating ebooks or PDF resources for purchase is that you only have to create them once, and if they do well they might be a steady source of income for your photography business even when you can return to your usual photography gigs.
Your e-book could be a guide for beginner photographers, your top tips for night sky photography, a guide to the best poses for couple photographs—basically, anything that you’re particularly knowledgeable about and don’t mind sharing with the world!
Sell Lightroom presets online
Are you an Adobe Lightroom master? If you regularly use Lightroom, you might already have some go-to presets that you created and use regularly. A great way for photographers to make money during COVID19 is to make and sell Lightroom presets.
Try bundling your presets into kits that reflect a certain style. Rather than throwing together a few random presets, group them by category such as “analog” for presets that give you digital photos a vintage analog feel, or “black & white” for presets that create beautiful black and white shots from color originals. You can add these to your online store, or even use an online marketplace such as Etsy to get them out to a wider audience.
Sell Photoshop actions online
Another way to make money during COVID19 as a photographer is to make and sell Photoshop actions. Photoshop actions allow your customers to create unique effects that they might otherwise find difficult to achieve on their own.
Just like with Lightroom presets, creating appealing and marketable bundles is important if you want your Photoshop actions to sell. This is also a good chance to brush up those product description writing skills to come up with copy that will make your actions stand out in the market and entice customers to buy them.
Sell future photography services
If your clients have the resources to pay up-front for gigs that will take place after social distancing regulations have been lifted, offering them a discount now for future services is a great way to make extra money during COVID-19.
For example, a corporate headshot photographer could offer a 20% discount off of their usual rate for a session that will take place once people can return to their office.
Maybe your clients don’t have a specific photoshoot in mind, but they would like to support your small business. In this case, another option is to offer discounted gift cards to use for future products or services. You can include these in your online store for easy purchasing.
Remember, this is a financially challenging time for many people and your clients may have less cash available for professional photography at the moment. This idea will work best if your client targets have the cash flow to pay for a gig now that may not take place for months. The future is unknown at the moment, so it’s important that both parties be flexible in terms of when the future shoot will take place.
Take family porch portraits
With many families self isolating and leaving the home for essential trips only, the porch portrait has become a new portrait category during COVID19. This is especially relevant to you if you’re a family photographer, since you’ll be able to put your knowledge of the best family portrait poses to use.
Remember to maintain a safe distance, and ideally to stay within your area so that you are not traveling any large distances unnecessarily.
Photograph your neighborhood during COVID-19
While trips outside of the home should be limited, why not bring your camera along on your walk to the grocery store? Chances are, your neighborhood is looking pretty different these days with carless streets and empty sidewalks.
Use your trips out of the house for essential travel to capture this strange time we find ourselves in, and use the best shots to create prints for your online store. If you’re a photojournalist or street photographer, you’re probably already carrying your camera with you everywhere, and your prints could really capture a unique moment in your community.
Work on driving traffic to your site with search engine optimization
In the pre-COVID-19 era, you may have been too busy planning and executing photoshoots and trying to land new clients to sit down and really work on your website’s SEO. While this isn’t a direct way to make money as a photographer during COVID-19, it’s a great way to get more eyes on your work. Building SEO strategies into your website is an important part of making and maintaining a photography website.
Who knows, spending some time optimizing your website now could lead to more gigs in the future, more print sales now, and more people signing up for your email list.
Submit your photos to get published
Some online publications will pay if your photographs are published on their platform. This is a great time to go through that archive and submit your work to online or print magazines that would be a good fit. You could earn a little extra money with your photography, while also reaching new potential clients.
You can increase your chances of getting your work published by making sure that your pitch is super refined and clear, and that you’re speaking directly to a specific audience. It’s best not to send out a generic pitch, since the person reading it will most likely be able to tell and it will feel like you didn’t put much effort into contacting them.
A great tool for sharing photo galleries with potential publications is to create a private, password-protected proofing gallery just for them with shots that you would like to submit. That way, they can view beautifully presented, high-res photos without you having to send a large attachment or compromise the quality of your photos. Look for a website builder that has proofing galleries built right in.
Take courses to boost your skillset
We talked about offering courses, but another way to boost your earning potential during COVID19 is to take some courses yourself. Is there an aspect of your business that you think you could get better at? For example, would mastering some video skills make you more valuable to your customers?
This is a good time to round out your own skillset so that you can offer more to your clients and increase your earning potential.
Maintain your relationships
Remember, it’s more difficult and expensive to capture a new client than to retain an existing one! Take a few moments to send a note to your existing clients to see how they’re doing, to wish them well, or just to let them know that you’re thinking of them. Adding a personal touch to your communication is a great way to ace your client relations, and ensure they remember you when the time comes to hire a photographer again in the future.
There’s no doubt about it, COVID-19 has dramatically changed our lives and our work, and no one knows exactly how long it will be before our routines can regain a semblance of normality. Just because you can’t plan in-person photoshoots doesn’t mean your skills can’t be put to use to earn money during COVID-19. After all, being a creative entrepreneur is all about being flexible, resourceful, and innovative!
Want more ideas for earning money online as a photographer? Read on:
How To License an Image: A Beginner’s Guide
How To Create Stock Photography That Sells
How Four Artists Use Their Website to Sell Their Work