Secret Behind Becoming a Successful Freelance Photographer

Do you love photography? But don’t want to get into the hassles of running a business? No problem! You can brush up your photography skills and convert yourself from being an amateur photographer to a freelance photographer to make money. Learning how to become a freelance photographer may be a career move that you have been craving. But it is not that easy and simple. The hardship and the man-hours that go into the line of work often stops many aspiring photographers from achieving their goal.

Though you may be skilled and efficient, the expenses on equipment may drain out your finances only to put you out of business. Let’s figure out what’s essential for freelancing in this sector!

Essential tools for photography

Photography is one of the most expensive sectors in the creative field. Hence, you must be aware of the equipment list before you jump into business. Let’s check what all is needed:


The first piece of equipment that you need to rely on is a DSLR camera. This is the base of your photography equipment. As you develop your skills you would know that you need to invest more in the lens than on camera.


The next vital piece of equipment is the camera lens. A well-rounded collection of lenses is important for your photography work. But that does not mean you need to invest a lot in your camera. Rather choose the lens that suits your work perfectly.

Editing software:

Invest in some professional-level editing software for processing your photos before delivery. Giving out unfinished photos to your clients will only minimize the chances of getting back your existing clients.

Invoicing and bookkeeping software:

Freelance work also involves proper and efficient financial management for which you need some great bookkeeping and invoicing software. These will help you to create professional estimates, convert them into invoices and send them immediately to the clients as soon as you are done with your work.

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So before we start discussing how to become a freelance photographer, let’s figure out what are the estimated expenses to start this business.

Approximate budgetary requirement for a freelance photographer

Items are mostly one-time purchases and the prices mentioned below are based upon the yearly estimates.

Camera2$1500-$2000 each
LensesMultiple$1000 each
Memory cardsMultiple$50+ each
External drives2$120 each
Computer or laptop with enough memory1$2500
Photoshop and Lightroom subscription$120 per year
Business license$180(variable)
Insurance and accounting$930 per year(variable)
ContractsUp to $1000(variable)
Online proof gallery$120 per year
Business card$25+
Optional cost(training, workshop, camera bags, studio and workspace, computer, printed marketing material, etc)approximately$3500

Besides the above list, there could probably be a few more additional costs as well and the total amount would be around $10,000 or more depending upon your requirements.

Fact Check

  • There are over 12k freelance photographers in the US.
  • The average salary of freelance photographers in the US is nearly around $52k.
  • The starting salary is around $44k and it can rise up to $62k or more.
  • 16% of the total freelance photographer population in the US belongs to the LGBT community.
Whether running a full-fledged photography business or freelancing, you need to have a good understanding of the photography techniques. Follow the below guidelines to get a clear idea!

Steps to start as a freelance photographer

To get your business off the ground we are here with some useful tips that would answer your question- how to become a freelance photographer.

1. Buy your equipment:

Investing in quality equipment is worth every single dollar. This will boost your confidence to perform well in your job. Needless to say, you need a good quality camera for your job. Besides, you need a lens, reflector, diffusers, and lights to create high-quality images. Out of all such equipment, good lenses are important. To know more check out our guide on steps to estimate photography jobs.

2. Decide your niche:

What do you prefer to click- wedding photos or commercials? Decide on your niche before you start with your freelance projects. This is because you will be working for clients hence, you need to specify your genre to attract clients and offer them services accordingly.

3. Develop your website:

Your freelance photography business needs a professional website to highlight your work. You need some medium to boost your clicks to the potential clients to gain more projects. Numerous online software can help you with designing an effective and attractive website that you would work as your online portfolio.

4. Design your portfolio:

A strong portfolio is a must for freelance photographers to highlight some of your unique and appreciable masterpieces which would help you to stand out from your competitors. When you’re starting you can do some free work to build your portfolio. You can approach models who are looking for photographers for their modeling portfolios. This way both of you will be benefited in their field.

5. Get your first project:

Online platforms are a very effective medium that would help you to get your first project. You can look for platforms like Pinterest where you can post your photographs to attract clients. There are even some sites that allow you to write blogs to keep your potential clients updated about work and skills. Sending a newsletter is also a great way to keep in touch with your existing clients for future projects.

6. Create your schedule:

Being a freelancer it would always be your dream to expand your business. Managing your tasks and tracking your appointments, assignments, and meetings at the same time could be an ordeal. Hence, you would need an online or digital calendar that would keep your appointments updated and will help your clients to know when you are available. Incorporating such software would avoid missing out on even a single client at any point of your business tenure.

7. Edit before delivery:

Keyway to become successful in your photography business is to create such amazing works that would awestruck your clients and would compel them to keep coming back. Therefore, it is vital to present them fully edited and finished work before you officially deliver the assignments. Editing involves enhancing skin tone, color balancing, fixing light, background adjustments, and many more.

8. Track your finances:

Being in charge of your salary may seem scary, especially after working for someone else. Managing your income and expenses is a big challenge when it comes to freelance business. Take the help of online software to track your expenses, sending invoices, creating estimates, and others. This will safeguard your business from losses and will segregate the expenses as well as out-of-pocket purchases.

9. Attend workshops for better understanding:

Brushing up your skills and upgrading yourself is essential for all types of businesses. Photography also demands timely skill up-gradation so that you can stand out from the crowd. Attend workshops and sign up in various photography communities to engage in online courses and various other activities. This will not only help you sharpen your skills but will also help you enlarge your network for receiving more projects.

10. Enhance your skills:

Boost your confidence and hone your skills to become a successful professional photographer. Gather experiences from previous assignments and note down what worked and what didn’t. This will help you analyze your flaws and make necessary improvements.

Do you know?
California and NY top the market list for photography jobs. Alaska and Wyoming are at the bottom of the list.

Let’s check out the section below to understand the market range of freelance photography!

Additional ways to make money through freelance photography

Extra income is always tempting and beneficial for a change as well as boosting your business finances. Here are some of the money-making outlets for your photography work.

  1. Stock photography: There are mainly two types of stock photography one is the paid one and the other free. For paid one, you put up a price for your photography and also give the rights of using it for commercial or personal purposes. Many online platforms are available that would help you with this process. Next, the free method has no such restriction. You offer your photo for free where the one who wants to purchase it gets it by paying a price. There are online platforms like Pixabay that help you with this process as well.
  2. Artworks: Whether professional or amateur, most of them see their work as art. As an income outlet, you can sell your photographs as artworks in various craft fairs or farmer’s markets. This will help you to exhibit your skills and attract potential clients.
  3. Contract work: Some photographers work on a contract basis to cover local events or other occasions on a monthly or yearly basis.
  4. Commercial photography: Some photographers are also involved in creating web images for businesses or other companies, capturing photos of products or services, facilities, and even a headshot of their board members.
  5. Real estate: Some real estate owners contact photographers to take photos of the house, room, business properties, or even 360-degree video footage.
  6. Glamour: Freelance photographers are appointed also by the modelers for creating their portfolios. One can even ask them to create images after getting a total makeup and nice hairdo by professional makeup artists.
  7. Pets: People in the pet breeding business ask photographers to take adorable pictures of various pets for their websites or for other marketing purposes.
  8. Sports: Freelance photographers get a wide market in the sports sector as well. Sports organizations appoint them to take professional images and videos of specific events like marathons, bike races, etc.
  9. Miscellaneous: Besides the above list, freelance photographers also get assignments from the entertainment sector for covering musical events, by food bloggers for exclusive images of food items, product images for companies, and even images or video footage for local news.
This creative field demands great marketing and advertising skills to get your business afloat. Let’s discuss more on this!

Advertising mediums for your photography

The photography sector is quite tricky and therefore, you need well-established platforms to boost your skills.

  1. Official website: Official websites are always the best place to showcase your skills. It serves as an online portfolio and helps your potential clients to have a detailed insight into your services.
  2. Instagram profile: Next comes the social media platforms that have been an engaging option nowadays. Instagram handles are among the popular social and online platforms that serve as a great medium to uphold your photography skills. You get numerous views that open doors for new opportunities.
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Wrapping up!

There are no such traditional guidelines to follow for becoming successful as a freelance photographer. But yes the useful tips in this article will surely help you out to deal with the tricky route maps of the photography field. What are you waiting for? No worries anymore! Get on with your dream project now.