Author Topic: Passive income - photography  (Read 1961 times)

gnesher

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Passive income - photography
« on: March 02, 2017, 05:05:23 AM »
Hi guys,

I've been following this forum (and blog obviously) for a few months and wanted to hear your thoughts / experiences with making some passive income through photography.

My situation is this, I'm an amateur photographer with about 8 years of experience doing mostly travel photography. I've recently started uploading photos to Society6 (an online store that sells prints etc.) and Shutterstock (micro stock photography, cheap images sold to advertiser).

After about 6 months im making around 15-20$ a month, which is a nice progression, but not a lot of money in absolute terms. I'm wondering if I should continue to pursue this or am I just banging my head against a wall here.

This is meant to make me some passive income (not replace full time job while I have one) but I'll need to make around 500$ a month for this to be worthwhile really.

Have you tried making money like this before? What was your experience? What are my chances?

J Boogie

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2017, 07:20:05 AM »
How many images have you uploaded?

swick

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2017, 08:20:36 AM »
I don't do stock photography because the only people who make substantial money at it are people with either a huge catalog or create pictures that have commercial appeal, often both.

Most everyone starts with travel photography, but that's not really what people want images of (for stock) They want images that will provide a return for them. People pictures, since they don't have to worry about model releases (but you do!) Pictures displaying specific and easy to recognize emotions. Pictures that are composed using design concepts and psychology to sell.

The people who do well with stock photography are those who are not trying to turn a hobby into sales, but those who are deliberately, consciously creating the most sellable work. That to me, is a job and not one I'm interested in at this point.

If you wanted to spend a little more active time on it, you could approach companies and organizations related to the places you travel and offer them digital use of the pictures directly. But again, that is not passive.

gnesher

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2017, 08:22:45 AM »
How many images have you uploaded?

around 600

therethere

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2017, 08:26:01 AM »
Have you personally ordered anything from Society6? I ask, because I've been disappointed in the quality of the prints when a larger size. I don't really trust their recommended maximum printable size its pretty pixelated. I sent back 2/4 larger prints I ordered. The frame I ordered was also pretty cheaply made as you could see the putty filling in the corner pieces (it wasn't sanded smooth and showed through the paint). Based on that, I've put a limit on the maximum size people can order so they don't get disappointed.
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limeandpepper

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2017, 08:30:48 AM »
I haven't tried it myself, but based on what I've read about stock photography, I would say people who're getting $500/month or more are doing really well, and are probably specifically shooting photos based on what their research indicates will sell based on market demand (rather than just shooting whatever they like for fun, then uploading it to a stock photo website to see if it will sell). From what I've observed, photos that involve generic things, and people doing generic things (and you'll need model releases for such pictures) seem to be where it's at.

gnesher

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2017, 09:05:28 AM »
Have you personally ordered anything from Society6? I ask, because I've been disappointed in the quality of the prints when a larger size. I don't really trust their recommended maximum printable size its pretty pixelated. I sent back 2/4 larger prints I ordered. The frame I ordered was also pretty cheaply made as you could see the putty filling in the corner pieces (it wasn't sanded smooth and showed through the paint). Based on that, I've put a limit on the maximum size people can order so they don't get disappointed.

I've only printed small / mid sized photos (personal preference) which were fine. It just seemed like the biggest / easiest to use print store - are there better alternatives?

ketchup

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2017, 09:06:36 AM »
My girlfriend is a showdog photographer, and focuses most on client work, but has been approached once for purchasing advertising rights of a photo by a dog food company that rhymes with Mestlé Burina.  That's been only taste of anything like passive income from her business.

In photography generally, in order to make any real money, you need to be outrageously good at what you do, and either very specialized (my GF has approximately three real competitors in the country, and maybe eight worldwide), or very well-connected or some distinguishing feature (for very saturated markets like family photography or wedding photography, and probably stock photography).

J Boogie

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2017, 10:18:05 AM »
How many images have you uploaded?

around 600

so we'll say you're making $20/mo on 600 images.  That's roughly 40 cents a year per image.  I suspect your hourly rate is pretty low given how much thought is required to compose and upload a picture.

I'd agree with ketchup about specializing.

NoStacheOhio

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2017, 12:13:58 PM »
Passive income on photography is kind of a unicorn. I won't say it never happens, but you have to be really, really lucky, even if you're good.

There's money in client work, but it's far from passive.

How are your video chops?
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gnesher

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2017, 01:45:58 AM »
My girlfriend is a showdog photographer, and focuses most on client work, but has been approached once for purchasing advertising rights of a photo by a dog food company that rhymes with Mestlé Burina.  That's been only taste of anything like passive income from her business.

In photography generally, in order to make any real money, you need to be outrageously good at what you do, and either very specialized (my GF has approximately three real competitors in the country, and maybe eight worldwide), or very well-connected or some distinguishing feature (for very saturated markets like family photography or wedding photography, and probably stock photography).

I've been approached once last year to buy one of my photos for an ad campaign (made 1500$) but that was pure luck. I was hoping other photographers are doing better but I'm guessing that's not really likely :/

gnesher

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2017, 01:46:48 AM »
Thanks everyone, that kinda answered my question.
Off to the next project :)

ketchup

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2017, 10:15:04 AM »
My girlfriend is a showdog photographer, and focuses most on client work, but has been approached once for purchasing advertising rights of a photo by a dog food company that rhymes with Mestlé Burina.  That's been only taste of anything like passive income from her business.

In photography generally, in order to make any real money, you need to be outrageously good at what you do, and either very specialized (my GF has approximately three real competitors in the country, and maybe eight worldwide), or very well-connected or some distinguishing feature (for very saturated markets like family photography or wedding photography, and probably stock photography).

I've been approached once last year to buy one of my photos for an ad campaign (made 1500$) but that was pure luck. I was hoping other photographers are doing better but I'm guessing that's not really likely :/
Probably not, unless that's your focus.  Photography as a whole is such a saturated market (any idiot with a camera thinks they're a photographer) that things tend to rarely just drop into your lap outside your specialty.

iowagirl

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2017, 10:58:16 AM »
I know a lady who does photography for her part time business. She does all of the school sports photos, senior pictures and family photos. She is good and doesn't charge an arm, leg and first born like most of them do. She makes really good money doing it even at low prices. She has a place she can print the photos for cheap or she will give you a disk so you can have your own printed, your choice.

Just thought that could be a good option for you to check out. Speaking of that I need to get in line for my son's senior pictures to be taken this summer.

CargoBiker

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2017, 09:20:22 PM »
In photography generally, in order to make any real money, you need to be outrageously good at what you do, and either very specialized (my GF has approximately three real competitors in the country, and maybe eight worldwide), or very well-connected or some distinguishing feature (for very saturated markets like family photography or wedding photography, and probably stock photography).

This really goes for any business.

Be good at it. Be specialized. Distinguish yourself from others.

"Me too" businesses rarely knock it out of the park.

CargoBiker

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #15 on: March 03, 2017, 09:24:01 PM »
Hi guys,

I've been following this forum (and blog obviously) for a few months and wanted to hear your thoughts / experiences with making some passive income through photography.

Have you thought about product photography?

Infinitely easier than photographing weddings and everything else a lot of photographers run around and do.

Infinitely less competition.

Your clients are businesses who need their products photographed. i.e. they have money to pay, and probably aren't cheap, or they would've done it themselves.


I pay an arm and a leg for a guy to do my product photos and they are truly exceptional. He's one of like 3 guys in my large metroplex that does this. His photos are really what got my business steam-rollin'.

maizeman

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #16 on: March 05, 2017, 09:37:58 AM »
Hi guys,

I've been following this forum (and blog obviously) for a few months and wanted to hear your thoughts / experiences with making some passive income through photography.

Have you thought about product photography?

Infinitely easier than photographing weddings and everything else a lot of photographers run around and do.

Infinitely less competition.

Your clients are businesses who need their products photographed. i.e. they have money to pay, and probably aren't cheap, or they would've done it themselves.


I pay an arm and a leg for a guy to do my product photos and they are truly exceptional. He's one of like 3 guys in my large metroplex that does this. His photos are really what got my business steam-rollin'.

I'd be curious if you have identified distinguishes a truly exceptional product photograph from a just alright one? I'm in the position of being bale to distinguish the difference if I see it, but I don't know what visual cues I'm picking up on. Anyway +1 to the importance of having professional looking product photos of things you are trying to sell.

I have a buddy from back in school who does the online sales thing (anime figurines of all things). He does his own product photography and posts many of results on facebook. It's not my thing (either the product photography or the anime) but it has been interesting to watch the curve from incredibly amateur looking to plausibly professional happening in real time. It sounds like a lot of his optimization has been in terms of improving his light box setup.
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swick

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #17 on: March 05, 2017, 10:33:41 AM »

I'd be curious if you have identified distinguishes a truly exceptional product photograph from a just alright one?

I'll bite :)

A - Technical Perfection: Properly lit, picture in focus, correct depth of field, correct color balance, framed appropriately. Product is correctly staged for the best appearance and to highlight specific features. Background and any other elements in the picture are chosen purposely and help with the narrative.

B - Clarity on Purpose/what you are selling besides the product. All of the above can be manipulated to tell the story you would like. Going back to the old adage "A picture is worth 1000 words" You have a 3-5 second window (at the most) to convey everything you want in a product shot or to entice the person to slow down and examine it further.

You need to be clear on your "why" before you start shooting. Every choice and technical/creative decision must support that goal.

Is your sole purpose to convey information, like an ebay listing? Okay, so you need to have the product take up most of the frame, be in crystal clear focus, with a filter or lighting that approximates the natural light the product will be viewed in. You want to choose a background that doesn't conflict with your item, if you use any colors you want to know color psychology to make sure that what you are using is sending the correct signals to the viewer's brain. How is the product best displayed? If it is clothing should it be on a mannequin or on a model? Do people need specific information in the picture like labels? Your product will be viewed as a thumbnail image, how do you make yours stand out? Put a border around it? Use a different colored background? Use text?

For larger products, what problem are you trying to solve and what story are you telling? Are you going to just feature the product itself? Will you show it in action? Do people really care about the product itself, or what it can do for them? What emotions or feelings are you trying to bring out? Is this a stand alone picture or part of a series? Is your purpose only to show the product once or be used longer in marketing? How do the pictures fit in with your overall brand? How will the pictures be used (example: website, print, blown up for banners) and what technical detail do you need?

All of the above questions in the ebay example matter, just more so, as there is more at stake and you want to create cohesive pictures that will last you a while and fill a variety of needs.

maizeman

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #18 on: March 05, 2017, 10:43:28 AM »
Swick, going in I was just thinking about A and it seemed like there were shapely sharply diminishing returns once you had an appropriate camera with the right DOF and the right quality of light coming from all the correct angles without a noisy or cluttered backdrop.

I hadn't even thought about item B, but that's clearly just as important if not more so, and explains why people continue to pay drastically more for the very best product photographers, thanks!
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CargoBiker

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #19 on: March 07, 2017, 11:51:23 AM »
I'd be curious if you have identified distinguishes a truly exceptional product photograph from a just alright one? I'm in the position of being bale to distinguish the difference if I see it, but I don't know what visual cues I'm picking up on. Anyway +1 to the importance of having professional looking product photos of things you are trying to sell.

Look at these photos, and then compare them to 99% of the photos on Amazon: http://www.imagealivestudios.com/product-photography/

I think the distinguishing feature is clarity. Just incredible clarity.   Lighting and post and everything else is good too.   

I think this dude shoots on a $50,000 red dragon camera though, so there may some barrier to entry to getting into real high-end product photography. I bet camera manufacturers can do financing though!
« Last Edit: March 07, 2017, 09:52:36 PM by CargoBiker »

swick

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #20 on: March 07, 2017, 11:56:00 AM »
Clarity, It ain't about the number of pixels, but the size of your sensor, son ;)

ketchup

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #21 on: March 07, 2017, 03:06:14 PM »
I think this dude shoots on a 50,000 red dragon camera though, so there may some barrier to entry to getting into real high-end product photography. I bet camera manufacturers can do financing though!
Can't open the link at work, but nobody needs a $50k camera.  My GF shoots on a $3500 Canon 5D Mark IV and one could definitely get by with less.  Your glass is where it counts.  A shitty lens in front of a good camera is a complete waste of time.  And once you hit "decent" cameras, better gear won't help you without better skills to match.

gaja

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #22 on: March 07, 2017, 03:33:01 PM »
I've uploaded around ~1000 photos to microstock sites, starting about 10 years ago. The last 4-5 years I've really not done a lot, but it is only the last year or so that the passive income has started dwindling, from about $100/month to closer to $50/month. I'm not in any way an artist, most of my photos are "ordinary object isolated on white background".

It is not at all a "get rich quick" thing, but "get a little bit of income very slowly but rather steadily". In fact, I think we have made more in tax deductions than income from photo sales. But I really like the concept of passive income, the feeling of accomplishment from making money on something I've thaught myself to do, and the idea of "I don't give a crap whether someone likes this stuff or not". In ordinary life, my work is important to me, and I'm struggling with this ambition thing. With the stock photos I couldn't care less.

I also make a few bucks from Zazzle sales now and then. Again; cool if someone buys it, don't care if they don't. I'm just having fun designing mugs with stupid puns. This one still makes me giggle every time I look at it, and it has made me $15: https://www.zazzle.co.uk/schist_happens_coffee_mug-168570539779580966
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NoStacheOhio

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #23 on: March 08, 2017, 06:23:49 AM »
I think this dude shoots on a 50,000 red dragon camera though, so there may some barrier to entry to getting into real high-end product photography. I bet camera manufacturers can do financing though!
Can't open the link at work, but nobody needs a $50k camera.  My GF shoots on a $3500 Canon 5D Mark IV and one could definitely get by with less.  Your glass is where it counts.  A shitty lens in front of a good camera is a complete waste of time.  And once you hit "decent" cameras, better gear won't help you without better skills to match.

Some people need $50k cameras. Also, a Red Dragon is a digital cinema camera, so using it for still product photography is a little silly. Generally, a DSLR with a tilt-shift lens ($$$) will be the most flexible option with the best results for product shots.

We just put in an order for a $13k camera and $25k in glass, and yes, we are absolutely going to use every bit of it.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2017, 06:25:39 AM by NoStacheOhio »
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CargoBiker

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #24 on: March 08, 2017, 07:27:37 AM »
Some people need $50k cameras. Also, a Red Dragon is a digital cinema camera, so using it for still product photography is a little silly. Generally, a DSLR with a tilt-shift lens ($$$) will be the most flexible option with the best results for product shots.

We just put in an order for a $13k camera and $25k in glass, and yes, we are absolutely going to use every bit of it.

He does video marketing as well.   

ketchup

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #25 on: March 08, 2017, 07:37:07 AM »
I think this dude shoots on a 50,000 red dragon camera though, so there may some barrier to entry to getting into real high-end product photography. I bet camera manufacturers can do financing though!
Can't open the link at work, but nobody needs a $50k camera.  My GF shoots on a $3500 Canon 5D Mark IV and one could definitely get by with less.  Your glass is where it counts.  A shitty lens in front of a good camera is a complete waste of time.  And once you hit "decent" cameras, better gear won't help you without better skills to match.

Some people need $50k cameras. Also, a Red Dragon is a digital cinema camera, so using it for still product photography is a little silly. Generally, a DSLR with a tilt-shift lens ($$$) will be the most flexible option with the best results for product shots.

We just put in an order for a $13k camera and $25k in glass, and yes, we are absolutely going to use every bit of it.
I should have said nobody needs a $50k stills camera.  I didn't realize it was a cinema camera, that makes much more sense.  And yes, using such a beast for product photography seems a bit strange.  A DSLR seems much more practical for the job, in addition to being 10x cheaper...

NoStacheOhio

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #26 on: March 08, 2017, 09:02:07 AM »
I think this dude shoots on a 50,000 red dragon camera though, so there may some barrier to entry to getting into real high-end product photography. I bet camera manufacturers can do financing though!
Can't open the link at work, but nobody needs a $50k camera.  My GF shoots on a $3500 Canon 5D Mark IV and one could definitely get by with less.  Your glass is where it counts.  A shitty lens in front of a good camera is a complete waste of time.  And once you hit "decent" cameras, better gear won't help you without better skills to match.

Some people need $50k cameras. Also, a Red Dragon is a digital cinema camera, so using it for still product photography is a little silly. Generally, a DSLR with a tilt-shift lens ($$$) will be the most flexible option with the best results for product shots.

We just put in an order for a $13k camera and $25k in glass, and yes, we are absolutely going to use every bit of it.
I should have said nobody needs a $50k stills camera.  I didn't realize it was a cinema camera, that makes much more sense.  And yes, using such a beast for product photography seems a bit strange.  A DSLR seems much more practical for the job, in addition to being 10x cheaper...

Some of the medium format stuff gets up that high once you add in all the stuff you need with it, but if you're shooting Vogue covers, nobody is going to argue.

He does video marketing as well.

There you go, though using a Red for that would drive me nuts. I already don't like using them for their intended purpose.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2017, 09:05:28 AM by NoStacheOhio »
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Ox05

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #27 on: March 12, 2017, 02:05:56 PM »
I've been doing a similar thing licensing music on websites like Pond 5 and Envato's Audio Jungle. I make a few hundred dollars a month (http://www.stockmusicmusician.com/earnings-reports/), but would love to try to scale it up some.
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Smokystache

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Re: Passive income - photography
« Reply #28 on: March 13, 2017, 08:56:21 AM »
I'm not a photographer, but I have purchased over 200 images from stock image sites to use in my printed materials. Maybe I don't look on enough sites, but I'm always having trouble finding business-related images that aren't used by lots of other companies.

For example, I've seen many of the same couples used multiple times:
(I do not use this stock image website, I do not have any pictures posted on this website, there is no referral bonus or anything): https://www.123rf.com/stock-photo/financial_planner.html

In my limited experience, you could increase your profit by including more variations of the popular images - especially business-related images. In short, buy pictures that people are looking for and what fewer photographers want to spend time taking.