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Photography Genres to Make You Money
Commercial photography isn’t just about shooting products or portraits. From architecture to wedding photography, there are plenty of potential markets for photography.
In this class, Karl discusses the different genres of photography, providing an overview of how each works in a commercial sense and talks about the demand for each. He also looks at the skills you need as a photographer and talks about what skills he believes will be useful for the future.
In this class:
- Types of commercial photography
- How you can make money from photography
- Ways to get into/start photography
- Essential skills for photographers
- Additional skills photographers should have
Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.
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I had a good laugh at the 14 min mark as I had a friend who agreed to shoot a couples wedding (for cash) and complete loused it up.
😊 Not so good for the wedding couple, although they should have done their due diligence!
I wonder if you need to add a little something about the balance of 3D product “photography”, which is really 3D produced and entirely rendered imagery which can be pretty serious competition to product photography, or can be integrated into the pipeline and combined with product photography. In the past I have used 3Dmax, dabbled in Maya and have recently worked with Blender (which is free). 3D is not product photography.. it is such an entirely different process. The lights are created differently and have similar characteristics which can be applied to a scene to emulate modifiers on real lights. Real world lighting knowledge can be useful and perhaps even make the difference in exceptional 3D rendering. But I do see 3D as a threat to the viability of product photography as a business going forward. The clients are going to drive this depending on what they view as acceptable representation of products in advertising. I do want to be realistic. I am working hard to develop the photographic skills to provide a living, but am I investing smartly? Should I be really worried about the disruptive possibilities of 3D on product photography? I am getting a growing feeling that I need to revisit those skills and make a greater effort to marry the result. Where do you see this landing going forward as you are more familiar with actual costs of these two competitive industries?
Hi Gary, I see it as a growing threat to still life photographers that have no experience with 3D, for those willing to embrace it then it will just be another service you can offer in conjunction with photography in the same way that many of the top still photographers now offer full video/director services too. I think 3D could be a major factor in 5 years on from now. We’re actually working with 3d artists at the moment on a series of new classes to bring to you our members.
I love your videos and they way you can explain things in easy way. So much value in so little membership cost 🙂 I have a question. Have been reading lots of books and tutorials about copyrights, contracts, trademarks etc. All there available, is heavy based on US laws and copyrights there are completely different to UK and Europe. I’m fairly new to photography and guessing my question here is – can I take lot of pictures of well know brands products purely to grow my portfolio and showcase on website, without actually taking assignment from them? Would that be trademarked and not allowed? I read in few articles, if you are not earning from this directly it should be ok? but I’m getting a mix message. Since you are a monster of commercial photography, can you please advise or how to get around it?
Hi JD, Yes is the short answer and you will hear me talk about it in many of the classes on here. Their are some caveats to that though, the first is that the photo shouldn’t show the brand detrimentally or they could request you remove it. Brands also like to ensure their brand looks good as you can imagine, so they are usually accepting of good photography as it just further advertises their brand. The one thing you definitely can’t do though is add a logo of the brand ontop of the picture unless you actually shot it for the brand or a commercial for the brand. For example I have some shots in my commercial website that do this but they show the image in the context it was used in the actual advert so that is acceptable but it would be considered false advertising to do that otherwise. Generally speaking I know many top product photographers who shoot for big brands who also include test shots on their site of other brand products that they have not yet shot for (including me) and as long as the imagery doesn’t project anything negative then I think you’ll be OK. In saying that if it’s for ‘artistic’ reasons then it seems you can get away with some things as you will see in the work of Tyler Shields for example. I hope this helps, all the best Karl.
I’ve decided to get a photography business going this year. I’m currently in the planning phase. Right now there’s one aspect which is tricky for me to figure out. Is it a better idea to put all my time and energy into one genre of photography (e.g. portraits), or have several different genres to try to pull in jobs? Will I stretch myself too thin with more than one? Or might I sink myself with all my eggs in one basket?
I’m ready to give it a real shot, and your materials are a huge help. Your lighting classes are the best, bar none.
Hi Dave, that’s great to hear and I wish you the best of luck. First off though it’s important to be realistic so I suggest you watch these two videos if you haven’t already
Then in answer to your question I’d say it’s good to have a focus or a genre that you wish to succeed in. But it is very unlikely given the current circumstances that you would succeed as a new photographer in just one genre to begin with. Most photographers starting out cover their bases by offering a few things, simply because they have to. As success grows then you can think about concentrating on one thing, however make sure that the ‘one thing’ is the one thing you enjoy otherwise it will all be for nothing. Cheers Karl.
What I find refreshing about your teaching style is your honesty. Many who teach it are not as honest so it is very difficult to get answers to problems we encounter. Photography in my experience is very hard to break into. I was a second shooter for a wedding photographer, did a wedding photography course, but there are too many people competing with you who have already made a name for themselves. I tried food, all the magazines I approached were wanting someone already experienced and like you said wanted someone skilled with shooting food in studios and working with food stylists. I then was given the idea to approach cafes etc, but they were not interested either.
Marketing is hard, and costs money. Many photographers end up teaching it. I would like to know more about the success stories from your students. The food photographer you had on your show, I haven’t watched all the videos yet, but did she tell you the story of how she got into it. Was it through an agency, and how can you impress an agency, or approach them and where are they. Who are the agencies that could hire us after learning all your skills. You have taught me a lot already, in the week since I joined, I now look at my images and think I need to do them all again 🙂
I sell stock images, have over 1000 images on the site, and lucky to make £100 a year. I believe we do get ripped off, 25p for a photograph, even less sometimes, its a joke, but the government do nothing about it.
I love the creation process, and spend a lot of money creating, buying the food, props, equipment etc. I may make 25p on the stock image, but I may have spent £50 creating it.
I would love more insight into how people got their break. Actors talk about it all the time, how they got their big break, but photographers and not keen to reveal their secrets because after all we are all competition in the end, and that’s what makes it an elitist profession.
Hi Tracey, Thank you for your comments. I don’t believe ‘big break’ is that common in photography. For many of my established colleagues and myself included it took many years of struggle and tenacity to get anywhere, often assisting other photographers for a couple of years helped speed up our knowledge of the industry but photography has always been a tough one to be very successful. It’s like music or acting, you can make a living playing pubs and clubs but very few will be doing a stadium concert. Also you will be surprised how many ‘successful’ photographers have found themselves struggling especially in current times. You’re right about honesty, I like to tell it straight and the realities of the industry such as in this video – https://visualeducation.com/class/honest-business-advice/ and in this one – https://visualeducation.com/class/live-business-advice-for-photographers-2/ I don’t want to kid anyone that they are going to be successful. We are here to provide a platform that gives people the necessary skills to produce top level work and without that they can never be successful but what happens from there is often down to tenacity, marketing ability, skill and ultimately ‘supply and demand’ which is covered in those videos. I can tell you of many students that I’ve seen with great work who’ve haven’t had success because they weren’t cut out for business or have the right personality. I’ve also seen students like David Lund who have grown incredibly and had a lot of ups and downs but through tenacity they’ve found success, I also know of other successful students who won’t allow us to use them as examples because they want to protect their image and not reveal how they learnt some of their skills. It’s an unusual market and in 25 years of studio photography I’ve worked with some of the best and seen some of the worst but there is nothing that will guarantee success but there are plenty of things that will guarantee a lack of success the most important being ones willingness to try and to improve.
Thanks for your reply Karl.
I found your course by chance, with this youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyqNpKK8_-k
It would though be a really great advertisement for your course to show the success stories of your students.
Another business idea would be for you to also set up your own photographic agency and source work to your students 🙂
Hi Tracey, that’s a good idea regarding a blog post showing the success of students past and present, we’ll look into that, although as I mentioned we have some past students that don’t want it to be publicly known what they learnt or how they learnt it but I’m sure we can find enough to put something together. I’m afraid the Agency idea isn’t something we have time to do as that is a mammoth business involving dealing with clients, production meetings, etc and there are already many agencies that exist and of course we are an education business and that is where our focus needs to remain.
Good to know! Thank you.
I notice you don’t mention landscape as a genre to make money in photography in this video. Is it not an area that commands any value or would it come under stock? And if not stock, do you think there is a market to make an income out of landscape photography?
Hi Adam, I don’t believe there is any significant market for landscape photography anymore as this area became far too competetive.
Thank you so much for your commitments to share with us your passion for photography. I personally really enjoy the courses.
I am a newbie photographer from Madagascar .
I have been working in the travel industry and would like to run a travel photography blog .
I like capturing spontaneous moment like an interesting subject in the local market, on the street, wildlife and people. … All the things related to outdoor photography and photojournalism.
Do you think that it is a juicy business nowadays ?
Should I narrow down my niche to get the most of this business ?
Do you have any advices and thoughts for that project ?
Hi Nandih, honestly no I don’t as there is too many people shooting this sort of stuff and selling it as stock images through micro stock sites. Only if your journalism was at the very best level might you be employed by a magazine etc but this would take years of work and dedication. Travel, hospitality, tourism and service industry type images might be more lucrative in your area combined with some of the cultural stuff your talking about and some good landscapes. It’s possible that a committed photographer based in Madagascar could create a high quality image library just on Madagascar that was well used but it would take several years to build up to this.
I just joined few days ago. And learning every single time that i play your videos. Been doing photography for few decades by now. I know this was posted few years ago. So what would it be the new direction of/for photography. Where do you see yourself heading to.. Any tips???
Hi Randall I’m doing a live show on Business Advice today at 3pm UK time so please join us to ask your questions live.
Do you have a template of contract we can follow regarding the licensing part?
Hi Ronnel, I think you will find the terms and conditions template in the downloads section covers that?
First of all, I would like to thank you for these very rich lessons in one place.
Let say, I am interested to invest in a turnatable and program for 360° spin photography. What you think about this kind of comercial photography for e-shops? is it worth or not?
I really enjoy the courses. Best investment ever, photography wise.
I saw the stock photos part of the video and was wondering what’s better: microstock agencies or your own site.
I know that the former pays small amounts but your work gets viewed by a lot of people.
With the latter you need to create awareness and drive traffic to your site in order to sell (an there are other costs involved, like domain name, hosting, etc).
What’s your opinion on this?
Have a great day!
Hi Gabriel, I’m afraid i’ve not tried micro stock but a guy called Yuri Accors I believe used to generate more than a million a year from it 10 years ago! I sell some of my images as stock from my site to clients who just come across them etc
Thanks Karl. I’ll look up Yuri and see what I can find. 😀
I wonder how I could combine my CGI background (products and archviz) with my passion for photography…
It’s interesting to see Alan’s comment in this session feed as I am also in a similar environment where I specialise in 360° photos for virtual tours and very likely will need to also move into 3D for both still and video as the VR world continues to grow.
Unfortunately, the virtual tour photography space has turned into a bit of a ‘cowboy’ space but that’s expected when something is new and the latest ‘wow’.
With that in mind, are you getting much interest in this space?
This is interesting, As a degree trained illustrator (2002), i have been 3d modelling all sorts from architectural models to whole surveyed landscapes, mainly for the construction and town planning industries for the last 15 years. I have run my own business for the last 3 years and always been interested in commercial photography, its always been a part of my workflow in creating textures and backgrounds for the 3d models. I am now embarking on using my photography skills commercially in its own right, so sort of coming in from the opposite angle!
just signed up to this via monthly fee, and so far loving your honesty, very much appreciated 🙂
Thanks Alan, there are a lot of photography colleagues of mine using 3D modelling and merging it with product photography. Most car ‘photography’ is actually a 3d model merged into a photographic image. If you have good 3d and render skills these are a huge advantage for the future.