How to Launch Your Freelance Photography Side-Hustle

Freelance photography can be an exciting side-hustle, turning a passionate hobby into a bit of extra money. There are a lot of warnings from industry people about pursuing photography as a full-time career, and the cut-throat nature of the business, but let’s shelve those conversations for now and assume you’re just trying to create a sideline income.

In this article, we’re going to give you some helpful tips on launching a freelance photography side-hustle, such as how to develop a portfolio, markets to focus on, and legal pitfalls to be wary of.

Developing your portfolio as a photographer

In photography, as with any creative skill, your portfolio is your resume. However, having a portfolio of great-looking shots isn’t necessarily a great sell alone, as camera technology today lets pretty much anyone take great shots. Since perfect photos are now more software-driven than photographer’s actual skill, a photographer’s portfolio needs a way to stand out more than ever.

This is where it becomes important to focus on a specialty and types of shoots.

Photography contracts and not getting ripped off

Photography, like many other creative freelance industries, are full of people who don’t actually want to pay for your work. If photographers always worked “for exposure”, well it wouldn’t be much of a sideline, would it? It’d be part-time volunteering.

So having contracts with clients benefits you in two ways. First and most importantly, it guarantees you actually get paid. Secondly, it helps you look more professional, rather than just some freelancer nobody with a camera, you know?

A contract for photography needs to cover a few important details, which I’ll list out:

  • Start of contract and shoot dates.
  • Summary of what each party will deliver.
  • Cancellation, deposit, and retainer policies.
  • Copyright ownership and transfer of use rights.
  • Property and model releases.
  • Liability limitations.
  • Post-production and editing.
  • Extra fees (traveling expenses, etc.)

As you can see, this isn’t stuff that any average person can sit down and write out in ironclad, airtight definitions. A photography contract template, such as the ones available on the site linked above, should be your starting point, and at some point you’ll likely want the advice of a contract attorney.

Markets for photography specialties

Having a specialty in photography means figuring out what sort of niche demand you can fill. Wedding photography, nature photography, fashion model photography – these are all distinctive niches with their own hurdles to break into.

Of course you can focus on a few different niches, but it’s really best to focus on only one or two specialties as your main sell, and you can offer additional services without directly marketing yourself as a jack-of-all-trades photographer. Here are some of the branches of photography you could be interested in:

  • Event photography such as weddings, graduations, and parties.
  • Portrait photography, typically family and couple photoshoots.
  • Commercial and product photography, such as restaurant menu items.
  • Stock photography such as landscapes, you’ll want to research trending stock images.
  • Real estate photography, because good photos sell houses!
  • Paparazzi photography if you want to stalk celebrities.

There are all possible sideline niches for a freelance photographer. Other photography careers may actually require some type of college degree, such as news photography and photojournalism for media publications.

Going back to your portfolio, you mainly want to fill it with photos of your niche. I mean, what’d be the point of offering wedding photography, if your portfolio is mostly outdoors landscapes? No, you have to show portfolio examples of the niche you’re focusing on, so that might mean gatecrashing a few weddings for the aspiring wedding photographer.

Joe Miragliotta is a caffeine addict, social media freak and a tech junkie. When first creating JoesDaily.com the concept was small; Post diary-like content to share with the world of all things he was into. Now it's grown to be much more than that. You'll find travel, food & drink, design, tech, entertainment and more!

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