What Is Freelance Photography (+Some Honest Tips to Success!)4 min read

“Guitar is good John, but you’ll never make a living out of it,” said Mimi Smith to John Lennon before he was famous.

It has been a common joke that the arts do not make money, and even if they do, you cannot exactly make a living as an artist.

what is freelance photography

Though this might have a little truth to it, we think that the reason artists don’t make money is not because their art isn’t worth it, but because they don’t communicate how much value they can bring.

And they do not know how to use their art for commercial purposes.

Photography is one of those things that are often misunderstood. If you are a photographer, you probably know how difficult it is to take a photo good.

It takes many observations, preparations, and substantial knowledge to do so.

What is Freelance Photography?

If you want to make money, becoming a freelance photographer is one way to go.

Freelance photography means you are the ‘lens for hire’, and different clients employ your services. Sounds simple enough, but there are some things that you need to know:

Communicate Through Photography

As we have told you before, photography is more than merely taking photos.

The photo itself must be worth something or have intrinsic/artistic value. As a photographer, you must learn to re-contextualize an object.

It is a combination of technical and conceptual thinking: making something look a certain way and having it communicate a message – this is the way to be an impactful freelance photographer.

woman practicing headshot photography

The message can be made by being intentional with how a photo looks, and then confirming the message in the editing or caption.

This way, you can communicate through pictures – something that is often neglected by photographers.

When your client says, “This photo is good, but it doesn’t sell”, they’re actually telling you that the photos you are taking, though artistically good, aren’t communicating their intended message.

Perfecting your communication skills can help you to be a commercial freelance photographer.

How Do I Start Freelance Photography?

Photography is an art, and it is inevitable that the artist will heavily influence the art himself.

freelance photography

So, in becoming a freelance photographer, there is merit in finding your niche right away. If you are comfortable with foods and understand saturation settings that can make it look tasty, it makes sense to be a food photographer.

If you do not like being in an office and performing regular duties, then corporate clients might not be suited to you, as they often require certain templates to be created.

By starting off in the right market, you can still maintain idealist artistic views that are in line with your client’s needs.

Therefore, you would be supporting them and not contradicting what they want or need.

The right market also allows you to comfortably build chemistry to forge a long-lasting relationship with the client.

Where Do I Start as a Freelance Photographer?

As a freelancer, it is important for you to network and position yourself in order to create new opportunities and attract the right clients for you.

1. Contacting

This is what we know as the cold-calling period, or that time you will connect with the people you want to offer your services to.

This can be done by performing free work at church, doing a gig at a relative’s wedding, and general volunteering.

This way, you can gain new clients and build your portfolio. Join a Facebook freelancers’ group, and actively look for potential clients on platforms such as Fiverr and Freelancer.com.

Newspapers, businesses, and influencers often look for photographers there too!

2. Positioning

Positioning is the art of taking up a position in the market so that you can attract clients instead of chasing them.

Make sure you have a relevant portfolio hub. Be it Instagram, Facebook, or even better, a professional website, you are showing people that you can handle artistic photos with commercial relevance.

freelance photography

Write a post on LinkedIn and tell people about your vision or share technical ‘how to’s’ to make people see that you are a proficient and experienced photographer.

Join a group and be a prominent member there, this way people will talk about you and that itself is a form of promotion.

How do Freelance Photographers Find Work?

Initially, you might be confused about the single best client to look for. Who should you approach?

1. Communication Agencies

There are many types of agencies in the fields of Public Relations, Branding, Advertising and Social Media.

They are in constant need of content, and a large part of content marketing involves photography. These agencies can be your prospect. Get on Google or LinkedIn and search for people who work in agencies, then send them your portfolio and profile.

Ask them to contact you should they need photographers. These agencies often prefer individual photographers rather than teams because individual workers are paid cheaper.

freelance photography agency

But for that individual worker, it is quite a hefty price compared to average earnings.

Other than looking for the people, you can also look for jobs on Freelancer.com, Fiverr and other freelancing platforms.

2. Company Marketing Division

Marketing divisions, especially in product-based companies like retail, dairy producers, and food chains, are constantly in need of photos of their products for marketing purposes.

This can be your opportunity. These days, the online space makes it much easier to connect with them.

Company marketers are usually in contact with professional and seasoned photographers that have significant reputations.

freelance photographer

Our tip here is to make sure that you communicate their message.

Many photographers forget that their clients need something that captures attention, even though it has been promoted several times before.

3. Influencers

Yes, this one is a booming market. Influencers often need the services of personal photographers to take pictures of their collections, as well as themselves.

Most influencers that use photography services are beauty influencers and urban influencers.

freelance photography influencer

4. Beauty Influencers

Beauty influencers are more likely to require portraits. If you have a particular interest in portrait photography, this might be the job for you.

Beauty influencers often have specific styles that you will have to emulate in their photos.

This can be cutesy, sexy, or elegant. Other than that, some products that they might endorse include dresses and cosmetics, so you will need to be able to photograph those, too.

5. Urban/Hip Influencers

Indie singers, rebel personalities, indie rappers – these are people that aren’t normally associated with being in front of the camera but for promotional purposes, they need to market themselves within their niches.

These kinds of influencers also need portraits quite often, so you will need to have some skills in portrait photography and, ideally, a love for the genre.

how to take group photos

6. Retainer Option

A retainer is a freelance worker that is contracted for an extended period of time.

If you are hearing about a retainer opportunity, it is an excellent choice that allows you to get a steady income while still being a freelancer.

Retainers are often sought after by big companies or agencies that need a specific job done for campaigns and big projects.

It is a good balance to have one retainer project and several other freelancing projects.

How Do I Become a Freelance Photographer With No Experience?

Simple, get some experience!

Offer free shoots for family and friends, and slowly build up an Instagram, Flickr or Facebook portfolio.

Use this portfolio to apply for small freelance jobs on sites such as Upwork or Fiverr. With time the jobs will get bigger and bigger.

Final Thoughts

There are many ways to get involved as a Freelance photographer. If there is one tip to hold onto for life, it is to always bring value out of your photos and create the right messaging.

Gear matters less than your skill when it comes to bringing the best out of your client’s brief.

Remember that aesthetic without relevance will not help you survive in the new economy.

Keep reinventing and training yourself.

Good luck!

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