How to Make Money with Street Photography

Dear friend,

I wanted to give you some practical ideas, and thoughts on how you can make money with your street photography:

First of all, consider why you want to make money with street photography. Do you want to make money with street photography because you want to make it a full-time living? Do you think that only doing things with street photography will bring you happiness? Or do you just want some extra side-cash from doing your passion, which is street photography?

Some articles to refer to:

Do you want to make street photography your full-time living?

To be honest, I don’t know many other people who are making a full-time living from street photography. However I know that street photography has helped a lot of photographers promote their commercial photography, and has also helped them make a living in other ways.

For example, I teach street photography workshops for a living, and as of now (2017) am making a pretty sizable passive income with Haptic Industries (tools for street photographers, led by my partner, Cindy).

I make 80% of my income from teaching workshops, and around 20% off Haptic Industries (selling Street Notes, Photo Journal, the Henri Strap), as well as Amazon Affiliate links.

I also know some other street photographers who have got a lot of commercial work from their talent and passion in street photography — Matt Stuart and Nick Turpin (being two photographers who come to mind).

Practical ways how to make money in street photography

So I want to use this article to share some potential ways you can make money from your street photography:

1. Teaching street photography workshops

I think education is the biggest field for entrepreneurship in photography. I don’t think there is a huge market for selling prints anymore, but a huge market for teaching people how to make better photos.

For example, the focus of my workshops tend to be on how to conquer your fear of shooting street photography — one of the biggest barriers I had in my street photography, and something that many other photographers deal with.

Another example of a workshop — teaching travel street photography workshops. That means, doing a week-long street photography workshop in an interesting or exotic city (Tokyo, New York City, Hanoi) — and giving photographers a chance to travel, have an unforgettable experience, and of course— improve their street photography.

Here are some articles on how to teach a street photography workshop:

2. Selling prints

You can make money from selling street photography prints, but I honestly don’t think you can make a full-time living purely off prints.

The issue is that most people don’t want to pay for photos anymore. With social media, most photographers prefer to get images for free. There are some photographers who have built up a strong enough following, that they can sell their photos as fine art. However, I don’t necessarily think this is the best way to make a living. It can be a good side-income, however.

The photographer Daniel Arnold sold 4×6 prints for $100 on his Instagram account, and made some good side-cash from it, which also helped him find commercial work.

3. Commercial work

You can shoot a ‘street photography aesthetic’ for commercial work. For example, I see a lot of ‘street style’ photos being shot for fashion magazines, for lifestyle magazines, as well as product companies.

Or I see a lot of wedding photographers shooting in a ‘documentary style’ — candid photos of memorable moments. Essentially shooting a wedding in the style of a street photographer. Capturing ‘decisive moments’, unposed and candid moments, and more ‘authentic’ photos than simply posed wedding photos.

4. Selling books

I see a huge potential opportunity in selling books — information-educated based books, or photo books.

Cindy and I worked on creating ‘Street Notes’ — a handbook on how to shoot street photography on the streets. It includes inspirational and motivation assignments, that help encourage street photographers to step outside of their comfort zone. These have been doing pretty well, as well as our new product: “Photo Journal” (which is a personal photography journal, very similar to Street Notes, but more about personal reflections, rather than shooting assignments).

I also have personally spent thousands of dollars on photo books (art books) over the last few years, mostly on Amazon:

Photo Book Reviews »

Recommended Photo Books »

I prefer looking at photo books of photographers I admire. I love the texture of the paper, the weight, the feeling of the cover, and the ability to simply enjoy a cup of coffee, and looking at images— uninterrupted. A far more zen and tranquil experience than just looking at photos on my phone.

Furthermore, I also see a huge market for educational ‘how to’ photography books. People still prefer physical books, because they are easier to carry with you, you can write in them, and (of course) they look nicer for Instagram/Cappuccino/Camera photos.

I personally believe that photo books are the best bang-for-the-buck in terms of your personal growth and development in photography. This is because gear and cameras will always get outdated. But when you learn some sort of new photographic technique, insight, or philosophy — it will stick with you forever.

A photo book tends to get better with time, and also the prices of photo books often go up. For example, I bought William Eggleston’s “Chromes” for $300 — now it goes second-hand for $1,000+. The same goes for Jason Esekanazi’s “Wonderland” book (I bought it for $30, and it is going for $300+ used).

When in doubt, buy books, not gear.

So in a practical sense — you can sell your street photos in a book. Or perhaps you can do a ‘how to’ street photography book — sharing your secrets and techniques on how to shoot street photography. You can sell your books digitally (selling PDF, or on Kindle), or you can print them and sell them via PayPal, Amazon, Etsy, or any other online commerce platform.

I know a lot of photographers who have also been publishing ‘zines’ (small-batch, photo magazines) of their work, and making a few bucks as well.

5. Photography consulting

Other potential ways you can make money from street photography — perhaps figuring out a way you can be a consultant, for camera companies, or being a personal consultant for a street photographer trying to learn.

You can partner up with a photography company, and advise them (for money) on how to improve their cameras for street photographers.

Or you can offer 1:1 consulting/teaching/mentorship for other aspiring street photographers, who want to improve their work. You can do this in-person, or perhaps online via Skype.

6. Marketing campaigns

A strange way I’ve been able to monetize my street photography is doing marketing campaigns for companies like Samsung.

A marketing agency contacted me concerning one of Samsung’s new digital cameras— and asked me to shoot street photography to promote the camera. I ended up uploading these Chicago GoPro POV videos on YouTube, showing others how to approach strangers, and shoot street portraits.

If companies like your street photography style, they might also contact you for doing marketing campaigns for them.

How to find clients

The hardest thing is to find clients, aka — people who are willing to pay you for your street photography, either directly, or in-directly.

I know a lot of street photographers being contacted via social media, by including their email addresses in their biographies. And some of them get contacted by companies, to do marketing or advertising campaigns.

For myself personally, because I have blogged heavily on street photography, many people find this blog through Google searches, read my articles, books, and watch my YouTube videos, end up trusting me, and signing up for one of my workshops, or purchasing one of my photo books or camera straps.

Probably the most important thing about finding clients in your street photography is this — make yourself visible. Put yourself out there. Don’t be shy to market yourself. Because if you don’t share your work, if you’re not active on social media — nobody will ever find you.

Also, an important thing is to build your personal brand. You can build your personal brand through long-term trust-building. For example, I blogged heavily on street photography for at least 1-2 years before I was able to make any ripples. And now, I’ve had this blog for around 6-7 years — and finally I feel like I’m starting to build a name for myself.

Similarly, you want to make sure to have good work. I have faith in my street photos, my insight and teaching abilities, as well as my blogging abilities. Your skills will improve over time. So make it a point to put out the best quality product you can, in terms of your street photos, your blog posts on street photography, your street photography books, or any street-photography-related products or services.

Below are some in-depth guides that can help you:

Entrepreneurial Principles

How to be a Full-time Photographer

How to Start a Blog

How to market yourself

The wrong way to market yourself is to spam people on social media with tons of #hashtags and annoying people.

I rather encourage you to make the best product you can, and share it with others, without being spammy.

But how do you not be spammy? Just treat others how you would like to be treated.

For example, I get annoyed on social media when people share too many photos, too frequently. I personally like to share my photos, but less regularly, and only my best work. Of course, I fall victim to over-sharing like everybody, but just remember the golden rule:

Don’t do unto others as you don’t want others to do unto you.

And similarly, if you want to figure out how to make money in street photography, figure out what personal problems you had in street photography, and what kind of solutions you could offer.

For example, when I started shooting street photography, I was scared shitless, and it took me a long time to build my confidence. I learned practical tips, techniques, and approaches— and taught these things in my street photography workshops.

I also wish in street photography, I had practical street photography assignments, to motivate myself (when I was lacking inspiration). I therefore collaborated with Cindy to make ‘Street Notes’ — a pocketable ‘workshop in a book’ that fits in your back pocket. I made the product I wish I had.

The same happened when I started to get frustrated in my photography — when I was living in the suburbs, and I couldn’t shoot ‘street photography.’ I soon discovered the beauty of Personal Photography, and ended up making ‘Photo Journal’ as a way to personally reflect more on my photography, in terms of why I shot street photography, as well as the more philosophical side behind photography.

Some social media guides below:

Be true to yourself

Ultimately, don’t copy what others are doing in street photography. Find inspiration from them, but follow your own unique voice.

You need to find your strength in your street photography.

For example, I know my strength is teaching. I am a natural extrovert, and my passion (ever since I was young) was to teach. I actually wanted to become a Sociology professor when I was in college.

Other photographers are more introverted— so if you’re more introverted, perhaps you can teach your own street photography workshops 1:1. Or you can teach them online.

If you have a passion for wedding photography, you can brand yourself as a ‘street style’ wedding photographer. Or ‘personal documentary’ wedding photographer, or whatever suits your style.

If you prefer doing commercial work for big companies, find inspiration from guys like Matt Stuart and Nick Turpin — who have a distinct street photography style, which can be incorporated into marketing brochures and practical marketing material for big companies.

If you have a passion for books and printing, perhaps start printing and publishing your own books on street photography. Print your own work, print the work of others. I know my friend Brian Milo started his own photo printing studio, because he was frustrated by other printers. His tag line is brilliant: “I give a fuck about your photos.”

Find your inner-entrepreneur

Of course all this advice I’m sharing with you is based on my personal experiences, thoughts, and perspective. I also write this being an American, with certain access to Amazon Fulfillment and Etsy services.

No matter what your position in life, I think you can make some money in your street photography. And if you really work hard enough, are passionate enough, skilled enough, and lucky enough — maybe make street photography into a living.

Remember, fortune favors the brave.

Never lack faith in yourself,

Make a living from your passion

To learn more, read all Entrepreneurship Articles >