• Austin James Jackson

How to Get Paid to Be a Photographer in 2020

It's the start of a new decade. If you haven't tried to make a business out of photography yet, there is no better time than at the start of a new year. Thousands of photographers a year try and exit the "hobbyist" space and enter the world of professional photographers, yet so many fail.


I don't claim to know everything about making photography a business, but I have been refining my business practices over the last few years over and over again. I've tried hundreds of different ideas, and observed what has worked and what has not. In this week's blog post, I'll be sharing my tips on how to turn your photography hobby into a business.

An image I took years ago, and have re-edited 5+ times since.

Find Your Niche

By far the most important thing on this list. What do you want to be known for? A "landscape photographer" or "portrait photographer" is not a niche. A niche is something with specialized appeal. For example, rather than a "portrait photographer", you could go after being an "adventurous elopement photographer". Simply put, make sure that what you do is specialized and somewhat unique, so that you build a name for yourself and people understand how what you offer is different than what others offer.


Create a Professional Website

With a professional website, you'll be more respected when you begin to acquire customers and clients. You should purchase your own domain, and if you want to go the extra mile, get a custom email address at your domain (mine is austin@austinjamesjackson.com) Be sure to choose the website host that fits your need best, and do your research comparing the different brands. Some of the most popular among photographers are Wix, SmugMug, and Squarespace.


When you go to build your website, be sure to reference my blog post on 7 Common Mistakes Landscape Photographers Make on Their Websites.

Build an Email List

Email subscribers are by far the most valuable form of "follower". Anyone who tells you that email is dead is absolutely wrong. When someone subscribes to your email list, they're telling you that they're interested in your business, meaning that your email list is an incredibly targeted audience. There are many more reasons why an email list is important, but one of the best things you can do is to start building your email list right now. It takes some time to build up a large email list, so don't wait any longer.

I grow my email list by offering this free eBook to anyone that signs up.

Find Multiple Sources of Income

If you seriously want to turn photography from a side hustle into your main gig, you'll need multiple sources of income at first. For landscape photographers, this might look like selling prints, freelancing for companies, selling tutorials, and more. When you first start, just one of these options won't give you enough income, but by diversifying your business, you can make a decent income.


I started out doing freelance work for many different outdoor companies. Connections are priceless, and work I did years ago still pay dividends in the connections I've made with industry professionals.

Reach Out

I can't stress this enough. If you want to make money, you HAVE to reach out to companies and clients. When I started doing photography, I reached out to so many companies and acquired so much work by doing it this way. I probably wasn't the best fit for the job, but the brands and people I was talking to were busy, so if my email hit their inbox, they'd give me a chance.


When writing an email to reach out, make it short and sweet. Explain who you are, and give an idea of what you'd like to do for the brand. Creativity is key here, and with a good idea, most brands are more than happy to work with you. Aim for smaller brands at first, and go after the bigger brands once you have some more experience. Always charge for your work, even if it's a cheap price. Trading photos for a product can seem like a good idea, but if the company didn't pay anything for the photos, they won't value the photos as much as they would if they had paid money for them.

A sample of work I've done for Wilco + Georgia Boot. If you want to acquire work like this, you MUST reach out directly to the company.

After reading this post, I hope you're fired up about the new decade. It's important that you don't wait. Do away with the New Year's Resolution this year. If you're serious about making photography a full time job, start right NOW. Even if you aren't sure if you're making the right choices, just do something! The only wrong direction is doing nothing.

If you're interested in learning about these topics in great depth and detail, consider signing up for one of my 2020 Workshops.

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