Cash-Pulling Freelance Photo Gigs

    October 22, 2003

With a little imagination, there are almost endless ways to make money with your camera. And you don’t need to have a “nice” camera with a wide assortment of lenses, either. I’ve listed a baker’s dozen ideas here, but as you read, many more variations will occur to you — be sure to keep a notepad and pen handy!

If you have a digital camera, a graphics editing program, and a decent printer these ideas can be even more profitable because you can fix blemishes and create special effects before printing.

1. Dance School Recitals Dance recitals are only once a year, but taking photographs of beautiful children in their costumes can increase your bank account balance substantially.

By offering a photo package of one 8×10, two 5×7’s, four wallet photos, and one 5×7 class photo, you can make anywhere from $1,000 for the smallest classes, up to $5,000 for a class of 400-500 students. If you make the teachers responsible for posing the students, and offer one pose per child, you can process the largest classes in just a few days.

2. Children’s Sports Photos Children’s sports, such as Little League baseball, football, hockey, soccer, and basketball offer a very profitable opportunity to make fast cash for a freelance photographer. Every team (and the hundreds of parents in the stands) wants group shots and individual photos of every player. Most leagues will have 8-10 teams, with up to 30 children on a team, depending on the sport.

The person to approach for working out arrangements for a photographic session may be the coach, a director, committee, or sponsor. Dealing with one person works best. Check with the city or county recreation department. They will know who is using their facilities.

3. Real Estate & Architectural Photography Real estate agents know that photographs are more effective in advertising a home or business than the typical classified ad. Doing all of a real estate agency’s listings can add substantially to you income.

4. Insurance Photography Insurance companies will reimburse a policy holder only for those items they have documented. Increasingly, insurance adjusters are urging clients to photograph everything that’s covered by their policy on their home or business. It’s difficult to argue with a photographic inventory and for that reason people will pay you to photograph their possessions and file them away in a safety deposit box.

5. Family Portraits When you take family portraits it’s best if you don’t use a studio. People always act and look more natural in their own homes or yards. Family pets are also easier to include when they are in familiar surroundings.

Your “on-location” portrait service is your hook… your “unique selling proposition”… what makes your service better than the portrait studio’s.

You can promote your on location family portrait service in the Sunday newspaper. Be sure to emphasize the fact that your client’s won’t even have to leave the comfort and privacy of home, because you will come to them.

Charge an initial fee, which includes the first portrait (16x20s and 20x24s are not uncommon) plus travel expenses and other shooting costs. Always “upsell”: encourage an additional order for portrait Christmas card portraits, which most photo labs will offer.

6. Churches & Synagogues When church members become old enough to become regular members they are confirmed and officially admitted to the church. Churches usually want group shots of the entire class plus individual photos for each family.

The Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah in the Jewish faith is similar to confirmation. With a Confirmation, Bar Mitzvah, and Bat Mitzvah are joyous occasions that are followed by a reception for family, friends, and religious members… more photo opportunities!

7. Animal Shows & Pet Portraits Pets and show animals are a multi-billion dollar business in America. The amount of money animal and pet owners spend every year on food, grooming, pet-sitting, pet-walking, health products, and accessories is staggering. If it’s animal-related, these folks will buy it!

Offer your services as a pet and animal photographer… they’ll buy that also. There are freelance photographers who make a good living just going from one show to another that feature horses, cats and dogs. Get in touch with your local veterinarian, who should be able to provide you with the names and addresses of sponsors for the various shows and organizations.

8. Antique Dealers & Auctioneers Some large antique dealers have photos taken of their items for sale, and send the photos or color slides of special or unusual pieces to other dealers or customers.

When auctioneers are hired to auction off items from an estate, bankruptcy, a large business or industry, or any other large job that has valuable items on their list of sale items, they will often use color slides for TV, ads, brochures, and other promotional pieces.

9. Golf Courses & Country Clubs You can make some fast cash by making arrangements with a golf course or country club to have action photos taken of golfers when the hold tournaments and there is a crowd. Set up your camera on the first tee for foursome shots and action shots as each player swings.

This idea also works well with youth sports. One gentleman I know of simply walks around during games snapping pictures of the kids in action. I’ve noticed that he’ll focus on capturing members of a few particular teams. He returns to the following week’s game with a contact sheet and an order pad. Judging from the number of times I’ve seen him writing orders, I’d imagine he makes a fair chunk of cash!

10. Pony & Child Photos Back in the 1940’s and ’50’s photographers would travel the country and go door-to-door. For a fee, children could put on a cowboy hat, vest and chaps, and climb onto a saddled pony to have their picture taken.

All you have to do is rent a gentle-natured pony, have a three-piece (one size fits most children) cowboy outfit, and an assistant standing by just in case the pony gets nervous or the child decides to jump off. Then make arrangements to appear at festivals, school carnivals, family reunions, shopping mall promotions, parades, or any other place where crowds gather.

11. School & Community Bands Make arrangements with the band or booster club to take color group photos of the band and individual members. Mail sample prints to band directors outside your area and arrange for appointments to show your work and explain package offers and fees.

12. Graduation Photos Contact the senior class advisor and make arrangements to take graduation photos of seniors in their caps and gowns as they practice before the actual graduation ceremony. If you don’t have a portable background, use the stage curtains. Borrow a diploma from the school that each graduate can hold.

13. Scouting Events Contact your area Boy Scout and Girl Scout council offices to find out when the next gathering of unit leaders (called a Roundtable in Boy Scouting) and plan to attend. Let the leaders know that you are available to take pictures at the events the Troops and Pack hold. Circulates at these events and take candid and on-the-spot-posed pictures of Scouts, leaders and other parents. Make prints or contact sheets, attend the Troop or Pack meeting and take reprint orders from parents.

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