Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Make Money Without a Job: Sell Photos

About a year ago, I discovered that I could make a little bit of income by selling photos I take with my digital camera. Best of all, it can be residual income: that is, I keep making small amounts of money, months after I submitted a photo. Multiply those small amounts by selling many photos, and it all adds up to a decent income.

When I first started this site, I had not yet fully embraced the digital era, when it came to photography. I was not a professional photographer either, by any means. In fact, I was still using an old Kodak pocket camera that took the increasingly difficult to find 110 film. That was okay for taking a few travel photos, but it cost money for film and processing, didn't allow me to store photos on my computer or online, and didn't allow me to upload pictures to the webpage.
I knew I needed a digital camera, but I didn't have much money to spend on one and was reluctant to spend it anyway on a technology I didn't really understand, for fear of wasting my money on something that didn't do what I needed it to do.
So I asked around, and was given a cheap digital camera that had been sitting in a drawer, unused. See, that was what I wanted to avoid: buying something marginal, then having it sit in a drawer within a few months, after I use my new-found experience to replace it with something better suited to my needs. So like a true 'possum, I benefited from someone else having done that.

The free camera did indeed solve my problem, and many of the pictures you have seen on this site was taken with that camera. What eventually forced me to upgrade was the need to take lots of photos, in order to have a few that were usable; and also the need to make videos. The camera itself was capable of doing those things, but the largest card it could use was 256 mb. That doesn't hold very many photos, and even less video, so it would require that I have lots of 256 mb cards to swap out. Using my advanced sense of frugality, I determined that a)the 256 mb cards cost as much as newer 1 gb cards that I couldn't use, b)the 256 mb card would soon be going away, and c)it would be false economy to buy a bunch of 256 mb cards while they were still available. So I decided it was time to buy a decent camera, now that I had some idea of what I needed. Besides, I could deduct the purchase from my taxes, as a business expense.
BTW, this is what I got:

Once I had my new camera, I was able to buy and use 1 gb and soon, 2 gb cards for less money than I had paid for my first 256 mb card. This allowed me to take thousands of photos everywhere I went, and also videos of various things: machines running, deer walking around, even a smart-aleck video I made to illustrate my "hybrid Jeep" (hybrid gasoline/gravity that is, as I was coasting down a mountain trail with the engine off).
Playing with that camera has been a lot of fun. Then I discovered a secret: I could sell photos! Of course, I had always known that some people can sell photos, but I figured one had to be a pro to do so. That's not necessarily true, though. The fact is, if you can take a decent photo, you can sell at least some of your photos. You may not make a lot of money from the sale of a photo, but if you take your camera along on your travels and other activities, you will find that you will take a lot more photos than you ever thought possible. If you can just sell a tiny percentage of those photos, it adds up. Let's say you sell a photo for $5, just for the sake of argument. That photo gets published somewhere on the web, where lots of people see it. So in addition to the original $5, you get maybe $2 per month, based on traffic, for as long as the photo remains published. Now let's say that, over the next 6 months, you manage to sell only 100 photos. See where I'm going with this?

There are many ways to make money with photography, besides selling travel photos. The great thing about it is that, in this digital age, photography is no longer expensive, once you actually have the camera. And it is not necessary to be a "pro", as long as you can take a decent photo; because if you are the only one taking advantage of a photo opportunity that presents itself as you do what you would be doing anyway even without the camera, there is no competition for selling that particular photograph, because yours is the only photo in existence of that particular event. The rest is just marketing.

And to that end, here is a source of information for marketing your photos for money.

If you need help with your photography skills (don't we all!), click here.


M.D. Creekmore said...

Not a bad idea, I am always looking for ways to make a few extra dollars - but first I need a camera...

Tracy said...

Mickey, I've seen the Canon Powershot S2 IS 5 megapixel, which is an earlier version of my camera and still a great camera, for $100-$150 buy it now price on Ebay. There are usually a few on there, because people are buying a newer version or upgrading the next step to a digi SLR camera.

I did my homework before I bought the Powershot, and found that in terms of features and customer satisfaction, it is THE best under-$500 camera.
I have not regretted my decision for an instant. To get a better camera, I will have to step up to an SLR, and I'm not ready to do that yet.

Unknown said...

Tracy I liked this post. I am unemployed right now and have have 15.4 GB of pictures (I am just as surprised as you). I bet there are some that people would like. I'm going to look at your links. Is there any website where you can publish your pictures for free in order to sell them?