Start Earning with Commercial Photography as a Photopreneur

Due to the ubiquity of smartphones, everyone can say, “I’m a photographer.” Indeed, millions of still photographs are uploaded to Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, blogs and web sites across the Internet. Some have taken it another level by becoming “photopreneurs” with commercial photography.

Most of these photopreneurs make money on Instagram, where growth has exploded since its inception. Especially, with Facebook as the site owner, expect this growth to continue. According to, active users on Instagram grew from 90 million in 2013 to 600 million in 2016.

So what’s it like to become an Instagram influencer in the world’s biggest photo app? These photopreneurs become sponsored celebrities, and according to Yahoo Tech, Instagram “celebrities” can get as much as $700-$900 PER POST.

Most people with Instagram post at least one photo a day. If you were sponsored, you could potentially earn $27,000 A MONTH!

To become a sponsored Instagram photopreneur, you’ll need at least 500,000 followers. Now, it’s not easy to get that many followers. It takes time, dedication and most importantly:

You’ll need good content.

That means you’ll need to take the best photos that will attract a loyal audience.

This is just an example of the power of commercial photography. There are other ways to make money as a photographer, using other social sites like Pinterest and Tumblr. You can even work at 2Bridges, and we can get you started on event photography (i.e. weddings, corporate gatherings, birthdays) or get into the exciting world of studio photography.

But as a photopreneur, you’ll likely want to work for yourself. We’re okay with that too, because we’re good guys from New York, and we’ll show you how to get started.

Digital Photography vs. Film Photography

Film photography once ruled the world of picture taking, but with the advances in digital photography, it no longer dominates the corner on quality photos.

Digital photography used to be a much more expensive hobby if you wanted to get any decent level of quality from your pictures, but digital cameras have gotten more advanced and have dropped significantly in price in recent years.

Film vs. Memory Card

One of the most convenient aspects of digital photography is the lack of need for rolls of film. Digital photos don’t require film with different speeds in order to get different results. Most digital settings are automatic, and to change your shutter speed or white balance, you only need to change a setting on your camera.

Memory cards also have the unique ability to be loaded up with a ton of shots and replaced by another tiny memory card when full. This prevents the need to carry many rolls of film that are susceptible to light or heat damage during transport.

Developing Your Photos

When film was the standard medium of photography, darkroom and photo labs were required to print your pictures. Digital photography has given us the ability to print professional quality photos right from our own printers.

Of course, a printer of decent quality with the proper ink and paper is still required in order to see high quality results. While most of the editing is done in the darkroom when using film, all editing for digital photos can be done with photo editing software on your computer.

Instant Results

Digital cameras have removed the need to wait to view the shots you’ve taken by allowing us to reviews pictures on the camera’s LCD screen. Instead of filling a roll of film up with mediocre photos, the image file from on your memory card can be deleted immediately and be retaken with a digital camera.

And if a print is not actually required, the photos you take can be shared instantly through e-mail and uploading.

Some photographers still prefer the traditional methods of film photography, but digital photography has come a long way in eliminating the need for darkrooms, chemicals, light sensitive paper, and film.

Developing your own photos has become common place and in many cases, printing a picture isn’t even required in order to view and share it. It used to be that film provided the higher quality results, but with advances in digital sensors and lenses, the choice between digital and film is now a matter of personal preference and convenience.

For a beginner photographer, we suggest you start off with digital photography. Even with just an iPhone or a Samsung, you can get started making cool pics. Once you’ve become an photography expert, then revisit film photography as there is still a demand for that classic, vintage look.

Equipment Basics

When getting started with digital photography, you’ll need to acquire several core pieces of equipment.

If this is to be a casual hobby, or you’re just experimenting, you don’t need to go all out and buy everything top of the line, but getting some quality items that are durable. You need quality equipment to take great shots, if you’re serious about being a photopreneur.

Start with the basics and upgrade your equipment as the money starts rolling in.

The Camera

First, you’ll need a dependable camera. They’re lots to choose from with many different options and at various prices, so depending on what you plan to do with your camera and your level of experience, finding the perfect camera is a matter of personal preference and budget.

The cheapest, lowest quality model may not take you very far while the most expensive model could be a waste of money. Having too many features won’t useful, if you don’t know how to use them. On the flip side, you’ll want enough options to make your camera a go-to piece of equipment for your money shots.

The camera is a crucial choice to make. A camera to a photographer is like a paintbrush to a painter. Don’t skimp on your research if you’re serious about making a career in commercial photography as a photopreneur! Consider the following:

  • Equipment costs – Your budget could be limited. Know beforehand how much to spend on bags, tripods, lenses and the camera itself. Get started with a starter camera and perhaps move your way up to more expensive stuff.
  • Camera and Photo size – Cameras can be big and small; they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. A tiny camera, like an iPhone, may be easy to move around with, but it may not have enough features. Certainly, you can’t you use your lenses on an iPhone. Think about megapixels. A camera that can handle more megapixels will allow you to produce photos on a larger scale while retaining proper resolution and preventing pixelation.
  • Extras – Consider a large LCD screen, which can be handy to review pictures as you snap photos with your camera. Especially in challenging situations with extreme lighting conditions, a large screen can help you see and review shots with greater clarity. As for zooming, be mindful as to whether the zoom option is optical or digital. Optical zoom extends the lens of your camera, and digital will only magnify it. Magnification could result in a loss of quality so choose wisely when it comes to the optical zoom feature.

Digital Photography Gear

A simple, standard tripod will be a great addition to your digital photography equipment. For pictures that require longer exposure or are taken in low light, a tripod will make a huge difference in the quality of your photos. Your camera itself will come with a kit lens, but you’ll need several types of lenses for close up shots and wide shots. Make sure to get bokeh!

Camera Bags and Cases

Protect your expensive equipment with the right tools. You don’t want to damage your camera or your tripods, as it’s expensive to replace.

A dependable camera bag is crucial to provide protection to your gear while providing convenient storage and the ability to move everything. Getting a water proof camera bag will give you a little extra protection against rain and humidity. You may also find it handy to purchase a bag with extra pockets and compartments for batteries, lenses, and adapters.

All the Little Stuff

A large memory card plus a few spares will be vital when out shooting for long periods of time. The same goes for spare rechargeable batteries.

Running out of room to store your photos or being stuck with no power can be a disaster when you come across a beautiful landscape or a candid moment that needs capturing. Having extras of everything will ensure you never miss an opportunity for a great shot.

Be sure to read your manuals and train yourself to use your equipment properly. Knowing your camera’s capabilities will allow you to get the most from your digital photography efforts.

Purchase just the basic equipment when you’re first starting out and add more advanced equipment as you hone your skills and become more experienced in the world of digital photography.

Get Training in Photography

Getting started with digital photography can be confusing when you have little or no experience with your equipment, lighting techniques, or editing and printing practices. Even if you do have some experience under your belt, a digital photography class can be a great way to improve your skills or look at your hobby from a new perspective. Many different types of classes are available and choosing the right one will depend on what you’re looking to learn and improve on.

Hands On Experience

Taking a digital photography class will give you the opportunity to learn in the classroom and put your knowledge into practice with field trips and photo shoots. While you can get a lot of information from learning at home or online, a class can be helpful when interacting with other photographers and practicing techniques within different lighting conditions with the assistance of a professional instructor.

Understanding Your Equipment

Buying a new digital camera and reading through the manual might give you a good idea of what you’re doing with your equipment, but a digital photography class can be a great way to be shown what all your functions are for and how to use them properly. You’ll have the opportunity to learn the in’s and out’s of your camera and some classes will provide tips and tricks regarding minor repairs you may need to perform.

Cost of Photography Classes

Once you’ve got your equipment, it’s time to take stock of your options. Your first option is to take university courses. According to these statistics, it will cost you approximately $25K a year to get a bachelors at a typical university. A two-year associate program can cost you over $10K!

Unless you have the money (at which point stop reading and start shooting pictures), then going back to university is NOT an option.

Learning At Home

Fortunately, there are for more affordable options like this one:

Digital Photography Success provides an affordable intro to the world of photography, and will help you get started on shooting the best and greatest photos. For a fraction of a typical university cost, you can start learning about photography from the comforts of your home.

Even if you already have a general idea of what digital photography is all about and you know how to use your camera, a photography class can give you a lot more insight on picture composition and may introduce you to new shooting techniques.

Classes are available for photographers of many different skill levels, so whether you’re brand new to digital photography or you’re a veteran looking to pick up a few new tips, taking a class can be a fun and interesting way to further your skills.

Let’s Start Taking Pictures!

Now, you’ve got all your fancy equipment. You’ve gotten some good training, read up on photography and are ready to start on your path as a photopreneur. Before you go out, let’s start with the basics

Read the Manual

Well, duh, you just spent a few thousand dollars on some photo equipment. You should at least start reading up on what all those buttons are about. No one likes reading a long manual. Most people would rather prick their eyes out with pins. Most people just want to go out to Central Park and just start shooting nature photography or go to Two Bridges (see you around!) to shoot cool street photography.


However, it pays to at least be mindful of all the features on your camera. You don’t need to adjust every setting manually, but in extreme lighting conditions or crappy weather it’s useful to know which setting will work in any challenging environment.

Experiment and Play with Your Commercial Photography

A lot of new digital camera users are afraid to change any settings on their camera in fear that they won’t be able to change things back.

Again, refer to your manual to know how to restore settings. When a photo doesn’t look exactly how you’d like it to, take the same picture over and over with every different setting you can think of.

With time and practice, you’ll know what each setting can do and you’ll barely have to think when it comes to deciding which mode to use for every situation.

Using different lighting, angles, and composition can also have quite an effect on your photo’s outcome.

Trying different things with back lighting, object placement, and subject centering could turn your plain old photo into something incredibly pleasing to the eye with highlighting and shadowing you wouldn’t have expected.

Editing Software

Your digital photography self education shouldn’t stop at your camera. Once you get your photos uploaded to your computer, use the software provided to fix any little flaws, colour issues, or unwanted noise.

There are many software to use. One of the popular ones is Adobe Photoshop. It’s a great tool for beginner and advanced photographers alike.

Experimenting with these settings will introduce you to new effects and editing techniques you may have never thought of trying before.

Digital photography has a unique advantage over film by allowing you to view your photo immediately and delete what you don’t like. This makes experimenting with settings and lighting much easier because you can see right away what kind of effect you’ll be getting.

With time, practice, and familiarity with your camera, deciding which settings or angle to use will become more and more natural and you’re increasing skills will be reflected in your work.

Printing Your Digital Photos

Perhaps, you’d like to dabble in old school photography. In the old days, professionals would spend hours in dark rooms.

When it comes to digital photography darkrooms and photo labs are a thing of the past. However, you can carve out a nice niche for yourself if you know how to work a dark room. Plus, if you’re going pro with photography, then learning how to work in a dark room is a must.

You can still get your digital shots printed professionally for you, but transferring to your PC, editing at home, and printing from your own printer has become common practice these days.

Before purchasing a printer, decide what your printing needs will be and choose a printer within your price range that comes with the appropriate features.

Source: Zed Kolk (Unsplash)

Decent Quality

While you don’t need to spend a fortune to print your digital photos from home, choosing the lowest quality printer, ink, and paper will leave you with prints that look like a shabby photocopy.

Spending a little extra for a device that can provide you with rich colors and textures will save you a lot of disappointment and hassle in the long run. Some features won’t be necessary for you, but check out product reviews before you buy and don’t hesitate to ask questions from your printer retailer.


A higher resolution and DPI, or dots per inch, will allow you to print higher quality photos. Keep in mind that printers which give high resolution will take longer to print and use more ink, but if bright and beautiful looking photos are important to you, high resolution is completely necessary.

Ink and Paper

It won’t be the printer alone that determines how your photos turn out. Using high quality ink and paper that’s compatible with your printer model will play a huge part in your photo results.

Before purchasing any specific printer model, look into the paper and ink brands that will work with that printer and determine how much it will cost to restock with the appropriate supplies.

Buying a printer with all the bells and whistles isn’t necessary if you’ll just be casually printing a few sets of pictures here and there.

If you’ll be using your printer for professional digital photography reasons, a printer that has a few more of those features may be needed.

Knowing in advance if you’ll be printing in large quantities or if you’ll require above average quality will help you figure the price range you should be looking in.

Too many features could make the printer hard to use while too few features may not fulfill your needs. Read reviews and ask yourself what you’ll expect from your printer on a regular basis before choosing a printer.

What about Black and White?!

Your competitors most likely shoot only in color. One way to differentiate your commercial photography is to shoot in old, school black and white. There’s a good demand for vintage photography in black and white.

Black and white digital photography can create breathtaking photos with a classical or romantic feel to them. Some photographers shoot in black and white only, while others use it to add a certain mystery or flair to their photos. Others still may use it as a technique to overcome lighting obstacles.

Regardless of the reason, achieving the most stunning black and white photographs take a little skill when taking the photo as well as expertise in editing your results afterward.

Using Your Color or Black and White Settings

Some cameras may have color settings only, in which case all black and white effects must be added by converting to grayscale afterward with your photo editing software. If a black and white setting is available, you can decide between shooting in black and white to begin with and editing your colour shots later.

Shooting everything in color can give you more to work with in the editing process and may give you higher quality black and white photos in the end.

Using the black and white setting can take a lot of extra work out of the editing process but some visual effects may be lost. By experimenting with both you can decide which results you prefer.

Source: emma dau (unsplash)

Training Your Eyes

In order to get the most stunning black and white prints you’ll need to train your eyes to see in terms of lighting, highlights and shadows. Especially if you’ll be taking your photos in colour and editing later, it’s important to be able to visualize what a scene will look like when it’s converted to black and white.

The more practice you get with this the easier it will be to do without thinking, but start off by just trying to pay attention to where certain lights fall and where the shadows are being created.

Detail or luster can sometimes be lost when converting to black and white so play with your settings as much as possible and compare your end result to the predicted outcome you were hoping for.

Taking notes on which settings worked best for specific scenarios can help to give you a better understanding of why some techniques may have worked in certain cases when they failed in others.

Like most aspects of digital photography, the best way to advance your skills is to just keep shooting everything you can and get as much practice as possible.

Start Making Money on Your Commercial Photography

Digital photography can be a great hobby but there are plenty of ways to make money from it as well. Here are several ways to get you started:

Social Media

As mentioned at the beginning, there are big bucks to be made in Instagram. Even some money-making blogs (photo blogs) earn big bucks with quality photos. It’s important to stay active and keep posting good content only. You’ll build your presence and get followers. In time, with enough patience, you’ll get a strong following and you’ll be in a position to apply for sponsorship. Once sponsored, that’s when the big bucks start rolling in.

Stock Photos

Selling your images online can be an easy way to put your digital photography efforts out there. You may not make much per photo, but if you’re taking tons of pictures anyways, uploading them to a micro stock website and selling larger quantities could bring in quite a bit of money over time. You may even choose to set up your own stock photo website and sell them individually or with a certain number of images per pack.

source: pedro lastra (unsplash)

Personal Photographer

Putting up local ads or getting your name out there by word of mouth could open you up to custom jobs. Taking candid shots for weddings and birthdays or shooting display photos for hair salons, bakeries, or other businesses can be a fun way to make some extra money while practicing your digital photography skills and developing them further.

Selling to the Media

Being in the right place at the right time can put you in the position to get some great shots. By attending local events and taking pictures of whatever you can, you may get some shots you can sell to newspapers or magazines. While these types of media will generally have their own photographer on hand, they’re almost always willing to pay for freelance photos if you’ve taken shots they can use.

Selling Locally

Creating cards, calendars, or postcards with your photos and selling them at local art or coffee shops can be another good way to establish yourself as a serious photographer. Experiment with different angles, lighting, and composition and you may find yourself producing incredibly artful prints that people are willing and eager to buy. Keep shooting everything you can and when you discover the techniques that work best for you, put them out into the public however you can so people can see the work you’re capable of.


Turning your photography hobby into commercial photography can be a lucrative choice. You’ll need the right equipment.

Most importantly, it’s important to get the right training. You can pay $24K a year for a degree or you can research online and take affordable courses like the one at Digital Photography Success:

Then it’s just a matter of finding your niche and getting active on social media. There’s a lot of money to be made in Pinterest and Instagram. Commercial photography can be a rewarding career.

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