How to Keep Making Money as a Photographer During a Downturn

Thad Allender

by Thad Allender

Dec 30, 2020 · 4 min read

Image credit: Unsplash.

Covid-19 brought the world to a standstill. Many creatives were forced to cancel their bookings, resulting in a loss of income. An economic crisis can be disheartening to any business owner, so how do you stay proactive and keep making money as a photographer?

Fortunately, there are ways you can future-proof your business and turn this unexpected downturn into an opportunity. For instance, you can elevate your online presence and boost your marketing efforts. You can even diversify your offerings and generate new income streams.

In this article, we’ll look at the results of our recent photographer economic survey, and discuss the biggest mistake freelancers make during a crisis. We’ll also share four strategies that can help you make money during a downturn.

How the Current Economic Climate Affects Photographers

The current climate is not kind to photographers. With travel restrictions in place and many events canceled, the future of photography looks very uncertain.

In particular, freelancers who work in niches such as weddings or concerts will inevitably see a revenue decrease this year. Even studio photography is likely to suffer an economic blow, as headshots are seen as a luxury in the new social-distancing reality.

To better understand the challenges our readers face during the pandemic, we conducted an economic survey of thousands of photographers. A whopping 34 percent admitted that they aren’t doing anything differently to increase revenue right now, and only 40 percent are selling online. In addition, 54 percent decided to decrease expenses this year.

Based on our survey results, it is clear that many photographers aren’t being proactive enough about their future earnings. The economy will eventually recover, but you don’t have to wait around. Rather than sitting out the storm, it’s crucial to invest in your business and actively seek new opportunities, so that you’re ready to reap the benefits when the time is right.

How to Keep Making Money as a Photographer During a Downturn (4 Strategies)

When business is stagnating, you can use this downtime to reevaluate your offerings and identify new income streams. Fortunately, all this requires are a few strategies and a can-do attitude.

1. Sell Photos Online

If you’re not already selling your work online, now is the time to start. It’s usually smart to centralize all your offerings on your website. However, not all sites have e-commerce functionality out of the box.

The easiest way to start selling is with a platform like Visual Society. We enable you to offer prints and merchandise, and you won’t have to worry about order fulfillment. You also get a selection of beautiful templates and handy marketing tools to promote your work.

Another option is to start selling stock photography. Platforms such as Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, and Getty can be a handy source of extra income.

2. Increase Your Marketing Efforts

Having a website is crucial, and not only for selling your work online. A stellar digital presence can help you rank higher in search engines and attract future business. Therefore, redesigning your website could be an excellent project to focus on while you’re mostly working from home.

First, you’ll want to make sure your design is mobile-friendly and optimized for speed. Over 50% of users will abandon your site if it takes longer than three seconds to load, which may deter potential customers and affect your page rankings.

Blogging can also significantly increase traffic to your website, translating into precious conversions. Regular, high-quality content can be a powerful marketing tool, especially if you use it jointly with social media. 

Once you grow your following, you could also join an affiliate marketing program for an extra revenue stream. Depending on your target audience and blog content, advertising relevant products can be an excellent way to generate passive income.

3. Diversify Your Offerings

An economic crisis can also open new doors. For instance, you might want to get out of your comfort zone and consider entering a new photography niche. If weddings are your core service, you could try branching out to areas less affected by the pandemic, giving your portfolio a nice boost.

Q: What is the best business-related advice you've ever received for your photography business?

A: You can create your own niche. Don’t change what you do or how you do it to fit anyone else’s version of what they want from you. At the end of the day, your work should speak from you and to you.

~ Chris Martin, Chicago

You can also think outside the box and offer your photography skills in other ways. For instance, you could start making video tutorials on YouTube, or set up an online photography course. You could even create an ebook to generate new leads and establish yourself as an expert in your field. Plus, if you work with a tool like Lightroom, you could sell presets to help others edit their photos. 

Selling your unused work to magazines can also provide some additional revenue. High-quality content is always in demand, and seeing your photos published might convince potential clients to hire you directly.

4. Don’t Forget to Network

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of networking. Word of mouth is one of the most effective marketing tools, so asking your happy customers for referrals could go a long way. 

It’s smart to treat your vendors like clients as well. Sending them a thank-you note or a postcard could help create lasting business relationships. You could also propose a service trade or a co-promotion if you share similar audiences.

Last but not least, remember to reach out to your photographer friends on social media. Share their latest work, or leave them positive reviews. Your colleagues will probably repay the favor, and helping each other out might lead to new useful connections.


Working as a photographer is a challenge in the current environment, especially with social distancing measures in place. However, you can still be proactive, and take steps that will help you make money even during an economic crisis.

To recap, here are four strategies to recession-proof your career:

  1. Start selling your work online.
  2. Boost your marketing efforts.
  3. Reach out to new audiences and generate additional income streams.
  4. Strengthen your network and build professional relationships.

Do you have any questions about making money as a photographer during a downturn? Let us know in the comments section below!

Category: Business
Thad Allender

Thad Allender

Founder / CEO

Thad Allender is the founder of Visual Society. He leads a team of passionate designers and developers working to revolutionize the way photographers and artists sell online. He lives north of New York City in the Catskills.