Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Making money with photography

Photography can be an awfully expensive hobby. It is one of those fields where you generally get what pay for in equipment and everything you buy is out of date a few months later. Ok, that is a bit of an exaggeration, lenses tend to last for a long time.

I take a lot of pictures; tens of thousands every year -- sometimes a thousand in a single day. The shutter on a camera is rated for a finite number of pictures, maybe 150,000 or so. Every picture you take is using up a bit of your equipment.

If you use flash you use up batteries. Those I buy when I go down south because they are a lot cheaper at Wal-Mart in Timmins than they are in Moosonee.

Replacements for cameras come out every three or four years. Unfortunately there are often big improvements with each generation and it is hard to say no, I don't "need" this new technology.

That's the justification for spending the money.

I'm fortunate that live a fairly simple life so I can devote much of my income to photography but at times it seems tempting to try to make some money as well.

Not so easily done.

One thing I don't do is charge for taking pictures. People sometimes call me and ask how much I would want to take some shots at this party or that event. The answer is zero. I have a day job. Most of the time I take pictures to please myself: sunrises, birds, trains, the river...

I have several websites. On a couple of them I have advertising. So far today I have taken in seven cents from that. It adds up and some days are better than others. Mind you, some are worse. In my dream world the advertising would pay for the websites. Probably not in this lifetime.

I sell prints from one website. Of course I also let people download most of the pictures so they can print them themselves. Sales are not a big feature; something comes along every few months it seems, mostly small sales. It took me about five years to make $1000 in sales.

Newspapers buy pictures sometimes. Out of town ones do if something big happens here or if I have a shot of something that was in the news. The bad things about this are that not much happens here that is of interest to the outside world and sometimes newspapers don't pay much or fail to pay at all. In the past there was a fairly local paper that used to  print a lot of my pictures and that was a reasonable and regular source of income. I had my first article in a newspaper when I was in high school and it is still a thrill to see my stuff in print, paid or not.

Finally and sort of surprisingly I sell pictures for textbooks. Here it helps to have a site that is relatively well indexed. This means that editors can search for specific images.

One nasty thing about making money is having to pay tax on it. That takes a lot of the fun out of the whole little business. I can deduct a few expenses, e.g. web space, which helps a bit.

In the end none of these small sources of income comes close to covering the costs of my photography hobby. In some ways that is a good thing. It reminds me that it is a hobby; that it is something I do because I enjoy doing it not something I have to do to make a living.

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