Whether you take photos of weddings, newborn babies, breaking news stories, or exotic travel destinations, freelance photography can be a rewarding career. Photographers have tons of freedom and flexibility to choose who they work with, when they work, what they work on, and where they work.
However, there’s a big learning curve to go from an amateur photographer who takes photos for their Instagram account to a professional who makes a living through their photography.
Before you even start looking for work, you need to have a portfolio. Ideally, you have your own website hosted on a site like WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix, though some get by with an Instagram page and a Dropbox or Google Drive folder of their best work.
In this post, we’re sharing some of the best sites for finding work as a freelance photographer.
12 top options to find freelance photography jobs
- Getty Images
- The Creative Loft
- Social media sites
Decide on the type of freelance photography work you want to do
There are three main ways that photographers make a living:
- Stock photography: selling photos to stock photography sites
- Freelance gigs: one-off, usually short-term assignments
- Contract work: long-term, steady work with one or more clients
While you can make a living doing any of these types of gigs, it’s best to focus on one or two to avoid flailing about and wasting a ton of time.
In addition to the type of gig, it’s a good idea to pick a niche or two once you have some experience under your belt. While this might sound counterintuitive, niching down allows you to build expertise and become known as a go-to for that area. Here are a handful of niches for photographers:
- Journalism/news photography
- Food photography
- E-commerce/product photos
- Real estate photography
- Travel photos
- Film/movie photos
- Car/truck photography
- Wedding photos
- Baby photography (baby showers, newborns, etc.)
- Professional/career headshots
Finding stock photo jobs
Stock photography is one of the easiest ways to get started, but it can take a while to start making any real money.
The best stock photographers submit a ton of photos and are great at spotting consumer trends. They can see what’s selling and will strategically take more photos like that in order to sell more and collect larger royalty payments.
Getty Images, which also owns iStock, is the biggest and most well-known stock photography site. In order to submit your photos to them, you first have to apply to be a contributor. You need to be at least 18 years old and have at least three to six photo samples.
If approved, you can start submitting photos through the contributor app right away. Then, anytime someone buys your photo, you get a commission/royalty.
Another popular stock photography site is Shutterstock. To sign up, all you need to do is be over the age of 18 and create a free account.
Another stock photo site to sign up for is Depositphotos, which works similarly to Shutterstock. This can be a great option if you also do illustrations.
Finding freelance photo gigs
Most photographers start off with freelance gigs, as they are often the easiest to get and start making money from. Here are a few sites to find freelance gigs.
Flexjobs is an online job board that specializes in telecommuting and flexible positions across all skill sets and industries. They have dozens of photography gigs on their site at any given time. They weed through all of the spam and junk posts, so the quality and rates are higher than most online job sites.
While it’s free to browse on the site, if you want to apply to roles, it costs $15 per month or $30 for three months.
Upwork is a popular freelance marketplace used by more than 5 million companies around the world. For a newer photographer, this can be a good way to get valuable experience and your first few gigs.
One of the biggest downsides to Upwork is that it’s a race to the bottom. With increased global competition for roles, this means that the lowest prices often win. When you factor in Upwork’s fees (they charge between 5 percent and 20 percent per gig), it can be hard to break a profit.
Just like Upwork, Fiverr is another freelance marketplace. Anyone can apply to become a seller on Fiverr. Once you complete your application and profile, you can list up to seven gigs (i.e., services) you can provide. Most gigs are priced between $5 and $25, and Fiverr takes a 20-percent cut, so you need to sell a lot in order to make any real money.
If you’re into photojournalism, JournalismJobs specializes in full-time, part-time, freelance, and contract media roles. This site has been around since 1998, and most major media companies, including ESPN, National Geographic, USA Today, CNN, Forbes, and Reuters, use it to advertise open roles. Because it’s so well known in the journalism space, a new post can get hundreds of applications within the first week of being live on the site.
The Creative Loft
The Creative Loft is a job site specifically for creative professionals, including photographers. Many of the gigs on their site are photography, fashion, and interior design roles. They share hundreds of photography jobs each week. Similar to FlexJobs, the site is tightly curated and charges a small subscription fee if you want to apply to any of the gigs.
Finding contract photography work
The most successful photographers tend to have a few clients who give them steady, ongoing work. While these contract gigs can come from the freelance sites listed above, more often than not, they come through social media, large corporate directories, or word of mouth.
In order to get these gigs, it helps to develop your personal brand on social media. Posting your photos as well as participating in conversations on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn can help you grow your network. This also helps you stay top of mind so that when someone in your network needs a photographer, they’ll be more likely to reach out to you.
On Facebook, in particular, there are dozens of photography groups. People often post gigs there.
The other advantage to social media is that if you build up a large enough following, you can get into influencer marketing. Brands may pay you to promote their products or services as sponsored content.
Airbnb and Obeo
If you specialize in real estate photography, both Airbnb and Obeo are always looking for photographers to take professional photos of their listings. While you have to apply, if accepted, the work is pretty flexible and steady.
If you specialize in travel photography, you may want to look into Oyster, which is owned by TripAdvisor. You could get paid to take photos of travel destinations, hotels, and tourist attractions.
One of the best ways to make a living as a freelance photographer is to choose a niche. When you choose a niche, it helps you not only develop expertise but also makes it easier for people in your network to refer work to you. You’ll become known as the wedding photographer, travel photographer, or the car dealership photographer. In turn, this can help you charge higher rates.