Let’s Be Honest: Photography is not a lucrative deal

My Facebook “friends” congratulated me. 

“Wow! You got a job! Great!”

“You’re submitting photos to a stock agency! Awesome!”

They all thought I was finally making money off my photography obsession and I finally had a job, which probably meant I’d finally stop trying to figure out how to work from home while parenting a toddler and a ten year old. 

In reality, I don’t have a job. Photography is not a lucrative deal. And before you roll your eyes at me, this isn’t a “woe is me post.” It is an honest one. It is an eye opener to the many people who recently picked up a new “fancy camera” and are certain they are going to make money booking clients or working for a stock agency

First, if you can get clients, they don’t want to pay you what you’re worth. They want to pay you what they think you’re worth. Because everyone has a camera today most people don’t think  you’re worth much. You push a button and download photos and give the photographs to them. That’s it. How hard can it be?

Very few account for the cost of your equipment, online classes you paid for so you could learn more about your passion, the fees you pay for online galleries, websites, and online advertising. No one thinks about the time your spending away from your family not only during the session but while editing the images. And editing – that’s easy right? Actually, once you learn about it, editing isn’t that hard, but it can be time consuming for someone who is annoyingly meticulous like I am. 

From culling to editing I could find myself spending several hours preparing a client’s final images.

Maybe it’s lucky then that I don’t have a lot of clients. 

That’s right. 

I’m being honest.

I am a photographer with a “business” but no one hires me.

What’s my problem?

I have no idea. 

Not good enough.

Not outgoing enough.

Not a good business person.

These are many of the reasons I’ve listed privately, to myself, in my journal, in my mind as I tell myself trying to make money from my love for photography was pretty much the stupidest idea I have ever had.

The excitement over the stock photography “jobs”?

Completely unwarranted it turns out.

In the last two weeks I made $13 from the one stock agency, who pays me $1.25 each time one of my images is downloaded.

In the last six months I made $67.57 at what was portrayed to me as a high end, exclusive and well paying stock agency. The agency only cuts you a check if you make $500. At this rate I should earn $500 by the time my youngest (who is 2) starts Kindergarten.


For now, I still submit my images to stock agencies because I’m already taking them for myself, why not try to make a little money off of them, even if it’s only a small amount? In this economy ever bit helps. Even if it’s only $13.

Of course, I should remember that particular agency only pays you if you make $100.

Hopefully I’ll have that cool, hard, cash in the next, say, six months.

I won’t give up on photography because for me it’s more than something I might someday, (maybe possibly, very slim chance) make money at.

It’s a lifeline.

It’s memories.

It’s connections.

It’s therapy.

It’s a bright spot in a dark world.

But it is not a source of quick money.