11 creative side-hustles for photographers

According to a recent survey from the National Association of Personal Finance Advisors (NAPFA), almost three-quarters (70%) of Americans are considering adding another source of income following the COVID-19 pandemic, with 37% considering selling products online and 36% considering offering freelance or contract services.

Despite the challenges of last year, 2021 is in some ways shaping up to be a time for renewed creativity and optimism. In the past few months alone, we’ve seen photographers get creative with their businesses; some have updated their stores, and others have cultivated new client bases. Many have released one-of-a-kind products and inspired us with their entrepreneurial spirit.

Whether you’re an established pro or an emerging photographer, there’s never been a better time to start a side-hustle and grow your brand. Here are just a few ideas for revamping and improving your photography business, inspired by some of the extraordinary photographers in the 500px community.


Wooden Spoon by Dina Belenko on 500px.com

Publish a how-to eBook

Dina Belenko has been creating out-of-the-box still lives at home for years, but amid lockdown restrictions, she had the idea of sharing some of her behind-the-scenes secrets with other photographers. Her book is jam-packed with instructions on how to recreate and reinterpret 31 of her most impressive photos, including those featuring levitation and gravity-defying stunts.

All of Dina’s stunning setups can be created in 15 minutes to an hour, following simple instructions. If you have a unique skill set and distinctive perspective, you can do something similar by tapping into your niche and showing others how to follow in your footsteps. Share your tips, design the eBook, and promote it on social media.


Plansee Classic by Ueli Frischknecht on 500px.com

Host a workshop

This month, Ueli Frischknecht will host a small group workshop on outdoor and landscape photography at the stunning Seealpsee mountain lake in Switzerland, complete with editing sessions, meals, and accommodation at a mountain hotel. If you have special knowledge of a niche subject or offbeat location, consider leading a workshop. You can rent out a studio or collaborate with local vendors to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


perfect model.  by Anne Geier on 500px.com

Become a coach

If you like sharing your passion and expertise with emerging photographers, coaching is another avenue worth exploring. Anne Geier, for example, offers half-day, full-day, and online coaching for fellow dog photographers, covering everything from image editing and portfolio reviews to marketing and social media tips.

Offer mini-sessions

Mini photo sessions, with new or existing clients, can be a good way to supplement your income, without draining too much of your time. A mini-session can last anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, and you can offer them on a seasonal basis, such as family photo sessions for fall or graduation shoots for students. Consider making it a limited-time offer to entice clients. You can finesse your mini-session packages and pricing depending on duration as well as deliverables, like high-res files or prints.


Venice by Sky by Ryan Longnecker on 500px.com

Sell prints online

Take inspiration from the Los Angeles-based outdoor photographer Ryan Locknecker, and launch a print shop. Ryan has more than 50 photographs, many created throughout his home state of California, available as prints on paper and canvas in a variety of sizes. He also offers specialty prints on wood, metal, glass, acrylic, and more on request.

You can open a print shop through your website if it supports eCommerce, or you could hold flash print sales via social media or Etsy. Alternatively, you can list your photos with a print-on-demand marketplace like Fine Art America.


Shanghai by Tristan Zhou on 500px.com

Market your presets

In addition to prints and products, you can also sell Lightroom presets to photographers hoping to emulate your style. This approach works well if you have a recognizable aesthetic, like Tristan Zhou, who’s known for his cinematic pictures in urban metropolises. He sells a pack of five presets he uses himself, and encourages buyers to share their edited photos for a chance to be featured on his Instagram Stories. For tips on making and selling your own presets, check out our guide.


Magic Light by Jovana Rikalo on 500px.com

Create and curate your own shop

The photographer and educator Jovana Rikalo is known for her surreal, fairytale scenes. In her online shop, you can find an array of prints and presets, but you’ll also find products like photo calendars and wardrobe pieces such as dresses and flower crowns, all of which are used in photoshoots and bought by the artist. If you source your own wardrobe pieces or props or create your own backgrounds, consider making them available to clients through a highly curated, shoppable collection.


Meet again by Kalle Lundholm on 500px.com

Offer retouching services

As a photographer, you might have marketable retouching skills to offer other photographers and brands. Take Kalle Lundholm, who, in addition to being known around the world for his surf photography, works as a freelance photo retoucher. In that role, he specializes in editing for the automotive industry and color grading. If you have a knack for editing, do some research into the kinds of brands that might need your services and appreciate your unique skill set, and start promoting your talent as a retoucher.


the other el cap by Sam Brockway on 500px.com

Partner with a brand you admire

Sam Brockway, who specializes in travel and outdoor photography, has partnered with prominent outdoor brands such as Columbia Sportswear and Cairn to introduce his audience to products he loves through compelling visuals.

You can do something similar by teaming up with a company that fits your niche and area of expertise and posting about them on social media. Most brands will look for photographers with an established following and community; start by researching brands that might be appropriate and cultivating your online presence. Check out our article on improving your presence for tips on how to do this.


Jökulsárlón Lagoon by Martin Bailey on 500px.com

Start a podcast

Podcasts are usually offered to the public for free, but if you’re good at it, you could attract sponsors and contributors down the road. For instance, Martin Bailey, who has one of the most popular and longest-running photography podcasts out there, has had some stellar sponsors over the years, ranging from DxO Labs to Squarespace. Followers can also support his podcast by becoming a contributor.

License your photos through 500px

Licensing your photos for commercial use is a great way to earn passive income, as you can sell your photos again and again to several different clients over the years. 500px makes it easy for everyone to license photos on their Profile, and those who are successful at it have hundreds, or even thousands, of pictures in their portfolios. 500px distributes photos through Getty Images and Visual China Group (VCG), so they offer some of the best exposure in the business. If you’d like to get started with Licensing, check out our tips for making the most of the opportunity.

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