How to (not) make money from your photographs

It excites me that with each passing day, more and more people are taking and sharing photographs of their lives with the rest of the world.

Not so long ago, the process of sharing a photograph was quite lengthy. First you had to choose and buy film of the correct exposure, then you had to insert that into your camera, then you had to ensure all your settings were correct to frame your golden shot, then wait for a few more shots before the film roll is fully utilised, then take the roll to the lab, then wait for the photos to be processed and then finally get your photo to share.

And then realise that a hand was in your shot but it wasn’t meant to be there.

With the advent of digital photography, you are only limited by the memory space on your device. You can take countless shots of the same subject to ensure that you have the perfect picture. You can review your shots and correct them in a matter of seconds.

Now with mobile phones with cameras as part of their standard features, everyone can take a photograph to share with the world, and that too in a matter of seconds.

If you are now wondering where the making money part comes in, here it is. If you are a professional photographer or working your way to become one, your potential competitor is anyone and everyone with a camera phone. “Bullshit, my photographic quality is waaaaay better than theirs!!!” you say.

True, but the people that you want to be paid by for your photographs don’t think so. This point is very important, remember it!

These days there are photo competitions every single day, hosted by numerous organisations in countless cities the world over. Some prizes are as small as mobile phone airtime and some prizes are as grand as a paid holiday to a dream destination.

Not many people take the time to read the terms and conditions. Let’s be honest, they are extremely lengthy and we just don’t have the patience to go through 20 pages of legal jargon. What we miss reading are terms worded like this:

Terms and conditions excerpt from a recently concluded Africa wide photo competition
Terms and conditions excerpt from a recently concluded Africa wide photo competition

The moment any person enters a photo competition with clauses such as these, their work can be used for free for ever! From the countless entries that they receive, a decent number of them will be good. Good enough to use in advertisements or in marketing campaigns. FOR FREE…

If they are able to harvest images for free, why should they pay you money to take photographs for them?

Remember the point I mentioned was very important? Does this make sense now?

Leave me a comment with your thoughts.


9 thoughts on “How to (not) make money from your photographs

  1. Samir, you are right about the terms & conditions for sure. Truth be told the devil is in the details. Hopefully with time we learn to read between the lines, and get value for what we do 🙂


  2. Samir, here I have to agree with Moshiri title was kidogo misleading. It should have read “How NOT to make money from your photographs.” However I am glad someone is addressing this issue, hope this article can educate a few about the fine print some of these competitions have.


  3. You didn’t say how I can make money off my photographs. Please don’t be like those gutter websites that have catchy titles but the story is far from that. Is there a part two that will tell people EXACTLY how to make money off their photos?

    *I’ll be surprised to see this comment published*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The whole article was about how to make money from you photography. In a nutshell, you will not make money from your photography if you keep entering photography competitions that are run by companies who harvest photos for free ergo have no need to buy (or pay for) photographs.


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