How to earn money using a DSLR
I am not going to list down every possible way to make money out of a DSLR except the few good ones.
One can occasionally shoot one or two good photos using a good DSLR like a 5D Mark III or such kinds of cameras and may be license and earn money. However, that won’t be a steady stream of revenue. There are people who focus on a particular genre of photography and earn their living. However, what may seem decent to one may be too less for another person. So it depends on the person to choose.
When I started shooting with SLR cameras and slide films some two and half decades ago, we used to send our good shots to stock agencies. They used to reject some of the images and then select a few and keep it with them. When some one asks for an image and one of our images used to get selected, then we used to get royalty for our sales after deducting the commissions of the stock agency.
With the advent of digital, there are far too many photos floating around in the net for free. The shrinking budgets of the media agencies have ensured that they select the images which are available for free. There are way too many photographers who want the bragging rights of having their image published in a paper, so they give it for free. Even today, agencies abroad still license images. However, the amount that we get paid has shrunk drastically.
In India, only a handful of agencies pay for your images. Often they say that they can pay an honorarium of say a thousand rupees or a bit more even for books. A photographer can’t earn his or her living out of it.
So if one needs to focus on photography as a bread winning option, then he/she has to decide what is good for him/her and decide accordingly. Some of the following can be pursued. However, in any genre of photography, you need to be creative.
There are many online e-businesses who needs to have their product photos done. You set the lights and then shoot in several angles and then give it to them. One gets huge volumes of work if one can tie-up with large portals. It is pretty routine job. There are some who have joined in the rolls of such companies as photographers. There are some who have opened their own studios and earn money by freelancing for smaller e-biz companies.
I see many a youngster busy in doing weddings. There are many upmarket weddings these days where the amount of money spent is huge. Considering that wedding is something which is close to the heart of many people, if one does well, then he/she can make a lot of money. If one can get into that kind of area, provided one has inclination, then that can be an option. I am not a guy who can ever do weddings and I politely refuse people that filming weddings is not my cup of tea.
Most of the wedding photographers also do event photography. It can be for news, sports or just public and private events including birthdays or other parties. It is more of routine type of stuff and one might not get much money or name.
Some 15/16 years ago a colleague of mine was very distressed as the portfolio that he got done was terrible. The modelling agency after looking at his portfolio had blasted him. Looking at his plight, I asked him to come to my house the next day early morning. I took him to a place and asked him to pose infront of a rock on a small hillock. The shots were good and it got him modelling work for Green King Beer UK. If you don’t own a studio, then just move around in your parks and other places and look for a good background and shoot your subjects. You can make a start in this manner.
This is an area where you can get lot of work. However, you also need to ensure that you have desired tilt and shift lenses. If you use a wide angle lens and point up to cover the entire area, then the straight pillars will become bent. You will have converging lines. A lot of hotels, premium apartments, real-estate projects etc will require such photographers. Again, like in any genre, once you make a name, you will get a good price.
Films also need still photographs for promotion. So if you can get hooked with film production houses then you can get a chance to shoot behind the scenes still shots as well as for promotion. However, these days with the popularity of iphones a lot of producers think they can also shoot photos. So you have competition there :).
Fine Art Photography:
Many people try to do fine art photography. If you can succeed, then you can get a good name as well as money. Like everything else, it is also a hard struggle. For this, one need not be full time into photographing.
There are tons of photographers who shoot travel. It is a bit crowded field. However, if you travel enough, then it doesn’t hurt to give it a try. If one has a different eye, then he/she can get noticed. However, more often than not, your photos will appear in an article if you write the article yourself or you team up with someone who is writing the article. The money initially is not good, unless you are shooting for National Geographic. By the way National Geographic fired some of their most celebrated photographers last year as it moved from a profit motive to a commercial intent.
I am specially mentioning blogging, though it is a extension of writing articles. These days many corporates prefer to spread the word through social media. So if you can blog and then can establish that you are a travel blogger then some of the corporates can call you for covering their events or promotions. You can get to travel at their cost. Initially the money will be less. One needs to be creative in using this along with other avenues like shooting for stock, fine art etc.
It is one of the toughest genres of photography. One needs to spend a lot of money travelling to wildlife sanctuaries and national parks as well as in buying expensive camera and lenses. Even after you do this, you will need to spend a lot of time in studying animal behaviour so that you are able to anticipate the moment and click. However, like in anything in life, there is no guarantee that you will get good sightings in good light. There would be some amateur who can also click an image and that would be preferred by editors as it would be free.
Using DSLRs for Video
You can shoot videos with your DSLR. However, the videos from DSLRs are mostly soft and not as good as regular cinema cameras. Nevertheless one can shoot videos with DSLRs after buying a few other add-on equipment like microphones, sound recorders, mixers etc. You can find more details in this linked article http://www.indiawilds.com/diary/filming-queries/ .There are lot of low budget videos being shot with DSLRs. I had shot a film with a DSLR (1D Mark IV) in 2010 which got award and was shown in many film festivals.
However, now I primarily shoot with Cinema Cameras and DSLRs are for back up purposes.
There is lot of scope because most of the consumption of content is through online and there is an emphasis on images and video. Any news article today definitely has an image of the event or atleast a representative image. However, it takes a lot of time and effort to reach a level where one is going to recognised. There is no escaping the fact that one has to put in 10,000 hours of hard work to reach excellence. This article is based on a question that I received. If any of you have any questions then let me know in the comments below and I can respond to that.