Fact Checked

How do I Find Photography Work?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Just as there are many different kinds of photography, there are also many different ways to find photography work. One of the best places to find photography work is on the internet. There are numerous websites for creative professionals such as photographers that list open calls for work as well as project-based work. One of the most popular places to search for creative work is Craigslist, an online classified ads site. In addition to being able to search for work in your own town, you will also be able to search for work in towns and cities within a commutable distance. Furthermore, it is possible to use internet posting sites such as the Craigslist site to find work that you can complete via telecommunication.

One of the most important ways to prepare to find photography work is to build up a portfolio. If you do not have a portfolio for potential clients to look at, they have no idea what the style and quality of your work is like. Now that we are in the digital age, it has become just as important to have an online portfolio as it is to have a physical portfolio. It is now best to have both. You can take your physical portfolio with you to meetings with potential clients and use your digital portfolio when you are communicating with people via email and over the phone.

A photograph of a waterfall in Tasmania. Many photographers work freelance.
A photograph of a waterfall in Tasmania. Many photographers work freelance.

A good way to find photography work is to network with other photographers. Also, offer to help out other photographers with projects that are either unusual in scale or scope or are under a tight deadline. It is a wonderful thing if you can be on call to stand in on a job if one of your colleagues cannot, for one reason or another, make it to an appointment. This is especially true in event photography, when the work has to take place within a specific period of time at a specific location.

Some photographers find work with surveillance professionals and private investigators.
Some photographers find work with surveillance professionals and private investigators.

Surveillance professionals and private investigators are often looking for photographers to help them build cases that they are working on. While this might not be the most creative kind of photography work, it is possible to make a nice amount of money in this field. In so doing, you will have a bit of financial breathing room to do things like develop your professional website, fill out your portfolio, network with potential clients, and line up future jobs.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for WiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for WiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


@Emilski - I know what you mean. Like you said, photography is so simple now that anyone can do it, but that doesn't necessarily make them professionals.

I think there is a certain amount of art in taking pictures, and doing the same cliche engagement pictures next to ponds doesn't make someone a photographer in my eyes. That is not to say that everyone who takes these kinds of pictures isn't a photographer, though. I think for me to consider someone a professional, they need to be creative enough to come up with ideas that other people haven't tried.

Besides that, I think they need to be skilled enough to understand lighting effects and how to get the best pictures possible. They need to understand the subjects and find ways to maximize the effectiveness of the pictures.


@burcidi - I think photography equipment has gotten inexpensive enough and easy enough for anybody to use that a lot of people are getting into it. I graduated from a small class in high school, and I know at least 3 people who now take senior pictures and pictures for things like engagements and weddings.

I don't know how much they make or how successful they are, but I guess they are at least making enough profit to stay in business.

I don't know if any of them have formal degrees in photography or have taken any classes. Like ysmina said, it doesn't matter how much training you have if you still take bad pictures. At the same time, though, given their work, I think it might be a bit of a stretch to call what they do professional photography.


My friend got into photography by doing an internship with the most popular photography studio in the area. They employed only two photographers, and they really could use the help.

She worked there for free during her last year of college, but she gained invaluable experience. It’s always great to be able to put something like this on your resume, and her internship helped land her a permanent job at another studio downtown.

Some people think it is a waste of time to work for free, but they don’t realize how much it can help your career. Without that experience, my friend would not have been making nearly as much money as she is today, and it only took a few months of her life to make this happen.


@orangey03 - I also use a digital camera, and I love the gorgeous photos it produces. However, some people who stick to old-style professional cameras are very prejudiced against digital cameras. They think that since they are uncomplicated and require little skill to use, the photos they produce cannot qualify as works of art.

I work at a newspaper, and the photographer there is stuck in the past. He only uses huge cameras with flash attachments and such, and he is the most anti-digital-camera person I have ever met.

He once admired a photo that I had set as my wallpaper on my monitor. Once I told him what I took the photo with, he sniffed and walked away.


I didn’t know I could find photography work through Craigslist! I will have to try that now!

My friends are all impressed with my photography. I’m sure it helps that I use a high quality digital camera, but I do have an artistic knack for setting the scene for a photo.

I haven’t tried to find work online, simply because I don’t have a degree in photography, and I figured that many more qualified people would be in competition with me. I do have some beautiful work that I could add to my portfolio, though, and that might help me land some jobs.


@ddljohn - That sounds like my photographer friend. She opened up her own studio at the urging of relatives, and though she started out doing free photos for her porftolio, she eventually made it a full-time job.

She is very good at what she does. Unfortunately, before I met her, I had already gotten a cousin to shoot my wedding photos, but a mutual friend introduced us, and she asked if she could shoot photos at my wedding, too, just to add them to her portfolio.

I let her know up front that I didn’t have much money and wouldn’t be able to buy many of them from her, but she seemed fine with that. She said she just wanted them to build up her image and be able to branch out to wedding photography.

However, I learned through friends that she was very hurt when I only bought a couple of photos from her. I didn’t understand this, because I told her beforehand how it would be. Anyway, she did a great job, and now, she has my wedding photos listed on her site as examples.


@starrynight - Stock photography is a good idea, but I've found that it's actually kind of controversial in the photography community. Some people feel like it cheapens the industry as a whole, because a lot of the photos sell for less than a dollar.

I think a personal website is essential, no matter what kind of photography you do. This allows you to show someone your portfolio on a moments notice, which is essential these days. Plus, not having a website will put you far behind your colleagues.


@indemnifyme - Yeah, getting model releases is pretty important. You can actually be sued if you use someone's image and sell it without permission.

But back to finding actual photography work. In my opinion, the Internet has opened up tons of avenues for photographers. Most websites and blogs feature tons of photos, so someone has to take them!

If you want to sell photos online for use on websites, the best avenue is through a stock photo website. These sites allow you to take something like landscape photography or close-up photography and sell the rights your photos over and over to different people.


@burcidi - There is actually no such thing as a universal certification for photographers and digital photography work. However, there are many colleges that offer bachelor's or associate's degrees in photography. This can definitely help you get your foot in the door some places, but as you said it usually comes down to the almighty portfolio.

However, even if the portfolio helps you get the job, there are still things you can learn in a class that you probably won't learn on your own just playing around with your camera. For example, the legalities of photography.

Most people don't realize you need to get a model release to sell a picture with a model in it. Sometimes you even need to get releases if you photograph a famous building!


@SkyWhisperer - All of these are good tips, but I would offer one bit of advice. Stay away from wedding photography until you absolutely know what you’re doing.

Weddings are not a place to “learn on the job.” Wedding photos are irreplaceable, and if you mess them up, you will be in a heap of trouble in a hurry.

I actually heard of a guy who messed up photos for a wedding. Rather than tell the couple what he had done – and risk their wrath and fury and a possible lawsuit – this guy fled town.

I am not kidding. He packed up his stuff and relocated elsewhere! So if you want to break into wedding photography, I would suggest starting out with a partner first. This is not a place where you want to fly solo as a beginner.


@MrMoody - I believe that having a certain niche is helpful, especially in commercial photography work. I knew a lady who did real estate photography, but these weren’t ordinary pictures.

Instead, she created the “virtual tours” you often see on the Internet. She went into the houses and took 360 degree pictures of each room.

She had a special camera that enabled her to do this. Clearly, she had a specific niche. I am sure she wasn’t the only one who could do this, but she did stand out from the hundreds of other real estate photographers. So you see that mastering certain kinds of technology can open doors for you too.


@allenJo - It’s not that hard to find freelance photography work actually. I agree with the article that an online portfolio is the most important thing.

If you don’t have the portfolio, however, you can still build one. Just offer to do some photography for friends or relatives. Do photo shoots that are similar to the kinds of work you eventually want to offer to the public, whether it’s baby photography or fashion photography – whatever.

Believe me, people will be happy to get this work for free. Just make sure they give you permission to use it in your portfolio. Then put your stuff online and you should start getting orders.


I am not a photographer, but I can tell you that as with so many other things, it’s about being at the right place at the right time. I have a friend who immigrated to America and started out in New York. He was kind of bold.

He walked into a magazine studio and asked them if they had work – any kind of work – for him to do. He didn’t have photography in mind, he just wanted work. They said no.

Then they stopped and asked, “Do you know how to use a camera?” They meant professionally, of course, but he was more literal; sure, he said, he could use a camera.

They told him to show up at a certain event and take pictures. I think it was a ribbon cutting event for a new building. Well, he did, they liked his work, and the rest was history; it launched his career in professional photography.


@burcidi-- I work for a real estate company. I take pictures of the homes they have for sale to attract customers and promote business. Before this job, I had worked as an assistant at a photography studio. So I haven't had experience in different kinds of photography to compare them.

From my experience, this career is based more on experience and skills rather than education. You could have taken a hundred photography courses and have a bunch of certificates, but if you can't take good pictures and give customers what they're looking for, you won't get far.

I found the ad for my current job online and applied for it. They looked at my portfolio and were impressed. They had me shoot some pics of a home they were having difficulty selling because it was old and not well cared for. It was a challenge but I did it and I got the job. It's a big business and we have new homes coming in everyday. So I have the typical 9 to 5 job hours. The only difference is that I'm driving around from home to home and rarely stay at the office.


I guess the answer to this question would largely depend on the kind of photography work one has in mind, right?

As far as I know, photography for special events is very different than photography for a magazine, or nature photography for example. And I think some photographers work freelance and publicize their portfolios and wait for customers. Whereas others have full time jobs with a company or organization.

Getting a job in photography should also vary from place to place. Most employers require a certification from the photographer that they've attended courses and know what they're doing. But I'm sure that there are freelance photographers who work without a certification because their portfolio and past work speaks for itself.

Do we have a photographer among us who can enlighten a little bit more on these issues? Like do all employers require certification? How do work requirements, income and work hours change in different types of photography?


I have a photographer friend and he had actually started photography as a hobby. He ended up doing it as a part-time job when his friends and acquaintances started calling him when they needed a photographer. When he started out, he would charge them less than what a professional photographer would charge for their photography jobs and people do like to work with people they already know and trust.

So he started taking graduation, engagement and wedding pictures for his friends and family members. People who worked with him recommended him to their friends and it just took off. Now he does it as a full time job.

So I think that spreading the word about your talent and work among those you know helps. My friend also took photography courses later on and has improved and developed his online portfolio which helped him gain legitimacy as a professional.

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