For many photographers, the goal is to find jobs that let you work as a contractor or freelancer. While that means you’re not regularly employed by a company and receiving regular paychecks, it can be one of the more rewarding ways to make a living in professional photography.
As a freelancer, you have more freedom than you would if you were working somewhere as an salaried employee. Freelancing allows you to pick and choose what you want to work on and how you want to do it. Of course, it also means there aren’t guarantees, but that’s the risk you take for the rewards of more freedom.
Freelance photography is an idea that has been around for a long time. Before everyone was on the internet, photographers could drum up extra business in a variety of ways. Cold calling was one way. Photographers looking for work would target a type of business that could use their skills and go see them, taking along examples of relevant work. Pinning up a business card in a high traffic area was another way.
That’s pretty much still how we do it. But now, the businesses are reached online, and the business cards are our websites, online portfolios, and social media accounts.
Contract or Freelance?
For a lot of photographers, the terms contract work and freelancing are relatively interchangeable. I like to split the categories a bit, but there is a lot of overlap even in my personal definition.
With contract work, I have usually auditioned or applied in some manner, and I have a contract with the company specifying terms. I get jobs assigned periodically, fulfill the terms and upload the work, and then get paid. There is no guarantee of job frequency or size, but the relationship between me and the guys with the checks is ongoing.
In this type of business relationship, sometimes the companies handle everything except the photography. They set the appointments, do the billing, maybe even post-process in their own labs. Other contracts may require you to set the appointments or process your images, but they rarely ask you, the contractor, to collect any client payment.
Freelance work would include more one-off types of jobs. In other words, I’m not expecting any long-term commitment from anyone and I generally do every bit of the job, including collecting client payment. Having a standard contract form is a good idea for these types of jobs.
Finding freelance jobs can be done with a passive approach or more actively.
Some examples of a passive approach are:
Social media posts
Resume hosting sites
Active job searching may include:
Using job search sites
Applying directly to companies
Here, we’ll take a look at the best places to find freelance photography jobs online. There are many places to look, from general and industry-specific job boards to social media and stock photography websites.
Might as well get the big ones out the way first. On Facebook, you can post as a private person, as a company profile, or make sponsored posts. There’s Facebook Marketplace, too. What you do is post examples of your work, and maybe even list your availability. Use a post as a call to action to entice someone to contact you. Interact with anyone showing interest in your posts.
I consider Facebook and other social media to be a passive presence for finding freelance jobs. Even though you try to engage with the public as much as reasonable, you are still basically waiting for someone to walk by and notice your business card.
Very much like being on Facebook, but with a more photo-oriented layout. Post as a person or company, for free or sponsored. Similarly to Facebook there is no accurate way to predict others seeing you and responding with work. So, you use your posts to create interest and let others know how to contact you and what type of work you can do for them.
LinkedIn is more like a social media platform than a job search board, but it can be used as both. Having a profile and connecting with others works passively. Searching the site for people or businesses wanting to hire is an active way to use this site.
You can reach out directly to people or companies on LinkedIn. Send a message outlining what you can do for them, and include some samples of your work or a link to your online portfolio. Or, you can search the website for open jobs. A simple search of “photographer” will pull up posts with companies looking for that skill. You can limit your job search to a specific geographic area, too.
Thumbtack is a pay-to-bid job board. You set up your profile, and when your type of job comes open for bidding, make your best pitch. The client then contacts you and the two of you make all the job arrangements. You are only charged for your job bid if the client responds to the bid. Your profile also shows up in searches.
Pay-to-bid sounds like a scam at first, but it isn’t. These are real jobs that you are paying to look at and bid on. Consider the bid process kind of like an application fee. From what I’ve seen, there are a lot of people looking for wedding photographers or for someone to take local real estate pictures.
For finding true freelance gigs, Upwork is one of the best places on the internet. Nearly half of my own creative work income comes from this site. You set up a free account and then you can bid your services on a limited number of jobs. If you want to bid on more than the free number of jobs, you can purchase different memberships with more bid credits.
As you sign up for Upwork, you select the skills you want to offer to clients. There are tests you can take to make your profile more desirable to the employers you want to target. A search of jobs will then bring up all sorts of people and companies wanting to hire someone like you. You submit a proposal and then you get hired if your proposal is chosen.
Employers deposit funds into a form of escrow account. You can ask for monetary draws, incremental payments while working on the job as you reach preset milestones, or wait for payment until the entire project is completed. Once you submit the finished work, and the client approves it, then you get paid. Upwork takes a percentage of your payment as fees, and the money will be directly deposited to your account in a few days.
It takes a while to build up a good profile and reputation, but once you get the ball rolling, you can stay pretty busy. Photo jobs range from Amazon product pics, events and portraits, to commercial real estate. There are also usually a lot of post-processing requests, so you can offer that service, too.
Home of freelance jobs for professionals, Guru works pretty much the same way as Upwork. A basic account is free, with a small number of available bids. More bids can be purchased if you plan on applying to more jobs than what’s alloted for free. When you submit the work and get approval, the funds on deposit from the employer become available to you. Guru takes a percentage of the payment.
The percentage of the fee will vary based on whether or not you subscribe to a higher priced plan. Most of the photography-themed jobs seem to be post-processing, but there are some product and real estate photography job postings on the site. Guru is a smaller site right now, but it is growing.
A basic account allows you to search and bid on a limited number of jobs for free, but subscriptions are also available at extra cost. Freelancer takes their cut from your protected payment. Most of the jobs for photographers tend to be post-processing.
Events, portraits, and product shoots are also posted, but those jobs don’t seem to be very U.S.-centered. It’s a large site, but Freelancer tends to cater more towards the international market. Pricing follows that trend.
PPH is a curated job site with the same basic business model as Upwork and Guru. A basic account with a limited number of bids is free. You can pay for an upgraded account subscription that allows more bids, or you can purchase extra bids as needed.
However, this site is currently mostly centered on UK-based jobs. Like the other bid-for-jobs sites, a huge number of the available projects on PPH are for some form of post-processing or graphic design work. Actual photography jobs tend to be product shoots and commercial realty.
This site only lists remote jobs. In other words, you won’t find gigs for on-location photo shoots. There aren’t a whole lot of photography jobs listed here, and those that are listed are more likely to be graphic design and post-processing work. However, if you have multiple artistic and computer talents, this website is a good choice.
A basic account is free, but to get the full benefit of the site, a paid subscription is necessary. Search with keywords for open jobs. When you find some you like, save them and then either upload a resume or apply directly on the company site that the link opens – whatever option the link takes you to. A paid subscription lets you see more available jobs.
Commercial work, event photography, portrait, nature, sports, and photojournalism jobs are listed on FlexJobs. You can browse a limited number of job posts for free, but in order to apply, you’ll need to have a subscription.
A large number of the jobs listed have nothing to do with photography, but the search categories can be adjusted to show only photo jobs. In addition to the job listings, Flex Jobs offers some nice resources for job hunters, such as tips for how to stand out and market surveys of what’s in demand.
Photo retouching and video editing make up a large majority of the available freelance jobs, but the plus side is that there are quite a few new listings every single day.
Many of us already use Fiverr as the place to get our logos created, or have a website banner made, but it can also be a great way for a photographer to find work. The work available is mostly video production related, and the competition is fierce, but it is a great way to gain experience in freelancing your talents.
The payments tend to be on the low side, but the work requested is generally quick and easy. Free access comes with a basic account, but you can upgrade in order to get more job access and some other features like a higher placement or rank in other people’s searches.
Even if you don’t intend to use Fiverr to find jobs for yourself, it’s a great site for photographers looking to hire people to help build your business. From resume services to logo creation to marketing research, this website is one of the best places to find the services you require.
This is the classifieds. On Craigslist, you can find local and sometimes national job postings, either for permanent work or for shorter gigs. Free for everyone, you really need to verify any job listing you are thinking of replying to. Some of the best jobs are found here, but it’s also full of scammers, so be careful.
One of the largest job search sites online, Indeed verifies jobs to avoid the possibility of scammers posting. If you see a job on Indeed, it’s legit. You can search for jobs, check company reviews, and apply directly. You can also upload your resume and have companies invite you to apply.
Job search sites like Indeed, Monster, and Glassdoor aren’t where you want to search for temp gigs like a location wedding or a business portrait. You use these sites for finding more permanent positions. You might find a company needing a full-time product photographer or another one looking for part-time post-processing technicians.
Another very large general job search site. Sites like Monster, Indeed, and Glassdoor post jobs in scores of fields and professions, so there is a lot to search from. The sites let you set search parameters to help narrow things down.
Include “photographer” and “photography” in your search keywords. Avoid using “photo” as a keyword, as that tends to bring up every job asking for an ID photo, regardless of job type. Narrow your searches by geographic area, part-time or full-time, and whether a degree or license is required.
A lot of the contractor type of photo jobs can be found through the general job search sites. There are also going to be positions listed that may not be for photography only, but include being a photographer as part of the job, like market research or journalism.
One of the other top general job search boards, many companies post on Glassdoor. It has a good reviewing method for job searchers to check out the hiring companies.
Search the website for photography jobs. You can narrow down the search by location or by full-time, part-time, or contracting. Glassdoor has quite a bit of helpful information from other job searchers – things such as sample interview questions, salary ranges, company outlook, and reviews of previous employees. All of those things let you decide whether or not to even apply to the job listing.
You can also upload your resume and save previous searches. Glassdoor then emails you when new jobs that match your saved preferences are listed.
A job search board, this is similar to picking up a newspaper (remember those?) and browsing the want ads. Choose a location or enter keywords to begin your search. You can save the search parameters and have the job board email you new postings. Be as generic or specific as you wish.
When you see a job description that interests you, click on the link, and that will take you to an application page. Sometimes it’s a generic application page that forwards your info to the hiring company; sometimes it’s the website of the company directly. There are no fees for the searches, but some of the jobs listed may not be legitimate work, so make sure to do a review search to protect yourself from scams.
You pay a monthly fee to post your photos of anything and everything to this website. It works more like a microstock than an actual job board. It’s easy to submit your images, but there is no guarantee of any sales for your work.
Instead of receiving assignments, you shoot the type of subject that you are most comfortable with. Shoot lots of images of those subjects. Some ideas of things to shoot are local places of interest, or groups of people doing things like dining, shopping, or dancing at a nightclub. Then, upload your photos to the site.
If the type of images you shoot are in demand, then you have a higher chance of people choosing them to download. Payments are pretty low, but the luck of the draw will sometimes land you a decent payout. Don’t quit your day job, but if you are new to the idea of photography freelancing, this might give you some experience in seeing just what sells while actually making a small amount of money.
Purchase a monthly subscription and then browse the posted jobs. The opportunities are very focused, which is nice. That means that you won’t be slogging through a bunch of driving jobs that merely have the word “photo” listed somewhere in the description.
Primarily listing jobs in the U.S., there’s a huge variety of photographic work here. Everything from making images of exotic cars for ad campaigns to taking headshots for business cards. One thing this site offers more than some other sites is job postings for videography and other projects related to filmmaking.
The only real downside is that it is still a relatively limited job site, and you will be competing with people who are mainly well-established talents. Bring your A game, present yourself well, and give it a shot.
Photojournalism is a fairly specialized niche, not every photographer will enjoy photojournalism, and oftentimes employers ask for college degrees in journalism. Signing up for Journalism Jobs gives you access to photography projects that are solely in the journalistic fields.
It’s a large site, with many job listings, but you will need to set search parameters for photography and your location to find anything relevant for you. Unless you’re also a writer or reporter, then you could look for jobs that have a mix of requirements.
Since employers pay to post their job openings, you can be sure you’re seeing real jobs in journalism, not just any old job that happens to have a certain keyword in the listing. Besides searching jobs, you can also upload a resume and let the employers find you.
With both free and premium services, if you want to work on cruise ships in any capacity, this site has the opportunities for you. As a cruise ship photographer, you would do many jobs – events, portraits, and even accompanying tourists on trips inland. You would also be doing most of the sales and post-processing. If that sounds like your dream job, climb aboard!
As with general job search sites, you search with keywords for the job description you desire. When you see something you like, follow the prompts to complete an application. Companies differ slightly in how they handle online applications, but you may be required to provide credentials such as professional certificates or licenses. The premium service lets you see more jobs then what are listed on the basic free account.
A stock image site, Shutterstock holds your uploaded image and video files and people and companies come to the site to buy rights to use your images. With multiple images numbering into the hundreds of thousands, buyers have a lot to choose from. If they choose one of yours, you get paid. Individual payments with most stock agencies are relatively low, but they can add up over time.
The fun thing for you as a photographer is that you can shoot whatever you like. As long as it’s in demand, your images, of literally anything, have a chance of getting chosen.
Stock Image sites will generally have tools for photographers to use to see what type of image is in demand. This changes constantly, so make it part of your job to update your images as needed. Images that are technically perfect stand out better than lesser quality images. Good exposure, sharp focus, pleasing composition – all of these things are important.
This isn’t where you dump your leftover images. It’s more like a gallery of your best work, but with thousands of other choices available to potential buyers. Stay on top of current trends and submit high-quality images. If you do that, your images have a better chance of making you some money.
This is one of the first online stock image sites and it has a huge number of customers. There are a huge number of images available, too, so the chances of your images getting purchased are relatively low per image. However, the right portfolio of high-quality and unique photos can result in a steady extra income for you.
A stock image site like Getty lets you concentrate on the style and genre you prefer, which is a plus. But the competition is always there in the same room with you, as it were. Keeping track of current trends and offering a variety of similarly themed images are strategies that can help maximize your earnings.
This a contracted position that is basically real estate photography of staged locations. Airbnb is fairly particular about the quality of the images used to showcase the places offered for rent. If you get hired on, work will be limited to host locations within your 30-mile radius area.
To apply, you go to the website and see if they are accepting applications in your area. You will need to show a strong portfolio on your website in order to be considered. Then you will be asked to do a sample job on your own to show you can work with their specifications.
If you live in a popular tourist area, work can be plentiful. Otherwise, it will be somewhat limited. Airbnb also expects a high-standard of post-processing. Pay is higher than you’d get with most other real estate photography jobs.
One of the largest real estate photography companies in the U.S., Obeo is a contracting employer. You apply for the position, submit a portfolio, interview, and do a series of test shoots at a real location, then you get hired on as a contributing contractor.
Depending on the size and vibrancy of your local real estate market, how many photographers are in the area, and what kind of relationship your account manager has with area agents, Obeo can vary from a very part time situation with only a few jobs once in a while to virtually full-time work.
There is a lot of work involved for contracting photographers. In addition to the principle photography, you may be required to do post-processing, floor plan mapping, and scheduling your location shoots. Pay is decent, but you could definitely make more per job on your own. However, having the resources of Obeo will generally result in a greater volume of work.
On the plus side, if you are good at realty photography, this could be an extremely lucrative vocation. If you don’t get in at first, try again; the realty market is constantly in flux.
A real estate imaging company, Stilio works on a similar model as Obeo, just with a slightly different group of packages. When you work for Stilio, you are a contracted photographer for them. Stilio books a client and assigns them to you. When you get the assignment, you set up the photoshoot and follow through.
Photographers don’t have to do any image-processing, though, as Stilio takes care of that. The pay scale is decent, but jobs will depend on how busy your local agents are. Stilio handles all the monetary arrangements, and you get paid your contracted amount upon job completion.
Oyster is a TripAdvisor company that contracts writers, photographers, and other professionals. As a contracted photographer, you will go to hotels in your assigned area, sometimes as a mystery shopper type guest, sometimes as a scheduled photographer.
There are only a limited number of job openings in any given area, so it’s not a company that offers a whole lot of photography work. If you are able to sign on as a contractor, the pay structure is attractive and the work is rewarding.
Ambassadors, as Everyscape photographers are called, are contracted to do a very specialized type of photography work – panoramic virtual tours. As a contracted photographer in your area, you get assigned places to shoot, you set up the schedule, and then you upload the files.
It’s a cross between commercial real estate and advertising photography. A fisheye lens, a nodal panoramic mount, and a DSLR are the equipment requirements. Excellent photo skills and a professional demeanor are the contractor requirements.
While the pay scale is attractive, the type of photography means that jobs may be few and far between, depending on your assigned area. Locations tend to be hotels, offices, and other businesses.
Formerly known as Dating Headshots, this is a portrait photography freelancing job opportunity. Online dating is a huge business, so if you get accepted as a contractor, you could find yourself with a fair amount of extra work.
You can work out of your own photo studio or you can do on-location environmental photography. It’s free to sign up as a contracting photographer, and the site takes a percentage of every job you complete.
The payment structure is easy to deal with, as the photographer doesn’t do any billing. A person wanting their portrait taken chooses a photographer from the website, pays online ahead of time and arranges for a suggested time and place to do the shoot which the photographer confirms.
After the photoshoot, you upload the images. That’s it. After the client approves, you get your cut released and paid. The pay scale is decent, but you won’t get rich doing this. There are usually several photographers within the same area, so the client decides who to hire based on the strength or style of your submitted portfolio.
Are you interested in one of the most exciting photography jobs in the world? It’s hard to get hired on with National Geographic, but it’s a lot more open than many photographers realize. You sign up to join an existing photographer on an assignment, shoot your own images to their standards, and submit them. If you get published, you could find yourself with a great opportunity for future work.
30. Car Dealerships
While many car dealerships have their own photographers, smaller, locally owned dealers use freelancers to take photos of their stock to post online. Used car lots, especially, are a good place to check out. Set yourself up a route of dealers and you could make a nice extra income with part-time work.
31. Local Temp Agencies
If you check around with local agencies in your area, every now and then you will find a small company looking to hire for short- or long-term photography jobs. Stay connected to their system and many agencies will contact you when a job matches your skills and availability.
A local temp agency is a little easier to make a personal connection with. After going through whatever application process they have, make it a point to call or email periodically to stay on top of any new opportunities. Work with them, but don’t be a pest. Temp agencies want to find you work, since that’s how they get paid.
Finding Your Dream Freelance Photography Job
Photography is a competitive field. It always has been, but that’s especially true now, with digital cameras and everyone and their mother online. To be successful in your freelance job search, stay on top of current trends in the market, showcase your best work samples, and keep looking for more opportunities.
A freelance photography career affords you with opportunities to take on enjoyable photographic projects and get paid for doing them. You have the choice to freelance as your primary work or as a way of adding extra income to your existing professional career.
You are a photographer because you enjoy the art and craft of photography. You are a professional because you’re good enough for others to want to pay you for your skills. Now, get out there and enjoy being a freelance photographer!
Stephen Harker is a professional photographer since 1977 in the fields of architecture, commercial realty, and environmental portraits. Personal projects include Route 66 travel photos and the beauty of nature in California, New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas. Currently providing commercial photography and teaching in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.