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How I Made Photography an Income Stream as a Stay at Home Mom

how to make photography an income as a stay at home mom

Sometimes I feel like motherhood and photography can go hand in hand. I didn’t start getting the passion for photography until I had my first daughter. I didn’t have any experience in it, but I had the passion. I was self-taught and learned a lot from watching YouTube videos. I told my husband that I wanted to start a photography business and that was it. I never looked back. I didn’t have much when I first started and I was on a small budget. This blog was already making a little money but nowhere near being able to rely on it every month. I knew that if I wanted to start a business, I needed to use as little money as possible to start until the income started coming in consistently.

So, is it possible to go from stay at home mom on a budget to starting a photography business??

Yes it absolutely is! I did it!

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I am going to tell you everything I did from the beginning all the way through making my passion a business. You can check out some of my photography on my photography Facebook page here. I didn’t have all the technical knowledge at first, I remember googling what aperture meant and what bokeh was. The first thing I did was get a starter DSLR. I started off with a Canon Rebel because everyone said it was the perfect starter DSLR. I learned to shoot in manual mode on this camera by watching YouTube videos. I practiced on my kids and I loved it. I think it was about a week later that I started a website for it, along with a Facebook page so that I could show my family and friends what I had been up to. Shortly after starting a Facebook page, I started offering my friends and family “portfolio-building mini-sessions”, now I don’t know if these are an actual thing but basically I started advertising these sessions to my friends and family as a way for me to start building my portfolio. Basically, it was – pay me very cheap to take photos of you and your family. Once I had a few family/friend sessions under my belt word of mouth spread and soon I was photographing friends of friends.

Don’t Wait to Start

Most people starting off might tell you to wait to start a website until you have been practicing for years, I am here to tell you that waiting to start a website is just a waste of time! Plus, it’s fun to see the progress that you are making. Waiting to start will only delay the time that you will start bringing in income from your photography. The best website to start off with is a WordPress website/blog. This gives you the option to either start off at a slower pace and start with a photography blog where you post your photos to simply share your passions with the world. or start advertising and making money right away. If you start off as just a photography blog where you share your journey, having a WordPress photography blog is the easiest way for you to transition to a money making website later down the road. Read this post to set up a WordPress website.

What you need to get started

To get started in photography you need at least three things.

A DSLR camera, a prime lens and some editing software, then you need a website.

Related: How To Start a Photography Website

DSLR & Lens

I started off with a Canon Rebel which you can see HERE and a 50mm lens which you find HERE.

To this day I purchase all my camera gear on Amazon and eBay because I usually find the best prices online AND there are always options to purchase everything individually which I do. I never purchase the kits. More on this later.

The Rebel is a basic DSLR camera. Most would say it’s probably the best starter DSLR because it’s a smaller DSLR compared to the full-frame, professional cameras. It’s also a good starter camera if you have never learned how to use manual mode before.

I had never put my camera in manual mode until I purchased my Rebel. I did not know anything about DSLR cameras or manual mode until I got my camera and started playing around with it. Once I got my camera I didn’t allow myself to put my camera in auto mode. It was one of my goals to learn manual mode, so to challenge myself I never switched to auto and made manual mode work for me.

At first it was a lot of trial and error. Once I learned the triangle of exposure things really started clicking for me.

I’m proof that you don’t need top of the line gear to make beautiful photos. I do not own and have never owned an L-lense from Canon. While they are great I’m sure, you might not be able to purchase one right off the bat if you are just starting out. I don’t have any immediate plans to purchase one either.

Since my start with the 50mm f/1.8 lens I have since upgraded. You can see my What’s in my current camera bag post HERE.

Here’s a tip: Don’t purchase the kits. They come with too many things you don’t need and lenses you will want to upgrade from anyway if you’re serious about photography. I have never used a kit lens and here’s why. The aperture isn’t low enough. You want to start with a lens with an aperture starting at 1.8 at least. The lower the aperture usually the higher the cost of the lens, usually. The 50mm 1.8 is probably the best lens to start off with if you’re on a small budget. This thing retails for $125 and provides a great quality photo.


Editing Software

Professional photographers edit with professional editing software. So you will need Lightroom & Photoshop or at least one of those. You can get the Photography Bundle from Adobe and pay $9.99 per month, which is what I do. You can get that at Adobe Creative Cloud HERE.

I learned everything about editing through free sources like YouTube and other websites and photography blogs. There are a ton of free resources out there on the web. But if you learn better from step-by-step instruction it might be good to invest in some photography workshops or ecourses. I love getting my camera out and shooting, but for me, the magic happens when I get in front of my computer to edit. Editing is my favorite part of this creative process. Learn some great editing techniques and you will be able to transform your photos into something even more magical.


Portfolio Building Sessions – Practice

Once you have a good camera, a lens and some editing software get out there and practice! Practice does make perfect. Challenge yourself to get out of Auto mode. Trust me when I say that once you begin to learn Manual mode you won’t want to go back. Ever. Auto will never give you the professional quality photo that Manual mode does. Here is a guide called Getting out of Auto that can help you learn Manual mode.

Earlier in the post I mentioned that I started off doing portfolio building sessions. All that means is that I started off by advertising my photography services to friends and family, at first for free and then by charging a nominal amount. Portfolio building sessions will allow you to not only get practice but also get a feel for what you like photographing. It will also help get your name out there. I started building pretty quickly by word of mouth just from shooting family and friends. For anyone I did a free session for, I asked that in return they would share their favorite photos from the session online tagging my business Facebook page. It also helps you get a feel for what you’re going to like photographing. The only way to know what you like and will have a passion for shooting is to shoot a variety of sessions with multiple subjects and see what you want to do more of.

Check out THIS post and see just how easy it is to start a website. It’s really inexpensive too if you get your hosting from Bluehost. The cost is $3.45 a month AND you get a free URL! 

One thing I recommend is to start charging for your time sooner rather than later. You don’t want to get burnt out and the easiest way to burn out in photography is by doing a lot of work for no pay, or for very little pay. I only did a few free sessions shooting my friend’s families and kids. I used them as practice to help me come up with a workflow as well as get my feet wet with learning my camera and editing. But once I felt good about my process I started charging. Even if it’s a nominal fee, don’t work for free! It’s ok if you don’t feel like your skill level is where you want it to be, you should still charge for your time. There is a ton of time you will be putting in to go to your subjects and location and you also have to account for the time it takes to edit the session.

What To Charge

I can’t tell you exactly what to charge because the market for photography is different everywhere. The best thing I can recommend is to do some research and see what other well-established photographers in your area are charging. Then do some research and see what other, newer, beginner photographers might be charging and base your portfolio building prices off of that.

I will tell you what I started charging, but again, your prices should be based off what others are charging in your local area. I first started off by charging $50 for a mini-session with a just a few images. My next mini-sessions went up to $80 and then up to $150. Eventually, after about a year, I was able to charge anywhere from $250-$350 for a 20-minute mini-session that included 8-10 edited images.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Sudarshan Kar
    August 28, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    Excellent guide! Even though I agree with what you said in this blog, the thing about practicing is what stands out the most. I come across people way too many times who think that buying a DSLR and kit is enough for them to become a professional.

    I mean come on, use your brains, people! I run a blog, teaching youngsters on how to become a YouTube vlogger successfully. I’m sure I can include a bit more reinforcement on practicing how to shoot and record after reading your blog.

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