How to Start Building a Photography Side Hustle

If you enjoy photography, this blog is for you! Chloe is a writer and passionate photographer, who wanted to share her experience of pursuing photography as a way of increasing your income alongside studying, as a side-hustle to your main work, or as a full-time career.
Her blog will inspire you on the creative freedom and fulfilment you can get by pursuing photography, and she highlights essential steps to get started and grow your business.

Photo by Ailbhe Flynn on Unsplash

In a digital age dominated by TikTok influencers, Instagram filters and AI image and content generators, you may wonder if there’s still a place for real human creativity in photography.
The good news is that while technology is impacting many parts of the industry, there are still plenty of viable opportunities and chances to start a fulfilling and financially rewarding photography side hustle.
It’s by no means a walk in the park, as photography is a highly competitive area, but if you tackle it face-on, you can really make something special and rewarding for your career.

Building a Photography Business

Pursuing photography allows you to tap into your creative passion, capture moments in time, and share your unique perspective with the world. From this, whether you pursue photography full-time on behalf of a press organisation or publisher, or work on a freelance/contract basis with numerous clients, your future looks as bright as the flashes of your DSLR.
The best part is you no longer need expensive equipment or formal training to get started. You can research and familiarise yourself with some essential filmmaking and videography tips to get up to speed. However, you’ll learn best by practising and trialling things out in your spare time while you work, to get some money saved up, or in time for when you leave university. Fundamentally, you need persistence and a willingness to put yourself out there.
Photography by its very nature is very intertwined with the fields of graphic design, features editing, camera operations, multimedia, stylists, web design, content management, video editing, and other careers in marketing. So if you are keeping an open mind, there are naturally plenty of other open doors waiting for you down the line. But if you have a passion for capturing candid snapshots of moments, the environment, people, animals, and others, why wouldn’t you want to make something of that?

How to Set Up a Photography Business on the Side

Here are some tips to help you launch your photography side hustle while you are still a student or just starting out in your career.

Find Your Niche

While you may be passionate about various types of photography, trying to be a jack of all trades can be challenging. Some clients will prefer working with photographers with a specific style or subject matter. Have a think about those styles that you feel drawn to, such as:


  • Portraiture
  • Landscapes
  • Architecture
  • Scenery
  • Sports
  • Pet photography
  • Live music or festivals
  • Food photography
  • Events or weddings

Think about what you love to capture and the emotion or story you want to convey through your images. Your niche will be the basis of the photography projects that you take on going forward.

Gather Basic Equipment

You don’t need the latest high-end DSLR, mirrorless camera or lenses to get started. While they’re invaluable to have, sometimes it’s good to get off the ground with a used camera without all the bells and whistles.
Over time, as you begin to experiment and trial new things, you can explore:

Assuming you already have a laptop and external hard drive, keeping sufficient memory for your high-resolution photos will gradually become harder to do, the more you take.
The golden rule: buy used equipment and upgrade only as needed. Focus first on developing your skills and style.

Learn Technical Skills

Mastering the technical aspects of photography will allow your creativity to shine. Don’t expect to learn everything at once, you’ll gradually need to learn more as you progress and develop your skills.
Before long you can study technical aspects such as:

Exposure, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO

  • Composition and framing
  • Lighting – natural, flash, and artificial
  • Post-processing
  • The use of photo editing tools
    The vibrant online photography community is bustling with tips, guidance, advice and helpful articles to help you understand these technical classes. However, in your spare time, you may benefit by taking a class, an online training course or an internship, while practising regularly. Be sure to study high-quality photographs in your niche(s) for inspiration.

    Build a Portfolio Website

    A professional-looking website is a must to attract clients for your freelance photography business. Use a portfolio platform like Squarespace or Wix to create a brochure site highlighting 10-15 of your best images. Make sure that the site is easy to edit and update – you don’t need to fork out huge sums at this stage.
    Focus on photos relevant to your niche and be selective – it’s better to have fewer, high-quality images than overload visitors with multiple subfolders of photos. Remember to tell your story on your website too; write descriptive captions explaining the story behind each photo. Showcase the work that you’re proud of and what you can offer potential clients.

    Market Yourself on Social Media

    Promote your photography on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and others. Share striking portfolio images, behind-the-scenes photos, and sneak peeks of shoots.
    Consider the audience that exists on social media platforms – remember that LinkedIn is a place where business professionals network, while TikTok is video-driven and caters for younger audiences.
    Make sure that you use relevant hashtags so people can discover your work while following and engaging with similar photographers and potential clients. Plenty of photography groups can be found online and on joint social media platforms.
    Building a social media presence is important and requires you to be active and persuasive while raising awareness for your brand and making valuable connections.

    Offer Discounted Services

    One of the best ways to gain experience and expand your portfolio is by providing discounted photography services. Consider volunteering to shoot events for local charities or university events to test the waters.
    You can also offer special rates or packages for students, new graduates, or startups to book you for headshots, family photos, and other needs as you build up your portfolio.

    Consider Internships or Assistant Work

    Seeking internships and assistant jobs with established photographers is invaluable for gaining hands-on experience. You’ll build technical skills, learn how to run a photography business and make more valuable industry connections.
    Many aspiring pros start by assisting on weddings, events, studio product shoots, or working as an in-house photographer for companies. Treat it as an educational opportunity.

    Be Patient and Persistent

    Starting a successful photography side business takes time. Be prepared to take lots of photos without being paid, as you build your portfolio. Gradually, the more brands start to notice you, the sooner you will be commissioned for paid work. Stick to your niche, keep improving, keep sharing new shots and don’t give up!
    Above all, enjoy the creative process as you establish yourself. Don’t obsess over having the most high-tech camera gear and certainly don’t compare yourself to others. Experiment, find your unique voice, and shoot subjects that bring you joy. It’s really important to enjoy the process and trust it – you can’t always land your dream clients right away. Take each day as a new photographer as it comes, and you will begin to carve your own path of turning your passion into a gratifying source of income.
    Let your passion shine through in every click of the shutter! What are you waiting for? Grab your camera and start capturing your perspective on the world around you – we can’t wait to see what you create.


    About the author

    Chloe Miller is a freelance writer and business graduate from Sussex, UK. She specialises in creating informative and engaging content for businesses in the fields of marketing, business, and lifestyle & wellness.

    With experience in running her own freelance business, she is passionate about diving deep into research and industry insights to inform and educate.


    X (Twitter): @Chloe_S_Miller


    Find out more:

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    Q & A… Life as a Creative

    Q&A with a Film Camera Assistant