Viki Reed: Make Those Photos Pay, Baby

Written by Viki Reed

FB Profile Photo small

Image: Viki Reed — After years of improving your photography skills, upgrading lenses, and paying for business cards, ad space, and even studio rental, the model of financial success you relied on in the past is drying up. It’s time to expand your photography experience beyond taking pictures. Here’s how to make some real money from your photos, without breaking too much of a sweat.

It’s okay to change with the times.

Really. It’s no longer an insult to snottily say: “Those who can’t do, teach.” Not if someone will pay you to teach.

These days, amateur photogs have access to powerful post tools and gear. And all of these tools are easy to find.

Three photographers, Jodi Friedman, Doug Boutwell, and Shana Rae Rosengarten, have parlayed their skills and reputations into a sundry of successful online ventures that include webinars, actions, smart phone apps, presets, overlays, textures, how-to articles, and more. Each of their sites are at the top of SEO searches and command solid ad space.

Workshop It

This could mean live workshops in your region or selling DVDs. Both are valuable commodities — especially if the subject matter lives in one particular zone of photography.

It should come as no surprise that many of the lens guys take a Zen-like approach to  photography. Zack Arias, Alex Koloskov, and Carrie Sandoval and Brittany Woodal, for example, focus on the one thing they excel at. Then they aggressively package a singular niche experience.

Escape from the Grind

Ask why you don’t hear the term parentographers or dadtographers. What you hear is momtographer, because moms are often at home all day with their kids — and a camera that documents everything.

Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, converted her childhood love of photography into a show on Food TV, endorsements for Macy’s, book sales, lively speaking engagements and a blog detailing her beautiful home renovations, home life, and cooking. The first component of her blog was her photography page, which unfortunately she stopped updating back in December 2012.

The Coffeeshop Blog is a sister act. Homeschooling shutterbugging designers Rita and Heather use their free time to run a small empire. Visitors to their site cherry pick free actions, presets, inspiration, textures and overlays, templates, and tutorials. In other words, it’s a momtographer’s paradise.

Every page is plastered with ads for related services, making The Coffeeshop Blog a nonstop page of advertising. Everything the designers do is merely the foundation for their logo and web design business. These women took their small business to merciless heights, and never seem to be done building their empire.

Cluster Blogging

Unlike The Pioneer Woman and The Coffeeshop Blog, cluster blogs are more unisex, global, and tech-minded. They usually feature a group of dedicated young professional photographers who corral subscribers with their boundless enthusiasm.

Readers come back week after week for fan-like stories about photography, product testing and reviews, audience-posted videos, contests, tutorials and links. And it’s all presented without anyone ever trying to talk down to anyone. Now that’s style.

Some of the best cluster blogs include PetaPixel, FStoppers, Thomas Hawk and DigitalRev.

The editors of these sites, who are not afraid to promote themselves, share insider information and have inspired a growing and faithful audience.

They’ve all done a good job translating industry chatter into a worldwide club they get paid to run.

 Sell salesmanship

Both Alicia Caine and Kristen Kalp have revolutionized the business of photography with their blend of expertise, inspiration, technical planning and honesty. As serious consultants, Caine and Kalp will challenge you to reevaluate how you do business. In fact, the pair are so successful at what they do, they no longer have to take pictures to make a living anymore.

Based in New York, Viki Reed is a senior photographer and pop culture commentator at She’s worked with SubBrilliant News, Anti-Press and Thewax. Check out her work at and email her at or