10 Rich Tips How to Make Money from Photography

10 Rich Tips How to Make Money from Photography
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Something I was very curious when I started photography:

Could I turn my passion of photography into a living?

Truth be told, when I was in college I didn’t think it would be possible. Thus I started this blog for fun, and to just share my thoughts. But nearly a decade+ later, I’ve made racks from photography, and I’m essentially retired at age 32. And because I’m so frugal, I will never run out of money.

I wanted to write this essay to give you some practical ideas, to empower you, and hopefully help you make some gouda from photography:


1. Insane hunger and desire to become self-employed

Benjamin Franklin money face closeup

Necessity is the mother of all innovation. If you really want to make cheese from photography, you must have such a strong desire to become self-employed. Working a 9-5 was the most hateful thing to me. I felt like a prisoner. I desired my freedom so much that I hustled 10000x harder than anyone I knew in order to make my dream of being self-employed a reality.

So this is the first idea:

The goal isn’t to become rich for the sake of becoming rich. The goal is to strive towards your personal freedom.

I truly believe if you hustle 1000x harder than anyone else, you will become rich. You will be able to create massive value, and as long as you capture even 10% of that value, you will become rich.

2. Start a blog

wordpress.org is our best friend.

Make a wordpress.org blog via 1and1.com or bluehost.com. Register your own domain, and become the master of your own domain.

I would say 90% of my success in photography is because of blogging, and this blog. Is blogging dead? Yes. Everyone is being suckered by social media (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube). But as long as you build your empire on another person’s platform, you will always remain a slave, or better — a ‘digital sharecropper‘.

Digital Sharecropping
Digital Sharecropping

“Until you own yourself, you can’t be free. Until you own yourself, you can’t be me.” – JAY Z

Probably one of the best albums to listen about becoming rich is JAY-Z’s “4:44” album. In the Story of OJ, he outlines basic notions of ownership.

You want to become an owner, not a runner.

A “runner” is someone who works for the master. Your goal is for self-ownership, and your goal is to become the master.

You can have a trillion followers on Instagram and still be a slave. You can have 10 trillion followers on YouTube and still be a slave. Why? You do not own your platform.

By owning your own self-hosted wordpress.org blog, you build your own platform, you build your own domain. You gain 100% control and freedom.

Not only that, but every time you write a blog post, you build equity in yourself. Publishing a post is like putting another brick in your castle.

6,636 blog posts (and counting).

Start off by making a blog, and striving to become 1000x as useful, insightful, and valuable than anyone else out there. This is what I strove to do for street photography, and I became the #1 blog on the internet (and the planet) for street photography.

Why blog? Building your own blog means:

  1. You will always have a stream of new information, knowledge, artwork, and content for your followers.
  2. You have absolute freedom in terms of what to publish (and what not to publish). For example, Facebook/Instagram/YouTube have these ‘community guidelines’ which prevent you from publishing “lewd” content, nudity, or perhaps controversial things. True richness means to own yourself. Until you own yourself, you cannot become free. And until you’re free, you cannot become rich.
  3. You can augment your creative powers: You can publish words, videos, photos, music, thoughts — anything! The etymology of ‘rich‘ is to become powerful, strong, noble, kingly, royal, mighty, just, and right.

3. Free or extremely expensive

CAMERA MONEY USD by ANNETTE KIM

Simple barbell pricing strategy:

Either offer your stuff for free, or charge a LOT of money for it.

For example, my blog posts, e-books, presets, etc are all free. But when I teach a workshop or sell products, I charge a lot of money for them.

Why free? There is no better price than “free 99”. When you create things and offer them for free, they will spread. This is all free marketing and advertising for yourself.

Truth be told, very few people spend money on the internet. Most stuff can be got for free. So why would they spend their hard-earned cash on you? Simple: because they believe in you so much, desire to support you, or because they believe you are extremely valuable.

light bulb money icon

For example, you can learn everything about photography from my blog. But if you want to learn with me in-person and want personal guidance, you must attend my workshop to gain access to me. And once you have access to my workshop, I will give you my 100% undivided attention, and will tailor my knowledge and experience to empower you to your personal maximum.

Thus the practical idea is this:

Offer 99% of your stuff for free, but charge a lot of money for 1% of it.

Some other ideas:

  1. Create physical goods: When Cindy and I created HAPTIC INDUSTRIES, the idea was this– “If I could create my own optimal tools for myself, what would they look like?” Thus I created the HENRI NECK STRAP, HENRI WRIST STRAP PRO, and also products for RICOH GR (Eric Kim WRIST STRAP, Eric Kim NECK STRAP). It seems the human bias is this: we don’t like to pay for digital goods or digital information — but we like to buy physical goods. Thus create your own physical goods in the domain of photography, and sell it via your blog (https://woocommerce.com), or sell it via Amazon Fulfillment. The upside of selling via Amazon is that almost all Americans have their credit card information stored in Amazon (which reduces the barrier for them to purchase your goods on Amazon). But the downside is Amazon takes a massive cut. But ultimately, it is still a ‘net positive’ to sell on Amazon. This is why HAPTIC is also on Amazon.
  2. Sell experiences: Teach workshops, photography tours, photography adventures, photography consulting sessions (either online via Skype or offline in-person). An experience cannot be ‘pirated’. Not only that, but education will always remain in vogue. Even the philosophers of Ancient Greece (some of them) charged money for their philosophical classes. Even good old Aristotle apparently sold some of his “secrets” to some students (to the dismay of Alexander the Great).
  3. Photography education is going to continue to grow — consider the proliferation of iPhone cameras. It seems that everyone will use an iPhone as their gateway drug, and then eventually get a ‘standalone digital camera’. Then, they will desire how to use it, and how to make photos. They will continue to desire to improve their photography, and also discover more personal meaning in their photography (photography philosophy).

4. Extreme frugality

money dollar roses

The question:

Do you desire to have lots of money in your savings account, or do you desire to spend a lot of money?

In other words:

There is a difference between having a million dollars in the bank and spending a million dollars.

For example, let us say you earn $1M. If you spend the $1M, then you become poor (you’re broke). But let us assume you take your $1M and put it into your savings account, and continue to live a frugal life. Then you’re rich (you got a million dollars in the bank). If you spend a lot of money, you will quickly and easily become poor.

“Fuck living rich and dying poor.” – JAY Z

If you ‘live rich’, you will quickly become poor. If you live poor (while retaining your money), you will become rich.

My suggestion:

Live a life of extreme frugality.

Live like a Spartan, and earn money. Becoming rich means to continue to stack your chips, and to indefinitely increase your riches (in your savings).

Practical ways not to waste money:

  1. Don’t waste money on camera equipment: Buying $10,000 of camera equipment won’t help you earn (more than) $10,000 in photography gigs. My suggestion is to use the most basic, cheap, and simple camera equipment. Save your money on camera equipment, and put that in the bank. If you need some fancy equipment, rent or borrow it.
  2. Don’t waste money on restaurants and alcohol: This is practical life advice — if you live in a big city, it is easily to blow $1,000-$1,500 USD on just eating out, ordering takeout, and drinking alcohol. I almost never eat out anymore (if I do, it is a meat-heavy buffet). I cook all my food at home. And all the meat I buy is usually .99 cents a pound (pork loin shoulder), or around $4.99 a pound (steak). I can feed myself like a baller on very little money. Also when I eat out with Cindy, I will eat very little, and share a single appetizer and entree with her, and when I go home I will cook an “egg snack” of around 12 eggs (yes, including the yolk) in order to fill myself up.
  3. Don’t rent a studio or space: Reduce your monthly bills and expenses to the bare minimum. I don’t own a car, and all the cars I’ve purchased in the past have cost less than $2,500 USD. To buy or rent a studio is one of the worst wastes of money. With rent, best to split it with a roommate. I’m very fortunate I’m married to Cindy, because we are both dual-income, which means we can split our rent. Living by yourself is overrated, and insanely expensive.
George Washington dollar

Also make it a note:

Frugal is sexy.

And what is the best camera equipment to buy? To keep it cheap, just buy a RICOH GR III (around $890 USD) — which is the “one stop shop” for all your photographic needs. If you need a very good commercial camera or video camera, just buy a Lumix G9.

5. Always be hungry for more.

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“Treat your first like your last, and your last like your first.” – JAY Z

Becoming rich is to create insane value. And you gotta stay hungry.

“Hustle like you’re broke” – Kendrick Lamar

I try to live and think like when I was a broke college student. When your back is against the wall, and when you’re hungry (literally), you will awaken your inner-genius.

selfie

And it seems the best way to create new value is to still remain hungry. To remain hungry to discover new sources of knowledge, and to create new industries, and pave new paths.

For example, Photography Entrepreneurship is a new field I’m trying to pioneer. I see this trend:

Everyone likes money. Many people like photography. More and more people will then desire to make money from photography.

Rather than critique people, better to understand them and their motives. Thus, I want to create practical ways to help empower photographers to make money from photography. Why? Because it is something I was personally curious about! And to be honest– I want to help as many people become self-employed as possible. I want to breed and empower as many solo entrepreneurs as possible, and considering photography is my specialty and passion, I hope this information and ideas can empower you.

6. Escape competition

Business entrepreneurship

A concept from Peter Thiel:

Don’t compete with others. Become a category of your own.

For example, I never felt like I was competing anyone in street photography. I just focused on myself to dominate the genre of street photography on the internet, and I did. Now I’m “onto the next one” — photography entrepreneurship. If you Google ‘photography entrepreneurship’, I am pretty much all the top results.

How to escape competition?

Start off with a tiny niche (where nobody is currently in), and devote all your attention, focus, and concentration in that area.

Small super small, then expand outwards.

Also, the advice I have is this:

Don’t compete with others. Only compete with yourself.

When you create information, knowledge, or content regarding your specific photographic niche, strive to create the content you desire to consume. To me, this is the best way to become unique, and to create specific things which are also interesting.

If you create something which is interesting to you, it will also probably be interesting to others.

7. Creative isolation

Truth be told, my biggest innovations have come when I have become “anti social” on social media, and have completely disconnected. This has helped my mind go fallow, in order to truly think great thoughts and ideas. And when I create unique ideas, they eventually lead to money-making opportunities.

Simple things you can do:

  1. Delete your Instagram: Waste of time, and distraction.
  2. Don’t watch other peoples’ videos on YouTube. Focus on creating videos that YOU would like to watch. Don’t strive to optimize for views or subscribers. Just create what is fun and interesting to you.
  3. Don’t read blogs or websites: Instead, seek to find new ideas in ancient books (Greek tragedies, philosophy). Most of my best entrepreneurial ideas have come from reading The Iliad by Homer, and by reading Nietzsche. You will be able to come up with more interesting entrepreneurial ideas through ‘cross pollination‘ — connecting and combining unrelated fields in a novel way.

Consider — there are probably a trillion ways to make money through photography that nobody has yet discovered. By disconnecting, by not following convention is the only way you can create new money-making ideas.

8. Promote yourself

Your biggest asset? Your name. ERIC KIM. Be prideful in yourself, your own name, and yourself. Love yourself, love your ego, and promote yourself as much as you can.

If you don’t promote yourself, who will?

There is a false myth that:

If I just make great stuff, people will somehow discover it.

No. Great entrepreneurship requires great marketing. The genius of Steve Jobs was not only that he was an uncompromising artist and product designer — he was also a great marketer. He spent as much time in marketing (or perhaps more time in marketing) as creating the products.

But why do self-promoters give us a bad taste in our mouth? My theory:

In our Christian-Protestant society, we have been taught that having a big ego and promoting ourself is sinful and bad taste.

For example, when I see other people self-promote themselves, I sometimes spite them because I wish I could be them. I wish I were as confident and brazen as them.

If you truly want to become successful in your domain in photography, you must become “shameless” in self-promotion.

A tip:

Talk about yourself in the third-person.

Realize that if you want massive success, you must not just consider yourself a person, but as a concept and a brand.

For example, consider these big brands (which originated out of a real human being):

  • McLaren (Bruce McLaren)
  • Lamborghini (the guy who initially made tractors)
  • Calvin Klein (CK has become a concept)
  • Armani (Giorgio Armani as a human)
  • Dior (Christian Dior — a real human being)
  • Yeezy (Kanye West)
  • Rolls-Royce (two men — one named Rolls and another named Royce).
  • JAY Z (JAY Z almost seems like a demigod at this point — he ain’t just a normal human being).

My personal ambition–

Embed myself in the history books.

Of course, this is just an ambition. I might or might not achieve this goal. But if I’m remembered for at least 300 years, I will be happy.

But once again — it is the striving towards greatness which is the goal. Because we can be the hardest hustler, and we might fail. But better to aim high and fail than to aim too low.

“I’d rather die enormous than lie dormant.” – JAY Z

9. Don’t advertise other people’s stuff

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If you really want to become rich in photography, don’t get suckered into promoting the brands of others. Promote yourself and your own brand!

For example on my own blog, all my advertisements is for my products and my workshops. I will no longer waste my breath or keystrokes to promote others, other camera brands, etc. Also, don’t get suckered by Google Adsense — you will never become rich off it. Why? You will chase page views, not to create truly great information and artistic content.

Promote yourself, promote your own products. Create your own products, and repeat!

10. Wu-wei moneymaking

money

Wu-wei means “action without action”. The irony is this:

When you try too hard to make money, you ain’t gonna make money.

It is very odd — even for myself, I’ve made the most money through my photography when I wasn’t really trying. When I was just focusing on blogging and creating great substantive information, and people would somehow discover my experiences and purchase my products.

ERIC KIM x HENRI NECK STRAP
ERIC KIM x HENRI NECK STRAP

My thought is this:

When you try too hard to make money, you come off as desperate, and therefore people are less likely to give you their money.

Thus the simple strategy:

  1. Continue to blog, create great substantive information, make YouTube videos, and promote your products, services, and self.
  2. Never stop hustling
  3. Constantly strive to become more
  4. Put your money into your savings account
  5. Never stop creating new insights, ideas, and value.

ERIC


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