What is Freelance Photography all About?

Getting Started in Freelance Photography in Sydney Australia

Intro to Freelancing

Photography is an art, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be your craft too. Becoming a full-time freelance photographer offers an opportunity to explore your passion and hone your skills while still meeting your financial goals.

If you’re considering becoming a full-time photographer, you should look into freelance photography first. It offers a lot more flexibility, and you don’t need to start submitting applications or be tied into an internship or employment contract.

However, it’s essential to know that being a freelance photographer is anything but straightforward. There are steps to take, and more importantly, many details before you become a brand that clients want to call in the middle of the night to make appointments.

Luckily, this article contains all the details you’ll need. We’ll also walk you through the steps, from getting started to finding clients and getting paid.

We’ll start by explaining the basic concepts in detail.

Freelance photography tips orlandosydney.com

What Does Freelance Photography Mean?

Freelance photography means taking photographs as an independent contractor or self-employed photographer. It requires meeting contract specifications, including shot lists set by clients and specific to each of them. Simply put, freelance photography entails being a ‘lens for hire’.

As a freelance photographer, you’re your boss instead of working as an employee of a company.

Freelance photographers cover weddings, individual and family photoshoots, sporting events, high school graduations, and other events. They also promote themselves through professional portfolios and personal websites and use social media to find potential clients.

“You can only run after clients for so long before you get exhausted”

Pros of Being A Freelance Photographer

Here are some of the fundamental reasons why becoming a freelance photographer may be the best option for you, particularly if you’re starting:

  • Greater flexibility: Freelance photography, more than most others, gives you the freedom to fix your own schedule. This is particularly essential if you’re a student trying to balance work and study while earning extra income or if you’re a parent that needs to make time out for your family.
  • You choose your interests: With the ability to decide which job to accept comes the freedom to work on only those areas that appeal naturally to you. You even get to choose what type of client to work with.
  • A traditional office does not limit you: Your office is wherever you find yourself as a freelance photographer. Freelance photography gives you the freedom to work from anywhere.
  • Your proceeds are yours to keep: Since you’re not working for an employer or company, everything you make from your work is yours to keep. Well, apart from taxes.
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What Does It Mean To Be A Freelance Photographer?

As a freelance photographer, you work for yourself. Your position affords you the flexibility to only accept jobs that match your style and interests and turn down ones that don’t.

On the flip side, being a freelance photographer means taking on duties and responsibilities usually reserved for employers. Tasks such as settling taxes, legal matters, contracts, compliance, scheduling, and marketing will typically have to be handled by the freelancer.

Freelance photographers will need to be able to answer all sorts of questions from prospective hirers.

Further, freelance photographers often need to create their marketing plan, a promotional website, and active social media accounts to engage with potential clients.

In the early stages of your freelance photography career, you’ll probably be relying a lot on word-of-mouth recommendations to build your business and find clients. To give yourself a better chance of getting positive suggestions that’ll help you scale up faster, you’ll need to craft a good business plan and deliver consistently excellent results. It can be relentless.

Freelance vs Starting a Small Photography Business

One of the decisions you may be faced with down the line when you must have established yourself as a notable and successful freelance photographer is:

Do you continue as a lone ranger, or do you start your own small photography business?

There are merits (and demerits) to both options.

Freelance photographers are not burdened by administrative tasks that might bog them down. As a freelance photographer, you’re also exposed to a wide variety of opportunities, which will help you broaden your horizons and let you expand your skills beyond a single type of photography.

On the negative side, some freelance photographers rely on other businesses or third-party booking sites for jobs, and these businesses take a percentage of each photoshoot as a finder’s fee.

That wouldn’t be an issue when you start your own photography business. You may even be able to give out work to other freelance photographers and earn finder’s fees.

Another advantage is that you get to be your own boss and focus on any aspect of photography you prefer.

The downside is that you’ll need to spend a lot of time and energy on creating your brand and finding new clients. Also, it may restrict what kind of work gets offered to you if your brand comes to be seen as specializing in any particular area.

All business founders/owners will have additional tasks.

List of Freelance and Business Owners Tasks;

  • Payments
  • Expenses
  • Taxes
  • Legal matters
  • Contracts
  • Compliance
  • Scheduling
  • Standard operating procedures
  • Photography services FAQs
  • Marketing

All typically have to be handled by you.

Ultimately, the choice of which course to follow will depend on your working style.

How Much Can A Freelance Photographer Make?

Given that photography is an art form, and art holds immense sentimental value to its creator, freelance photographers find themselves struggling to place adequate value on their works.

For a full detailed overview of what professional photographers should charge visit this page.

No matter what clients tell you, freelance photography is a whole lot more than just standing around taking pictures. Several things are involved in it, and your pricing structure needs to fairly reflect that. That’s why it’s a good idea to develop a solid pricing structure, so when clients ask for a breakdown, you can confidently present your rates to them.

While drawing up this structure, put your travel, cost of materials, fees, taxes and overhead costs into consideration, along with other factors such as time spent editing the photos, then add a living wage for yourself.

You can also check out industry standards in order to strike the perfect balance. Freelance websites such as Upwork and Fiverr can provide insights into what the going rate for freelance photography is, so you don’t undercharge or overcharge.

See this page for Event Photography Rates for an overview.

Remember to make your pricing structure flexible, which is only possible if you’ve clearly defined the price elements. For instance, if you’re a wedding photographer, clients may request reduced hours or ask that you not include a printed album for examples. You should factor in these breakdowns in your pricing structure and make provisions for them.

Freelance Photography Rates Australia

The freelance photography rates can vary greatly. The main factors are; Experience, the types of shoot and production requirements.

Rates range from $150 per hour for a day shoot up to $600 per hour for complex commercial shoots.

List of 10 Basic Essentials for New Freelance Photographers

  1. Find Your Niche
  2. Build An Engaging Portfolio
  3. Get the Right Gear
  4. Keep Learning
  5. Build A Solid Resume
  6. Practice
  7. Deliver Excellent Work Consistently
  8. Adopt A Good Marketing Strategy
  9. Create a Work Schedule
  10. Respond to Calls and Emails Promptly

Read the detailed description on each below.

Tips on Getting Started

It’s time to get into the meat and bones of the whole process. Here are some of the first things you need to do as a freelance photographer:

Take Photos

The best way to get familiar with the functions of your camera, and to get a feel for your own aesthetic is to practice taking shots. Lots and lots of shots. This is also the best way to learn how to be a freelance photographer.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you have the right equipment to start with. You can start by borrowing cameras from friends or even using your smartphone. Experiment with various settings, techniques, and functions of your camera. It’ll help you learn things like shutter speed, aperture and composition.

Remember to also practice taking photos in various lighting conditions, in order to understand the importance of lighting in photography. Take photos in natural light, low light and with artificial light. You’ll find that you’re drawn to certain subjects more than others.

Many photographers struggle with large group photos, you’ll need these skills for weddings and portraits.

Focus on them, take lots of pictures of them, and determine what works and what doesn’t.

It wouldn’t hurt to determine your niche right from the start, even though it’s often not a pressing need. Experimenting with a lot of different types of photography will make you a jack of all trades, but to be the master of one, you need to find a niche that resonates well with you and consolidate on that area. For instance, if you instinctively know the right angles to shoot landscapes, or you know the right saturation settings to make colours more vibrant, you know you’ll fit right in as a landscape photographer.

If you love people and feel energised by them, consider portraits, events or weddings as a long term goal.

“Amateurs practice till they get it right, but professionals practice until they cannot get it wrong”


To become an efficient, qualified, and skilled freelance photographer, you’ll need technical knowledge to back up your full range of natural skills. Luckily, there are several photography study options that’ll bring you up to speed on what you need to learn.

Capturing digital photos, using photo editing software (such as Photoshop and Lightroom), and a whole lot of other technical skills are some of the things you’ll learn when you take a photo course. Most courses also cover marketing and other business skills which will prove invaluable when you need to interact with potential clients.

What’s more, certificates in Photography and Photo Imaging can help legitimize you in the eyes of your clients and position you as an expert, in addition to furnishing you with all the practical elements you need to flourish as a freelance photographer.

Position Yourself To Be Found

You can only run after clients for so long before you get exhausted. At some point, you’ll have to position yourself so they’ll come to you.

To do this, you need to set up a hub where clients can check out your portfolio. Your social media channels and pages (such as Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and Pinterest) will be ok for starting out, but a professional independent website you own will have more of an impact.

Your professional website will help you showcase your brand identity, helping clients know immediately what to expect from you. You don’t want to create the wrong impression in the minds of potential clients, so you need to be conscientious and meticulous about crafting your brand identity.

First things first, make your website visible by making use of good on-page and off-page SEO. Next, use great portfolio design and website layouts to ensure that your website highlights your best work in an aesthetically appealing way.

We have 3 portfolio gallery pages plus all the photos on photography tips and guides articles.

Checkout examples;

4 Venues in Sydney CBD photo gallery 3 Business events in the City of Sydney and 3 Doltone House Venue Photo Galleries.

You should consider including a client proofing gallery, for clients to view your work and approve them directly ‘on’ your portfolio without them being directed elsewhere.

Ways To Make Money with Freelance Photography

Taking photoshoots for individuals or companies are the traditional ways for freelance photographers to make money, but they are far from being the only ways. If you’re looking for inspiration on how to earn passive income while still devoting most of your energies to your original craft, these are some really good ideas to help make it possible:

Sell Digital Downloads

Another way to earn decent passive income is to market high-quality photos in your portfolio as digital downloads. If you have lots of photos in your portfolio, you can list them as digital downloads in your online photography store and invite your clients to make bids to purchase them, at a price lower than what they would normally spend if they were to print the photos themselves.

Sign up for Photography Contests

If you want to get your work on the glossy spreads of magazines, and become a freelance photographer for magazines too, you should consider registering for photography contests. Magazines usually feature work from competition winners, offering an incredible amount of exposure to the winning freelancer. Besides, the prize money from photography contests can be pretty decent too.

Print On Demand

Print-on-demand services can provide passive income. You can sell fine art prints, wall clocks, t-shirts, and bedspreads with your photography on them without spending a dime.

When you list a print in your online photography store, you must find a printer, order a test print, and coordinate shipment. Better off simply upload your designs with print on demand, and then begin receiving orders as your sales come in.

Sell Stock Photos

As a last resort, signing up on stock images websites such as Unsplash and Shutterstock and submitting your photos is a way to earn a little passive income.

The arrangement on these sites is that you, the original owner of the photo, will earn a part of the proceeds from every download. The remuneration is rather small, and you probably won’t see large sums from it. Your work may get some acknowledgment online and you’ll earn a (very) few dollars with minimal effort.

Essentials for Succeeding at being a Freelance Photographer

Becoming a successful freelance photographer requires dedication, application, and patience. If you’re truly in love with the art of photography, you first need to decide if making the transition to freelance photography is the right move for you. If you decide that it is, you can proceed from there.

Remember to stay committed and focused, even when clients do not seem to be forthcoming at first.

1. Find Your Niche

Like we mentioned earlier, finding your niche is not the most important thing to do when you’re just starting out, but it will help you avoid burnout and channel most of your energies properly.

Knowing your niche and consolidating your position there will also help you stand out in the crowded freelance photography scene.

How to find your niche? Explore and experiment with several photography types until you find the one that resonates with you. Chances are, that’s the area where you’ll do your best work.

Depending on your skills and aptitude, there are lots of available niches. While the more popular ones are likely to be almost saturated, there are some obscure niches that offer great rates, even though work may be harder to find in them.

2. Build An Engaging Portfolio

A portfolio is an absolute necessity as a freelance photographer. It is what marks you out as a serious photographer in the eyes of your clients.

If you’re just starting out, first build a decent portfolio by offering to work for a reduced fee. Once you’ve garnered the required social proof, upload it to your social media channels, or more preferably, your professionally made website.

Present your portfolio in an instantly captivating manner, to grab the attention of potential clients and convince them that you’re the right person for the job.

2. Get the Right Gear

Needless to say, your smartphone, or that old camera will just not cut it as suitable freelance photography equipment.

While you may not need to go all out and purchase cutting-edge photography tools and accessories, you should at least ensure that your equipment is adequate. This means drawing up a budget before you start and getting the gear you consider necessary.

As your expertise and business grow, you should also give some thought to upgrading your equipment, marketing tools, and website.

4. Keep Learning

Your equipment is not the only thing you’ll need to upgrade. You’ll also need to upgrade yourself and your skills by taking additional photography courses wherever you can.

Take full advantage of free online photography courses offered by many organizations and brush up your knowledge and skills. Watch YouTube videos that teach how to get the best from new industry accessories and listen to podcasts that talk about different aspects of photography and how to create better compositions.

One other thing you can do is to try to learn directly from a pro. Find an experienced mentor and learn as much as you can about their photography techniques.

If you can’t find one that has the time, read their photography blog if they have one. It is likely to have a lot of the information you need to advance your freelancer career.

5. Build A Solid Resume

Yes, even freelance photographers need resumes. If you’re going to be applying for freelance photographer work, you’re going to need a well-structured photography resume to convince the most sceptical clients. Be sure to highlight your skills, experience, and knowledge of industry tools.

You should also consider including a cover letter, where you can further expand on the contents of your resume. A cover letter lets clients get a feel for your personality, so let it shine through. You can also brag about your accomplishments in it.

Don’t forget to tailor every cover letter to the job description provided in the advertisement.

This can be in the form of an email template with attachments, a page on your website or as a PDF Profile Brochure to include in the personalised email.

6. Practice

Amateurs practice till they get it right, but professionals practice until they cannot get it wrong. The best way to ensure that you’ve mastered all the theoretical knowledge you have is to practice repeatedly.

Constant practice helps you see what works for you, helping you hone and improve your compositions in a way that even the best photography equipment cannot. So, don’t be afraid to practice.

You’ll need to be able to work to a photography brief. So familiarise yourself with the types of briefs and be able to plan your shoot.

Practice with a brief you made up and run through the process so you are comfortable when on a paid gig.

We have two detailed photography brief pages for you to study. Event photography brief and Commercial photography brief. They both include templates and some samples from real shoots.

7. Deliver Excellent Work Consistently

Your reputation takes a hit once you deliver a below-standard job. To climb to the top of your niche and remain there, you have to be consistent with producing top-quality jobs for your clients.

It’s also necessary to maintain an active profile on social media and all your online channels, in order to keep your followers engaged and keep your brand near the center of their attention. However, you need to be careful not to post a bad image, as this can ruin years of hard work.

Don’t post anything at all, if all you have left is a low quality photo.

8. Adopt A Good Marketing Strategy

Following up on the previous tip, a great marketing strategy keeps your brand relevant and helps clients locate you easier.

You’ve uploaded your photography portfolio on your social media platforms and professional website. That’s a great start. Now, you have to ensure that you promote your portfolio and business to potential clients.

On social media, post regular, high-quality samples of your work and encourage engagement with the images. For your website, use good SEO to drive traffic to your website and potentially generate leads. Create online and offline authority.

9. Create a Work Schedule

When you start out as a freelancer, you may find it hard to create a work schedule for the simple fact that there’ll likely not be a lot to fill it with.

As you progress, you’ll likely be faced with entirely different problems. It’s important to create a well-balanced schedule (with rest periods in between work periods), to avoid burning out.

After all, why make waves only to drown in them?

10. Respond to Calls and Emails Promptly

One thing about freelancing is, you never know when opportunities may arise. That’s why it’s important to chase down those hot leads as soon as they drop a message in your inbox.

Sure, not all messages end up being fruitful, and it can be frustrating to reply to tons of messages that end up being massive wastes of time. But amidst all the dross, there will usually be gold hidden somewhere. That’s why you need to be prompt and professional with your responses.

Set yourself some response targets and stick to them. The first to reply and meet the brief needs gets the gig more often than replying last compared to your competitors.

Final Points to Remember

Embarking on a journey to an unknown destination is not such a daunting proposition when you have a map that clearly points out all the pitfalls in the road and shows you how to avoid them.

Becoming a freelance photographer can feel a lot like taking a trip into uncharted territory, but taking note of the tips we’ve listed in this article, and putting them to practice, can help make your trip smoother.

If anything, remember to keep practicing, learning, evolving, be approachable and responsive.

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