4 Ways You Can Make Money with Car Photography [Full guide]
So we all know that photographing cars is extremely fun, but you might wonder if you can make money with car photography and perhaps make it your full-time job. I’ve got you covered because I will show you the 4 ways to earn an income while photographing cars.
I have been a car photographer for over 5 years, and I must say that I do make money with it. There are 4 ways of doing so, namely shooting for car dealerships, car owners, getting a campaign job, or selling your work online.
In this article, I will tell you exactly how to make money with car photography and I will give you actionable steps to get started right away. The best thing about this is that I will share everything I know for free!
How to make money with car photography?
So I just said that I make money with photography myself and I would like to share my experience with you. First, you must know that earning money is a process that will take time, but you can take action right away.
It took me 2 years to get my first paying client, but with the knowledge that I will share, you can get your first client a lot quicker.
I will first answer some questions you might have, you must know a few things before you can earn money and I suggest you take your time reading it.
Before you can earn money
Before you can even start to earn money, you must first be really good at what you’re doing. There’s a lot of competition, but don’t let that discourage you.
Most people always told me that it wasn’t possible to create a career out of my passion, but I proved them otherwise.
While you can get better at car photography, you must use the right camera which is good enough for your client’s needs. Also, don’t forget to use the right camera settings, as this will determine the outcome of the photos.
How much do car photographers make?
Now, this is a good question to ask. I was very curious about the numbers myself when I first started out, but I couldn’t find them. I will share some of my experiences with clients and the amount I have earned.
Let me be straightforward with you, one day I made $1000 with car photography alone, photographing cars for a dealership. I have multiple income streams that I am going to share with you, selling prints is one of them for example.
The car photography prices differ a lot, from person to person. It depends if it’s your side hustle or a full-time job. Photoshoots can go from a few hundred to anywhere up to a few thousand dollars.
Don’t expect your first client to pay you a few thousand dollars. My first-ever client paid me $100 and I was extremely happy with that amount. It showed me that my dream was possible and all the effort was worth it.
How to get into car photography?
Getting into car photography is quite simple, you need to find cars and take pictures of them. You can go to car meets, rallies, and other places where car owners meet up. They are probably happy that you take pictures of their car.
Try to talk to the owners as much as possible, above all, network is the key to success with stuff like this. When you know the right people, you will get jobs eventually.
You should always be humble and try to better yourself. Get into some Facebook groups and share your pictures there. People will criticize your images in these groups, I always see it as feedback so I can improve my photography.
Always be eager to learn more about car photography, there are many people who are great at teaching you the craft.
Now, I will share the first way to make money with car photography.
Make money by photographing for dealerships
So the first way to make money, which is probably the easiest way, is to photograph cars for dealerships. The process is relatively simple, most dealerships have lots of cars for sale and it takes a lot of time for them to take photos.
So here’s your chance to hop in and make some money. I am going to be completely honest with you because I’ve done this a lot, this type of photography can get really boring after a while. It isn’t nearly the same as professional photoshoots.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let me tell you how I got dealerships to photograph cars for.
How to find dealerships to photograph for?
A few years ago I didn’t know where to find car dealerships that needed a photographer. I couldn’t find anything about it on the internet, it seemed like no one wanted to share their way. Let me show you the way I found dealerships.
1. Setup your portfolio website
The first step might seem like an obvious one, but you need to get attention if you want clients. You can take beautiful images of cars, but if no one can find them online, you’re going to have a hard time.
I personally use WordPress to create my portfolio, but WIX or any other website will do just fine as well. Make sure to have a lot of different shots on there, just imagine you own a car dealership, you would want to see every angle, right?
By creating an editing style your overall portfolio will look better, just take some inspiration from my own portfolio.
2. Create a cold email template
Next, you will need a cold email template. The best way to contact dealerships would be to visit them in person, but that isn’t always possible.
The way that is possible tough, is to send the dealership an email. In this email, you will have to say what value you add, you can save them time and get better results.
Then, kindly introduce yourself, but keep it short. I know these owners don’t have a lot of time, so just keep it simple.
You would then say what you want from them, if you want to photograph cars for them you must say it here.
Now you just have to find car dealerships that need a photographer.
3. My way of finding car dealerships
My way to find car dealerships is by going to websites like Cars.com, basically, any website that lists cars. You must think critically at this point, what kind of car dealerships have the budget for a photographer?
Right, it’s not the dealership that sells $500 cars, it’s the one that sells $ 50,000 cars. So you will have to select the cars that cost 50 grand or more.
Now, you’ve got an entire selection of dealerships that are your potential customers. When looking at these listings, I always looked for dealerships that have terrible pictures and might want me to do it for them.
4. Repeat, repeat, and repeat
The last step is to send your cold email to all your potential customers. Most of those dealerships get loads of emails like that a day, they have told me so, so you need to find a way to jump out of the crowd and catch their attention.
When I added a few of my best images as an attachment I immediately caught their attention and the response rate went through the roof. I’ve sent hundreds of emails and the best lesson I’ve learned is to never give up.
Just because the dealerships don’t respond or say they don’t need a photographer now, doesn’t mean they never will need you. I’ve had a few instances where they said ‘We’ll remember you for when we need a photographer’ (we all know what that means) and a year later they actually came back.
You have to send hundreds of emails to get a few clients, but it can make you money as a car photographer.
Make money by approaching car owners
This one is a bit more tricky, as car owners most often don’t want to spend any money on photography. But don’t cut away yet, I’ve done lots of photoshoots with car owners that did pay me a lot of money.
Even though most car owners don’t want to pay a lot of money, it is a definite way to build your portfolio. Back in the day, I used to be a car spotter, running after Ferrari’s and Porsches. Now I get to drive and photograph them.
Get recognized on social media
My way of getting to shoot with car owners was through social media, I posted all my car spot pictures on Instagram and tagged the owners. It’s not only by doing that, that the owners will come to you. You must go to the owners.
Go to the owners by yourself
Now comes the hard part, you have to do the same as cold emailing, except, you do it on Instagram. I would write a message, change the name, and send it to as many people as possible. Most of them wouldn’t even respond, but some did.
I had this one guy with an Audi RS4 ABT, who didn’t have a lot of followers, so I decided to send him a message. At first, he didn’t respond, but after a while, he texted back.
He saw that I had an eye for car photography and wanted to shoot with me. The results were great and that got the ball rolling.
Now, I don’t shoot a lot with car owners, only if they come to me through recommendations of others. That’s the other tip I want to give you!
Be a nice person
It might seem unrelated to the topic of earning money with car photos, but it couldn’t be more relevant. When you’re shooting with those car owners, you have to be a nice person. If you’re easy to talk to they’re much more likely to recommend you to other people.
Let me give you some advice for being liked by other people: ask them a lot of questions, especially about their car, and praise their car. They love to talk about their pride and joy and you will be liked by them. Just a simple psychological trick.
Earn money by shooting campaigns
This way of making money with car photography is a bit more complex and a lot harder. If you’re already settled as a photographer and have a large portfolio you can try to shoot campaigns. Most often these are campaigns for advertisements.
It’s not easy to get into this type of photography, as there are a couple of highly skilled photographers doing it. I have done a photoshoot for Lotus, which was a campaign, so I will give you some tips.
Get recognized by the right people
Okay, so in this age where the competition is getting higher every day, you need to find a way to get attention. Not just attention, but you need to get recognized by the right people. Who are the right people? Most campaigns are done through agencies, especially the big brands like BMW, Audi, and Volkswagen.
You need to get to know the advertising agencies around your country first, look at the photographers who are already shooting those campaigns, and see their style. If it matches your style, you might have a chance.
When sending your portfolio to these agencies, they are looking for very specific aspects. Does your portfolio look consistent, and professional, does it align with their vision, and so forth?
When you’re creating your portfolio, add some text to each photoshoot about the job and needs of that client. If you can show the vision of your client and the work you have created that aligns with that vision, you’re much more likely to get selected.
Earn money by selling prints
Last but not least, I earn a bit of my income from selling prints online. It’s one of the most accessible ways for almost anyone. For the USA, you can set up a shop on FineArtAmerica and sell your prints there.
If you’ve already got some images that are art-worthy, you can immediately start selling right now. Just keep in mind you have to perform the SEO well on those art pieces, most of the sales I get, people found me through Google.
I earn between $30-$100 dollars per sold print, so some months it earns me a lot of money. Just upload a lot of work and someday people will buy it. It took almost a year before the first client bought something in my shop.
You can also upload the work from already paying clients, so they can purchase a printed version of your photos, this is one way to earn some extra cash.
It is a one-time setup and it earns me money every month. Practically selling prints is a passive income stream, but you do need to take the photos first.
Conclusion on making money
So, all in all, there are many ways you can make money with car photography. I earn my money through multiple different income streams, including selling prints and shooting for car dealerships.
Don’t listen to anyone saying there is no market for this, because I know there definitely is. Always be a nice person and ask the people you’re with loads of questions, they will most likely like you and hire you again the next time.
Make sure to share this article with fellow photographers, we all want to earn some extra cash with car photography and these are the things I do.
Oh and by the way, if there’s a rally where they offer $20 to take pictures, don’t do it. The underpaying clients are always the hardest to deal with, speaking from personal experience.
Who is Sebastiaan?
Hi! I am Sebastiaan, the writer of this blog. With years of experience as a professional photographer, I want to share my expertise with you. From recommending cameras and lenses to giving tips that make a world of difference, that’s what I enjoy doing most.
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