Any tips on turning photography as a hobby into a side gig? Is shooting portraits the best strategy?

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Take a bunch of photos first and workshop them with other photogs. The first 10K are your worst. Then, build a portfolio of work with friends and family. Volunteer in your community for gigs that otherwise wouldn’t hire you due to lack of experience. Workshop all of those images. Figure out what direction you want to head in (editorial, events, food, music) and keep making work. The field is saturated with people for whom this is their main gig, so be prepared to really hustle.

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I used to teach at the International Center of Photography. Here is what I know: as with most creative careers, it’s difficult to earn significant money until you have achieved a certain level of excellence. On top of that, you need to differentiate yourself either in specialty or style. That all said, I’ve seen quite a few photographers earn extra by shooting portraits and lifestyle, especially involving children and pets. If you enjoy that sort of thing, it’s a good way to start because the stakes are not high. Unlike with a wedding, you can easily do a reshoot.

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I second the above two comments. Shoot the kind of pictures that most interest you, build a portfolio/website/IG feed and offer your services to friends, local businesses, etc. depending on where you live, it’s somewhat easier in a smaller market. In a smaller town, you can shoot for the local little league team, small businesses, headshots, etc. Take lots of good pictures and keep showing them to people. If you have a local model or actors agency they sometimes let you photograph their new people to grow your and their portfolio. You won’t make money that way, but you’ll definitely grow your portfolio quickly.

Focus on what you’re most interested in shooting and do that as much and as often as you can. Build a portfolio of quality work that makes your niche obvious, and share it wherever you can. Network with other local photographers in Facebook groups, on Instagram, and at meetups, and don’t hesitate to ask questions or reach out to people. If you want to make money shooting portraits, devote most of your time to that.

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