While street photography is a great hobby, relatively few new photographers consider it as a source of income. Unlike wedding or event photography, the opportunities for selling your services as a street photographer are rare. It's also unusual for people to think of street photos as fine art, and the stigma of model releases for people in a street shot makes many photographers shy away from offering them as stock photos. So, how do pros actually make money with their street photos? This article will help unravel the mystery a bit.
First, let's define street photography as a genre. Put simply, it's considered to be any type of photography that shows subjects in everyday, candid situations in public places. That leaves a lot of room for overlap with other genres, such as travel, documentary and journalistic photography. That overlap can come in handy when it comes to making money. With that understood, you should already be seeing some of the possibilities. Let's go over a few of them:
Prints and Books
This is arguably one of the most common ways that street photographers market their work. As mentioned previously, street shots aren't often seen as fine art, however a surprising number of them sell as exactly that. If your photos tell a story – particularly an emotional story, they'll appeal to buyers. If you have enough of a particular subject, say, “Chicago's street dance culture”, you can have a book printed and offer it for sale. Photo and book printing services as well as sales platforms are available on Fine Art America, SmugMug, Shutterfly, Snapfish and similar sites.
Article and Ad Illustration
Not every writer is a photojournalist or for that matter, a photographer. Most of them know, however that photos add impact to their articles, and are willing to pay a reasonable fee to use high-quality photos. Ad agencies are also always on the lookout for quality street shots for illustration purposes. The key to breaking into these markets is getting the images out there and promoting them. You can do that through sites like those mentioned above. I also recommend checking freelancing sites, as many agencies post notices for specific needs.
Direct Sale to the Subject
This is one of my favorites, partly because it's easier to do than ever. Let's say you snap a few candid shots of a couple enjoying a meal at an outdoor table while you're visiting a popular tourism location. Before you leave, you politely introduce yourself to them and mention that you noticed what a charming couple they are and couldn't resist snapping a few photos of them. After letting them preview them in your camera's LCD, you ask if they mind your adding them to your portfolio for potential sale. You're not required to do this in most situations, but a little bit of courtesy goes a long way.
After that, you hand them a business card with your name and a scan code and explain that if they're interested in having copies of the photos for themselves, you'll be uploading the finished images to a gallery they can access online by scanning the code or entering the URL on the card in a browser.
Selling photos of peopls through a KeepSnap account is that easy, and remember, you can sell those images to more than one buyer! If you haven't checked out KeepSnap yet, do yourself a favor and go open an account today. (It's free.)
These are far from the only ways that street photographers can make money with their photos, but in my experience, they are among the most consistent. Of course, the ultimate goal would be to become well known in the field and have buyers come to you. I'm still working on that and wish you the best of luck in getting there!