Doing photography on the side

How to Do Photography on the Side – Everything You Need to Know 

As someone who has been taking photos for a better part of a decade, I can tell you that from afar, the world of photography and the photography industry as a whole looks very glamorous and full of opportunities but in reality, things are not as transparent as one would want. You have to be really skilled and good with the camera if you want to make big and more importantly, you have to be willing to go the extra mile and socialize because you cannot just make it big without having connections in the field, and of course, a portfolio is needed—a good, consistent portfolio that actually establishes that you are not just good but you also have a style.

Yes, you can do photography on the side, too. Over the past couple of years, I have received one question most of number of times, and that is, “how to do photography on the side?” and if you have been wondering the same, this article is for you as I am going to help you figure out what you need to do and what you need to avoid.

How to Do Photography on the Side

Now, when it comes to getting into photography but only as a side hobby, things are not as complicated as some might say, and honestly, this is where people end up getting confused and we are going to make things clear for everyone so you do not have to run into any issues or confusions about what you are trying to get into. Let’s not waste time and have a look, shall we?

1- Working on Your Photography Skills

If you are already a skilled photographer even as a hobbyist, then you do not have to worry about this point. However, if you are someone who is just starting out, then I would highly, highly advise that you are working on your photography skills. If there is one thing that is going to ensure that you are making it big, it is your skill. The good news? You do not need to spend over $2,000 on a new camera to improve your photography skills. You can just use the phone you have or the camera you have, take photos, and keep improving your skills.

Working on Your Photography Skills

If you are a starter, you can enroll in photography courses available online, read tips and tricks of the trade, and know about the rules of photography. It is extremely important to be good at what you are doing and constantly show improvement and consistency in the pictures you are taking because without these, you might not be able to go far.

2- Build a Portfolio

You can either do this after you improve your photography skills but if you want, you can take both things parallel to each other and while I do understand that this might not make sense for most people, having a portfolio from the start is what I prefer. Why? Well, that way, you are able to showcase just how much you have improved in your photos.

Having a portfolio that contains a heap of your old photos and newer ones too is a great way of showing your potential clients the improvements you have made ever since you started out. Building a portfolio is always a great way to start and the best thing is that you no longer have to rely on traditional methods to do so—all thanks to a plethora of websites that let you do just that.

Build a Portfolio

3- Be Social

I mean, in a day and age where social media is everything, a photographer has to be social for one reason or another. You not only have to be social so you can showcase your work but you also have to be social for the simplest reason that you are looking to expand your connections. People need to know that there is a photographer who is putting out excellent photos and they need attention from those who appreciate good quality work.

Having a social media presence is extremely crucial for both professional photographers who have been in the industry for a long time, and for those who are starting out. In addition to that, I would also suggest that you have a website in place where you are regular posting updates, your contact information, the pictures that you have taken, along with testimonials from your client. That website is going to be a portal for anyone who is interested in hiring you.

4- Mastering Your Equipment 

I don’t think I need to mention this but sadly, many people often completely forget about it. When you are talking about starting photography as a side hustle or even as something that is a main career path for you, you need to be able to master it in the best way possible. You simply cannot go ahead and live it on chance that you will learn as you go. If you are looking to get clients to hire you, you have to have that level of control over your equipment for your clients to say, “okay, yes, we want to hire this person.” Because if not you, then there are countless other photographers out there who will provide better services than you and therefore, better photos than you. 

Another thing that I would add here is that understanding the basics of photography and mastering your equipment are two different things. For your own good, I would highly advise that you do not confuse them as that will not result in anything good.

5- Learning the Adobe Creative Suite

A large part of photography also revolves around having understanding of Adobe Creative Suite, and for photographers, the two tools that I would always recommend is Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Both tools are excellent and while Lightroom is exclusively for photographers, Photoshop is a general photo editing tool. Both have their unique aspects that make them excellent for all sorts of work and if you want to go ahead, you can even use both in tandem to make your pictures look really good.

The learning curve of Photoshop is steeper than Lightroom, but thankfully, there are countless free tutorials and courses available all over internet that are going to help you get the job done and have it done the right way. I do understand that it might not be an easy thing, but honestly, you will not run into any issues whatsoever once you have mastered these.

Equipment for Photography

If you are wondering why these tools are important, then the answer is rather simple—you often take a photo that although looks perfect, there are still some minor adjustments across the board that need to be made and for that purpose, having a good creative software is always suggested so you do not end up messing up the picture.

6- Getting the Clients

Moving onto another really important factor and this is where you start working towards getting clients. Now, this is not an easy thing to do, and we all know that. However, thanks to social media being everywhere, getting access to clients is not at all that complicated as it used to be. You can start posting ads, build a social media profile, have a portfolio, get to know other photographers, and more.

Remember, as someone who is just starting out and doing photography as a side business, you might have to do some coverage for discounted rates, and sometimes, even free. I do understand that this can be quite disheartening, but remember that you have just started and you want to grow your business into something that you can truly be proud of, and that is the best way of ensuring that you are able to go as far as possible in your field. Again, you cannot just overlook this aspect as it can end up costing you money later down the road. So, staying focused is the way to go because without that, you might not be able to make it.

7- Don’t Put All Your Eggs in the Same Basket

I know, I know. Corny line but it is true. It is always better that you are not putting all your eggs in the same basket for the simplest reason that whenever you are looking to start something on the side, it is always better that you still have a safety net or two to rely on. 

Best Camera for Photography

Considering how you are using photography as a side hustle; I would highly advise that you hold onto what your main employment is. Sure, you might not want to do that job but a regular income stream is far better than anything that is on chance, and by having a regular income stream, you will be better in a sense that you won’t have to worry about things not working out for you.

If, for some reason, you feel like photography is not something that you want to continue or it is not lucrative enough, you can always fall back on your main job and carry that on.


Doing photography on the side can be a complicated thing. Especially when you make the decision that this is the path that you want to pursue as more often than not, there are several things that can come in the way, and considering how so many people choose the path of least resistance, it is not always the best way out.

However, the more you know, the better it gets, and the more you work towards it, the easier it becomes for you. Keeping all the things in mind that we have mentioned here, you can easily start photography on the side, and keep growing it until you feel like it can turn into an actual business for you since that is entirely possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can start photography on the side by having enough knowledge about photography in general and slowly building yourself up to that point.

Yes, you can easily be a photographer on the side as long as you have the learning intrigue in you and you want to do something on your own.

Most people I know started photography as a side hustle, booking clients for discounted rates, doing photography for free, and building connections. There are several ways to achieve that.

Furqan Shahid

Furqan Shahid

Hi! I’m Furqan Shahid, founder of SnapDirector. With a decade of experience capturing countless moments, I’m here to guide you on your photography journey and save you from gear pitfalls!

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