Earning An Income With Your Photography – Passive versus Active

If any of you are fans of the Robert Kiyosaki series Rich Dad Poor Dad, or one of many other trainers out there who teach about earning income, you’ve probably heard the terms active income and 51passive income.

Active income is the revenue you  earn by physically doing something. Your income depends on you being there.

  • You show up for your job and you get paid by the hour.
  • You bring in a client and charge them for a photo shoot.
  • You shoot a wedding and have people order images from you.

Passive income is the revenue that comes from something you have in place that earns revenue whether you are there or not.

  • You own a rental house and the renters pay you month after month.
  • You have investments, stocks, dividends, or retirement funds paying you every month.
  • You write a book and receive royalty checks year after year.
  • You own a stock image that makes money month after month.

Chances are up until now you’ve received the majority of your revenue from active sources. Most people do.

But think for a moment how much easier life would be if you could have both working for you all the time.

Active Income
You are a wedding photographer. You photograph 35 weddings per year. You spend over 40 hours catering to each individual client’s needs (including initial consultations, marketing, booking, shooting the event, production, and delivery).

Your average wedding brings in right at $2,000. The fee is generated over several months, broken down into deposits and final orders.

As an active income source, that $2,000 is only guaranteed if you perform. You have to stay healthy and be available for the entire process. Or you’ll have to refund and deal directly with your client’s and their attorneys.

Passive Income
Now let’s look at microstock photography as a passive income source.

With stock photography, you take an image once, and put it up on the site. Once you have the image up there, it will earn you income “forever”.

Let’s say you have a great image that does very well, and ends up selling over 5,000 times over a two year period. You make on average 50 cents per sale.

That means over the two year period you’ve earned $2,500 for that one image.

Yes, it did take you two years to earn it. But how long did it take you to earn the $2,000 from your bride and groom?

Create A Plan With Both
Imagine for a moment you love photographing weddings – we loved our wedding business. We often earned well into the five figure range with our clients, and made a very good living doing what we loved.

Imagine flying into a wedding, and photographing the event. What if you also photographed 100 images all for you and for your stock image business at the same time? You uploaded each image, and let it grow.

Where could you be two years from now?

3 thoughts on “Earning An Income With Your Photography – Passive versus Active”

  1. A photo would have to be pretty exceptional to sell 2500 times a year in microstock, but you are very right – microstock photography is a great source for passive income, so absolutely – turn around and take some stock-worthy freebie shots while on a paid gig! Yesterday I made $28 for a (mediocre) shot of Niagara Falls, so don’t forget to take stock photos while on vacation as well. Travel isn’t a very popular category, but I’m pretty sure I’ve recouped my day at Niagara by now.

  2. Thank you for this post. I have read other articles that basically said the same thing. I think the cool part of it would be that yes you are working a business but at the same time you would be having lots of fun.

    Thanks again

  3. Great article. I am always surprised when I hear other stock photographers telling newcomers that there’s not money to be made and they shouldn’t even bother to try. Obviously most of it comes from sheer panic that a slice of their pie will be made smaller. Obviously there is money to be made, but it depends on how much you want to make and how hard you’re willing to work for it.

    We are a stock agency celebrating our 15th year in business. We allow photographers to set their own prices and we pay the highest royalty rates in the industry. We have many members who make their living selling stock images, so I know for a fact that it CAN be done!

    I think anyone who is interested should give it a shot!


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