What Does Photography Income Mean To You?

A number of years ago, I was given a book that literally changed my life. It’s called Rich Dad Poor Dad. You’ve probably read that one, or one of the many Robert Kiyosaki has written in the decade since that one debuted. (If not, go and grab a copy today.)

At that point in time, we had an extremely successful business. We photographed around 30 weddings per year, averaging 4 to 5 figure sales per wedding. Yep, we were making a very healthy six figure income, and having the time of our lives flying all over the place to capture wedding memories.

Yet even though we had a blast doing our 30 weddings per year, this book made us look at things a bit differently.

Our entire livelihood relied on 25 to 30 clients per year. Not only did we have to work hard to find those 25 to 30 clients every year, we had to work hard to keep them happy.

Okay, that wasn’t difficult. We loved what we were doing.

We had to be very careful with the way we “played”. Skiing in the winter? Forget it. What if we broke a leg? Ever tried being a wedding photographer with a broken leg? So even though we loved what we were doing, we were still making conscious choices about how we lived.

Okay, that still isn’t too bad right?

But what about if the economy turned and it became harder to find those 25 to 30 people? Or what if one or two of them gave you all sorts of problems? The stress could literally eat you up for months at a time. Add in increasing competition, and you can quickly see that choosing one path like this for a lifetime of income isn’t the smartest thing to do.

Rich Dad Poor Dad opened up our eyes to that, and we quickly started to change.

Changing Your Goals

The goal is to develop several forms of income that allows you to make money in a variety of different ways. We decided to leverage all of our skills and knowledge, and use it to make income in a variety of ways.

The first part is understanding the different types of income.

Active income is monies you derive from working. So for us, the income we made from our weddings was active – we had to be there to make the money come in.Photography Pricing

Passive income is monies you derive indirectly, and does not require you to be there to earn an income. Examples would be:

  • Rent from a single family home you own and rent out
  • Income from a network marketing or MLM based business
  • Royalties from a book or video you have in circulation
  • Royalties from stock photography you have with a stock house
  • Payments from an online business

As you can see, there are many ways to bring in extra income. And I’ve just scratched the surface here. While many people will tell you that passive income is about earning income without having to be there, that’s only partly true. You have to be there to create and perfect the source of income before it will become a source of income for you. You have to build it, mold it, work with it, put a system together to make sure its effective, and then create income from it.

So if you are a wedding photographer, and you decide to put together a coffee table book (like we did with Being A Bride), you have to spend hours of time getting the right photographs, model releases, quotes and content, find book publishers, cover and layout creators, printers, and so on. Then once you have your final product, you have to create a source to sell it from. Yes, it’s nice when you wake up and find a huge order in your email, but you had to work to make that happen.

The same goes for any source of passive income you can dream of. There’s always the planning phase, the building phase, the action phase – and of course the collection phase where you collect the income you deserve!

Sound good to you?

Understand You

One of the first things I discuss with people is opportunity. What do you love to do? That changes from day to day, year to year. When you get good at something, like we did with wedding photography, you can literally do it without thinking. It comes naturally. So you begin to look at other things to stir your creative juices, and get yourself involved in things you have never done before.

That’s also why newly engaged couples are “obsessed” with everything wedding. New parents are “obsessed” with everything baby. And empty nesters are “obsessed” with retirement and changing lifestyles. It’s because you are engrossed in your current situation.

In every situation, you can find something you want to pursue. And you can use it to develop a side business that will ultimately bring you in a portion of your income. Add it all up over the years and it can turn into a healthy living, and a great lifestyle.

Take a look at your current lifestyle. What can you do to create an income flow from what is taking place today? Can you create a coffee table book? Can you create a greeting card line? Can you sell stock images? Can you write and photograph for a travel magazine? There are many things you can do in addition, or on the side of what you are doing now.

Slow Down and Do First Thing First

Now that the ideas are flowing, slow it down. One of the roughest periods of our life was when we had a huge array of ideas, and tried to put them all in place at once. Multi-tasking may seem like a great idea, but there is no way you can learn and put new ideas into place at once.

Instead, focus on one area and perfect it, then move to the next. Like we did with our wedding photography, we perfected it until we could literally run the business in our sleep. Then we moved on to create a coffee table book, and learned all about the publishing business. Then we moved on to the coaching business. And so on.

No one can take on too much, or everything falls apart. So if you haven’t perfected your baby portrait business, work on that until you have a great clientele base, and you are making the kind of money that can support you. When that’s in place, move on to the next area of interest.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be planning on the side. If you have a baby portrait business, and want to move into a greeting card line, take images just for you that are unique and stylish. It doesn’t matter if your clients don’t buy it yet, they will. Simply do things for you, as well as take what your clients love. Then save it for when you are ready to release your new idea to the world.


The final piece of advice is to enjoy the process. Life is all about learning, and you should strive to learn something new every day. Sometimes the learning curve can be painful – how to survive a bankruptcy or divorce. And sometimes it can be a wild ride. But half the fun of life is to take what you learn, and put it into use for the future. I see people all the time create happiness out of pain. If you made it through bankruptcy, maybe you coach people how to succeed after the process. Even in photography, many of today’s top photography non-profits started out of pain, and now bring joy and peace to the world.

Leave a Comment