World Photography Day: How to Succeed as a Freelance Photographer in 2023

Want to succeed as a freelance photographer? Elevate your skills, build a solid client base, and get more freelance photography jobs with these top tips and tools.

Freelance photography tips
Portrait for ShotKitBy ShotKit  |  Posted August 21, 2023

In this digital era, the demand for stunning visuals is ever-growing, presenting immense opportunities for skilled photographers to carve their niche in the industry. But with the market becoming increasingly competitive, how can you stand out and find more freelance photography jobs?

With World Photography Day just around the corner on August 19th, there’s no time like the present to give your freelance photography business a boost! If you want to elevate your skills, build a strong client base, and establish a sustainable career that fulfills your artistic aspirations and financial goals, read on to learn how to succeed as a freelance photographer in 2023.

How to Become a Freelance Photographer

If you’re passionate about photography and desire the freedom and flexibility of being your own boss, you’ve come to the right place! It’s not easy to make it as a freelance photographer, but before you do, you’ll need the right tools and knowledge to get started. 

Whether you’re a seasoned freelancer looking to elevate your career or just starting your journey as a professional photographer, this blog will equip you with all the necessary tools and inspiration to thrive in the competitive world of freelance photography. Ready to build a future as a successful freelance photographer in 2023? Let’s snap to it!

Step 1: Choosing the Right Photography Equipment

1. Choose the Right Camera

It might seem obvious that freelance photographers need a camera, but picking the right one isn’t as easy as it seems.

A few things set a professional camera apart from entry-level and even high-end hobbyist cameras. Here are five things a new freelance photographer should look for in a professional camera:

  • Full frame sensor 
  • Weather-sealed build
  • From a commonly supported brand like Sony, Canon, or Nikon 
  • Ideally, two memory card slots
  • Mirrorless design 

Cameras like the Sony A7 IV and the Canon EOS R5 are currently the best of the best. However, you can save some of your startup cash by picking up an older model like the Sony A7 III, which is still used by professionals today.

A quick note on the mirrorless or DSLR debate – DSLR cameras have become more affordable as mirrorless become the industry standard. Many clients prefer freelance photographers with mirrorless cameras for live events like engagements, weddings, and corporate events, as those cameras are much quieter and less likely to disturb.

With that said, plenty of photographers still use DSLR cameras and lead successful careers as freelance photographers. If you’re shooting in a studio or doing product photography, you might be able to save a lot of money by picking up a used DSLR rather than getting the latest mirrorless tech. 

2. Use a High-Quality Lens

We’ll let you in on a little secret from the world of professional photography: the lens you shoot with is arguably more important than the camera itself.

In fact, professional photographers will say that you’d be better off upgrading the quality of your lens rather than spending money on the latest camera.

Picking the right lens is key to earning money as a freelance photographer. The first lens you should pick up will be the professional 24 to 70-mm lens for your camera brand. This could be a lens like the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens or the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM II lens. 

This lens is flexible and covers a wide range of shooting conditions. It’s perfect for events, products, and studio work.

Here are a few other lenses that you should consider as you expand your freelance photography work. 

  • 80 mm prime lens for portraits 
  • Wide-angle zoom lens for interior and architectural photography 
  • 70 to 200 mm telephoto zoom for sports and wildlife photography

3. Memory Cards, Tripods & Accessories

There’s a whole world of photography accessories out there, and knowing which is right for you can save a lot of money when starting out as a professional photographer.

There are a few must-have accessories that you should get before you start taking paid work. These include your memory cards, a tripod, a basic camera cleaning kit, and a bag to hold your photography kit. 

You don’t have to start off buying the most expensive gear from a high-end company; you can save money on these photography accessories by shopping with a budget brand like Neewer. 

4. Prioritize Good Lighting

Good lighting is the key to taking good photographs, meaning you might need some external lights to get started. If you’re shooting at live events, we recommend a speed light or flash for your camera. A good flash will cost only a few hundred dollars and is a must-have accessory.

Studio photographers will need a dedicated lighting setup for their freelance photography work. This may be expensive, but you can often find local studios where you can rent out space, including access to their professional lighting equipment. You can save some initial money on lighting by starting out doing daytime, outdoor engagement, or portrait shoots. 

Step 2: Use Pro Photo Editing Programs, Apps &Software 


Lightroom is the single best app for photographers. As a beginner freelancing photographer, you must get familiar with this app. This software allows you to correct your exposure settings, do color correction, and make countless other edits to really make your photographs stand out. Lightroom also allows you to do edits in bulk which is a massive timesaver if you’re working with hundreds of images from a big event.

This Adobe app also has fast and efficient cataloging and exporting features that allow you to keep your growing library of images in check. It’s available as a subscription-only as part of the Photography Plan, with various options available.


Photoshop is another key program that freelance photographers should get very familiar with.

If Lightroom is the premier app for editing your photos, Photoshop is the premier application for manipulating them. If you have a client asking if you can remove strangers from the background of their engagement photo, Photoshop will do the job. 

Photoshop can also change image colors – such as the shade of a t-shirt for a product photography shot – adjust exposure, and perform color correction (which is often used for wedding photos). 

Mobile Apps For Freelance Photography Editing 

With the increasing power of mobile photo editing and the popularity of social media, we’re seeing more clients ask for day-of edits that they can share on their own social media channels.

This is a common request whether you’re planning on doing freelance wedding photography or you’re doing a product shot for a brand. This means you’ll need some effective mobile editing applications for these quick turnarounds and day-of edits.

Here are a few programs you should check out if you plan on editing on the go:

  • Photoshop Express
  • Lightroom for Mobile
  • Adobe Express

Adobe Software Alternatives

Starting out as a freelance professional photographer isn’t cheap, but you can save money with these alternatives to Adobe’s Creative Cloud software subscription. 

These alternatives are nearly as powerful as Adobe’s versions but are entirely free and community-supported. 

How to Get More Freelance Photographer Jobs

1. Build a Photography Portfolio Website 

Freelance photographers need an excellent online portfolio to connect with clients and show off their previous work. While your social media will draw people in, your website is where they will go to make professional contact. It’s also your best place to show the quality of your work and why clients should hire you over the competition.

Thankfully, there are plenty of website portfolio templates out there that can help you connect with customers. As your business grows, you can also connect your website to an online shop that can help you sell photography prints. 

2. Send Photos to Clients Efficiently

So, what should you do after you’ve taken and edited dozens of pictures? You’re going to need to send those digital files to your client. An email might work when you just have a few pictures to send, but you’ll often be sending dozens – or even hundreds – of pictures after a big job like a wedding.

Here are a few apps that you should get familiar with that can help you send high-quality images to your freelance photography clients:

  • Google Drive
  • WeTransfer
  • DropBox
  • PixieSet
  • Smash
  • ShootProof

3. Grow Your Social Media Presence 

Social media has fundamentally changed how freelance photographers approach advertising. Many photographers make their entire income based on interactions they build from their social media presence.

Instagram is still one of the biggest social media platforms for freelance photographers, so knowing how to curate your Instagram feed will help you stand out in a crowded market. 

You’re going to need a good social media marketing strategy to get this off the ground, which should include regular posting, building a following with high engagement, and leveraging social media trends to grow your audience. 

4. Upload Photos to a Stock Photography Site

Stock photography has changed a lot over the last decade. It’s harder to make money with stock photography websites than it used to be, but it’s still a great place to get started for beginner freelance photographers.

Taking stock photos will allow you to hone your skills behind the camera and get some experience taking professional quality images that future clients will love. If you want to start selling your photos online, creative marketplaces such as Envato Elements are a great place to start!

To Wrap Up

Now you’ve got all the tools it takes to make it as a freelance photographer! While you’re here, check out these articles on Floating Product Photography and the top Graphic Design Trends for 2023.

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