The 4 P’s of Passive Income for Any Photographer

August 17, 2021

By Ryan Longnecker

Over the last 18 months, I’ve watched many of the creatives in my life make drastic adjustments to keep their careers alive. Some were not as fortunate as others to be able to continue their pursuits in photography, or graphic design or any kind of professional artistry. Instead, they’ve had to move to other jobs or switch careers altogether. I was and continue to be so grateful to have woven together some great business and financial advice before my career in photography began that ties into benefiting from passive income.

photographer ryan longnecker warren buffet quote about earning passive income

That advice was centered around the practice of investment—finding the best place to put my assets so that over time, the growth would compound and the interest would continually feed itself. It’s the game. It’s a huge part of what I hear whenever someone starts talking about anyone who’s net worth is a number I can’t fathom: They find ways to take their talent, influence and hard work, and they invest it into diversified places that each have a life of their own.

This is where passive income fits for me in my creative life. The areas I have found most success in are photography, prints, presets and partnerships.

ryan longnecker 4 p's of passive income include photography prints presets and partnerships

Even though I barely understand NFTs (or non-fungible tokens, which can be auctioned in a digital art space), I saw another path for people who have hustled for years to generate more income for themselves, their families and their passions. These four areas are ones that I already had existing skin in the game: I have been shooting professionally for 13 years, I have sold and licensed my prints for years, I began developing presets with close friends very early on, and I’ve always seen value in protecting relationships with anyone who took the risk of hiring me for work.

[Read: Lindsay Adler’s 10 Steps to Selling Photographs as NFTs]

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had people in with big names and strong positions of leadership vouch for me along the way, and that provided me opportunities I doubt I would have ever had. This is not a pulling-myself-up-by-my-own-bootstraps story; it’s one filled with people who cared for me enough to throw me a bone, and I feel very lucky to have such support.

That being said, whenever an opportunity came that I saw had passive income potential, I did my best to always say yes. That ranged from partnering with collaborative preset efforts and providing career mentorship or portfolio reviews to giving non-exclusive print rights to multiple companies for shots that I didn’t want to reserve for larger exclusive-only or personally significant images, working with clothing companies and various brands who wanted my images, and just having coffee with those who I have worked with to hear how they are.

[Read: How to Manage Money for Photo Business Longevity]

So, how does all of this this turn into passive income?

Here’s the quick and dirty of it (but *cough cough* I am always up for some one-on-one coaching, if that’s your thing).

Gather Your Assets

For instance:

1. Your massive digital archive that contains thousands of unused photos

2. Your list of everyone you’ve had good working relationships with (or an actual email list that you’ve been better at me for keeping)

3. The topics you feel like you could teach others

Look at the Pathways to Plug Them Into Passive Income

1. A list of potential professional contacts or references

2. Companies that deal in stock photography

3. Collaborative opportunities where your work would genuinely be a good fit

Organize Everything

If you’re going to pursue stock or prints, create folders that are theme-based that will make it easy to submit to someone curating at an agency.

If it’s prints, get some mockups to show when you reach out.

If it’s presets, have a folder where you’ve used your own presets with before and after samples.

If it’s partnerships, create a timeline and make deadlines for yourself to reach out with something genuine and specific to recall in your reconnection efforts.

[Read: Photography Presets—Solid Tool or Creative Crutch?]

I get that so far, this doesn’t sound very passive. But just like financial investing, you have to work hard to get the money that eventually works for you. If you’re just starting out, it is a lot of work. You’ll have to get much better about answering emails, keywording and self-starting.

Each avenue you could plug yourself into has a massive amount of potential and deserves its own conversation. I hope to start it with anyone that wants to talk about it. If I can provide any insight to allow people some more financial freedom to not live in the anxiety that the last year caused for many of us, I will. Creating beautiful things is something we can’t afford to lose.

Ryan Longnecker is an outdoor travel and commercial photographer based out of Los Angeles. Alongside his photography he has developed presets, classes, and a passion for educating the creative community while building a healthy place for people to pursue their passions or hobbies in the arts. He spoke on the 4Ps of Passive Income at WPPI 2021. He enjoys building long-term relationships with brands and clients, editing, and teaching at workshops and conferences. He is a husband and father and loves the ability to show his girls this beautiful world.