Passive Income for Photographers, the Easy Way

by | 2 comments

There are more ways to make money with photography than shooting weddings.

In this post, I'll show you the easiest way I know to create recurring, passive income that fits perfectly with your photography passion.

You read that right – recurring, passive income.

What I want to show you is something called “affiliate marketing” – which is a way of generating income by sharing, recommending and promoting another company's or person's product or service.

If the words “marketing” and “promoting” are scary to you – don't worry. This isn't a sleazy, gimmicky, gross way to make money.

Let me ask you this…as a photographer, have you ever searched Google looking for camera gear reviews? Or, as the camera nerd in your circle of friends or family, do people ask you what camera you'd recommend for their upcoming trip to Thailand?

[And I mean nerd in the nicest way – as in someone smart, passionate, caring…]


The reality is, most of us turn to knowledgeable experts before we make a purchase.

And advice is just a Google search away:Google Camera Review

I am sure there are products you LOVE in your photography bag.

Heck, maybe you LOVE your photography bag!

If a friend of yours was looking for a good photography bag, would you hide yours and not tell them about your killer bag?

Or would you open it up and show them all the hidden pockets and high-quality design?!

Of course you'd show them!

You wouldn't force it down their throats but your “show and tell” would help them make a purchasing decision.

And they would THANK you for taking the time to show it to them in detail.

If you have a passion for photography, you can DO affiliate marketing.

And if you can do affiliate marketing (and I know you can) then you can earn an income that makes you (and your bank account) feel great.

Affiliate Marketing is Amazing!

I learned about the “secret” of affiliate marketing back in 2011.

As soon as I saw how many people online were giving away great information (and using affiliate links — more on that later), the more I saw the huge potential of making money online with this system.

I'm going to show you how much I make a month from content on one of my websites, not to brag, but just to show you what is possible.

Affiliate Income

I average about $500 per month from my affiliate income.

Without quitting my day-job.

Without spending a tonne of money or adding risk to my family.

Promoting a couple of products I love.

By making online content that helps people.

What some proof that my content doesn't just “sells” but actually helps people?

Affiliate Marketing Works

If you can't read the text on that image, Cathy comment on one of my blogs,

“OMG, you have saved me. I can't tell you how many times I tried to set up my (web)site and gave up. How close I was to giving up entirely. I Googled “SmugMug” and miraculously found your tutorial…I can't thank you enough. Really. Now I feel like I know what I am doing and finally closer than ever before to having a real working site!”

She's referring to this tutorial where I help people create a photography website on the SmugMug platform. And yes, in that post I have affiliate links to SmugMug and make a commision if anyone signs up for a paid account.

SmugMug wins because they get a new customer.

Cathy wins because she gets her very own photography website – something she clearly wants.

I win because I got to help Cathy build a great site and because SmugMug gave me a commission for bringing them a new customer.

It's a win-win-win.

The Affiliate Marketing Formula is Simple

This is going to seem too simple, but it really is as easy as following these steps:

  1. Think of a product or service (that you can purchase online) that you would authentically recommend to others. It could be your camera, your camera bag, your accounting software or a great eBook on Landscape Photography.
  2. Find the Affiliate Program for that product or service.
    1. For physical products like gear and books, you can sign up for the Amazon Associates program
    2. For software and almost anything else, you can google the product name and add “affiliate program” with it. For example,
  3. Sign up for the affiliate program (for free)
  4. Get your unique affiliate link
  5. Share your affiliate link on your website, social media, or email
  6. When someone purchases through your special link, you'll earn a commission!

Now the more traffic you bring to the web page that has that link, the more income you could potentially earn.

And you can repeat the same steps for other products you use and recommend.

Create Something Once, Make Money From it Month after Month

Remember that comment I showed you early from Cathy?

That's just one of the hundreds of comments on that one blog post I wrote – back in 2013.

Every day dozens, sometimes hundreds of people Google something like “SmugMug tutorial” and find that post.

And every day people click on my affiliate links to check out SmugMug.

Now, it's not every day that someone signs up for SmugMug through my link.

But certainly every month.

So from that one thing I created YEARS ago, it's still helping people and it's still making me money….today!

Ok, that's enough about me.

Now that you see what it is I'm talking about, you'll find that many of the “big names” in photography (and little) have affiliate marketing as part of their businesses.

Photographers that “Do” Affiliate Marketing

Now that you know what affiliate marketing is, you'll notice that most/many/alot of photographers that have an online presence are using affiliate links when they talk about the products they use or recommend.

Here are just a few photographers that are making a tonne of cash from affiliate marketing: – Ken Rockwell earns a full-time living through affiliate links on his website. His website is all about reviewing camera gear. It's a pretty ugly site (sorry Ken), but his information and opinions on cameras and lenses are read and influence people's purchasing decisions every day. I know because I've purchased a $1000 lens based on Ken's recommendations. And I purchased it through a link on his website. And that means Amazon (or B&H photo, I can't remember which) paid Ken about $80 for bringing them that sale. Notice that Amazon paid Ken his commision. I didn't have to pay Ken anything more but got the benefit of his time and expertise to help me make my purchasing decisions. Thanks, Ken! – Now THIS is a gorgeous website. Trey Ratcliff is a travel photographer that specializes in HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. He's self-taught but a master at his craft. He's also a master at running his art business. Similar to Rockwell, Trey recommends camera gear through his website. But Trey mostly just promotes the gear he uses – he doesn't try to test everything on the market like Ken does. Trey also promotes software through affiliate links as well. Trey has an infectious personality and writing style. His following is so large online that if he sent a single broadcast email to his email list, and simply told him of a product he was using and enjoying, he'd make thousands of dollars from commisions. Affiliate Marketing is powerful and we need to use that power for good! I believe Trey does. His recommendations pass the test – he only recommends products that are authentic and helpful. I switched to a micro four-thirds camera because of Trey's advice. Thanks, Trey! – Darren Rowes is now a very famous blogger. But his Digital Photography School website was where it all started for him. He's a self-proclaimed photography enthusiast. He's not a pro photographer. And yet, he created his website out of a desire to create helpful information on how folks can learn to take better photos. And guess what? Yes, he uses affiliate links in his posts whenever he talks about gear or a product that he recommends. His website has grown to be one of the most popular and longest-running blogs online about photography. – This is my little corner of the internet. I started this blog to talk about my passion for photography – which is all “on the side” from my day job. I wanted to encourage people to cautiously turn their photography passion into a business – on the side of their day-job. Just like I did. One thing I thought all photographers need is a good website, and so I built a tutorial that shows people how to do that – step-by-step. And I added an affiliate link to the website builder company I use. That's one way that I used affiliate marketing to earn passive income on the side. And what I love most is that I've helped thousands of people figure out how to build the website they wanted. It's that win-win-win that feels so good.

That's great for those “big” guns, but what about the “little” guys?

Yes, those three websites make a tonne of cash through affiliate marketing. They are run like serious businesses. And when you look through their sites you think “Wow, there's so much information and great content. I could never do that!”

I want you to know two things right now:

  1. All those websites were started from nothing. They grew over time.
  2. You don't have to build a big website to make affiliate marketing work.

Ideas for Promoting Your Products

Are you inspired? Do you see the potential?

Then let's dive in!

Let's assume you have a website. If not you may want to check out my tutorial on How to Build a Gorgeous Photography Website in 90 Minutes. Yes, there is an affiliate link in the tutorial to the website builder I use and recommend. :)

Now on your website here are some ideas for promoting products

  1. Create a “Tools and Resources” page – this is the first thing you should do. You could also call it a “What's In My Bag” page. But list out your gear here. And software, books, and courses. Anything else you use in your photography hobby or business that you would recommend to others. Add your affiliate links (see steps above).  Make sure you add this page to your menu bar so people can find it! Now whenever someone comes to your site to see your photos, they will also see this helpful page full of your personal recommendations!
  2. Add affiliate links for your gear to your photo captions – I love when I can see the settings used to take a great photo. Thinks like aperture, exposure time, ISO. But why not add your camera body and lens to that info as well? And add affiliate links in there too.
  3. Gear review blog posts – You can apply the “Ken Rockwell” method here and write your own product review posts. Tips for writing a good review post include — being honest, being thorough, being opinionated, and being creative.
  4. Create tutorials – find out what people are searching for and help them get answers by creating text or video tutorials that solve their problems. Sometimes part of the solution will be to recommend a product that will help them out. Folks love a good recommendation when it makes their lives better!

Affiliate Programs that are a Great Fit for Photographers (Amateur or Pro)

You may be surprised at how many products and companies you use every day that have affiliate programs.

I've compiled a large (but certainly not exhaustive) list of products you could promote plus I've done some of the legwork for you to find the affiliate program link for each one, the commissions (as of February 26, 2018), and a brief description of each company in case you're interested in checking them out.

Please note that some of the links below are my own affiliate links. Which means, at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I will make a commision. But you knew that already, didn't you!?


Amazon sells 398,040,250 products and 1.6 million of those are camera and photo related. One of the great things about referring people to purchase products on Amazon is that folks already trust the Amazon brand and shopping experience. And Amazon does an amazing job of making the sale!

How much can I make?

Amazon pays out 4% for cameras and photography gear. But up to 10% for some other products. The good news is that anything that someone buys on Amazon through your special link you will earn a commision for. The bad news is, for physical products the profit margin is low so your commision is low (relative to some of the other products and services listed below that can have commisions up to 40-50%). But let's say someone buys a $1000 camera through your affiliate link, you'd earn $1000 x 4% = $40. But remember the magic of this is that dozens or hundreds of people could purchase through your link once it's on your website. So it may be $40 x 100 referrals over time = $4,000. Obviously, I can't say how much or how many referrals you will have. But those numbers are certainly possible. Some folks would have that many referrals through one affiliate link per month!

How do I sign up?

Just follow the steps on Amazon's Associate page and login with your Amazon Account or sign up if you don't already have one.


B&H Photo and Video is the Amazon of camera gear. But these guys are great at serving photographers. One of the best things about B&H is that they have a Live Chat so you can ask them questions and get help on choosing products.

How much can I make?

B&H offers a pretty incredible 8% for each sale. They also have an affiliate manager that you can talk to about maximizing your marketing potential. They also have other marketing materials for you to use like banners and special links. But they also have stringent rules for affiliates so read the fine print! See below…

How do I sign up?

Sign up for B&H's affiliate program here. But this particular company has some rules for its affiliates. You must have a multi-page website, a fully functioning website, no broken links, and content relevant to B&H's product offerings. And you can't live in Connecticut, Louisiana, or Pennsylvania. No, seriously.

Digitial Photography School

Digital Photography School is the biggest photography blogs/website out there. The owner, Darren Rowes, has teamed up with pro photographers to create excellent training guides that are all digital – mostly eBooks and video courses. These guides are very well produced and help beginner photographers learn new skills.

How much can I make?

Digital Photography School pays their affiliates 40% per sale. Because the courses are all digital, the affiliate commisions are a lot higher compared to physical products. So if someone purchased a $19 eBook, you'd earn $7.60. And a $99 “bundle” course would earn you $39.60.

How do I sign up?

Just follow the steps on the Digital Photography School Affiliate Program page. Note they ask for your website information and how your plans to promote them. I don't think they deny too many applicants, they just want to do some due diligence to make sure their affiliates are human beings that aren't planning on doing spammy things to make a buck and jeopardize their brand.

Stuck In Customs

Stuck In Customs is one of my favorite photography websites. Trey Ratcliff is both a fantastic photographer but also a very savvy businessman. When I grow up I want to be just like Trey! (kidding, not kidding). He specializes in HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography which is a process that makes stunning images. Similar to Digital Photography School, Trey and his team have created eBooks and Lightroom Presets that teach his process for taking such stunning images. I have bought many of his eBooks and they are really well done.

How much can I make?

Stuck In Customs pays their affiliates 30% per sale. But they tell you that if you ask them nicely, they will give you a special 10% coupon that you can offer your audience. Having a discount you can offer folks really helps them click through your links. Take advantage of this great opportunity!

How do I sign up?

Just follow the steps on the Stuck In Customs Affiliate Program page. You don't need to give them anything more than you name and email.


SmugMug is a website builder for photographers. My photography website was built using their platform. And my first venture into affiliate marketing was a step-by-step tutorial which showed folks how to build their own photography website from scratch. One of the main reasons I promote SmugMug is that I have lots of experience using their product and I love their customer support – which I know is critical for people building their own website.

How much can I make?

SmugMug pays their affiliates 15% per sale. The advantage you get with SmugMug is that the affiliate program is managed by Adam Riemer – an affiliate manager. He provides tips and advice on his blog and is also available via email to help you promote SmugMug.

How do I sign up?

Just follow the steps on Adam Riemer's SmugMug page on his site. Make sure you email Adam and tell him Ryan Oakley says Hi! :)

Note: There are quite a few website builders out there. Zenfolio, WP Premium Themes, Wix, Squarespace – and most of them have an affiliate program. So make sure you google the name of the company you use and add “______ affiliate program” to see if they have a way for you to promote them. Of course, only promote them if you think they are a great company. If you don't think they are that great….then why are you using them!? Switch to a company (like SmugMug) that is.


LastPass is a password management program. I use this tool to allow me to generate Str0ng(!) passwords on all my accounts, that I can access anytime through the LastPass extension in Google Chrome. No more using the “forgot password” function on your web apps. Photographers have lots of accounts and a password manager can solve the huge problem of account security for them.

How much can I make?

LastPass pays you 20% of any license sold through your affiliate link.

How do I sign up?

Just follow the stops on the LastPass affiliate program page.


FreshBooks is a bookkeeping / invoicing / accounting software service. So if you have a small business (full time or even on the side like I do), and use a tool like this to help keep your finances in order, you may want to promote this tool.

How much can I make?

Freshbooks has a unique payout system. They are not percentage based on the others so far. They pay $5 if you refer a customer and they start a free trial. And $55 when your free trial signup subscribes to any paid FreshBooks plan. That's a pretty killer commission.

How do I sign up?

“Earn like a boss, as a FreshBook affiliate”. Says so right there on their FreshBooks affiliate signup page.


Blurb (what a name!) is a company that helps you make books – both digital and print. I've used them to create photo books for my wedding clients (that they looooove, of course). But I've also used (and recommended) them for personal photo books.

How much can I make?

Blurb pays you 15% commision for new orders plus $1 per book for any book sale.

How do I sign up?

Just follow the steps on the Blurb affiliate program page. Blurb has an affiliate manager too which is helpful if you have issues or what any promotion ideas.


Animoto is a slideshow video maker. I love using and promoting Animoto because it appeals to folks just looking to make a great slideshow video for their family trip to Hawaii, but it also works fantastic as a video creation tool for business marketing purposes.

How much can I make?

Animoto pays 20% per sale of its annual premium member sign-ups. And 15% per sale for monthly premium member sign-ups.

How do I sign up?

You can sign up for Animoto's affiliate program here.

Adobe (Lightroom, Photoshop, Creative Cloud)

We all know about Lightroom and Photoshop. But even you heard about it from someone early in your photography career. Someone convinced you to purchase and use this powerful software. Perhaps your photography inspires someone to do more with their photos. So they head to your Tools and Resource page to see what editing software you use. They find your Adobe Lightroom affiliate link, click through and purchase Lightroom and fall in love. This is the win-win-win I talked about with affiliate marketing.

How much can I make?

Adobe has multiple products and offers different commisions for each. For Create Cloud (CC) they offer 85% commisions for the first month of a monthly subscription. And 85% for the first month of a yearly subscription that's paid monthly. And 8.33% for the first year of a yearly subscription. Based on their subscription fees on their website, you would make between $8.49 to $63.74.

How do I sign up?

You can sign up for Adobe's affiliate program here. But OMG this is the most painful affiliate program to sign up for (even though they say it's easy). I actually had to stop part way through the sign-up service to send a support email to help me figure it out. You'll need to add some code to your website so they can verify that you own the site. And the payment method (for Canadians and Americans) is through Payoneer. I had never heard of them and didn't feel like signing up for a new service. Wish they would just use PayPal for payment like most affiliate programs. Anyways…I digress…


Udemy is a massive learning marketplace. Independent course creators teach a wide range of subjects. There are a number of great photography courses. I've taken a few of them myself. As well as business courses, marketing, and even personal development. Udemy is like the Amazon of online courses.

How much can I make?

Udemy pays you 20% of any paid course signup that comes through your affiliate link.

How do I sign up?

You can sign up for Udemy's affiliate program here. Udemy has a pretty great Udemy Affiliate support system. They provide emails with ideas and support and extra promotional material to help you make sales. They do take a few days to review your application.


Grammarly is a popular writing app. Improve your emails or your website copy with this elegant tool. I'm using the Grammarly app right now as I write this blog post to help me fix spelling and grammar erros errors.

How much can I make?

Grammarly pays you $20 for every premium plan purchase that comes through your affiliate link. They even offer a $25 bonus (incentive) just for putting a banner on your website or writing a blog post about it. Nice!

How do I sign up?

You can sign up for Grammarly's affiliate program here. They have a lot of affiliate resources that you should definitely look into.


Bluehost is an affordable web hosting company. They specialize in WordPress integration and easy setup and are one of the most popular hosting companies online. Obviously, this is a great place to register your domain names too.

How much can I make?

Bluehost provides a whopping $65 for each signup. That's a pretty ridiculously high commision. They say that they paid out over $5,000,000 to affiliate last year. Wowsers.

How do I sign up?

You can sign up for Bluehost's affiliate program here. It's free and they provide a number of resources to help you promote them.

Additional Companies to Look Into

I have less experience in these companies, but wanted to share links to them in case you are interested in promoting them:

Adorama – Another big camera store. Commissions of 2%+ depending on brand. Sign up for the Adorama affiliate program here.

Etsy – “Show for anything from creative people everywhere”. Commissions are not listed on their affiliate page. Sign up for the Etsy affiliate program here.

Fine Art America – Online art gallery selling art from independent artists. Commissions of 15% on printing and framing services. Sign up for the Fine Art America affiliate program here.

Lonely Planet – Everyone's favourite travel guides! Promoting Lonely Planet actually makes a lot of sense for travel photographers as you can give ideas on where the best places in the world are to shot stunning photos. Commissions are 15% for all print books and ebooks. Sign up for the Lonely Planet affiliate program here.

And of course, you can and should provide links to free tools or even paid products that don't have an affiliate program. Why? Because you're trying to be helpful to your audience! This might include Google Docs, You Need a Budget (YNAB is my favourite budgeting tool), Bullet Journal, or anything else you just LOVE to use – in your photography, online marketing, or just to help you have a better life.

Do be careful

You do need to pay attention to the rules that each company has set up for the affiliates.

Some tell you that you can't make purchases yourself through your own affiliate link. Others (like Moo) says it's fine and even encourages it.

Some have a minimum sales quota per month. But most do not.

Some want to know about your website, traffic and promotion plans before approving you as an affiliate. Most do not.

Most have a minimum payout (ex. $50) that you need to earn before you get the cash (minimizes their accounting work understandably).

These companies write the rules and they can change them (or cancel their program altogether) and there's nothing you can do about it. It's part of being in this affiliate marketing business. But don't worry – most companies treat their affiliates like gold. Some have affiliate managers you can email (and you should) and some offer training and ideas and promotional materials to help you be as successful as possible.

There's No Limit to how much Money You can Make

There really aren't a lot of people that share how much they make with affiliate marketing.

I shared with you that I make about $500 / month by promoting just a couple of photography tools I love – Animoto and SmugMug.

But when I say there is no limit…I really mean there is no limit.

If you are smart about keyword research, SEO, content creation and promotion…you can make tens of thousands of dollars a month.

That's not a promise, of course. There are a lot of variables involved in

The more helpful content you create the more potential income you'll make.

Want to Learn More About Affiliate Marketing?

Try Wealthy Affiliate

In many ways affiliate marketing is easy. Add affiliate links to your website and when someone clicks on your link and makes a purchase, you'll make a commision.

But how do you get more traffic to your website?

How do you get your website and blog posts to rank on the first page of Google (i.e. Search Engine Optimization – SEO)?

How do you write a great product review post?

Who do you ask if you have questions?

I learned how to “do” affiliate marketing from Wealthy Affiliate.

==> Read My Wealthy Affiliate Review Here

Forget What's In the Bag, What IS the Bag?

Camera gear is a touchy subject. Google "Nikon vs Canon" and you get over 52,000,000 results. So I'm not going to even attempt to lay out the dozens of bag options, give a long list of features to compare and analyze until you're blue in the face. If...

Equipment Matters – A Camera Buying Guide For Sane People

It always irks me when I hear people say that camera equipment doesn't matter. That "good" artists can use any disposable camera to shoot a great wedding or take their next masterpiece. Then why don't we ever see that?! Pros always use the best equipment...

1000 Humans

Inspiration doesn't usually come from thin-air. At least, it rarely does for me. My latest photography adventure/challenge is coming directly from one of my new "mentors", Brandon Stanton, the creator of the very popular Street Photography blog Humans of...