Who needs Freelance Photographers?

There is huge scope for photography jobs in the market place and below we cover the main areas where you can win contracts or supply images on a freelance basis.


Traditionally the main sector of employment was magazines and this is probably still the largest source for photography work in the UK. Over the last ten years reader expenditure has increased by sixty percent in real terms.

Since 1992:

  • Circulation has increased by 113m copies or 9.4 per cent.
  • Consumers spend £605m more each year on magazines.
  • The number of consumer magazines has increased by 35 per cent up since 1992.
  • The magazine market is driven by a relentless churn of new titles.

ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation) figures show that the magazine market has shown a year-on-year rise in the number of copies actively purchased by consumers according to the concurrent release on 12th Feb 2004.

The majority of publications require photos in some shape or form and many of these are taken solely for that title and will cover sector specific imagery relating to the subject title. The UK magazine market is huge as you can see from the figures above, according to The Freelance Photographer's Handbook there were more than 8,000 titles being published on a regular basis in Britain at the time the 2004 publication was written.


Many national and local newspapers will use freelance photographers as a source of images for their publications. At every major event you will find a heavy presence of staff and agency photographers but do not let this put you off, you have as much chance as a freelancer of snapping that perfect shot that the majors will be looking for.

Newspaper readership shows that the newspaper market is still a viable, growing industry where you can market your skills and earn a good income.

Almost half of all regional press titles in ABC membership (44%) increased sales in July-Dec 2003. The weeklies - which make up 80% of all regional newspaper titles in ABC - showed the strongest performance, with 51% of them showing circulation gains. The improved performance has been achieved despite a continuing industry-wide policy of reducing bulk sales and discounted copies to offer advertisers clean and transparent circulation figures (99% of titles are now actively purchased compared with 96% four years ago; 97% purchased at full price compared with 94% four years ago). Three-quarters of regional newspapers have stripped out bulks entirely, posting 100% actively purchased figures. Source: ABC and independent audits, figures include five regional daily and Sunday titles reported as a national newspaper by ABC.

Regional press sales exceeded £675 million in 2002, with nearly 41 million regional paid-for newspapers sold and over 29 million free newspapers delivered every week. Source: NS intelligence unit; Advertising Statistics Yearbook 2003.

If you fancy getting into news photography then a great place to start is your local newspaper. Although the events covered may not be the most exciting it will provide useful experience and will help grow your portfolio. Having had local press experience can also help you if your goal is to shoot for the nationals. Breaking into this market place can be difficult because of the large number of photographers already employed, nationals tend to have large numbers of staff photographers and these are backed up by freelancers who are already known to the papers. Like all careers there is only one route to the top - hard work and perseverance.


There are many book titles that are regularly produced and, in today's increasingly visual age, the market for heavily illustrated books is expanding. In this field the difficulty for the individual freelance is that there is no easy way of knowing what is required and when. Book publishers will only require photos of specific subjects at certain times and while many of them will rely heavily on picture libraries to source their images there is still good scope for the individual photographer with a good collection of material on particular subjects or who can work to order.

The best way, like many other fields, is to introduce yourself by letter and follow up phone call to get an indication of any forthcoming work and what prospects there may be for you now and in the future.

Cards, Calendars & Posters

As you may know from your visits to buy greetings and occasion cards from the large or local newsagents and supermarkets, the vast majority of card publishers rely on artwork or graphics. The companies that do produce photographic greetings cards also tend to publish a full range of photographic products and therefore have links with established photographers or stock library services. However, do not forget the postcard market. Each year thousands, if not millions, of local sights and scenes are sent home by holiday makers, the demand for up-to-date pictures and new images is ongoing.

The calendar and poster markets are similar to the card market and you will have to work hard to sell your photos here. Again, many companies obtain stock from agencies but that does not mean to say that you will not be able to break into the industry. Check with the production companies when they source new stock to make sure you get your images to them at the appropriate time. Familiarise yourself with the style and content of the production company and make sure that you can produce images of the quality and style necessary for submission.

The Web

There are many online stock image libraries that fuel the need for good quality images for both web and print design. With the web growing at an astounding rate and individual companies usually requiring imagery for their own web sites and traditional marketing materials demand has never been higher. The increase in the number of business online and the increase in connection speeds over recent years has made online libraries a realistic way of distributing good quality photos. Many of the online image libraries will accept submissions via the site and all will have contact details. We have sourced a selection of sites that accept submissions in the resources section for photographers (link). Please do read the contact pages on the individual sites for any comments they may have about submissions.


There is always a market for freelance work taking photos of individuals and this is where a stable business can be built up over a period of time. If you are planning a career as a freelance photographer in any of the previous markets then establishing a local studio to cover weddings and individual portrait commissions may give you a steady income. You can use the general guides for starting up in business and marketing your services to find out more about this option.

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