What Do Photographers Do With Their Photos?

What Do Photographers Do With All Their Pictures?

When you see a photographer snapping a ton of photos, you may start to wonder what they do with all those pictures. Surely they don’t have a purpose for hundreds of photos from the same location, right? Well, there are actually a lot of different things that photographers do with their pictures. From hobbyist to professional, there are many motivations behind why they’re snapping a photo. Whether it’s delivering to a client or just for memories sake, one thing is for certain. Photographers love to share their photos.

A professional photographer will save images from a shoot onto a hard drive, to later edit, and finally, deliver to paying clients. Afterward, they may use their images to submit to magazines, sell as prints, or just delete them to save space. A hobbyist photographer typically shares their pictures with family and friends or creates prints to hang in their home for personal satisfaction. 

But this just scratches the surface. In this post, you’ll see the common things photographers do with their pictures, so it will start to make a bit more sense why we love taking pictures. 

8 Things Photographers Do With Their Images

The types of things a photographer does with a photo depend on whether they’re shooting professionally or just for fun. A freelance photographer may end up taking photos they don’t personally have any use for but are working for a client in need of those images.

On the other hand, a hobbyist is more often shooting for personal reasons, so they end up doing slightly different things with their pictures.

To make it easy, let’s break down 8 common things that photographers do with their pictures after they shoot them.

1. Deliver Them To Clients

This one applies mostly to professional photographers. After being hired to take photos for someone, the photos will be stored on a hard drive, edited, then ultimately delivered to the client. After a fixed period of time, most of these photos will be deleted to save space on the photographer’s computer.

These images don’t often have as much personal interest to a photographer compared to a passion project, for example. With that said, there are certain situations where a photographer is shooting something they’re personally excited about.

In this instance, they may save more of the images to use later on in their portfolio or for personal uses.

2. Create Prints To Sell

For any type of photographer, there will come a time when people will want to buy prints of their pictures. Whether it’s a work colleague, a friend, or your grandparents, it all counts! In many cases, these prints can be sold to generate a bit of extra profit for the photographer.

The great thing about selling prints is that these photos are taken of things the photographer’s already interested in. Rather than creating the photos for a specific cause or person, prints are often an afterthought.

Whether the photos were taken years ago or just the other day, it’s relatively easy for a photographer to start selling prints. That’s what makes it so appealing!

3. Publish Images To Stock Photo Sites

A lucrative thing many photographers take advantage of is stock photo sites. By publishing their photos to these sites, people can buy the rights for the images to use for a variety of things. From advertisements, websites, or other promotional material, stock photos are a hot commodity.

Rather than organizing and scheduling a shoot, a business can just find the type of image they need, already taken and uploaded to a stock photo site.

Some photographers will take pictures specifically for stock photos, while others upload their spare images in their free time. The problem with stock photo sites is that you are giving up usage rights to your pictures by uploading them. That means you couldn’t sell the photos afterward or license images to other companies outside of the stock agency.

However, if you’re already sitting on a large backlog of pictures that you’re not doing anything with, stock photo sites are great to make passive income. That’s why they’re so popular amongst all kinds of photographers.

4. License Images To Companies

If a company really loves a particular photo of yours, they can license it to use in their advertisements, website, and more for a fixed period of time. Since they’re buying the rights to your photo (not from a stock site), licensing deals can mean big payouts for many photographers. In some cases, a single image could cost tens of thousands of dollars to license, depending on the usage agreement.

There are rare situations where a photographer will have a licensing deal before the photos are taken. However, most of the time, they will be offering up photos they’ve taken in the past. Companies will usually find these images from a portfolio or inquire about licensing after hiring you for a shoot.

5. Submit Images To Magazines

Another common thing for photographers to do with their images is to submit them to different magazines. Each month many magazines will release callouts to their list of photographers (that anyone can join) sharing the types of photos they need for the next issue. With a few weeks’ notice, photographers can either take photos to submit or gather a set of photos they already have to send in.

Magazines are a great way to make a bit of money while getting your work shown to a wider audience. Especially when you land a cover or a full page spread, it can greatly impact your business and credibility.

Just about every magazine has a submissions page that you can find by googling the magazine name and “submissions.” From there, you can find all the info you need to send in some of your pictures!

6. Create Photo Books For Personal Use

After going on a trip or after a big event, many photographers will create photo books with their images. These are a great way to look back on a time with all of your favorite images in one place. They also work great for gifts and mementos for family and friends.

Photographers aren’t always taking photos to make money. Photo books are one of the many things photographers will use their images for, just because they feel like it. Sometimes it’s just the personal enjoyment out of a picture that matters!

7. Save Pictures To A Hard Drive For Memory’s Sake

As a photographer, you’ll find yourself in a lot of cool places with your lens. Even if you don’t have any real purpose for your pictures, it’s nice to save them all on a hard drive for memory’s sake. Both professionals and hobbyist photographers will do this with their favorite images from all kinds of shoots.

If you plan to save your images on one hard drive, make sure to keep your files organized effectively. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a chaotic mess of files as you add more and more images!

8. Share With Friends And Family

The last thing most photographers do with their pictures is to share them with friends and family. Whether it be sending them directly or just adding them to social media, there are lots of ways to share your images with others.

Especially when you capture photos of someone, it’s nice to send them their way. People are always excited to have nice photos of themselves, and it’s a fun thing to do for people you care about.

Do Photographers Keep All Their Photos?

Most photographers sort through their images and only keep the best ones from a shoot. The unwanted pictures will be deleted to save space on the photographer’s computer and keep their editing programs more organized. In some cases, a photographer will delete all the pictures after a certain period of time if they no longer have a need for them.

Especially with client shoots, it may not make sense to keep all the pictures. For example, if you took 10,000 photos at a wedding, it’s impossible that every one of those photos could be considered a winner.

Instead, photographers sort through and select which ones are the best. The best photos from the bunch will then be edited and delivered, while the rest get deleted.

If the photographer doesn’t have a need for any of the delivered images, they’ll delete all the pictures after a few weeks or months. Once the images are delivered and the client is happy, these thousands of photos are just taking up space. By clearing out unwanted shoots, it makes way for more coming in.

With that said, photos that were taken for personal reasons are usually kept longer to look back on since they have more personal value to the photographer.

How Do Photographers Store All These Photos?

Photographers store their photos on external hard drives or use cloud storage as an alternative option. Rather than loading up your computer with hundreds of gigabytes of pictures, using an external hard drive takes the stress of your computer.

With more available storage space leftover on your machine, it can run much faster and process adjustments in Photoshop or Lightroom easier.

The other advantage of using a hard drive is that it can be moved between computers with ease. If you want to access your photos from another computer, just plug your hard drive in and have all your photos ready to go.

This is also the advantage that cloud storage provides since it stores photos completely online. Rather than keeping pictures on a physical storage device, cloud storage means you can’t accidentally lose or damage a hard drive. To learn more about the best storage options for saving and backing up photos, click here.

– Brendan 🙂

Article By

Brendan Williams

Hey, I'm Brendan! I'm a professional photographer and photo retoucher who has spent the majority of his career shooting or retouching outdoor lifestyle and social media campaigns for brands like G-Adventures, xoxo Bella, P&G, Fitbit, Chevy, Tourism California, and more. These days I primarily focus my efforts on this site, creating guides and tutorials that I wish I had earlier in my career. Each week I publish new tutorials on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Canva to help you unlock new skills and bring your creativity to new levels! Everything you learn here is backed by real experience, so you can finally skip the fluff and focus only on what matters.

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