In the past, high-quality cameras were expensive, fragile devices used primarily by professional photographers. And while you can still spend a pretty penny on a top-of-the-line model, most modern smartphone cameras are more than capable of taking amazing pictures — even if all you know how to do is point and click.
And whether you’re a full-time photographer or an amateur in search of a good side hustle, there are dozens of ways to sell the images from your phone.
All you need is a smartphone with a camera and a good platform on which to sell your photos.
In this post, we’ll run down some of the best ways to get paid to take pictures with your phone, and we’ll answer a few of the most commonly asked questions about the process.
Starting a photography side hustle is not as easy as whipping out your phone to catch a pretty sunset, then selling the image online.
Before you can get started making money from your iPhone or Android photos, you’ll need some equipment, software and basic know-how. You don’t need to be an expert — just cover these basics and you’ll be ready to get started.
- Smartphone with a high-quality camera: With technology constantly advancing, a good smartphone camera is essential if you want your images to sell. Even if your images are properly framed and well-lit, they’ll be tough to sell if they’re shot with an outdated lens or in low resolution. Here’s a post that outlines some good quality smartphone cameras that will serve you well.
- Photo editing software: You can do basic edits on your phone, but if you’re optimizing photos for print (think wall art and merch), you’re better off editing your images on a computer. Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom have been the industry leaders in photo editing software for decades, but if the price tag is too steep, GIMP (desktop) and A Color Story (mobile) are cheaper alternatives for editing your photos.
Apps That Pay You to Take Pictures
Brands, agencies and bloggers are hungry for photos of everything under the sun — content generated from photographers like you.
There are numerous free apps you can download (for both iPhone and Android) that will actually pay you for your photos. Although you will need a large portfolio of photos to start making money, once you upload the images, these apps can be a great source of passive income.
EyeEm has some exclusive technological advantages over other stock photo sites. The app’s algorithm analyzes your photos for aesthetic value and relevance and automatically tags their visual elements.
EyeEm also partners with Getty Images, a major stock photo website, which increases the exposure (and potential sale) of your images.
Completing photography “missions” (requests or contests from EyeEm clients) can get your photo licensed by big name brands, get your image shared on EyeEm’s social media channels, or earn you swag.
EyeEm pays a 50% royalty rate for sold images, and you retain all the copyrights to the photo.
The Foap app offers clear guidelines on acceptance criteria for photos. You can also connect with other Foap photographers and get constructive feedback on your photos.
Foap offers 50% profit sharing on sold images. Payments are sent via PayPal.
Foap’s marketing is not as strong as some other big name stock image companies and apps. This has resulted in some users complaining about a lot of work for minimal pay. However, if you’re a new photographer looking to develop your skills and gain exposure, Foap can be a solid option.
Snapwire has a fairly generous payout structure: you keep up to 100% on client requests and challenges, and you earn 50% on downloads from subscribers.
This app is much more based on client requests than others. Requesters can award points to photos that exemplify the look they’re going for. At the end of the contest, requesting companies buy the photos they want from the winner(s).
Photographers can “level up” with successful images and projects, gaining advantages with each level that helps them gain more exposure and sell more photos.
#4. AGORA Images
Based in Spain, the AGORA app is more like a social media platform than a stock photo website. They offer cash prizes for their weekly photo challenges, with winners determined by app users’ votes.
Payouts range from $1,000 to $25,000, along with the chance to be published in some of the leading newspapers and magazines around the world. Because they focus on a worldwide audience, competition is diverse but also steep.
AGORA is a great way to gain exposure. That said, while you may get lucky and win one of the contests, other apps may be a better fit if money is your primary goal.
Stock Photography Websites
When you see breathtaking landscapes and portraits with personality on stock photo websites, you may think they’re all shot by expert photographers with years of experience. But that’s not necessarily true. Many of these stock photography websites accept and sell images from shutterbugs of all types and experience levels.
#5. Adobe Stock
Formerly called Fotolia, Adobe Stock is woven into the Adobe suite of products. You can upload your photos directly from Lightroom or Bridge. If you’re new to tagging your photos, Adobe Stock’s AI will prompt you with relevant tags. Adobe stock pays 33% royalties to contributors via PayPal or Skrill.
Shutterstock is one of the most popular stock photo sites on the web. It offers a mobile app to help track sales, submit photos and get notifications of what customers want. Their payout structure is tiered, so the more lifetime earnings you have the greater the percentage of royalties you keep. Earnings top out at 30%.
A great option for the experienced photographer, iStock by Getty Images requires you to get accepted to be a contributor. This is one of the most well-known stock photo websites, and while royalties start at only 15% (more for exclusive contributors), the high traffic makes it an option that’s well worth your time.
500X Prime offers high royalties for contributing photographers — 30% for non-exclusive and 60% with exclusive content. Each photo is reviewed prior to licensing for technical quality, originality, aesthetic value, and other requirements.
Plus, their proprietary “Pulse” algorithm is designed to surface the submissions of new photographers so they can gain feedback and increase their exposure.
Twenty20 is a part of the Envato ecosystem, which is an array of marketplaces for creative producers that offers everything from website templates to visual assets for use in video games.
If your photo gallery makes the Curated Collections, you’ll gain increased exposure on Twenty20’s website. Check out the Sold Feed to see what photos are selling in real time to help guide you on what to shoot.
Twenty20’s Subscriber Share is a more complicated payout structure than most, but it rewards photographers who have devoted, niche followings.
Like Getty Images, DepositPhotos requires photographers to pass a short test and submit sample photos before they start uploading. Their compensation structure is generous: contributors earn 34% to 42% royalties from on-demand photos and $0.30 to $0.35 from subscription files. You can also level up your pay grade based on your overall amount of downloads. The more downloads your photos get, the greater your royalties on all your photos.
Dreamstime has been selling photographers’ stock photos since 2000. With a worldwide audience, the site supports multiple currencies and languages. It doesn’t require prior approval or testing to upload, but it does vet images to meet standards of commercial and creative appeal. Payouts range from 25% royalties for newbies to 60% for exclusive contributors.
Photos on Merchandise
You can create additional value by turning your photos into items for sale — especially if you have graphic design skills to create fresh, new images. From t-shirts to coffee mugs to wall hangings, there are online markets for all sorts of widgets to sell with your decorative photos.
On Etsy, you can sell prints, canvases, framed photos or digital image files — it’s all up to you. Opening your shop on their website is easy and free, and listing each item costs only 20 cents. Etsy handles the transaction while you do all the printing, packaging and shipping.
#13. Merch by Amazon
You can turn your art into t-shirts with Merch by Amazon. Amazon takes care of the business side of t-shirt production (printing, shipping and handling, and payment). Plus, they produce t-shirts as they’re ordered, so you don’t pay anything upfront (and you’re not stuck with boxes of t-shirts you can’t sell cluttering up your garage). Royalties are $1 to $10 per shirt.
Related: How to make money on Amazon.
If you want to go a step beyond t-shirts, MiPic can turn your photos into leggings, swimsuits, towels and more. Open your own customized print store and earn up to 20% commission on the sale of your items. There are no setup fees, and MiPic takes care of all of the manufacturing, sales and distribution aspects of the business.
Society6 is more than just an online marketplace for selling items with your photos on them; it’s also a community of artists to engage with and inspire you. The website is very artist-focused, which is why they offer 10% commission on referred sales in addition to the 10% you make on your own items.
Redbubble gives you a lot more leeway on setting your own prices than other photo sites. Rather than the website setting the price, then paying you a commission, Redbubble sets the base price, then you choose the markup on your items for sale. They offer a wide range of products to display your images, from scarves to coasters to journals.
Instaprints has several unique marketing tools to increase your sales and exposure. You can sell on Facebook, through retail stores, and even license your art for the walls of TV show sets! The Instaprints mobile app lets customers see how your image will look on their wall before they buy.
Most features come with a free account, but premium members can access additional options like building your own website and sending promotional emails.
Other Ways To Earn With Photos
You don’t have to be a seasoned photographer — or even artistic — to make money with your photos. Cell phone images of more mundane things can still earn you extra cash. Here are some more options to make money from photos for the more practical types.
#18. Take Pictures of Receipts
You can get paid for taking pictures of things as ordinary as grocery receipts.
Simply download the app, and buy one of the items or brands that offers a rebate (no coupon required). Snap a photo of your receipt, upload it, and get paid via PayPal.
You won’t make a mint on apps like these, but they’re a great way to put extra cash back in your pocket for grocery shopping — something you have to do anyway.
Related Reading: Apps Like Ibotta: Best Cash Back, Grocery and Coupon Apps.
#19. Take Pictures Inside Stores
Dozens of companies want eyes on the ground to assess how their employees treat their customers, how products are displayed, and how clean their stores are. That’s where you (and your trusty cell phone camera) come in.
As a mystery shopper, you pose as a normal customer. But you’re on a mission to covertly take photos of specific things in a store’s interior to give the company valuable information.
Mystery shopping has been around a while, but apps like Mobee, Shopkick, and Field Agent have automated the process. Get notifications of new assignments near you. Sign up for a shop, complete the requirements, and upload your photo inside the app.
Mobee and Shopkick apps pay in gift cards to common stores (Amazon, Best Buy, Sephora, etc.), but Field Agent pays cash via PayPal or Dwolla.
#20. Take Pictures of Help Wanted Signs
Editor’s Note: In April 2020, Indeed announced that JobSpotter (discussed below) was indefinitely ceasing operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll update this page if the app is brought back online.
By submitting photos of help wanted signs in your neighborhood, you can earn points through the JobSpotter app. JobSpotter posts these jobs to Indeed.com, one of the largest job search engines on the web.
To ensure accurate data about the location that’s hiring, photos must be of signs hung in the window of the establishment. JobSpotter has specific standards for images (not blurry, not taken from a car, contains no people), so be sure to read the requirements before starting this side hustle.
You can redeem JobSpotter points for Amazon gift cards.
#21. Take Pictures of Yourself Looking Great
Authenticity and real people (not airbrushed models) are all the rage in photography and advertising right now. One of the most unique subjects that you have constant access to is you! Telling your story, showcasing your look, and being yourself can gain you a loyal following as an online influencer.
Influencers have almost boundless income potential as the influencer market is slated to grow to $8 billion in 2020.
If you have a sizable following, brands will pay for individual posts. But if you’re not a big fish yet, companies like Stylinity will pay you a commission for shoppable items in your selfies that feature the brands they work with.
And this isn’t just for the fashionistas. Stylinity works with travel, automotive, home decor, books and electronic brands as well.
#22. Work as a Freelance Photographer
To build up your photography business, try advertising your services on Fiverr and other freelance websites. They broadcast your photography to a worldwide customer base, which is great whether you’ve been doing photography for years or are just breaking into the space.
There’s healthy demand for food images for cooking blogs, product photos for e-commerce stores, and lifestyle stock photos. Rather than taking images and hoping they sell, contracting with a client via Fiverr ensures that you’re producing photos that someone will pay for.
Unlike other photo websites, as a freelancer you work with your clients directly and you can set your deadlines and rates for your services.
You may or may not need permission to sell photos that contain people or property. Copyright law is complicated, so make sure you review the requirements of your chosen platform before uploading your pictures. You can also refer to this FAQ from the American Society of Media Photographers for more info about when you need a model release and/or a property release.
The most in-demand stock photos are those that have a candid, authentic look — things like kids playing, coworkers at a meeting and friends chatting. Also, photos that include people of diverse backgrounds and less-represented demographics are increasingly popular.
Generally, yes. In fact, it’s a good idea to upload to many sites to increase your exposure as a photographer and up your chances of getting accepted. Each site and app may have different requirements on exclusivity, and some may pay you a larger royalty for exclusive rights to a photo. So do your homework before you upload.
Yes! You don’t need to be a model, either. In the post-airbrush world, people crave authentic pictures of real people. Most cell phone cameras have a time delay function, so spend some time on the other end of your camera. There’s no reason you can’t be the star of your stock photos.
Photography is a learned art, and as any photographer will tell you, it’s a lot more complicated than just snapping a pretty picture. There are numerous online courses (through websites like Skillshare and Udemy, as well as through colleges) and books on photography. Several blogs also offer great tips and information on how to get started.
Get to know the basic functions of your smartphone camera, and when to use them. Pay particular attention to the fundamentals of photography (e.g., the rule of thirds, fill the frame, etc.), since no camera, lens or filter will make up for errors like bad composition. If you’re new to photography, pick up a book on the subject and practice the principles before monetizing your hobby.
One great thing about photography that is unlike many other business ideas and side hustles is its potential as passive income. You only have to shoot, edit, and upload each photo once. After that, you can sell the photo again and again.
None of these photography businesses are get-rich-quick schemes. Each of these apps and websites requires time, effort and a bit of practice on your part to see what works. That’s true in any business.
With the ceaseless hunger of social media users, companies and websites for fresh new content, the need for creative images is greater now that ever before.
And with the near-universal availability of cell phones, you can certainly make money with the camera you carry in your back pocket every day.