If you think photography is an expensive hobby, you’re right, it can be. But that doesn’t mean that you need pro-quality equipment to generate money from your own photos! Spelling Photoshopped
In actuality, if you have got a good phone cam and a steady hand, you are already in with a shot.
However you get your clicks, there are an increasing number of opportunities to monetise photos you’ve already taken. And if photography’s already your bag, there are heaps more ways to develop your abilities, and income; from selling your Insta inventory to pulling a Brooklyn Beckham (famous parents optional).
You know the drill: read, learn, and give it a bash for yourself!
If you’ve got a digital camera (or fancy picking up one for a steal), you will have more options for selling pics to stock libraries, to websites for prints, or for print-on-demand products. This is because cameras will usually produce larger file photographs (although some camera phones are trumping digi cams nowadays so this is not necessarily the case).
Got a camera phone? A growing number of stock libraries are catering for mobile snaps, and you still have a shot at the other biz thoughts below. Continue reading!
It helps to have…
Some kind of editing software can help buff your pics for the best results, so it’s worth sniffing out a decent package (and learning how to use it!) So you can make more money with your photos.
Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are industry standards for photo editing. But they cost dollars! Do not crack open your wallet until you’ve checked out the freebies:
- FastStone Image Viewer can open RAW files straight from your digital camera and save them as JPG, TIFF or PNGs. OK for basic edits like color correction, straightening, cropping and contrast.
- Raw Therapee is a Lightroom-like editor with loads of resources for tweaking colors, curves and much more.
- PIXLR is a convincing alternative to Photoshop, and even simplifies the same shortcuts right out the bag. You can run it directly from a browser / through the app for free.
- GIMP can do much of what Photoshop excels at, though some users reckon it is a tougher learning curve.
- There are loads of phone editing programs to be obtained for free or a few pence, but Snapseed (iPhone, Android, free) consistently makes the best-of lists.
- Do not overlook the bloatware picture software bundled into your’puter, telephone or laptop. Many can make light work of the basics.
Selling Through Stock Libraries
Stock libraries buy’n’ sell digital photos to use on websites, in books, on goods as well as in advertisements, together with the photographer getting a cut of the sale every time.
Selling photos through a stock site is a top way to surf passive income streams: you can upload a photograph once and sell it over and over again, pretty much forever!
You may have to submit a choice of pics (and be accepted) until you can become a stock library contributor. After that, some websites will continue reviewing all your submissions, and will gladly bounce any they don’t think meet standards.
What that means is you’ll always have to be on the ball about choosing your best shots. Don’t get too hung up about rejections, though; join multiple sites and post pics to all of them to get the best possible coverage.
Which Websites Pay Most?
Swing by Alamy first. Their student contributor scheme gives you 100% of the sales price of your images for two years. Total win! Your uni will have to be part of this scheme, but loads of UK and US institutions are already on the books. Spelling Photoshopped
Alamy reckons images typically sell for $90 (USD) each, but you might get anywhere from $20 to $500 depending what it is used for. If you are not a student, or your uni is not enrolled, the pay-out’s still a fairly decent 50%. Selling phone pics through their Stockimo program (iStore only) provides you a 20% reduction.
Other Websites to Check Out:
- Picfair comes with a twist: you decide how much your pictures sell for. Picfair then add 20 percent on top for their cut, but the sales price you set is what you get if your image sells.
- EyeEm: if Instagram and Alamy had a love child, this is what it would look like. EyeEm is a photo sharing site but, if you want to earn more than’enjoys’, you could also pimp your pictures through the market. EyeEm split every sale with you 50/50, with photos selling from $20-$250. EyeEm Bonus: regular how-to content, themed missions run by large brands, plus you’ll be able to upload pics via the web or phone.
- Foap is built around phone photographers, with everything managed through the program (Android, iTunes, free). Foap sells pictures for $10 each and divides it 50/50, so you’ll earn $5 per pic. They also run monthly Missions, where you are able to submit photographs on a theme to be in with a chance of winning extra money and perks.
Big Name Websites
Dreamstime offer up to 60% for exclusives. How much your photograph sells for also goes up the more it’s downloaded: newbie images start at between $0.34 and $2.38 (USD). If you are shooting a phone, begin with the free Dreamstime app (Android, iPhone).
IStock hands over 15% of a picture’s sales price, but promise a bigger cut if you make the pic exclusive to the site. Photos typically sell for #7 or #20 a go, but the type of license or subscription program the customer buys determines how your piece is calculated.
Shutterstock coughs up $0.25 (USD) per sale on the most common subscription programs, but say you’ll find a larger cut as your life earnings pass various levels. To put that into context, once you’ve earned $10,000, you’ll be bumped up to the heady heights of 38 cents an image…
Playing the Stock (photo) Market
Making money with stock photos can involve a substantial cash-in, but there are a few things worth bearing in mind…
- Stock photography is a numbers game: if you want sales, you will need to upload a great deal of quality pics to several sites.
- Photos of individuals are constantly in demand, but anybody you pap might need to sign a model release form to say they’re OK with you with it (your inventory library will have template forms you can print, sign and submit).
- Assess the accounts terms! When will you get paid, and in what currency? What happens to your photos if you would like to cancel your account later on?
- You often won’t get a say in how clients use your photographs, so if you don’t need your selfies turning up in ads for STDs or benzoyl peroxide, don’t upload’em!
- Sign-up for contributor newsletters, as they could clue you in on what sells, what to snap next, as well as how to enhance your camera or editing skills.
- Add loads of keywords when you upload your pictures. It helps people find (and hopefully purchase!) your pics.
Selling Your Prints
There is loads of liberty in selling prints (i.e., printed copies of your photos). You decide what to shoot, who to market to, and for how much and, like selling through stock libraries, it can be a nice little passive revenue earner.
Now, before you leg it down to Boots to batch print your holiday snaps, there is a little more to it. While you can run off pictures on your home printer or at a high-street lab, better quality means greater profits! Spelling Photoshopped
That means using a proper printing laboratory (one that excels in art or framed prints), opting for expert paper, or even selling restricted or signed editions. Seems like a drag? Not necessarily; there’s inspiration below to get you started.
Use a Photo Host
Photographer-friendly site hosts give you a safe place to store your digital pics, a portfolio (which means you can show’em away ) and shopping tools (so you can sell prints, downloads and wall art).
They even handle the printing and any stamp every time you make a purchase. Hashtag hallelujah, right?
But the big catch is, not only do they charge for hosting your website, they also take a cheeky cut from each sale — and that’s not everybody’s cup of cocoa! If you wish to give it a whirl, look out for free 14-day trials before you pony up the money: try Zenfolio or Smugmug.
Get Your Own Photo Shop
Alternatively, you can always get your own site or Etsy store and hang onto more of your gain!
Obtaining prints or gifts to market is also super easy; go for print-on-demand and you won’t have to store any stock (or be out of pocket if you can’t shift it!) .
Sell on Social Media Platforms
Eventually the social media giants will wise-up and start letting us market photos and other content right from our profiles.
But until then, take a tip from street photographer Daniel Arnold: he offered Instagram followers the chance to order prints from his feed and made $15k in a single day. Obviously it helps if you’ve already got a strong fanbase, but if you have talent (and the ideal hashtags) it is worth a shot!
The best thing about selling on social media is that you don’t even need a website: your feed is the portfolio, and you’ve got a enormous potential audience!
Print-on-demand is a brilliantly simple way to make moolah from mouse mats, keyrings, t-shirts, bags, books and much more — often with zero setup costs.
The actual beauty of print-on-demand is that while you may advertise a great deal of goods, none of them really exist until somebody buys’em — so there’s no stock to store, lose, or fall over. Better still, there are websites out there that do all the producing, printing and posting for you, so all you have to do is take the photos!
Blurb lets you create photo books just by importing your Facebook or Insta images — and you’ll be able to sell your final novel on Blurb or Amazon.co.uk. You can also advertise books on your own website (if you’ve got one), but have Blurb/Amazon manage the payment. Easy! Spelling Photoshopped
Gifts and Goodies
Turns out you can slap a photograph on pretty much anything, from shower curtains to pet clothes and PJs; and you don’t even need a glue gun to begin!
Most print-on-demand outfits let you upload your photographs (or illustrations), choose which products you want to sell them on, and give you a cut of the profits if they market.
- CafePress pays you 10% if your products sell in their marketplace, but you can choose to have your very own online store and add a mark-up to the price (which you get as your royalty) rather than It is free to set-up and run a shop, but CafePress take 10% of your royalties monthly, up to a $10 max.
- Zazzle enables you to set your own royalty rate between 5% and 99 percent but, while it is tempting to dial it up to full whack, keep in mind that your cut is added to the sales price: go OTT and you may find it more difficult to make sales.
- With Spreadshirt you can add a mark-up of $1 to $20 on items sold through the market, or you can start your own store and grab 20% commission.
- Redbubble begins with a product base price and allows you to add on a mark-up — the default is 20%, but you can tweak it as much as you’d like.
Running a print-on-demand shop is low-fuss and low-cost — if you are contented with the occasional sale, it can be a nice way to generate cash on the side for relatively little effort.
The word from successful vendors is that, to make proper bucks, you’ll need to put in the hours (so the same as a project, sadly). We’re talking uploading lots of photos or designs, getting the word out, and generally making an effort!
Selling photos anonymously online is easy enough. But if you want to build a rep, get more glory or just have clients of your own, here are some tips to get started as a freelance photographer:
- Know your niche. Whether it’s individuals, pets, food or something totally left-field, it is easier to market yourself if your portfolio showcases what you do best.
- Take the time to learn your craft. You can get lucky selling stock if you don’t understand your aperture out of your elbow, but you can’t afford to chance it when someone’s paying you for wedding pics!
- Work out your rate and be sure it covers your time, your prices and leaves you a little on top for profit. And get insurance for your gear!
- Offer to photograph events, portraits or parties for friends and family to develop a portfolio, and ask them to spread the word for you. Or hunt out your favourite bloggers and pitch them your pic ideas!
- Batter your social networking account with your best pics, let folk know you’re available, and tell’em how to get in touch. Get cheeky and take alternative promo shots for brands, then label them to get noticed.
- Get in contact with picture editors at newspapers, magazines or websites and ask if you can submit photographs or pay local events.
- You might have more chance of getting adopted by Madonna than obtaining a press pass, but it is like a golden ticket that can get you into sports, fashion and other exclusive events. You’ll need to apply each time (or become a member of the National Union of Journalists) but, as soon as you’re in, you’ll get plenty of saleable photo opps!
While everyone with an Insta account seems to reckon they’re a pro photographer, the truth is that being a freelancer is probably the toughest route you may take.
You’ll need tons of patience, perseverance, good shoes and adequate pics — and you may well have to give away images for free when you first start out to get noticed. If you’re in it for the career, do not quit. If you are in it for the money, get your game on with the other thoughts on this page in the meantime!
Bonus Tips for Aspiring Photographers
- Carry your camera everywhere — and not only when you’re doing something or going somewhere special. Loads of businesses and brands are after photographs of daily life and often it is the simple things which make the best pics — think streets, food (street food?) , facial expressions, family, pets, sports… anything!
- Back-up your best pics (or any you would hate to lose): maintain copies on an external drive or in cloud storage (Dropbox gives you 2GB of space for free).
- Once you start getting sales, get to grips with tax and the freelancing fundamentals. It will save you stress in the long run, and could save you cash on your tax invoice.
- You may not be able to sell photos should they include trademarked products, brands or perhaps certain buildings. Check out the terms with your stock library, or contact the company involved and ask if you need permission to hawk your snaps.
- Don’t just do the same-old or what everyone else is doing. Quirky, cute or weird is always in fashion. Amen to that! Spelling Photoshopped