Get Paid To Take Pictures With Your Phone – 20 Ways That Work

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.

Getting Started

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 Even if your images are properly framed and well-lit, they’ll be tough to sell if they’re shot with an outdated lens or in low resolution.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.  

#1. EyeEm

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.

#2. Foap

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.

#3. Snapwire

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.

#6. Shutterstock

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%.

#7. IStock By Getty Images

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.  

Common Questions

Can I sell photos that contain people or private property?

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.

What kinds of pictures sell the best on stock photo sites? 

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.

Can I sell photos on more than one app or site?

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.

Can I sell pictures of myself?

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.

Where can I learn how to take great pictures?

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.

Summary

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.

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