How to Get Paid to Take Pictures
Selling photos is no longer reserved for people with first-class equipment and expertise. In fact, chances are you have a camera in your pocket right now that you can use to make money (hint: your cell phone).
Of course, successful photography isn’t easy. It takes discipline and a very close eye for detail.
If you enjoy taking pictures and are looking to turn your hobby into a side hustle — or if you’re a professional photographer looking to expand your business — there are tons of ways to sell high-quality photos online.
In this post, I’ll cover the best options for both amateur and pro photographers to sell their work online. But first, let’s start with an overview of the most popular photography hubs.
Table of contents
- How to Make Money Taking Pictures
- Start Your Own Blog or Website
- Opportunities for Advanced Photographers
- Tips for Selling Photos Online
- Frequently Asked Questions
- The Bottom Line
How to Make Money Taking Pictures
Use photo communities
Take a look at almost any business website and you’ll most likely see pictures of random buildings, landscapes, customers, and objects (e.g., phones, computers, and office equipment).
Many of these pictures come from ordinary photographers who know how to capture stock images and monetize them online.
So if you have a vision for a particularly compelling image — and some basic Photoshop or photo-editing skills — you can start taking pictures and make money from stock photo websites. And best of all, you don’t even need a fancy camera. Instead, your Android device or iPhone should suffice.
With that in mind, here are the top stock photo sites and communities to explore.
Shutterstock is a global photography community that pays a commission of between 25 and 38 cents every time someone downloads your work. The company also pays commissions for referring new contributors and customers.
iStock by Getty Images
iStock is similar to Shutterstock in that you can upload content and receive royalties when users download your work.
The app pays 15% royalties for photos, 20% for videos, and 20% for illustrations. Exclusive contributors have the opportunity to earn 25% to 45%.
Adobe Stock (formerly Fotolia)
Dreamstime is a popular stock photo platform that pays a revenue share between 25% and 50% of royalties on submissions. However, you must earn at least $100 before you can cash out. And at that point, you’ll have to reach out to the company to request your payment.
Foap is a crowdsourcing photography website that connects photographers with business-focused buyers.
Every time you sell a photo on Foap, you receive 50% of the commission. And every time you participate in a Foap Mission and make a sale, you receive $50 — which is pretty sweet, if you ask me. Payment is sent securely via PayPal, which gives you quick access to your cash.
EyeEm is a marketplace where you can sell images for commercial use and receive royalties for your work.
EyeEm has four payout levels, ranging from 25% to 55% in commission. For a complete payment breakdown and more information on how to apply, check this out.
Snapwire is a visual production platform that lets you sell photos and videos to brands and small businesses.
One cool feature is that Snapwire has a leveling system that rewards top-performing creators.
Snappr is an easy-to-use photography app that lets customers book photography services at predetermined rates.
Depending on the type of shoot, you can keep 65% to 80% of the booking price, and you don’t have to pay a subscription or membership fee, either.
Snappr is currently accepting applications from almost every corner of the globe.
Unfortunately, taking website-ready stock images isn’t as easy as it sounds.
In addition to making money selling images online, you can also get paid for more traditional photography services as a freelance photographer.
Let’s take a closer look at what I mean by that.
Organizations and individuals often hire freelance photographers for short-term gigs. For example, a local restaurant may need beautiful images of menu items to place on its new website. Similarly, a local boutique may want professional images of customers shopping at its store. You might also be able to land a gig with a local newspaper, taking pictures of community events and breaking news.
By working as a freelance photographer, you can get paid for these gigs and for your time editing the photos you take. And if it goes well, you will most likely get future opportunities with your clients.
Check out the following sites to find freelance photography jobs.
Upwork is a top freelance marketplace where you can find all types of freelance photography gigs. From finding live events to shoot to taking product images for online catalogs, Upwork has hundreds of active photography opportunities at any given time.
You can also list your specific photo services for sale. For example, if you enjoy taking pictures of dogs, shoes, or cars, you can list this service on Upwork so that interested customers can find you.
When you land your first gig on the platform, Upwork charges a 20% commission for the first $500 in revenue, 10% for billings between $500.01 and $10,000, and 5% for anything after that.
Fiverr is a hugely popular side hustle hub that you’ve probably read about on my blog. Thousands of photographers offer services on Fiverr — and so can you.
The most popular categories I’m seeing on Fiverr are lifestyle and product photography. In other words, you can get paid to take pictures of other businesses’ products and of people using products (e.g., activewear, jewelry, swimwear, shoes, and so on).
Similar to Upwork, Fiverr takes a 20% commission on revenue. With this in mind, I recommend using Fiverr to find your first few gigs, get some experience, and build a name for yourself.
But ideally, you can build up your own set of clients so that you don’t have to pay such hefty commissions.
Indeed is a leading job search engine where you can find almost any type of job, including picture-taking gigs.
Simply search for “photography” on the home page and you will see a wide range of legit remote and in-person gigs.
Take a look around and see what piques your interest. In most cases, you’ll need to have a portfolio or prior relevant experience to land a job on Indeed. But you never know what can come from connecting with the right company.
It’s also worth noting that Indeed doesn’t charge any commissions to you as a photographer, giving it a major edge over Upwork and Fiverr. Instead, Indeed charges the companies posting the job opportunities.
As a result, companies on super-tight budgets are more likely to be weeded out, and it’s more competitive to find gigs.
If you’re a complete newbie at photography, you could try cutting your teeth with more entry-level gigs on Fiverr and Upwork. Then you can bump up to Indeed once you build a solid portfolio. Just my two cents!
Sell Your Art
Let’s face it: Taking pictures of newborns and newlyweds isn’t for everyone. Never fear: If you would rather focus on the artistic side of photography and get paid to sell your original photos as artwork, there are still plenty of options at your disposal, which we’ll explore in this section.
Etsy is an online marketplace where you can set your own prices for your photos and sell them to customers. When you make a sale, Etsy takes a 5% commission, and you’ll also have to cover shipping and gift-wrapping costs.
Some of the more popular photo categories include physical prints of nature and landscapes. You can either sell just the prints or include framing as well.
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eBay has a global base of 187 million users, making it an excellent choice if you’re looking to sell photos to global buyers. As an eBay photo seller, you can set a “Buy it Now” price for your work or leave your item up for auction and let the market determine the final selling price.
Amazon won’t let you sell digital images. However, you can sell prints or photographs in a limited edition of 200 or less.
The company has a few different selling plans to choose from. The Individual plan costs 99 cents per item sold, plus additional selling fees, while the Professional package charges $39.99 per month with additional selling fees.
If you’re interested in using this platform to sell photos, here’s a complete breakdown of Amazon’s pricing for sellers.
Start Your Own Blog or Website
Do you really want to turn your photography into a sustainable business? If so, consider starting your own website and selling your work directly to customers. You can also use your own website as a hub for finding new gigs.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to be a coder to get a nice-looking website up. With just some basic computer skills, you can start a website from scratch using a service like GoDaddy, Weebly, or Squarespace. Those who are more tech-savvy should look into forming their own WordPress page.
As you publish your content and list items, use social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube to share your work and attract customers and clients.
For example, if your craft is greeting cards, you could sell them directly on your site. On the other hand, if your passion is wedding photography, you’ll want to showcase your portfolio and availability on social media.
It requires a bit more legwork and ongoing management. But selling directly to customers is the way to go — if for no other reason than you get to keep more of your revenue.
Opportunities for Advanced Photographers
Opportunities abound for highly experienced photographers with professional equipment.
Here are a few of the most common ways to make money as a professional photographer.
An obvious way to make money as a professional photographer is to shoot events like weddings, graduation parties, and engagement announcements.
To land gigs, you can create local advertisements and post them on social channels and in local publications. As discussed, you can also use your own website to sell your services.
Sell a photography book
As a photography lover, you likely have thousands of images from over the years. See if you can identify a common theme and assemble your best photos into a photo book.
Teach photography courses
The internet is full of amateurs who want to improve their photography skills — and you can make money teaching them your trade.
The most common way to teach photography online is to set up a website and attract people over social media. You can also organize a local photography workshop in your community.
Professional portraits are always in demand. For example, a quick scroll through LinkedIn will reveal that many of your connections have a professionally taken photo.
Portraiture photography also includes taking yearbook photos of school children, album covers for musicians, family portraits, and capturing the beaming faces of local sports players and organization members.
Tips for Selling Photos Online
When it boils down to it, selling photos can be a great side hustle. But there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you don’t get ripped off.
Don’t undersell yourself
When you are just starting out, it is common to list your photography services at a lower price than the competition.
But remember, taking quality photos and editing them requires a ton of time. If you don’t price your services correctly, you might find yourself working for just a few bucks per hour.
Watch out for taxes
Unless you accept a full-time job as a photographer and elect to withdraw taxes from your paychecks, you’ll most likely collect money as an independent contractor. This means you’ll be a 1099 worker and will have to pay taxes accordingly — which usually involves making quarterly tax payments.
Watch out for theft
Anytime you post images online, you run the risk of someone stealing your images. This is why so many professional photographers add watermarks to their images — and why you should, too.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you make a lot of money with stock photography websites?
Stock photo websites can offer a decent way to make money online. But you probably aren’t going to make a fortune. That said, you won’t know how much you’re going to earn until you capture images and publish them on the internet. So what are you waiting for?
Can I get paid to travel and take pictures?
You absolutely can make money traveling and taking pictures, and there are a few ways you can accomplish this.
One way is to be an influencer and sell your photos to the businesses that you feature. Of course, you’ll need to have a considerable following for anyone to be interested in paying for that kind of service.
Another option is to work for a photography company or be a freelance event photographer. This can lead to the most steady pay. That said, it’s a ton of work.
How much do photographers make?
As with any profession, it varies, depending on the quality and scope of your work. In general, stock photo sites pay only a few cents per photo. But if you sell stock photos, you can collect passive income and the extra cash can add up over time.
Working gigs and freelance jobs command higher pay. But you’ll have to hustle harder, dedicate more time, and pay for expensive equipment.
If you’re good enough, you should strongly consider starting a photography business and cutting out the middleman. You won’t pay any commissions and you can charge what you want for your services.
Now back to the question at hand. According to Salary.com, the average annual salary for a U.S.-based photographer is around $66,000.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, there are a ton of ways you can get paid to take and sell pictures online. Whether you’re a professional photographer or an amateur who’s just looking to sell photos online, this could be your next best side hustle. You just need to have a passion for photography (and making money, of course).
Truth be told, this career will take a bit of practice at first and some trial and error.
But trust me: If you stick with it, you’ll be making money before you know it — and having fun in the process.
And at the end of the day, what’s better than that?