Android Creative iPhone and iPad

How to Make Money from Your Smartphone Photography

Saikat Basu 03-12-2015

If Instagram was a country, it would have more citizens than the United States.


400 million digital citizens make an awful lot of photographic memories. 40 billion photos and counting actually. How many are you taking? And what are you doing with them?

Maybe, you are stitching them together as memories. Maybe, you are putting them up against the best in photography contests Photo Finish With The Best: 8 Photography Contests You Can Win With Your Best Snap Contest. That word has a charm of its own. Ever since the days of the cavemen right till today's Olympics, the brave and the meek have gone up against each other. Photographers aren't in any... Read More .  Or maybe, you are someone like Mike Gutkin who puts his smartphone and photography skills to good use by making money from them. It’s hard to argue with someone who has 63,000 followers on Instagram!

In a Verizon Wireless story, he has the best advice,

“Dive right in.”

Thanks to the sheer number of apps and stock photography sites, selling your photos The 14 Most Profitable Places to Sell Your Photos Online Here are the best places to sell photos online when you've taken photos you think people would be willing to pay for. Read More for some extra cash has no narrow hoops for us to jump through. The obstacle is the skill level.

Make no mistake – it is hard because it is creative. It is hard because everyone is a smartphone photographer. But as many have already proven, it can be done. Let’s first understand who will buy your photos.


Who Will Buy My Photos?

It is cheaper for brands and companies to buy photographs from community-powered stock photography services than from professionals. Buyers look for photos with creativity and realism, rather than the staged images from traditional agencies.

Stock photography can also get boring after a while, and stop saying those 1000 words you want them too. They may not be localized enough to reflect culture and festivals. They might not be timely enough to capture a breaking news event or even something as mundane as a college football match. Brands today often prefer user-generated images that are taken from everyday life. For example, babies, photos of family holidays, people working in natural settings and so on.

Photos that sell

Traditional stock photography outlets are also looking beyond digital SLRs. Your camera doesn’t matter any more — anything with emotion sells.


Fotolia which is a well-known stock photography biggie has got into the game with Fotolia Instant. Shutterstock might have a strict rule for contributions, but it also gives registered users the Shutterstock Contributor app for discovering what customers want and contributing to the pool. A similar offering comes from Dreamstime.

If you don’t want to sell your shots, sites like Photoshare will gladly accept your smartphone snaps for educational use.

Sell Your Creativity with 7 iPhone Photography Apps

There are stock photography websites. And then there are specialized photography apps with a community behind them. These apps are a single window solution to taking a photo, automatically getting it authenticated, and then submitting it for a sale.




A large community of mobile photographers use Twenty20 (earlier known as Instacanvas) to explore photography and earn cash from their own photos. Nearly 300,000 photographers and 46 million photos give brands and digital creators a lot to choose from.

Use the free Twenty20 iPhone app to join as a photographer. Those without an iPhone can use the website as there is no Android app as yet.

Twenty20 has a good explanation of the type of photos that get sold.

How do I sell a photo?

  1. Upload your high-resolution photos with detailed descriptions and keywords. This makes them easier to be discovered.
  2. Participate in Challenges around specific themes. A new challenge is posted every day.
  3. Submit your photos to the Signature Collections. These are photos are nominated by the community with a final selection from the editors.

How much can I earn?

Twenty20 gives out a commission of 80%. A single photo can sell for $20, $40, or $80 depending on the size of the photo purchased. You earn 80% of the sale price on each buy.

There are other price points that depend on the kind of inclusion. There are four ways to make money from your photos on Twenty20.

Download: Twenty20 for iOS (Free)



Snapwire is a connecting platform for more than 200,000 photographers and buyers who are looking for custom photos. Photographers follow Requests and Challenges from brands, creatives and small businesses who need to license authentic custom photos.

Requests are open only to approved photographers of Shooter level or above. Challenges are open to all. Requests pay more than Challenges.

The crowdsourcing site follows a leveling system that rewards photographers based on their performance. It has seven levels: Explorer, Shooter, Advanced, Expert, Elite, Pro, and Master. Each has its own perks.

Follow the How to Succeed tips and tricks for selling your first photo on the platform.

How do I sell a photo?

  1. Follow the creative briefs of the challenges and requests. Upload your photos.
  2. Buyers nominate the best photos and photographers are awarded points. Photographers are paid for their winning photos.
  3. Photos can be liked by both buyers and photographers. Unsold photos can also become a part of Snapwire Marketplace for future purchases.

How much can I earn?

Snapwire pays out 70% of every photo sold on a buyer’s paid Request and 50% when your photos sell in the Marketplace. You retain the copyright to your photo.

Download: Snapwire for iOS (Free) | Android (Free)


Foap is one of the simplest places to sell your mobile photos. The iPhone and Android photography marketplace is one of the many corners of the web you can turn to for micro-jobs in your free time 20 Micro Jobs to Help You Make Money in Your Free Time Online opportunities to earn additional income are everywhere. It can be difficult to sniff out the legit companies from the scams. Below are 20 legit opportunities to easily make some extra income in your free... Read More . Some of the world’s largest brands like MasterCard, Hyatt, Volvo Group, Absolut Vodka can buy your photos.

The payout isn’t terrific ($5 per photo) but the dollars can add up if you are regular contributor. One of the benefits is that you can sell the same photo as many times as you like.

Foap has an excellent community portal. Here’s a brief guide on how to sell well here.

How do I sell a photo?

  1. Follow the Foap Missions which use specific topics to encourage contributions.
  2. Create a portfolio of your best photos for better exposure to buyers. Tag it well.
  3. Rate other photos even as you upload your own. Explore the photos that sell, and the Foap community portal for insider tips.

How much can I earn?

Every photo is priced at $10. Foap pays out $5 each time one of your photos sells. The photographer owns the photos. Missions also offer larger prize purses starting from $100.

Download: Foap for iOS (Free) | Android (Free)



Clashot is an online “photo bank” — which is just another way of saying crowdsourced stock photography site. The free mobile apps for iOS and Android help you make, publish and sell photos. After a quick moderation process, the photos are stocked for sale at Depositphotos.

Question 8 in Section 2 of the FAQ should fill you in on Clashot’s requirements for photographs selected for sale.

How do I sell a photo?

  1. Upload photos around a particular theme or common subject that is offered on the app.
  2. Learn about new offers through regular notifications in the Clashot app and on the website.
  3. Photo themes can be customized and offered to users by their geographic region.
  4. Photos are open to peer review and comments from other users.
  5. Take part in contests on the site.

How much can I earn?

Photographers earn up to 44% of the profits from each sale. Prices on the site start from $5. Do remember that one photo can be sold an unlimited number of times to an unlimited number of people.

Download: Clashot for iOS [No Longer Available] (Free) | Android [No Longer Available] (Free)

Moment (Getty Images) [No Longer Available]

Moments from Getty Images

Getty Images is the top stock photography company in the world. Its specialized mobile app for iPhone photos is less known. That’s probably because the app is currently intended for existing Getty Images and iStock contributors. Users without contributor contracts can only view the content submitted by other users.  They cannot submit photos.

The company has however made a commitment that this policy will change, so keep an eye on Moment for your own moment to shine.

How do I sell a photo?

  1. Follow new requests for creative and editorial photography in the app.
  2. Approved photos are licensed for sale on Getty Images and/or iStock by Getty Images.

How much can I earn?

Royalties will be paid according to any existing Getty contributor agreement. There wasn’t any hard data on actual sale prices.

Download: Moment for iOS [No Longer Available] (Free)



EyeEM is a creative filter photo app first and a stock photography site second. The EyeEM Marketplace is an offshoot of the community behind the app. You can use the EyeEM camera and its 24 filters to shoot and upload the photos to the Marketplace. You can also just upload any other photo from your camera roll.

EyeEM has an option called Open Edit which helps you learn editing tricks from EyeEm’s top photographers. Notice the Open Edit icon on some photos. You can also reap benefits from EyeEM’s Tutorial Archives.

How do I sell a photo?

  1. Follow requests and upload photos.
  2. Take part in community photo competitions for prizes and exposure.
  3. Participate in these Photo Missions and also Learn & Shoot Missions via the app.

How much can I earn?

Prices start from $20. Revenues are split 50/50 between the photographer and the company. The same photo can be sold to different clients. The non-exclusive rights also allow you to use and sell the photos anywhere else.

Download: EyeEM for iOS (Free) | Android (Free)


Scoopshot is a Finland-based hiring platform for photographers around the world. News outlets, bloggers, brands and companies as well as individuals crowdsource requests on Scoopshot. Photographers send them specific photos or videos. Scoopshot as the middleman takes care of image rights transfers and monetary transactions.

The site has gathered 1,800 accredited professional photographers in 55 countries so far. Scoopshot is open to both photographers and videographers.

The Scoopshot blog is a good read to understand what sells on the micro-stock photography site. This very early blog post on sweating it out with a smartphone camera is inspiring too.

How do I sell a photo?

  1. Sign into the service and set up a portfolio of photos.
  2. Participate in tasks announced by companies and buyers. Tasks may be sent by geographic location.
  3. Showcase your photography skills in daily contests. Members vote for the best photos. Nine daily contests run every day.
  4. With a focus on real photos, Scoopshot does not encourage use of filters to modify an image.

How much can I earn?

On Scoopshot, you can set your own price if the photo has some good news value. Brands set a price around the tasks they announce. This can range from $7 all the way up to $150. Daily Contest photos that get sold receive $5. A photo picked up by an online publisher also receives a percentage of the advertising revenue via Scoopshot’s In-Image Ad Network.

Download: Scoopshot for iOS (Free) | Android (Free) [No longer available]

What About Instagram?

The Instagram Community (in Figures)

Let’s not forget the smartphone photo community that started it all. Though there is no direct way to make money on Instagram, some time and effort can yield wonderful results. The secret sauce is in “engagement” — more followers on Instagram 5 Tried & True Tips For Winning At Instagram & Getting Tons Of Likes When it comes to getting noticed on Instagram, there are basic rules to follow as would be the case with any social network - post regularly, interact with users, include an interesting description with your... Read More could open up opportunities, even among the billions of photos on the social network. I will keep it brief, but look at the two platforms below:

Mobile Prints – Use your Instagram photos on to make and sell framed prints, canvas prints, greeting cards, and more. Buyers can use the app for iOS and Android to visualize the artworks before purchase.

The Mobile Media Lab – A creative agency that sources photos from influential Instagrammers around the world. It connects brands to the right Instagrammer for specific campaigns.

You would also do well to follow these eight tips from my fellow author Rob Nightingale on how to get noticed on Instagram These 10 Tips Will Help You Get Noticed on Instagram If you only have a handful of followers on Instagram and aren't receiving the likes or comments that you want, these tips will definitely help. Read More . Number #3 on the list is the one to remember always: use only your best photos.

Honorable Mentions of Other Crowdsourcing Photography Apps

The business model of the seven stock photo apps is similar. Every photo submission is beaded around assignments, themes, and contests. Here are a few more that deserve attention:

What Are You Doing with Your Smartphone Photos?

Smartphones can take great pictures, 6 Reasons Your Smartphone Is the Best Camera You Own It might not be a digital SLR, but your smartphone is punching well above its weight when it comes to photography. The next time you go out, leave your old point and shoot at home. Read More  you just have to focus beyond selfies and work on your creative eye. The bad news is that the number of photos uploaded each day outstrips the number of people buying them. The good news is that people are earning a decent amount of money from their smartphone photos instead of letting them become memory bytes for the future.

Pick the right app, or more than one app and try your luck. An app like Foap might be good for a smartphone photography beginner Top Tips: How To Take Great Photos With Your Smartphone Smartphone and mobile photography are becoming increasingly popular. And no wonder. Every year, mobile and smartphone cameras get better and better, until many people don’t feel the need to carry real cameras around anymore. While... Read More . Snapwire might demand a keener photographic eye. Even if you don’t sell a single photo, rest assured your photography will get better by the day as you combine learning with crowd wisdom How to Improve Your Knowledge & Skills with Crowd Wisdom You can crowdsource your way to better skills -- by learning with the crowd and benefiting from the mass of interconnected experiences. Here are a few crowdsourcing websites that show us the way. Read More .

Have you sold a photo yet? What is the best tip you can offer? Tell us about the photography apps on your iPhone.

Related topics: iPhoneography, Photography, Smartphone Photography, Stock Photos.

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  1. Koren Schmedith
    November 27, 2017 at 5:47 am

    These tips are really amazing. People who do not have a professional camera may follow your tips and and start doing smartphone photography

  2. Hildegerd
    March 9, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    Did you find a way to delete images in foap?

  3. Cristi
    December 4, 2015 at 8:27 am

    If I would be sure this thing works 100 %, I would do it and donate the money earned !

    • Saikat Basu
      December 4, 2015 at 2:59 pm

      If only everything in life was all about "no pain, but all the gain" :)

      What these apps do is open up an opportunity to the average photographer who earlier wouldn't have any chance of adding value with his or her photograph. Today, even "citizen journalists" are able to do us with a humble smartphone camera.

  4. Anonymous
    December 3, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    You'd have to make up for the cost of a DSLR camera, at least a phone is something everyone already has!

    • Saikat Basu
      December 4, 2015 at 5:39 am

      Yes. And with the right dash of creativity, a smartphone can do so much. Street photography and candid portraitures for instance. It's all in the eye.