There are many opportunities to make money online as a photographer- it’s all about using your creativity and applying it in your work to monetize your talent. There are endless ways to make money selling photos online, but in order to do so successfully, it comes down to three important things: finding the right niche for you, building your audience, and creating different streams of income.
Before you can start selling photos online, you will need to have good photography equipment. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean spending a fortune on a camera in order to make money selling photos online. If you have a DSLR camera, you will have more opportunities to sell your photos to sites for prints, to stock libraries, or for products that are print-on-demand. The reason for this is that digital cameras produce images that are higher-resolution.
Even if you don’t have a camera, you can sell photos that are taken using your smartphone. If you have an iPhone, Huawei P30, Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, or another relevant brand of phone. The number of sites that buy photos that are taken on a smartphone is growing. So, choose which photo site is best for you, as well as which equipment you will use to take the pictures.
These sites are great for PASSIVE INCOME! Passive income is income that requires little to no effort to earn and maintain. It is called progressive passive income when the earner expends little effort to grow the income. In this case, you take a picture once and you can sell it again and again!
You can make money with Alamy’s straightforward payment structure that is paid to contributors on a monthly basis. If you make your photos exclusive to Alamy, you’ll receive 50% worth of direct sales. Also, you won’t be bound to a long-term contract. You can also sell your iPhone photos on their app called Stockimo, and earn extra money from it.
Getting started with 500px is simple. You just need to create an account with them, submit the photos you would like to sell, have your store authorized, have the forms filled out for each photo- this includes liability releases and model, then all you have left to do is to start selling. You can earn 30% for non-exclusive photos and 60% for exclusive photos.
If you’re just starting off with selling photos online, then Shutterstock is a good place for you to learn. Photos are sold cheaper and they’re non-exclusive, in order to increase download you’ll need to contribute a larger amount of photos. Don’t have high expectations when it comes to the amount of money you’ll earn here. Payouts range between 20% and 30% and are based on the earnings you make over time. You can even earn additional money by referring new customers and photographers to Shutterstock.
You can sell your photos in your very own online Etsy shop. It’s an easy way for you to get started, and selling your photos will be quick. Etsy take 5% of your photo’s transaction price, so the fee structure benefits you. If you take your client payments via Etsy Payments there will be a payment-processing fee of 3% and also $0.25 after the photo is sold. To get the most out of your Etsy shop, you’ll need to market your shop and invest in designs. With Etsy’s small cut from each of your sales, it’s definitely worth the time.
Getty Images are one of the stock photography sites that are high-end. They attract publishers can brands seeking exclusive images to license that are of high quality or hard to find. iStock is Getty Image’s microstock site. Rates for licensed photos range between 20% and 45%.
You will make high payouts on Stocksy- standard licenses up to 50%, and extended licenses up to 75%. All the photos are 100% exclusive, so they can’t be reused or resold.
Also, as a contributor on Stocksy you will get part ownership of Stocksy as it’s an artist-owned cooperative. You can receive profit-sharing when the co-op has a surplus in the form of patronage, this all depends on your sales and contributions to the co-op.
This is definitely one of the best places you can sell your photos, once you list your photos on Adobe Stock, they’re made available on Fotolia. If you have Adobe Suite, you can easily add your photos directly from Adobe Bridge CC, Adobe Lightroom CC, or through the web. You will definitely reach millions of potential buyers, so the potential for exposure is there. You can earn 33% on the photos you sell.
This site started off as an Instagram tool for photographers to sell their brands and images. Now it’s turned into a stock photography site where you can connect with potential clients and sell your photos. You can earn money in three ways: Get paid $2 per photo that’s licensed, get paid a cash prize for photo challenges, receive up to 100% commission when you’re scheduled to do shoots for brands that hire you.
Depositphotos has a library of over 150 million files and clients that come from over 200 countries. Leading international companies such as Subaru, Warner Bros. and Tripadvsior make use of Depositphotos. Commissions range between 34% and 42% and depend on the license type, resolution, contributor’s status and experience on the platform.
This is one of my favorites and I use it. I sell recipes to them and I buy some from there for my food blog. Trust me, this is a GREAT way to make a passive income. You can also make picture bundles. Let’s say that you go on vacation to somewhere like the Grand Canyon. A Travel blogger will buy this and you get paid. When you add articles to it, you get paid more because they can charge more. The content sells cheap like the other passive ways to sell photos online but it adds up!
Want to make MORE money? This isn’t passive but you can make a lot. I’ve sold recipes online to bloggers and I have friends that make a FULL-TIME INCOME selling recipes to bloggers.
Don’t worry, I’m going to show you step-by- step how!
How to sell your photos to recipe bloggers online
Do you have what it takes?
Ghostwriters and freelance recipe creators must have a few traits in order to be successful.
You must be:
– self-motivated: No one is going to hold your hand or push you, or say “hey, go take some pics of your lunch and make some money today!”
– resourceful: if you don’t understand something, it’s important to use the resources provided to you (Google, YouTube, and recipe blogs) to find out the answer. Instead of saying “I don’t understand”, Google until you do. If you find yourself getting frustrated, ask a friend or hit us up in our group. We will help as much as we can!
– creative: food photography does require some creativity. While you don’t have to be an amazing artist by any means, being able to duplicate a style is the bare minimum. This means if you don’t have your own ideas for food, you’ll have to use other ideas for inspiration and tweak them enough to make them “your own”.
The #1 rule in ghostwriting is : NO COPYING.
Keep It Super Simple! While practicing food photography, less is more. While you don’t want the shot to be boring, you also don’t want it to be too busy.
Study photos from popular food blogs like PinchOfYum.com – not to strive for perfection, but to get inspiration. We love their blog for tips and ideas.
A bowl or plate, a utensil, and a tea towel are all you really need as far as “props” go. I keep all of our props in a basket so I can easily move everything if need be. I use a table and have bought backgrounds but you can use your counter as a background when first starting out, but you can also use a piece of stained plywood. We also use cutting boards as props which will create a nice background as well.
The space you need for food photography is smaller than you’d think. You only need a few feet square!
PRO TIP: TAKE MORE PHOTOS THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED! You’ll want to deliver at least 5.
Do not use your kitchen lights!
Do NOT use your kitchen lights!
Most kitchen lights are YELLOW and will make your food photos awful. If your kitchen lights are WHITE, you can use them! 🙂
You can use ring lights for lighting, but you can use natural light as well. The downside to natural light is, it is dependent on the weather and time of day. For example, you can’t shoot too early in the morning, or late at night.
Using a ring light helps us control the environment and get the perfect amount of light exactly where it needs to be. You may need to use two lights, or a light and a white posterboard to bounce light off of, to get great photos without shadows. I bought a light box for cheap and it came with backgrounds too but you can make your own.
Shooting from overhead is simple – even with a phone – and is one of the easiest angles to capture a great food photo from!
People on social media are essentially “eating” with their eyes. Whether they save/share the recipe or not heavily depends on how the photo makes them feel. While shooting overhead, they’re getting a top-down look at the dish you’ve prepared. This is a great way for them to envision themselves eating it.
If your photo looks flat, you may need to shoot straight on instead. If you’re shooting a photo of a stack of brownies, for example, you’d shoot straight-on so you get a look at the texture and dimension to the dessert.
The straight-on angle is perfect for pour shots, or for showing the drizzle over your brownies, for example.
Watch the crop! It’s better to shoot from a little farther back and crop than to be too close. You can always crop; you can’t add!
Also pay attention to what is IN the photo. What does your eye naturally gravitate towards in the photo above? Surely you see the shoes!
And, the photo is far too busy. Keep it simple, keep it clean.
Photos to take:
1-3 ingredients photos
3-5 in-process photos (chopping, cooking, whatever)
3-5 final photos
Take both horizontal AND vertical photos. Look at Pinterest or Food Gawker for inspiration!
The #1 question we get: do I need a fancy camera to make money with this?
The answer is NO!!
Use a Smartphone
That’s right, you can make money using your SmartPhone. Almost all modern phones take amazing photos.
Sometimes I shoot with a SmartPhone (Samsung 10) and have never had complaints about any of our photos! I also use a DSLR Cannon too.
I also both use a ring light. Depending on your space, you may need two of these. If you have a lot of natural light, and you shoot exclusively during the day, you may not need artificial lighting. I use these lights and natural light or my box.
Ring Light or Studio Lighting
As long as you have your lighting and angles on point, your phone will do the rest for you. As you practice, you’ll develop more of an “eye” for food photography. This will help you continue to expand your business! I suggest looking at some food blogs and playing around.
Use what you have or you can buy some really cute tea towels from Amazon.
Silverware, Plates, & Bowls
Use what you have or buy from thrift store. I’ve also picked up some really cute vibrant items from Target.
When you are first starting out, use what you have on hand. Buy an old cookie sheet from a thrift store, DIY a background with cheap wood. I’ve found that completely staged photos do go for more money and VERY quickly!
Where to Find Recipes
You can come up with your own recipes, use your family’s recipes (with their permission, of course), or simply find a few recipes online to get you started.
You can find recipes on Pinterest, Google, or any food blog! When using these recipes, MAKE SURE you mix them up a bit! What this means is CHANGE THEM.
Don’t use other recipes as is, EVER. They should be modified enough that they feel like your own.
The easiest ways to do this without messing up the outcome of the recipe:
– swap out their herbs and spices for your own creation (swap out black pepper for cayenne pepper, swap out sugar for honey, etc)
– swap out their protein for another (swap out chicken for beef, or beef for pork, or any meat for a non-meat protein source)
– swap out the veggies (make spinach and cheese soup instead of broccoli cheddar soup)
Make several changes to the recipe so it truly is your own before you make it and sell it to a client.
Feel free to make any recipe under the sun! Any recipe that makes you happy, anything you create and eat for dinner, go for it! Keep taking photos and writing recipes of everything you eat.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, there are a few niches (topics) that do really well in the groups I use.
– slow cooker
– Instant Pot
– Air Fryer
– vegetarian or vegan
– 5 ingredients or less
– coffee drinks, milkshakes
– easy dishes in meal prep containers
Remember: PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT! Don’t stress about it if your photos aren’t “great” at first. We are our own worst critics!
The photo above is one of my friend’s first recipe photos. It was one of the most popular recipes on the blog at the time, too. Each client will have a different idea of what a “perfect” recipe looks like, so it’s up to YOU to develop your style. The right clients will come to you based on that.
BE SURE to take more photos than you think you need! Take a few vertical, a few horizontal, take a few from different angles (over head, straight on, etc).
Garnishes make the photo!
Not always, but many times we will cook foods that don’t look as great as they taste. If your food is just one color and texture, it’s not going to be visually appealing.
Creating layers, depth, texture, and color will help take your food photography to the next level.
The easiest way to do this is to add a garnish!
I keep herbs, spices, and garnishes prepared ahead of time so we can add them to any dish.
If you’re making a dessert, “garnish” with some whipped cream and mini chocolate chips!
Another way to add a little dimension and excitement to your photo is to DRIZZLE! Whether you’re drizzling ranch on your salad or caramel on your brownies, a good drizzle makes for an amazing photo. Use a condiment bottle with a small, pointed lid for best results.
Need some inspiration?
Head over to Pinterest and search for your favorite type of recipe:
– slow cooker
– air fryer
– pressure cooker
– easy dinners
Almost any type of recipe you can think of, will sell! If you love making cupcakes, start there. Have fun with it and make them your own. Start with a basic base for cupcakes and add to it, to save time.
What does that mean, exactly? Create a vanilla cupcake base. Divide the batter in half. Make half of the batter chocolate. Take separate photos for each recipe. You turned one recipe into two!
Components of a Recipe
List the ingredients and amounts. Use cups or ounces and be specific. For example, instead of “1 bag of chocolate chips” you would say 8 ounces chocolate chips, or 1 cup chocolate chips.
Make sure directions are easy to follow. Read them out loud and go through the steps in your head. Read other recipes online to get a feel for how your recipes should be outlined, and look at our example below.
Take more photos than you need! Yes, we’ve said this a few times but it’s so important. You’d rather have 30 photos and only use 10 than only have 3 usable photos. Recipes should be sold with a MINIMUM of 5 photos. We prefer to offer 10.
Photo size requirements change from time to time but best practice is to use a “Pinterest friendly” sized image (Google)
Listing and Selling the Recipes
Once your recipe is ready for delivery, you’ll head over to the Facebook group to sell it.
This part is simple! Upload a small version of your images or a version that is watermarked (see above “SAMPLE”) so nobody can steal your photos. Be clear about the title of the recipe as well as what the client will receive (how many photos, how it’s delivered) and how much you are charging for it.
While most of us are familiar with Cash App and Venmo, the industry standard for payment collection is Paypal.
Paypal protects both you and the buyer, and is the payment platform that is expected to be used.
Do not deliver recipes until payment has been received. On the off chance (it’s rare but it happens) that Paypal says the client paid via e-check, you may have to wait a few days for the payment to clear.
Deliver the recipe after payment has cleared.
PRO TIP: Look into laws for 1099 (contract) employees in your country. You’ll need to file taxes if you make a certain amount, but we are not tax experts so we do not advise on that topic. It is important to keep track of the money you make AND your expenses so you’ll have less of a headache at tax time.
Delivering the Recipes
Delivering recipes is simple and free using Google Drive. Sign into Gmail (create a Gmail account if you don’t have one – it’s free). Then, go to google.com/drive
This is your Google Drive, where all of your recipes will be stored. Click on “NEW” then “FOLDER” and name your first folder a recipe name: SLOW COOKER CHICKEN.
Inside that folder, you will click “NEW” and create a Google Doc. Type the recipe up.
Go back to the folder. Upload your photos.
The Exact Process
Sometimes it’s easier to have an exact outline of the process you are going to follow to get started.
- Write the recipe up in Google Docs. Name the Doc the name of the recipe. Include ingredients and instructions.
- Take photos of the recipe.
- Upload the photos into a folder in Google Drive. Add the Google Doc to the same Google Drive folder.
- The name of the Google Drive folder will be the name of the recipe. This keeps everything organized.
- Once you have the recipe completely finished (photos taken and edited if need be, recipe typed up, and everything in a folder), you can list it for sale in our Facebook group. Then, you deliver it via email and follow up a week later to see if they’ve posted the recipe yet. If they have, ask them to send you the link so you can promote it.
- There are plenty of groups to sell in, but the first group you should join is ours so you can get a feel for how everything works. The other groups can be a little rough so it’s always good to practice riding with training wheels (with us there to help) before you jump into riding all on your own.
Rights and Responsibilities
A few RULES to keep in mind about the blogging world:
EXCLUSIVE Recipes – That means they go to ONE blogger and one blogger only. You don’t use the recipe anywhere else (except your portfolio, and only a photo – not the whole thing), and you don’t resell it once it’s already been sold.
Bloggers buy exclusive recipes and want to avoid having DUPLICATE content.
SEMI-EXCLUSIVE Recipes – When you sell semi-exclusive this means that you will take photos of the photos 4 or 5 times. Each time photo set you change the background, bowls, etc to make it different.
While you shouldn’t copy someone else’s recipe in its entirety, you may use their recipe and change it up. It MUST be changed enough that it’s a NEW recipe.
Change it up by swapping out ingredients and writing your own instructions. The times/temperatures can stay the same, but the wording should change. NEVER copy and paste ANYTHING.
Show me the Money
I’ve had a lot of fun talking about recipe creation, food photography, and ghostwriting. But we know you’re really here to find out exactly how much money YOU can make taking photos of your food and selling them online.
The truth of the matter is, like much else in life, the sky truly IS the limit. You can make as much money as you make time for!
Exclusive go from $100 to $350 for Exclusive. The going price for semi-exclusive recipes is $25 – 45 each, now times that by 4 or 5. Add a couple of recipes a day…see how that adds up quickly? Let’s say you do two recipes – 4 different versions of each.. That is $200 and do that Monday thru Friday, you have $1000 a week. You can even start your OWN Facebook group with ready buyers!
How to edit your photos to sell online
Edit the photos that you take using photo-editing software.
PIXLR – This is a great alternative to Photoshop, and it’s shortcuts are much like it. You can run PIXLR on your browser or download the free application.
Raw Therapee – This editor is much like Lightroom, with tools for curves, tweaking colors, and more.
FastStone Image Viewer – If you just need basic edits, this editor is the one for you. It opens the camera’s RAW files and saves them as PNG, JPG, or TIFF. You can straighten, crop, contract, and color correct your photos using this editor.
GIMP – This editor is a bit more complicated, but it’s abilities are much like Photoshop. So the learning curve is definitely worth it.
PICMONKEY – Create beautiful photos, logos, social media graphics, and facebook covers with PicMonkey’s easy yet powerful photo editing and graphic design software. Use templates, graphics, and stock photos and video. It is super easy to use and I use this as well as canva.
CANVA – The Canva photo editor is free to use – and there’s no catches. Unlike other photo editors, we won’t leave a watermark on your photo after you’ve edited it. Do I have to download anything to use the photo editor? No – you can use the photo editor from right inside your browser window.
Selling photos online is a great way to make money. Whether photography is your full-time hustle, side-gig, or just a hobby- there are different avenues available to take advantage of the opportunity. Your determination and talent will ultimately make or break your earning potential.