The concept of the amateur photographer has changed drastically in the last decade. Armed with a smartphone and a keen eye, shutterbugs can now capture the moment at any moment. Point-and-shoot cameras are an inexpensive option, and the small but high-definition GoPro has made fish-eye shots a staple. Those with a deeper interest in photographer may upgrade to a pricey DSLR – or depending on your opinion upgrade to a film camera – and still consider themselves amateurs.
Professional photographers get contracts to shoot events, weddings, or take headshots, but amateur photographers are finding ways of their own to cash in on the new wave of digital content creation. Even if you don’t have thousands or millions of followers like the biggest YouTube or Instagram stars, there are ways to make money selling the photos you take each day.
Selling physical prints of your photographs can be one of the most financially rewarding, but you need somewhere to display your work. Try local coffee shops or restaurants, especially if your pictures fit the theme of the store.
You’ll need to take the time to print and frame or prepare the photographs for display. You’ll also need to find and get a local shop to agree to show your photos – offering them a commission on any sales can help grease the wheels.
If you’re having trouble securing a display area, you can also try to sell prints online by listing them on a personal website or with a third-party seller. However, you’ll then have to print, prepare, and ship the photos – and manage the payments if they’re on your site. Photoshelter and SmugMug can let you store and share your photos online.
There are options if you want to offload everything but taking and uploading pictures. ImageKind, which has a limited free membership option or monthly subscription services, will handle all the preparation, payment, and delivery for you.
Rather than selling prints, you can license the rights to your work. Create an account and upload some of your best pictures on sites like iStock, BigStock, TandemStock, and Shutterstock. Tag your work with descriptive keywords, which increases the chance that potential buyers will find your photos. You can also upload the same photograph to multiple sites to increase exposure.
Be sure to read each site’s guidelines for what they will, and won’t accept. Some sites give clear guidelines for the type of work they’re looking for, and which pictures won’t likely sell. You may also need to upload samples of your work, take a quiz, and make sure your profile accurate and up to date to become or stay a contributor.
The payout for a single license sale may just be a few dollars, and not every one of your pictures will be accepted even if it fits into a high-demand category, but don’t let this get you discouraged. The same photos can keep selling, and you might be able to slowly build up a nice passive income stream.
Photography contests sometimes have prizes in the tens of thousands. Although a quickly snapped photograph isn’t likely to win, if you enjoy taking pictures consider entering some of your best work and you might win.
Weather.com has an “It’s Amazing Out There” contest each year, and in 2015 the grand prize was $15,000, with runner-up prizes of $5,000 and $1,000.
Smithsonian also runs a photography contest each year, with a $2,500 grand prize and $500 category prizes – including mobile photography. They’ve already closed the 2016 contest, but start preparing now for the 2017 competition.
Find and keep up to date on other photo contests at Photo Contest Insider. There are all sorts of options that have specific criteria, such as wildlife, black and white, or a focus on creative angles and composition.
Sell Instagram Photos
Only a few people have been able to turn their social media following into a money-making venture using Instagram. The top influencers can charge thousands for a “sponsored” post or product placement in a photo. If you’re a more casual user, you can sign up for Mobile Prints or Twenty20 and connect your account to offer your Instagram photos for sale.
If you do have lots of followers and/or high engagement with your posts, you can start earning money with sponsored posts or by becoming a brand ambassador. If you’re interested and qualify, look into SixPushMedia, InstaBrand, and Snapfluence.