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Amateur's Guide on How to Sell Photos Online and Make Money

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Kawai is a firm believer in being financially independent and loves exploring ways to stretch her dollar or earn more for rainy days.

Use your phone or other mobile devices to shoot photos like a pro and make money to boot!

Use your phone or other mobile devices to shoot photos like a pro and make money to boot!

Anyone Can Be a Pro

Gone are the days when only professional photographers had the ability to create photos worthy of stock photography websites. With advancements in mobile technology and the changing demands from stock photo websites for a greater variety of photos, anyone can now become a professional photographer and have an opportunity to make some money selling their photos.

Read on if you want to find out how to sell photos online and make money like a professional using your mobile devices!

First, I'll show you some apps you can use to retouch and edit your photos—which is actually very important—and then I'll show you some sites where you can sell them.

1. Key Mobile Applications for Editing Photos

The important thing to remember is not to sell photos online without first doing some edits and touch-ups. Don't be lazy! Your photo will really sell better if you exert a little effort to make it look good.

If you are clueless about how to edit photos, don't worry: there are tons of amazing apps out there that will easily turn you into an editing whiz. With a few simple clicks, you can make any ordinary picture look amazing and eye-catching.

Below are some key mobile applications that I use to edit my photos before posting them online for sale.

Photoshop Express

Photoshop is not new to most of us, and we know can be quite frustrating to use if you are not well versed in its functions. Luckily, there is a much simpler version called Photoshop Express.

With Photoshop Express, you can easily make pictures look brighter, clearer, and sharper. You can reduce the noise (which means making the photo look cleaner and smoother) and change the colour tone by moving the slider bars on the different edit functions available (e.g., contrast, sharpen, exposure functions).

There are also default effects that you can add (like "vibrant," "spring," and "summer" effects) to the photo, but I would not recommend using these when editing photos that you want to sell. Most stock photo websites do not like photos with added effects, preferring more natural and unfiltered ones.

If you think you are a complete idiot at editing, even with Photoshop Express, all is not lost, as Photoshop Express has an auto edit function that you can use (look for the magic wand icon on the top bar). Basically, you just need to click on the icon, and Photoshop will magically do all the editing for you.

Available on: Apple Store (phone and iPad) and Google Play (Android)

Price: Free

TouchRetouch helps you to touch up your photos by removing unwanted objects or patching up backgrounds.

TouchRetouch helps you to touch up your photos by removing unwanted objects or patching up backgrounds.


TouchRetouch is an extremely fun phone application that I stumbled upon when I was looking for ways to remove a food stain on the plate in a picture of a burger that I wanted to sell.

TouchRetouch helps you to touch up your photos by removing unwanted objects or patching up backgrounds. The app is extremely easy to use, and the effects are amazing.

Available on: Apple Store (phone & iPad) and Google Play (Android)

Price: It used to be free when I downloaded it last time, but there is now a $1.99 charge. My free version cannot be used anymore, so I upgraded to the new version.


Snapseed is another powerful photo editing app I like to use. It works like Photoshop Express, but Snapseed has an additional function that I find extremely useful at times: the ability to pinpoint specific areas in the photo where you want to edit the contrast, saturation, or brightness (unlike Photoshop Express, where these edits are applied across the whole picture).

Personally, I find Photoshop Express easier to use when doing basic edits as compared to Snapseed, but I usually use a combination of all the apps introduced here to create that 'perfect picture' to sell on stock photo websites.

Available on: Apple Store (phone and iPad) and Google Play (Android)

Price: Free

Real Bokeh

Real Bokeh

Real Bokeh

Although most stock photo websites want more natural unfiltered photos, there may be times when you want to add a little extra light effect to enhance certain parts of your photos. To do that, I personally like to use the app Real Bokeh. This app creates BEAUTIFUL and dreamlike photos by helping you to add light effects, and there are many shapes of lights to choose from. You can add a heart shape, snowflakes or just simple bubble light effects to your pictures.

Available on: Apple Store (phone & iPad) and Google Play (Android)

Price: USD 2.99 (Apple Store), USD 3.49 (Android).


2. Where to Sell Your Photos: Amateur-Friendly Sites

Amateurs can find it difficult to sell their photos in an already competitive stock photo market where there are tons of experienced photographers. However, there are several portals that I consider "amateur friendly," where you can get experience and learn how to sell photos online and make money.

Foap is my favorite stock photo portal.

Foap is my favorite stock photo portal.


Foap is my favorite stock photo portal, and it is also where I sold my very first photo. Foap's primary aim is to help individuals monetize photos taken from their mobile devices.

Here’s how it works:

1. Download the app onto your mobile device.

2. Sign up for an account and make sure you have a PayPal account (so you can complete the verification process and receive payment when someone buys your photos).

3. Upload photos from your mobile device (AFTER editing, of course). Once the photo is uploaded, you need to add a caption, add tags (to help people to search for your picture) and answer two legal questions: whether there are recognizable people in your photo, and if so, whether you have permission to use their face for stock photo sales. These questions determine whether the photo will have an editorial or commercial license.

4. Once the photo is uploaded and all questions are answered, your photo will be published. For each photo that is sold, you will earn 5 USD—and the best part is that you can get paid even if you only earn five bucks. Most stock photo websites require you to earn a minimum amount (for example, 100 USD) before you get any earnings at all. Foap also lets you sell the same photo as many times as you like.

You can also make money by putting other people's pictures in your Foap albums. If the photo is purchased through your album, you earn $0.25.

In addition, you can take part in missions on Foap to earn additional cash. Missions are photo competitions whereby participants submit pictures which fulfill the mission's criteria (e.g., photos of the beach, photos depicting summer). The winner of each mission gets to win the grand prize stated for each mission.

There is currently a lot of competition in FOAP due to the increase in the number of people trying to sell their photos. The best way to sell photos now and become more noticeable is to actively take part in their photo missions. I have seen some amateur photographers who sold a couple of photos in a single mission using really simple photos that seem to be unedited.

UPDATE: In 2019, Foap launched something called Premium Missions. These missions allow you to earn more money and have more winners per mission. However, to join such missions, you need to unlock the mission using Foap coins. These coins can either be collected by watching the Foap video ads on their mobile app or by simply buying them on the Foap website.

Foap has also partnered with Getty Images, so now anyone posting on Foap can have the chance to sell on Getty as well. You post on Foap as normal, and content editors will select photos for Getty's approval. The review process will take about a week to a month. If your photo is sold on Getty, Foap will notify you.

Available on: Apple Store (phone & iPad) and Google Play (Android)

Price: Free

I find 123RF's review process much less stringent compared to other popular stock photo websites.

I find 123RF's review process much less stringent compared to other popular stock photo websites.


123RF is another stock photo website that I like to use. 123RF has a mobile app, so you can easily upload phones from your mobile device. Once you have uploaded the photos and added the necessary information and tags, 123RF will review the quality of your photos before making them available for sale.

Personally, I find that their review process is much less stringent compared to other popular stock photo websites such as Shutterstock (I got rejected twice!) and Fotolia. So 123RF is a great portal for amateurs to start their stock photography journey.

However, you don't get to earn as much as you would on Foap. Most photos are bought by buyers who have a subscription with 123RF, so you usually earn as little as 20 cents per photo. However, I did have one buyer who bought a very large print of one of my photos in addition to a license that allowed him/her to use my photo for advertising—and for that single transaction, I earned about eight USD.

You can get paid via PayPal, and the minimum payout amount is 50 USD.

Available on: Apple Store (phone & iPad) and Google Play (Android)

Price: Free

You need to upload all your photos via computer for CanStock, but the review process is also quite simple and not very stringent.

You need to upload all your photos via computer for CanStock, but the review process is also quite simple and not very stringent.


I also use CanStock to sell my photos. CanStock does not have a mobile app for you to upload your photos (so you need to upload all your photos via computer), but the review process is also quite simple and not very stringent. The earning potential is also similar to 123rf, so in order to earn decent money, you have to upload more photos for sale.

CanStock is not available on the Apple store or Google Play (Android).

If you have other great apps or tips on how to sell photos online and make money, do share in the comments!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: With Foap, can you sell the rights to the photo for more money?

Answer: I don't think so.

Question: I just started with foap. I love taking pictures so I think this would be great for me. You said that you use a few photo selling sites, do you know if you can post the same photo to all or only to one?

Answer: I don’t see any limitations to posting the same photo at different sites. I do sell the same photo at different platforms (i.e canstock, 123RF, foap)..however, you should check on the specific website requirements in case there are any changes to their terms and conditions.

Question: In FOAP, how do you add a caption?

Answer: When you upload the photo they will ask you to add a photo description and tags. However, when you view the photo from the mobile app, you would need to actively click the 'about' button for each photo to see the photo description.

Question: How will I receive my payment from Foap?

Answer: Foap pays via PayPal.

© 2016 Kawai


Pauliem on July 16, 2018:

Thank you so much

Jean Morgan on February 23, 2018:

Thank you good information! I sell on FOAP and wil try some of these also.

Christy on February 15, 2018:

What is adding tags and or captions on your photo to help people find the photo they like

Linda Bryen from United Kingdom on February 07, 2018:

Thanks Kawai for this tips. I never heard of them. I must give them a try.

Kawai (author) from Singapore on March 19, 2017:

Hi SA, sorry for the late reply. I am not 100% sure for all sites, but I think it should be ok.. guess you need to read the fine prints for the T&C of each site..=)

Hi Ptosis, sure no problem..good luck with selling your photos!

ptosis from Arizona on March 19, 2017:

Thanks for the info! I'm going to try them out - so far zero luck with Alamy, Dreamstime and Fotolia. I did sell 2 images on Redbubble.

For extremely low $ :(

SA on January 08, 2017:

Awesome Tips :) You got me thinking :) Do you know if you can sell the same photos on different sites (at the same time)?

Kawai (author) from Singapore on October 23, 2016:

Agree that shutterstock is great, although they have a slightly stringent review process which can be tough for beginners..Thanks for the additional tips Nickfox123..=)

nickfox123 on October 18, 2016:

I am selling stock photographs for over three years. I am using multiple stock agencies but the best performer for me (and most photographers I know) is providing over 50% of income from all of my sales. There is an entry test but it is not that difficult to get in and start selling. Shutterstock is definitively the agency to start with.

Also, I would mention websites that let you build your own store - e.g. or - which works only if you are able to find customers by yourself as those websites obviously do not advertise your stuff hence do not provide customers for you.

I wish good luck everybody and many sales

Kawai (author) from Singapore on October 05, 2016:

Hi Kelley, with regards to editing software, I only know that photoshop has a PC version. If your photos are really good (and I'm sure they are!), you can search for simple free editing softwares and upload on 123rf or canstock. For Foap, what I know is that we are only able to upload on mobile devices like phones or tablets. Thanks for dropping by!

Kelley on September 15, 2016:

I would like to know if there is an app for a PC ? Don't have any of the above phones. I take photos with a digital camera. I've uploaded several photos online for the past 10- or more years. Facebook etc...... Most are really good! Would like to sell them. Thanks in advance Kelley.

KonaGirl from New York on May 25, 2016:

Good advice. Thanks, Happy. I will look into it.

Kawai (author) from Singapore on May 25, 2016:

I never thought anyone would buy my photos either when I first started, but somehow I manage to make some sales..maybe u can try Foap as a never know..thanks for the pin! =)

KonaGirl from New York on May 25, 2016:

I don't know that I would ever take photos good enough to sell online, but I do appreciate the tips for photo editing apps for my smartphone! Pinned to my photo board