This Side Hustle Makes You Money While You Travel The World


What with the massive strides made in smartphone-camera technology over the last few years, everybody’s a photographer nowadays. We’re not all Annie Leibovitzes, to be sure, and ubiquitous, pre-set filters have more or less siphoned us all into a very particular aesthetic--so much natural light! An anonymous hand holding an ice cream cone against a vibrant background! Flat lays of coffee and a carefully askew notebook! But by and large, it’s been a democratizing force as far as who gets to take photos that have the potential to reach thousands (and sometimes millions) of people.

In keeping with that development, it’s also changed who gets to make money off of photography. You no longer have to have an expensive DSLR or super nice film camera to snap artful shots that people will pay money to use. Apple’s “Shot on an iPhone” billboard campaign is stunning proof; last year, TechCruch interviewed one of the photographers who was featured on a billboard and he revealed he’d “never really taken photos before [he] bought an iPhone 4.”

Combine that with the ever-increasing number of stock photography sites that provide images for an ever-increasing number of outlets that are in constant need of fresh visuals and it’s a recipe for profit for anyone who has the ability to snap a landscape shot with broad appeal. As Travel + Leisure pointed out, this is an especially logical tactic for adventurous travelers bearing witness to famous landmarks, gorgeous waterfalls, sweeping plains, majestic canyons, a candy-colored sky as the sun melts into the ocean, etc. etc. But before you get too excited, it should be said that there’s an application and approval process before you can even start cashing in on stock photography sites like Shutterstock, iStock (which is owned by Getty Images) and Stocksy, and at the end of the day, it’s not going to make an amateur iPhone photographer rich.

James Wheeler, the photographer mentioned in the Travel + Leisure piece,uploaded 300 photos to five stock sites in 2012; some of the sites rejected about half on the grounds of quality, but eventually he started seeing about $100 a month. One of his most successful photos is a shot of Moraine Lake in Alberta, Canada, taken on a family camping trip, and it’s brought in $4,000 over the last five years. Rates of pay vary, and some platforms are significantly more expensive than others; licensing a Stocksy photo, for example, ranges in price from $15-$125 depending on the size, while the entry-level price on iStock is $33. Photographers typically receive a set percentage of that price.

All of which is to say it’s probably not going to pay for your trip to Patagonia in its entirety, but if it has the potential to defray some of the costs and you’re gonna do it for the ‘gram anyway, why not see if you can make a little extra money off of it?

-Deena Drewis