Make money with your photos

With the release of Snapwire 2.0 for iOS devices, mobile phone photographers have a chance to earn some money with their best photos, but it will take talent and skill to get noticed.

Jason Parker

Jason Parker

Senior Editor / Reviews - Software

Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.

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Snapwire Media, Inc. just released Snapwire 2.0 for iOS, opening the door for amateur mobile photographers to post their best work, and maybe make some cash in the offing.

Snapwire's goal is to connect thousands of smartphone photogs with brands and businesses from around the world. All it takes is an eye for photography and a willingness to go out and get the photos that match business requests you'll get in the app. It will take a little patience to get recognized in the app, but fortunately it's set up to help you get better.

Become a pro smartphone photographer with Snapwire (pictures)

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Getting started

To get started, the app prompts you right away to upload four of your best photos. These four photos will be reviewed by Snapwire editors for quality. If they like what they see, you'll immediately be promoted to "shooter," a level designation (more on this later) in Snapwire that lets you start making money from your photos right away.

If the Snapwire editors think your work isn't quite up to snuff, don't worry. Instead, you'll start out as a first-level "Explorer" and you'll be able to compete in challenges to work your way up to a shooter.

So before you start seeing dollar signs, it's important to note that you probably won't start making money right away. Instead, the app is set up so you can build a name for yourself, not just with great photos, but by studying and following some of the many photographers who have had success with Snapwire.

Discover established photographers on Snapwire and view their portfolios. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Early on in your Snapwire career, it's smart to check out other photographers by touching the menu button in the upper left, then choosing Photographers from the list. Here you'll find hundreds of top-level users with uploaded collections of their own. You'll also be able to see which photos were nominated by other users to be the best at capturing the request at hand.

How Snapwire works

As I mentioned, you'll start out as an "Explorer," letting you respond to Snapwire Challenges built to measure your photography skill against the masses. Completing challenges earns you points towards moving on to the next level. Leveling up is how you build your reputation, giving you access to app features that give you the ability to be invited to Requests, direct commissions for your work, and better exposure.

To see the latest Challenges, you can open the slide out menu and then touch a button in the upper right to filter on Challenges. Each tile in the scrollable list gives you the theme of the challenge, the dollar amount you would receive if you win best photo from all the submissions, and how many days left you have to submit your work. Touching a challenge will give you the full description with ideas for how to capture the challenge's stated theme. You'll also be able to browse through other user submissions for ideas.

Part of your success relies on other users as well. When people see your photo they can "nominate" it to make sure the Snapfire people see it. The more nominations you have, the more weight it will carry when it's time to judge the submissions. At the end, Snapwire chooses a winner in the category, paying the amount and awarding points towards leveling up.

From the slideout menu, choose requests to see what businesses are currently looking for. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Once you've moved up to "Shooter" (the next level above Explorer) you'll be able to take on more advanced requests. If you open the slideout menu again and touch requests, you'll see there are several ways to filter the latest requests. You can see the newest requests, the highest paying, requests that are closing soon, and several others including requests you've been invited to once you reach more advanced levels.

Quickly browsing the current listings, there are requests for photos of "people learning to do things" from an education initiative looking for photos of people trying or learning to do something. Another asks for simply "Pumpkin Drinks" from a drink client who wants to show the drinks of the fall season. Each give specific instructions for the resolution of the image, type of lighting, and other rules (such as "no posed pictures") you'll need to follow in order to be considered.

At the bottom of the description there's a button to submit your photo and from there it's up to the client whether your image deserves the prize.

When you view a request, you'll see all the requirements and you can view what others have submitted. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

How you (and Snapwire) get paid

Snapwire is in the business of connecting photographers to buyers, and as such the company takes a 30 percent cut of your payment. When you reach the top levels of the service you'll be able to get direct commissions from buyers, but the early charges are for Snapwire creating a platform to make these connections.

Payments are sent through the Paypal or Balance services. All earnings you make will be automatically sent to you through your chosen payout method.

For all the information about leveling up, points, payments, and other details, the app has extensive information with a tutorial, rules about the leveling system, and a Frequently Asked Questions section that outlines the entire service.

A new wave of amateur photography?

As our smartphones continue to improve with better cameras that shoot high quality images, it only makes sense that services like Snapwire will continue to crop up. It gives talented, yet unknown photographers a chance to shine while also giving buyers a ton of flexibility in choosing the best images possible for their needs.

Now that the platform is available as an app, there will inevitably be a flood of new photographers ready to make some money. But while all the new talent will probably lower your chances of winning challenges, Snapwire provides a compelling service that makes it possible for just about anyone with a smartphone to become a paid photographer.