Ever thought about trading your candid shots for cold hard cash? London-based graphic designer Chloe Boulos shares her top tips to monetise your smartphone photos with the help of handy apps…

Chloe Boulos

Chloe Boulos

In the age of Instagram and Snapchat, smartphone photos may seem a dime a dozen. But if you look beyond traditional social media, you could earn more than likes. London-based Chloe Boulos stumbled upon photography marketplace, Twenty20, three years ago when on the hunt for new photo and editing apps. She’s since made the most of the opportunity to earn a bit of extra coin…

Introducing Chloe

While she works as a graphic designer now, Chloe says photography has always been a huge part of her life: “My grandfather and mother both loved photography and carried cameras everywhere they went, so I think it rubbed off on me,” she explains. “I had a film camera as a kid and have been obsessed with collecting them ever since.”

But as much as she loves and continues to use manual cameras, Chloe says they’re often too bulky to carry around.

Taking a picture of the Eiffel Tower from a train by Chloe Boulos

Taking a picture of the Eiffel Tower from a train shot by Chloe Boulos

“I shoot on a range of cameras, but my iPhone is most convenient because I always have it. I’m always keen on having the latest model because I know the camera gets better and better each year, which is why I’ve just upgraded to iPhone 8 Plus – the camera on it is insane!”

Turning passion into profit

At around $2 USD per licensed photo sold, posting pics to Twenty20 is unlikely to make you a millionaire overnight. However, in her time using the platform, Chloe’s earned a total of $330.59 – and says it’s her top pick of available apps.

“At the end of each month the amount you’ve earned is transferred directly to your PayPal account in $USD which can then be converted when transferred to your UK bank account or used,” she explains.

The Louvre, Paris shot by Chloe Boulos

The Louvre, Paris shot by Chloe Boulos

Many other photo-selling apps work the same way, including Foap which originated in Sweden and EyeEm from Berlin.

“The process is so simple. Uploading is super quick and the platform has gotten better and better as the years have gone by. You can upload and tag your photos with keywords and locations. From a buyer’s side, this makes it much easier to find photos – particularly when they’re seeking shots from a specific location.”

That last point is important. Did we mention Chloe’s a buyer too? In her role at travel company lastminute.com she regularly requires images that show authentic, relatable experiences, so she often turns to Twenty20 as a key source of candid photos.

“While there is a lot of great content on the platform, crowdsourcing usually means there is a lot of bad content as well. However, Twenty20 do a great job of curating hundreds of different collections based on popular topics, so I would always go to them first,” she says.

Tips for successful selling

Chloe doesn’t adhere to a particular style, but prefers her snaps to be bold and vibrant.

Colourful houses of Burano, Venice Italy shot by Chloe Boulos

Colourful houses of Burano, Venice Italy shot by Chloe Boulos

“My poor girlfriend tends to be the subject of most of my people-based photos – luckily she’s very photogenic. It’s difficult to define exactly what sells best as I’ve had a wide range of different photos sell on the platform, but that’s one of the reasons I’d encourage people to upload all kinds of great photos,” she explains.

However, if you are looking for a bit more direction, Chloe does have a few pointers…

1. Take photos with a people-focus

People and lifestyle, family and travel all feature in Twenty20’s top eight search categories.

“Your friends and family are best as they’re usually happy to have their photos taken. But don’t shy away from taking photos in public places,” Chloe says.

2. Upload as much as you can

“You never know what a user might be looking for,” Chloe says. Uploading a range of different photos will not only give you the best chance of making a sale, it’ll also help you gain a better understanding of what photos are most popular with platform users.

Also make sure you upload at the highest quality possible. This will ensure buyers can use your image in any medium without risking distortion and blur.

Girl walking in Venice shot by Chloe Boulos

Girl walking in Venice shot by Chloe Boulos

3. Ensure your photos discoverable

Including keywords and relevant locations in your photo descriptions will help buyers find your photos. Without this key information, your photos are more likely to get lost in the crowd and may not show up in search results regardless of their suitability.

4. Enter challenges

Twenty20 photo challenges are a great way to get your photos noticed, so Chloe recommends entering as many as you can.

“There are new challenges every day. Entering as many as you can will get your photos out there on the platform and seen by the community,” she says.

Sometimes challenges are sponsored by companies who are seeking specific, authentic photos to fill an image need. However, challenge topics are always based on what customers want and need, so the closer you are to the brief, the better your chance of winning or making a sale.

5. Give your lens a wipe

It seems simple, but keeping your camera lens clean can make a huge difference to the quality of your shots, Chloe says.

“Our fingers are constantly touching the backs of our phones so it’s easy to end up with fingerprints and dirt on your lens which leave your photos looking foggy. I always wipe the lens before I take a photo just to ensure the photo will be at its best quality.”

With many companies shunning traditional stock images for more candid, ‘real’ shots, it couldn’t be easier to go from casual snapper to online seller with apps like Twenty20. Plus, if you’re already capturing the moment, why not make it pay?

Take even better smartphone photos… with these top tips on composition from Mobiography founder Andy Butler.

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