Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

How To Sell Your Photographs Online: A Citizen Journalist's Mini-Guide To Monetizing Your Camera-Phone Content

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It is now easier than ever to sell your pictures online, regardless of whether you are a professional photographer, or an everyday person armed with your camera-phone. In fact, the latter is increasingly desirable in the fast-paced, wait-for-no-man world of news content.

Photo credit: Alexander Kolomietz

Citizen journalists have already set about redefining how news is published, and where it is sourced from. Just as traditional journalism has slipped from the hands of an elite few, and into the hands of the many, thanks to the empowering, networked nature of the Internet, now the same is happening in the world of news photography.

The news industry has an insatiable appetite for fresh material, and if you happen to snap an exclusive image using your mobile phone's camera, it could well earn you a tidy profit. News agencies, publishers and broadcasters are all tapping into the power the millions of people out there on the scene, armed with their ultra-mobile camera-phones. Their pictures are often rare gems which no amount of pro-photographers or press crews could have gotten by being sent on the news spot after the fact.

Dispatching a photographer to the scene takes time, and in the world of news, immediacy and getting an exclusive scoop are everything. If there are already people right where you need them, taking snaps of celebrities, disasters, freak weather and police car chases, it makes sense to use what they have to offer.

But how do news publishers track these citizen journalists down, and how do the citizen journalists themselves monetize their exclusive photographs?

How can you sell your photos online without having to reach out and contact all of your local major media outlets?

A range of online services offer solutions to this problem, and in this mini-guide, I talk you through the features that each has to offer. To find out how also you can start making money by selling your photos online while using only your mobile camera phone and some street smarts, read on.



The pitch: Scoopt is a UK-based company that has been set up as an intermediary between amateur photographers (primarily using their mobile phones to capture images) and the publishers interested in buying these images.

It's key selling point is perhaps the active effort taken to promote and sell your images to well-paying news publishers, rather than expecting them to come and find you. With Scoopt out trying to place your work and get you the best possible rate for it (after all, there is a good commission in it for them), you can concentrate on taking photos rather than selling them.

What can you sell: Scoopt attempt to sell photos, videos and even blog posts.

Images Required: Scoopt request clear, in-focus, legal images that fall into one of the following categories, which must be chosen from when uploading:

  • Celebrities
  • Politicians
  • Royalty
  • Sporting
  • Other public figures
  • Headline news
  • Local news
  • Disaster
  • Military of conflict
  • Miscellaneous

Buyer-Seller Relationship: Scoopt serves as an intermediary between yourself and the market for news images. They will attempt to market and sell your images to newspapers, magazines, news organizations and other publishers.

Image gallery: While primarily images are marketed directly to buyers, it is possible to view a featured pictures gallery. Buyers can also, once logged in, view a stock image library of those images that didn't quite meet news requirements, giving images a longer shelf life.

Your Share of the profits: 50/50 - Every time your image is sold to a publisher, you receive 50% of the amount paid.

Terms and licensing: When you send an image to Scoopt, you automatically grant them a three month exclusive worldwide license, during which time images cannot be sold, shared or published elsewhere. After the three months have expired, images become non-exclusive and can be sold or published anywhere, including via Scoopt.

Uploading: Images can be uploaded as an MMS from your camera-phone, or else via the Scoopt members area.

Overall: Scoopt is a well presented, professional looking service that clearly targets its market-segment, and makes its terms explicit. While not everyone will like the 50/50 profit share, having your work actively promoted among media networks doesn't always come cheap.

Overall, Scoopt's clarity, ease of navigation and slick professionalism help to place it as a service you could trust to represent you and your media.

Sign up: Join Scoopt

Cell Journalist


The pitch: Cell Journalist is similar in purpose and form to Scoopt, except that it is based in the US, and as such caters to a different market.

Like Scoopt, Cell Journalist offer to serve as an intermediary between you and the news agencies, TV broadcasters and other media publishers. As their name suggests, they also place a great emphasis on the power of the mobile camera-phone to capture newsworthy images and video.

Unlike Scoopt, Cell Journalist foreground the sharing of social media, and have taken a YouTube approach which includes adding friends, rating images and sharing embedded photo slideshows.

What can you sell: Cell Journalist will attempt to sell your images, video footage and news postings.

Images Required: Cell Journalist say that they are looking for images and footage of everything from high school football games and city council meetings to celebrity sightings and extreme weather. Their partial list includes:

  • Celebrity sightings
  • Politicians
  • Hurricanes
  • Police chases
  • Sporting events
  • Press conferences

Buyer-Seller Relationship: Cell Journalist act as an intermediary between amateur photographers and videographers, and the news publishers that require their services. They will attempt to place your images and videos with news publishers on your behalf.

Image gallery: Cell Journalist features a searchable image gallery that you can search by country, tags or category. Images can be rated using a star-based rating system, in the same style as YouTube.

Furthermore, Cell Journalist features the ability to create and share photographic slideshows which can be embedded into blogs and websites. If your content is featured in another user's site-embedded slideshow, you are promised 25% of the advertising revenue.

Your Share of the profits: 50/50 - For every item licensed, you receive a fifty percent cut of the proceeds.

Terms and licensing: According to Cell Journalist's terms of service:

''Users upload files to on condition that they release all rights to the image, and give full permission to and its associates to use and publish the image in any way they wish.''

Uploading: Users can either upload images from the members area of the site, directly from their browser, or else email photos or videos to respective emails to be found in the Cell Journalist FAQ.

Overall: While Cell Journalist is ostensibly similar to Scoopt in function, it is severely let down by its form. Some real work needs to be done here on both site navigation and design, and in clarifying the purpose and terms of the venture.

In attempting to be both a social media sharing destination and a marketplace for citizen journalist content, at the moment it doesn't seem to be sure of its identity. As such, I would feel reticent about entrusting indefinite, exclusive rights of my content to the service.

To really move to the next level, in addition to the design elements that need tending to, Cell Journalist will need to streamline its goals, and help to clarify the exact terms that contributors will be working under.

Sign up: Join Cell Journalist



The pitch: Scooplive is a Paris-based operation that takes a slightly different approach to selling citizen journalist media content. Instead of offering to sell on your work to news agencies for a fixed cut of the proceeds, Scooplive uses an Ebay-like auction system, whereby potential buyers bid against each other on images.

What can you sell: Photos and video are currently supported, although the latter less so than the former.

Images Required: Images are placed into categories, which in turn have sub-categories. The broad categories of content featured on the service are:

  • News
  • Events
  • Show biz
  • Arts and culture
  • Sports
  • Illustration

Buyer-Seller Relationship: Buyers access a different part of the site to sellers, and bid on images that they would like to make use of just as they would using any other online auction service, with the ability to set a maximum bid and have the service incrementally bid on their behalf.

Image gallery: A sample gallery provides a limited overview of the images available via the service. Accredited buyers have access to the full range.

Your Share of the profits: The commission rate on any sales you make via the Scooplive auctions is quoted as being ''up to 85% of the sale price''.

Terms and licensing: When you send an image to Scooplive, you automatically grant them three months of exclusive world rights to that image, meaning that during that time you cannot publish, sell or otherwise share this image with anyone else. After the three months have elapsed, Scooplive will continue to sell your image, but it will relinquish exclusive rights to it.

Uploading: Images can be uploaded either from within the members' area of the website, via your browser, or using MMS messaging from your camera-phone. It is also possible to send prints, slides, negatives or CDs / DVDs to the company's postal address.

Video clips are supported, in a manner of speaking, in that you have to contact the site owners from the member's area to discuss sending video to them.

Overview: Scooplive has opted for an interesting approach to this expanding area, by creating a semi-exclusive marketplace. To access the auctions, you must first prove yourself to be an authentic, verified business. The idea here is to keep scoops fresh by not showing them to the world.

How successful this auction approach will be remains to be seen, but if the service is to succeed they would do well to clear up some small issues, such as the fact that the English version of the website (the default) only has a French language terms and conditions. As terms will be important to those wishing to submit images, oversights like this make the service feel slightly under-baked.

Sign up: You can register as a buyer or seller.



The pitch: SpyMedia offers you two ways to sell images. The first is much like any stock photo agency, whereby images are uploaded to a categorized library and sold on.

The second is slightly more innovative - potential buyers put out a 'bounty', essentially an assignment with a price tag, letting SpyMedia members know the image they require, and how much they are willing to pay for it. Members can then submit entries to the buyers, who will pay the 'bounty' for any of the images they would like to make use of.

What can you sell: SpyMedia focuses its attention on photographic images.

Images Required: Requirements are dictated by buyers, and range from the very generic ('back to school photos') to the incredibly specific ('Dave Chappelle tour - sneakers').

Uploading images to the stock library on the other hand simply requires you to categorize your image. The categories, which are too numerous to list in full, include:

  • Arts & culture
  • Bizarre
  • Celebrity
  • Technology
  • Sports
  • Historical

Buyer-Seller Relationship: The buyer-seller relationship is explicitly focused on amateur and pro-am photographers providing images according the specification set out in the SpyMedia marketplace.

Image gallery: In addition to offering the image 'bounty' service, there is an extensive stock library.

Your Share of the profits: Buyers set the price they are willing to pay for the image that they have put a bounty out on. These prices seem to average out at about $25 - $50.

For stock images, you are free to set your price. In either case, Spy Media will take a 35% commission, and this is deducted from your earnings along with a 30ยข + 2.9% PayPal transaction fee. Payments are made once your account balance reaches $100.00.

Terms and licensing: The SpyMedia terms and conditions note that:

''Spy Media a royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive right and license to host, cache, route, transmit, store, copy, distribute, perform, display, reformat, excerpt, analyze, and create algorithms based on the Content...''

Uploading: Images are uploaded from the members area. Here, it is possible to set your own pricing and terms, giving different prices for exclusive rights, 30 day exclusive rights, personal use only and non-exclusive rights.

Overall: SpyMedia's bounty system is a bright idea, and while it isn't going to make any millionaires at the present time, it is a great way for everyday people to make some extra money from the images they happened to snap from their camera-phone.

By introducing the assignment concept to this expanding field, it becomes a lot easier for buyers to get exactly what they need. As anyone who spends a lot of time scouring stock image libraries will testify, this could save a lot of time and prevent a lot of headaches.

By also allowing users to set their own prices for stock images, SpyMedia also gives a greater amount of control than the other services mentioned.

Sign up: Join SpyMedia

Citizen Image


The pitch: Citizen Image brings a service that combines the best aspects of several of its predecessors.

Like SpyMedia, it features an assignment board from which buyers can request specific images and prices.

And like Scoopt and Cell Journalist the service is geared up to actively promoting the work of its members in the news publishing community, to secure sales on uploaded images.

What can you sell: Citizen Image sell both news images and creative photography.

Images Required: Citizen Image are looking for content that falls into the following categories:

  • News
  • Sporting events
  • Celebrity sightings
  • Topical weather
  • Images of real life situations - especially business and lifestyle
  • Animals
  • Architecture
  • Other creative photography, from concepts to abstracts

Buyer-Seller Relationship: Buyers can either browse the Citizen Image database, or else directly request images via the assignment board. In both cases, Citizen Image serves as an intermediary between buyer and seller.

Image gallery: Images can be searched directly from the Citizen Image frontpage, and random, categorized images can be displayed within the broad fields of 'creative', 'travel and daily life', 'sports and entertainment' and 'news'.

Your Share of the profits: 50 / 50. Anything you sell or license via the service is split down the middle, and you receive 50% of the proceeds.

Terms and licensing: Newsworthy images are licensed to Citizen Image on 3 month exclusive terms, meaning that these images cannot be published (on or offline) or sold elsewhere for the duration of this time.

Uploading: Images can be uploaded directly to the members area of the Citizen Image site, via your browser, or else you can send them in using MMS from your camera phone. Time critical images can be emailed directly to

There are in depth details about the requirements of your images, including the image format and resolutions required.

Overall: Citizen Image offers a very well rounded experience for both buyers and sellers. By making their needs, requirements and terms detailed and explicit, there is little room for confusion, which cannot be said for some of the other services working in this expanding field.

Overall, there is a much greater air of professionalism about the service than several others, and along with Scoopt the service stands out as one that might appeal to both professional photographers looking to get involved in new ways of selling their images, and the camera-phone toting citizen journalists rising up from the Web 2.0 landscape.

Sign up: Join Citizen Image

Additional resources for selling your photos online

If you would like to learn more about how to sell your photographs and pictures online, about the web services detailed in this mini-guide, or about additional ways in which to monetize your photographic efforts, you might want to check out the following websites:

Other Useful Tools and Resources

  • Web site offers a marketplace for royalty free stock images: Fotolia
    Fotolia is an online marketplace for royalty free stock images, allowing individuals and professionals to legally buy and share stock images and illustrations. Fotolia offers one of the largest image bank of free and affordable royalty free photos and illustrations suitable for any medium, web or print. Photographers and designers receive commission from each photo sold and revenue from advertising on the free section. Free sign up.

  • Share your photos and videos directly from your camera phone: PixSense
    PixSense is a web-based service that lets you share your photos and videos with your friends and family directly from your camera phone, from the web, via email or SMS. You can publish photos and videos from your phone for public viewing. Once your pictures are uploaded, viewers can see them in slideshows. Free to use.

  • Create your own photoblog and upload pictures via email and mobile phones: Fotopages
    Fotopages is a website that allows you to create your own photoblog. You are enabled to create entries via email, from a mobile phone equipped with a camera or any email program. Each Fotopage has its own subdomain: and viewers can post comments to your entries. Free to use.

  • Service that enables photographers to showcase their photos and publishers to use them for free by linking them to each other: PlinkMe
    PlinkMe is an online service that enables photographers to upload and get their pictures used across the internet with links back to their site, enabling them to check how their photos are being used. In the meantime, publishers can pick free photos and get a link to their pages from the PlinkMe users gallery. This way, both photographers and publishers can help each other for free. Joining PlinkMe is completely free.

Readers' Comments    
2009-02-05 23:20:57


I have 66 photos on citizen image and the website do not exist anymore. What can I do?

2008-02-26 04:27:12

John T

A further site is selling your newsworthy pics to the press. This agency has a team of four working to get the best placement of your photos,and aims to get the best returns from the press,on your behalf. Note to editor of this page get in touch we will be pleased to provide you with further details for this listing.
With kind regards The pics-4-news Team .

2007-01-25 09:05:38

Kyle MacRae

Very nicely done! You missed one small point about Scooplive, which always amuses me: as well as ripping off Scoopt's name as closely as they dared, they also copied our FAQ page word for word. Under-baked indeed :)

2007-01-23 13:59:01


You can also include in this list and, however these are not as directly related to news, sports, celebrities.

- Jeff

posted by Michael Pick on Tuesday, January 23 2007, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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