Make Money Selling Online Stock Photography With Cheap Camera Equipment

I have a long list of camera equipment and related items on my wish list, all of which would take my stock photography career to a higher level. But what good is it to write about the virtues of the latest and greatest cameras and technology when you can't afford them? Instead of telling you what cameras would be nice to have, let's talk about how you can earn money starting today with the equipment you currently have even if it's a bit dated.

You can even begin to start making money with a cell phone camera!

Before we get into that, it's important to understand some of the basic concepts of the stock industry. Many beginners start out by submitting pictures that are essentially snapshots around the area where they live. Pictures of buildings, landscapes, pets, and local landmarks. This is all fine and good but the stock industry primarily requires images for commercial purposes. Generic snapshots may have commercial value, but taking photographs of subjects that everyone else is taking is a tough way to compete. You now also have a new wave of people coming in who are putting their images into the public domain thinking they will be discovered.

So even if you have the latest and greatest camera equipment, you're not going to get sales by spending your time photographing common subjects and are in the public domain where they can be had for free and without restriction. If you can change gears and think about commercial photography, you will greatly increase your ability to generate an income without spending a penny on new equipment.

Fundamentally, there are three things you need to create online stock images: A camera, lighting, and space. It's no different with high-end professionals, it's just a a matter of overcoming the restrictions of your current situation.

When it comes to the camera, there are cell phones that shoot in RAW. They may cost more that other cell phone models but the RAW format gives you greater control in processing your images. With quality and current technology, there are many lower end SLR cameras that can be had for thousands less than the professional grade cameras. If you do your homework, you can find a versatile camera or cell phone that will meet your needs. It is helpful to obtain a camera with a large pixel size because size does matter when selling images.

When it comes to lighting, you actually have many options. If you're doing a formal shoot you can use foam boards from an art supply shop to reflect light coming in through a window. Foam board also works well when shooting outdoors.

Girls playing in kindergarten

If you're going to photograph small items, you use your kitchen table for a studio space. A light box is not very expensive which is typically made of white nylon. You can shine desk lights on the box and place the object to be photographed inside. The nylon diffuses the lights and provides an easy way to isolate an object.


You can also build your own light box. Foam board or a cardboard box will work. Cut out the sides and tape on white tissue paper and again use your desk lamps as a light source. On the inside you can line the box with tissue paper to provide a white, seamless background.

If you want to be creative, you can use colored cellophane paper with a flashlight shining through. You can use Christmas lights. Virtually any kind of light source can provide various effects. You can get some more foam boards and cut holes or patterns into them for additional lighting tricks.

As for space, we've already mentioned that your kitchen table can be used to photograph various objects. If you can't afford a backdrop, you can assemble some wood studs together or PVC piping and hang blankets or bed sheets off the frame. If you have space in your basement or garage, those are areas of opportunity for creating a temporary studio space.

If you have friends or relatives willing to model for you, you can use your home or apartment to create stock photography images. If you have models, images of people doing household chores or repairs can be staged. In this instance an actual living space can be used as a studio.

Business man

Lastly, photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop can also be considered part of your camera equipment inventory. Not only can you edit images to give them a more professional look but photo editing software has many tools to create unique concepts beyond standard photography. With Adobe Photoshop you can even draw cartoons!

Halloween Pumpkin & Ghoul

So there you have it. Earning money from online stock is not just a function of having professional grade equipment. It's something you can start doing right now. Yes, having better tools means better results but you do have the means to work through whatever issues you may face. The lower end cameras now produce very good images. Light and light sources are all around you, it's just a matter of being clever and harnessing that light. You also don't need a huge, dedicated studio space. Lastly, don't forget that a good photo editing software package can also act as a virtual studio for creating concepts and can help enhance your images.

Christmas in the country

Nobody said it can be easy working through these issues but as you earn more money you can save it and reinvest in your little business and eventually upgrade to more powerful equipment. The truth is, you're only limited by your imagination as to what you can do with the equipment you currently have or can afford in the short term.

Good luck and thank you for clicking the green USEFUL button if you feel this blog has been helpful.

Bright Idea

Photo credits: Carlos Caetano, Inga Nielsen, Lenutaidi, Eti Swinford, Marilyn Gould, Michael Spring.

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February 27, 2019


I recently bought a new Olympus OMD E-M1 ii for AU$1500 (a discounted cash back deal) , cheaper than many "high end" phones. However, when I want to be unobtrusive I do use my iPhone SE, the last of the 4 inch models so not even the latest AI technology. Alternatively, I just acquired a diminutive bright purple Olympus Pen E-PM1. Very cheap (actually cost nothing after I sold the kit lens), fun to use, and non-threatening in an environment where a big black camera might cause issues. Who takes professional photos with a dinky purple camera after all?

December 21, 2018


Angela, you are correct. Here in the USA you can reduce the cost of the phone if it qualifies as a tax deduction. I know that doesn't help most beginners though. I've seen situations where photography was not permitted but no one said anything about those taking pictures with cell phones so there are advantages. Currently nothing beats a good SLR but no longer should people scoff at using cell phone cameras... if they have higher end camera features.

December 21, 2018


You mention camera phones...many are almost the same prices as an entry DSLR. I was looking at a few before I left for Mexico but there was no way I would fork over $1000 for a phone.

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