Snap to it: there's a gallery in cyberspace for your shots

Jasmine Birtles on opportunities for amateur photographers

The advent of digital cameras and the proliferation of online picture agen- cies mean good amateur photographers now find it easier than ever to make cash from their hobby.

"We're looking for spontaneous pictures," says Jane-Louise Green at online photo agency Picturenation ( www.picturenation.co.uk). "At the moment we need a lot more pictures of people and more business shots, particularly of people working at different things like DIY, cutting a hedge – that kind of thing. We're building a record of the 21st century so we're interested in all kinds of pictures of modern life – they can be quite ordinary situations."

Like many other agencies, Picturenation sells photos at different resolutions – low (for websites), medium and high (for publications). Snappers make money whenever their picture is sold. At Picturenation, that ranges from 15p (for low resolution) to £30.

Another specialist agency that targets good amateur photographers is Scoopt ( www.scoopt.com), which was recently bought by Getty Images (www.gettyimages.com), the largest online photo agency in the world. Hugh Pinney from Getty explains: "Scoopt takes breaking-news images, and we will even accept mobile phone photographs if they are the only ones available. It's a question of being in the right place at the right time: pictures of this summer's fires in Greece from a Scoopt member made the centrefold in The Guardian."

If you have old snaps lying around that are quirky or interesting, they could also net you some cash. Some agencies specialise in pictures of historic interest, notably Mary Evans ( www.maryevans.com) and Heritage ( www.heritage-images.com).

Tony Boxall, 78, an amateur photographer for over 40 years, has sold shots to both these sites, most of them black and white and largely spontaneous. "I gave myself a project of photographing true Romany gypsies from 1964 to 1969 and ended up with three thousand pictures," he says. "I sat on them for years and then I started selling them to picture libraries. I think I've made about £70,000 from my hobby so far."

All the agencies have rules governing how pictures should be uploaded and described, which you need to follow. In addition, people in the pictures have to sign a model-release form in which they expressly give their permission for their image to be used.

'I've made £14.48 so far'

Physiotherapist Lisa Butler, 39, has been a keen amateur snapper for over two decades. She has three children and regularly sells photos of them and those of her friends.

"I used to take pictures of the children at the playgroup in our village. After a while, I started selling them to the children's parents and I gave the money to the playgroup."

In March this year, she also started to sell her photos through Picturenation. "It's nice to use – it's easy to upload your photos."

To date, she has not earnt enough money to give up her day job. "I've made the princely sum of £14.48 so far," she laughs. "But once they're on the site, I expect they will just carry on making money."

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