Nice little side earner with Snapwire

I joined Snapwire a few years back when it first launched. It was a bit like Image Brief where buyers could define their requirements and photographers would submit images that met that brief. Image Brief offered some pretty good commisions, and, unfortunately I don’t think there were enough buyers willing to pay and they closed down. Snapwire offer much smaller commissions and even with that there are not many requests for specific commissions. As a new contributor to Snapwire, you need to earn your stripes by submitting to their own internal competitions (called challenges) for a chance to win $75 or so, and I think I did enough of that in the early days to earn “advanced” status!

At this level, you can be invited to submit to briefs and out of the blue I was asked if I wanted to take some food photos from local restaurants for Door Dash – the food delivery service (in the USA). It seems to work a bit like Uber where drivers can be contacted via the App to go to a specific restaurant to pick up a delivery and take it to the customer. DoorDash takes the online order, takes their commission and pays the delivery driver I think. Anyway, the task was to order food from local restaurants/sandwich shops and plate it nicely according to some very clear design and shoot guidelines and submit images of 3 meals from each restaurant. The restaurants they need are displayed on a map (you can see them under Location Requests if you are a contributor at a high enough level) and in my immediate area there were six. I applied to photograph food from the three closest to me to see how it went and was given the task. First off, an Indian restaurant where we ordered three entrees and some garlic naan bread:

Chicken Tikka Masala with garlic Naan bread

We carefully plated the food and I had set up a little shoot area in my office/studio with everything set up like a production line. I had one flash in a softbox on the right, another flashgun reflecting back from a white card on the left and the camera on a tripod immediately above the food with a zoom set to around 50mm and F8. The wooden background was a section of our dining room table on a box about 12 inches from the floor. With the napkins and cutlery already in position, I simply put the food in place, focus, click and check the exposure then on to the next! Speed was essential as we wanted to enjoy the food! This image was one of my out-takes as the buyer was buying out the copyright of the images they selected.

After a bit of processing in Lightroom, the images were uploaded and within a few hours had been purchased. With that success under my belt, I applied to take images from a further 3 restaurants (in fact, all of the available ones in my immediate area) and so I have a Greek, Italian, Hawaiian style, and two sandwich shops still to go!

Is it worthwhile? For something that I treat as fun and a great way to try different foods, yes! I am given $30 for food (although the Indian food came to $42!) but for this my wife and I had a great meal at home and enough in the freezer for a second meal from this first restaurant. I’m paid $35 for the three photos of the purchased meals, which is not a lot for professional photography (and for the copyright at that!), but once I had my table top set up, each image takes only a few minutes to take and not long to process and upload. So I’m very satisfied so far.

Last night was the turn of the Hawaiian style american restaurant and we tried Kalua pig with rice and macaroni cheese and an Oriental chicken salad. Delicious! My three images of those foods have now been purchased.

Kalua pig with white rice and macaroni salad
Shredded pork with white rice and macaroni salad

There are quite a number of these DoorDash requests around the USA and a few in Canada, so if you are a contributor to Snapwire, it might be worth checking out the available requests in your own immediate area. I don’t think I would drive very far for this task, but if there are some local restaurants it sounds like a good way to eat well and earn a bit on the side. I’m hoping that as more restaurants sign up to DoorDash, there will be more opportunities to take more shots. My first images of the Indian food are already online on their App, so they do need these photos to make each restaurant look more appetizing.

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6 Responses

  1. J. Ross says:


    I continue to applaud your “joie de vivre” and creativity! BTW, I liked the pictures too!

  2. David Kadlec says:

    As a microstocker as well as a commercial photographer who shoots quite a bit of menu content for restaurants all I can say is wow. Food cost $42. Gross return $35. Without considering other costs like your time, studio overhead etc. you have already managed to provide three copyright released shots at a net loss of only $7. Brilliant. Reminds me of those depression era photographs with destitute men holding up placards reading “will work for food”. In your case though you couldn’t even afford to do that.

    Honestly, for the sake of credibility the next time you complain about anything industry related in your blog such as diminishing returns, devaluation of your work, free sites like UnSplash etc. – you should really have a good hard look in the mirror at what your own hypocritical behavior is doing to contribute to the race to the bottom for us all.

    • Steven Heap says:

      Hi David, If the scenario had been as you had described, this would have been a terrible deal for any photographer, even an amateur looking for a bit of cash on the side. However, as I thought I had explained, the deal was $30 for food (and some of the sandwich shops will come in under that) plus $35 for the three images. As I explained in the article, that is not a great sum of money at all, especially for the copyright, but these are just “snapshots” in the sense that the art direction was specified and all I had to do was set it up and take the picture. If I think about this as enjoying a take-out at home (which covers my time in getting the food), then I earned $35 for 25 minutes of work. If I had taken an alternative approach and bought the food, plated it and submitted it to stock agencies, then it is pretty unlikely that those images (plus the other alternative views that I could have taken) would have earned $65 (the $35 fee plus $30 for the food that I would not have received), so in comparison to some types of stock work this was not a bad gig. Do I think it is good pay for professional photographers – of course not, and I think I said that, but I don’t think it is that bad a deal in the limited conditions I described.
      I don’t tend to complain a lot on my blog as I think the trends are not unexpected in a globalizing industry – not good, but not unexpected. I hope this more fully explains my thinking.

      • David Kadlec says:

        Hi Steven. First let me commend you on posting my negative comment. It shows a level of integrity I have grown accustomed to as a subscriber to your blog. On this issue though we are worlds apart in our opinions. Even given my initial error in the numbers (thank you for clarifying that) it still amounts to little more than a free meal and just under $12 per fully released deliverable for what is for all intents and purposes a commercial shoot.

        Obviously it is entirely your prerogative to work any way you see fit and for whatever renumeration you choose – and if you can somehow justify it in your own mind then who am I to argue, but again, in my opinion the kind of rationale you are using just serves to devalue not only your own work but the work of others as well.

        • Steven Heap says:

          I wouldn’t go out of my way to do this (ie the local nature of the restaurants was important), but I could look at this as 21 shots for $245 after I have completed my 7 shoots. Still not a professional wage, but better. I see the food as a bonus but it is obviously not a way to make money as you rightly say. Stock photography itself is pretty devalued and all contributors to the main agencies are contributing to that decline – as I wrote a long time ago, it is like the historical Tragedy of the Commons where grazing rights on commmon land were open to all and it was in everyone’s interest to minimize the over-grazing of the land, but in the interests of each individually to put as many cows on the land as they could. Unless there is a way to organize a global group of photographers, then we are each in it for ourselves.
          I do agree that commissioned work is different to stock though as the company is paying for someone in my area to do these shoots and so the normal comparison with stock where many images can be taken in countries where wages are much less than in the USA does not work in this case. So perhaps you are right!

I'm always interested in what you think - please let me know!