Photocatalytic formation of hydrocarbons using solar energy via artificial photosynthesis is a highly desirable renewable-energy source for replacing conventional fossil fuels. Using an l-cysteine-based hydrothermal process, here we synthesize a carbon-doped SnS2 (SnS2-C) metal dichalcogenide nanostructure, which exhibits a highly active and selective photocatalytic conversion of CO2 to hydrocarbons under visible-light. The interstitial carbon doping induced microstrain in the SnS2 lattice, resulting in different photophysical properties as compared with undoped SnS2. This SnS2-C photocatalyst significantly enhances the CO2 reduction activity under visible light, attaining a photochemical quantum efficiency of above 0.7%. The SnS2-C photocatalyst represents an important contribution towards high quantum efficiency artificial photosynthesis based on gas phase photocatalytic CO2 reduction under visible light, where the in situ carbon-doped SnS2 nanostructure improves the stability and the light harvesting and charge separation efficiency, and significantly enhances the photocatalytic activity.