Making money from photography allows us to pursue our passion and turn it into a career.
How Can You Earn Money From Photographs?
Starting a business taking portraits of people or doing weddings can be fun. But what if you don’t feel confident doing that? Then the answer is right in front of your screen: sell your photos online!
There are plenty of options out there. The most popular ones are stock photo agencies. There are also a few websites where you can sell your pictures directly to clients or even as artwork.
Stock Photography Websites
Stock photography sites are significant in two ways. First, they sell your work for you. Once you upload the photos, all you have to do is sit back and watch your profits grow.
But apart from helping you sell photos online, stock photo agencies also provide information on current trends. In other words, they give you ideas and hints on what images have a higher chance of making you money.
The problem with these sites is that they provide a lot of content, which grows every minute. That means your photos will be competing with millions of other options on the internet.
Another downside is that it can take a long time to edit and work on images to upload. Stock photo websites have strict guidelines when selling photos online. You need to follow plenty of rules around the quality and information needed for every image.
Alamy is a British stock photography website, started in 1999. To date, it has over 60 million photos and videos. There is a reason for this tremendous amount of content. And it’s partly because of the 50% royalty payment on each photograph it sells.
Despite the large commissions, it also doesn’t require you to sell photos to them exclusively. That’s why, in my opinion, this is one of the first choices to sell photos online.
iStock photo is Getty Images’ microstock branch. It’s a great place to sell stock photos if you are just starting because it’s a well-known site.
iStock also includes popular forums and resources that help you understand how to sell photos online. It’s quite useful if you feel clueless about where to begin.
The royalty payment starts at 15% per download. It can increase to 45%, depending on your photos’ popularity. If a customer purchases an image using their subscription credits, you only receive the 15%.
If you are into exclusivity, iStock photo will give you between 22-45%. This rate works on a contract with a 30-day notice period.
Shutterstock houses 184 million images and 91 million videos. They have been enjoying steady growth in sales since its founding in 2003. In 2017, people downloaded 172,000,000 images from their website.
Uploading to the marketplace will net you up to 30% of the sale price of your image. This percentage depends on the size of your image, with payouts falling between $0.25 and $28.
The best thing is, you get to keep the copyright and still sell the images in other places.
Like iStock and Shutterstock, this agency is a perfect starting point if you want to sell online photos. It’s user-friendly, and the requirements are not as stringent as its rivals.
What makes Dreamstime different is that you get to create and curate your galleries. That way, you have more control selling photos online. You can think of this agency more as a hosting site in that respect.
But of course, that doesn’t mean you can post just about anything. Your submissions will still go through a screening process to make sure you don’t violate the site rules. For instance, you can’t upload violent or copyrighted content. But if you follow all the guidelines, you can expect to make money once your images are online.
Your commissions start at 25% for a non-exclusive image, and 27% for an exclusive option. But as you sell more photos, that can go up to 45% and 49.5% respectively.
For the most part, BigStock has all the features you can expect from microstock sites. On the surface, it’s just like Shutterstock, Dreamstime, or iStock. But what makes it a bit different is its credit system. And that’s why selling photos online using this platform is also unique.
People can buy stock photos with regular payment options. But as they do, they also earn credits that they can use to purchase even more content from the site. So that means you have two ways of making money.
If users buy photos online using credit, you get a certain amount. For instance, you earn 50 cents for a small picture and 3USD for an extra-large option. Meanwhile, your commission generally stays at 30% for each Bigstock partner sale.
As your content gets more downloads online, its price gets higher, and so does your commission. For instance, your photos will earn up 25 cents if people download them up to 199 times. But you can get 38 cents if people buy any one of your images more than 50,000 times.
When you upload your money pictures to microstock agencies, you’ll see that the process isn’t quite efficient. Creating keywords for photos can take a lot of time. And it gets even more frustrating if you need to attach model releases every time you add files.
Thankfully, you can avoid all that mess with Canstock Photo. With its SpeedSubmit system, you can attach releases immediately to a batch of photos. You can even upload a text file with all your pictures, so you don’t have to add keywords manually. This process is perfect because the less time you spend preparing your photographs, the quicker you can make money.
For instant downloads (one time purchases), you earn 1USD for a small JPEG file and 2.50USD for extra-large. For credit downloads, you get 50 cents and 2.50USD, respectively.
Fotolia (now Adobe Stock) is another microstock photography website. It represents over 57 million images. Adobe repurchased this site in 2014, integrating it into its creative cloud service. Here, you can receive royalties of between 20 and 46%.
The best part about this site is that your royalties come immediately. Other sites wait until you reach a financial threshold, or after 30 days.
Four million buyers use this site, so it is in your best interest to show them your images.
This company is perhaps the most prestigious on the list. Since it was founded in 1995, it has become one of the premier stock and editorial photography websites in the world.
As mentioned earlier, iStock is Getty Image’s microstock photography branch. But they sell high-end content through GettyImages that often sell thousands of dollars.
People pay a few dollars for a photo of iStock since its loyalty-free. But for Getty Images, they’ll need to buy a Rights Managed license. That means you don’t pay for the pictures themselves, but the right to use them on specific platforms such as web or print.
Due to its exclusive status, it can be challenging to get into Getty Images. To apply, you need to submit six images. Getty then determines if your material is appropriate for either iStock or Getty.
If you get in, you have the chance to earn up to 20% in commission. Photos on the site sell for hundreds of dollars, so that percentage can make you quite some profit.
Stocksy isn’t the largest stock photography website, but it certainly isn’t the smallest. It has a reputation for being the artsiest stock agency online. That’s why it’s undoubtedly the site that publishers love to look at when searching for new images.
You will find that this site has very high standards. It might take longer to find your best images and make sure they are spic-and-span for this page.
They also require exclusivity to your work, meaning you can’t sell them elsewhere. In the end, it is all worth it, as you receive between 50% and 75% of the total purchase.
This German company is not nearly as big as most other stock photo agencies on this list. But in my opinion, it offers quality equal to Stocksy for a more affordable price.
Photocase images don’t look like stock photos. Instead, they feel more authentic and organic. So if you don’t want your images to end up with a pile of low-quality work, then this is an excellent option for you. And since it’s a small company, you have less competition from other photographers.
Despite not being as popular as the other stock sites, plenty of people use Photocase regularly. Why? Because it provides options for those who don’t like cookie-cutter photos but can’t afford Stocksy.
Photocase also has a unique payment system. You start with a 20% share and have to potential to earn up to 50% commission as more people upload your photos.
You can look at their point system to have a better idea of how you can earn commissions.
Don’t be discouraged by the fact that Photocase is a small company. Unlike their rivals, they value their photographers. So give it a try, and you just might earn decent money from it.
Alternatives to Stock Photography Platforms
You don’t need to rely on stock agencies to sell your photos. There are tons of other options out there that you can try as well.
The sites on our list greatly vary in the services they offer. So feel free to go through them and figure out which one works best for you.
Placing images on a stock photography website doesn’t interest you?
There are many benefits to this service. First, it gives you cloud storage for your images. But apart from that, it also has an intuitive interface, social media integrations, and a decent SEO service.
Photoshelter allows you to decide how to showcase your images. It’s quite ideal as it doesn’t display competitors’ photos next to your own.
500px has become one of the most popular photography websites in the last few years. It’s filling the void that Flickr left as it began losing members. I can say it’s the best place to find collections of the most professional photos online.
Apart from photo storage, 500px is also a market place for people to purchase your work. Furthermore, it has a ‘like’ and ‘photo view’ area that show you the ranking and views of your images.
Using this platform, you receive detailed data on where these interactions are coming from. All the stats you see can be helpful when it comes to selling your work.
You can upload as many images as you want. You can even run photography workshops through it too.
There are four plans to join, ranging from Free to Pro and Adobe. It’s best to become a paying member so you can take advantage of all the platform’s features.
This website is one of the most user-friendly graphic design editing platforms out there. It has drag-and-drop features that allow just about anyone to create posters to Instagram Story animations.
A lot of the graphics and photos that Canva offers are free. But they also sell other services, including stock photography.
Unlike traditional stock photography agencies, Canva makes it easy for people to buy pictures. Users simply have to drag and drop the photos. Then all they have to do is click to purchase to remove the watermark.
Canva’s ease of use means that there’s a lot of potential for you to earn money. There are tons of people who don’t usually use stock agencies but buy photos from the platform regularly.
With millions of users, they’re continually expanding and looking for new stock photos to sell. You can apply and post your stock photos on the website. But they also regularly ask their contributors to photograph custom projects for them.
If you are a photographer who wants to focus on commercial work, then EyeEm is a great way to make money.
You’ll find three different licenses you can sell you photos under Social, Web, and Full. These images are sold to clients for $20, $50, and $250, respectively.
You get a 50% commission on each image you sell on the website. And that’s a high rate considering that most stock agencies only pay 20 to 30%.
You can also join EyeEm Magazine to help you gain exposure within the industry. Submitting your work to the publication may land you a few major clients!
Etsy is the biggest marketplace on the internet for handmade products. For photography, the items you can sell can be physical prints or digital downloads. Most of the products are unique, and a lot are one-off items that the creators won’t make again.
With more than 30 million users, Etsy is a great platform to sell your photos.
You can also recreate your brand on Etsy. You set the price for your images and even design a page that displays your photos the best.
Etsy keeps 20 cents on each product you upload as well as 3.5% of the sale price. Selling items here can be a challenge. However, they offer a helpful handbook to teach you all about branding, marketing. The information they share include how to price your items, how to sell your photos, and how to succeed.
Smugmug is an excellent site for those photographers with an entrepreneurial mindset. They let you choose how much to charge for your photos, and they let you keep 85% in commissions.
So how do they let you earn that much money? Here’s an example for that from their website: “If you sell a 5×7 for $10.79 and the SmugMug default price for it is $0.79. The markup is $10.00. You keep $8.50 as profit (85% of $10)”.
The catch here is you have to buy a Pro subscription. It starts at $12.50 per month. There is no free option to help you start selling your photos.
Instaproofs is an online photo storefront. The ‘Insta’ part of their name comes from the ease of taking images from your Instagram account to the website.
You define the print sizes and the price tags that come alongside them. The free account lets you create 15 galleries with a 3 GB storage capacity. If you’re not a paying member, the site will also take a 12% commission from your sales.
But if you think it’s worth it, you can also subscribe for $10 per month. Doing so lets you sell images without commission, which helps if a lot of people buy your photos.
If you want to make money doing event photography, then consider looking into this website.
You can think of Snapped4u as an online gallery. All you have to do is upload your event images on the website. Your clients can then pick the photos they like and pay you.
What’s terrific about Snapped4u is that it’s straightforward to use. For instance, your clients don’t have to log in to view your photos. If you want your gallery to be private, you can assign a password that they can use to access the files. It’s so simple that it feels like buying postcards at a souvenir shop!
You’ll need to pay a 10USD registration fee. But at least there are no posting fees. Snapped4u also gets a .50 cent cut for photos under 5USD and 10 % for anything above that price range.
GuruShots isn’t exactly a place where you can sell photos online, but you can use this platform to make money.
Here, photographers compete against each other across a plethora of different subjects. Other members vote on the images, and the winners get prizes worth up to $300. You enter a challenge and upload up to four images for that theme.
According to their site, “GuruShots uses special proprietary algorithms to make sure each submitted photo gains equal exposure regardless of when it was submitted during the challenge, giving each entrant an equal opportunity to win through ‘statistically-based objectivity.’”
We have a full GuruShots review to check out too!
Fine Art America is a Print on Demand site. It means they print and ship your images only when a buyer buys one. Their focus is on fine arts, such as photography and digital images of painting, etc.
You can set your prices on Fine Art America, and the website will add its markup. You keep 35% of the final price, and they get the other 65%. So if you demand $10 profit, they will price your piece at 47USD.
But it isn’t bad at all since you get to control how much you want to earn per image. Not to mention that you don’t need to print the photos yourself.
Fotomoto isn’t a place to sell your photos. Instead, it allows your website to sell images through its widget. After signing up and installation, it will sell them for you.
Doing so gives you more time to focus on your image capturing and post-production.
If you’re looking for versatility, this site offers it! There is even a ‘free’ plan, where you give out more commission than you would with other plans. All it takes is five minutes to sign-up.
Build Your Own Website to Avoid Fees and Commission
There is nothing like selling your work on your own site. If you are tech-savvy, you can find a way to do this ‘free’ (not counting domain and hosting fees).
If you aren’t proficient in web design or programming, you can join Wix or Square Space. They do all the background work for you.
Once you set up your website, you can offer as many photos as you want! There are no fees or commission to pay third-party sites after each sale.
A quick Google search can help you find the best system for your website. Then you can start selling your own high-quality photos.
It’s a great option if you get a lot of traffic to your site.
Stock photography websites are perfect because they take off the workload from you. You can make money just by sharing your portfolio.
You can try all the websites we mentioned in this article. Most of them are non-exclusive. That means you can add the same image to different platforms and widen your audience.
Non-stock websites will make you more money per image but may need more work. For instance, Etsy requires that you print and ship the photos yourself. That process takes time, effort, and energy. But if you stay patient, the payout can be better than stock photography.
Want to learn how to earn a serious income from your photography business? Then read our eBook – Profit from Portraits!