Can you sell photos online and make money? Yes! The 15 best websites for selling stock photos and everything you need to know to make money with your photos.
If you love taking photos, and you are wondering if your dream of selling photos online can turn into a reality, the answer is:
Yes, you can make money selling stock photos online.
The exponential use of imagery is fuelling the growth of the global stock images and videos market. With a 5% growth year-on-year, it is expected to be worth over $4 billion by 2025.
But how can you get a slice of the pie?
And what are stock photos in the first place?
What is a stock photo?
A stock photo is an existing photo available to be used in a magazine, website, or advertising by paying a fee to the photographer who produced it and the stock agency that is managing it.
Let’s say you are an editor and work for The New York Times. You need to write an article about London, and you need a photo. You could either hire a freelance photographer for top dollars to go to London and shoot a photo for you.
Or simply search online on a stock agency website for London’s best photos and pay a small fee.
Which option do you think is going to be faster and cheaper?
That’s where you come in as a stock photographer.
In this in-depth guide, I will share the 15 best places to sell photos online and how you can make real money with your passion for photography.
But first, I will answer the question that’s spinning in your head since you clicked to read this article.
How much can you make from selling photos online?
Every time someone downloads one of your photos from a stock agency, you get a percentage of the sale. The percentage varies from agency to agency, but you can generally make anything between $0.25-$0.45 per download.
But the actual price can vary quite a lot depending on the type of use and the legal rights. The same photo could sell for $0.05 for a very small size to $250 or more for unlimited print use.
Imagine multiplying this for thousands of photos!
Think about this:
Shutterstock paid out more than $1 billion to its contributors worldwide. That’s mind-blowing.
Plus, what I love about stock photography, is that you can license each photo hundreds of times, even thousands.
That means that a photo could theoretically make you over $1,000. Not bad, right?
And once the photo is uploaded, you could be making money for months or years to come with the same image. There is no limit to the number of times an image can be licensed. This is the perfect example of passive income!
Steve Heap has made $3,098 with a photo of a cat! And he still makes money with it today.
And remember, stock photography is a number game. Yes, quality is important, but quantity wins the game. The more photos you upload, the more chances you’ll have to make money. And the more stock agencies you use, the more opportunities you have to sell your photos. You can create a never-ending compounding effect.
Now that you know that it’s possible to make money selling photos online, what are the best places to actually sell them?
How to sell photos online
Best places to sell photos online
Yes, there are plenty of stock agencies you can use to sell your photos online. The trick here is to select a few to start with, to figure out exactly where your style of photos will sell best.
Some agencies want the exclusive rights to sell your photos, while others let you upload to multiple agencies. Some pay more but you’ll need to have top-quality images, while others will even accept photos taken with your mobile phone. And in this list, I will explain the differences and the payout from each website, so you can decide which agencies are best for you!
- Adobe Stock
- iStock Photo
- Getty Images
- Envato Market
- Creative Market
1. Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock is one of the leaders in the stock photography market. Their market reach increased significantly when they acquired Fotolia in 2014, one of stock photography leaders.
If you use Adobe Creative Suite, you can import Adobe Stock photos directly, making it appealing for graphic designers and creatives.
To become a contributor, you need to be at least 18 years old, provide a valid document id, and be the sole owner of each image you upload for sale. Plus, you need a signed release if you include people or private property (more on the legality of selling photos here).
They also require each image to be high-quality, which is a bit more subjective, so expect some rejections. And they do not accept editorial content.
But overall they pay very well.
Sign up here to get started.
Shutterstock is one of the world’s leading stock agencies for royalty-free images. It has paid out over $1 billion to contributors in the past 15 years, and your photos have the potential to be sold to millions of customers.
To sell your photos online on Shutterstock, you will need to provide some basic information and verify your email.
Then submit some of your work for review. Shutterstock’s internal team will review the quality of your content and decide whether your images are good enough.
Once your account is approved, you can begin selling photos.
As a Shutterstock contributor, you will earn a percentage of the price Shutterstock receives for licensing your content. There are 6 separate earnings levels for images and videos, ranging from 15% up to 40%. The more you sell, the more you earn.
You’ll be able to check your level and monthly earnings from the dashboard inside your account.
Sign up here to sell your photos online on Shutterstock.
3. iStock Photo
iStock Photo is the microstock spin-off from Getty Images.
Microstock photos are photos that are normally sold for a much lower rate and are royalty-free. It’s pretty much the low-cost version of stock photography.
It’s much easier to get into, especially if you are just starting out, but you’ll probably earn less. But this doesn’t mean you can’t make good money. It just means you need to increase the number of photos you upload in order to sell more. It’s a volume game.
Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Dreamstime, Depositphotos, and many of the stock agencies on this list are microstock sites.
To apply, you need to download the Getty Images app from the App Store or Google Play. You then need to upload 3 to 6 sample images or videos (via YouTube links). Then they’ll review your images and let you know, normally within 7 days, if you’re accepted to either Getty Images or iStock by Getty Images.
You must be at least 18 years of age to apply.
If you are approved to submit your images to iStock, you’ll be able to submit the same images to other microstock agencies.
Alamy is one of the biggest stock sites with over 235 million stock images, vectors, and videos. They pay out over $1 million every month to their 95,000 contributors.
What’s great about Alamy is that if your photo meets their technical requirements, it will be automatically approved. This means you can shoot pretty much whatever you like without worrying about having images rejected (as long as they are technically perfect).
You can also make money by selling your iPhone photos with their app Stockimo, although reviews and reported earnings on the app aren’t stellar.
They also accept editorial photos and news content, travel photos, and street photography.
All you need to do is sign up on their contributor’s page to get started.
And if you are not sure about making money with Alamy, you can check their inspiring page with top photographers that have made over $100,000+ on their website.
Sign up here to sell your photos online on Alamy.
123RF has 5 million+ potential buyers and a lucrative commission system. It’s available internationally across over 44 countries, which means your photos will get a lot of exposure.
There is a minimum $50 threshold to be able to be paid. You will not need to submit your photos exclusively to 123rF, making it appealing if you are planning to contribute to several stock agencies.
To sell your photos online on 123RF, simply create an account, provide a valid id, and submit 10 sample images with keywords.
Within about a week, they will review your application, and if you are approved, you can start uploading photos to sell.
Sign up here to sell photos online on 123RF.
Dreamstime has over 34 million users worldwide and a good payout system. Plus, they accept editorial images and news images, unlike other microstock sites.
Anyone can join their contributors’ team, but you’ll earn an extra 10% bonus if you upload exclusive content.
You’ll need to reach a minimum of $100 before you can withdraw the money from your account.
Sign up here to sell photos online on Dreamstime.
Depositphotos is what I use to buy photos for Gathering Dreams, together with Adobe Stock and Shutterstock. They have over 57,000 images uploaded every day by over 90,000 contributors.
Registering on the platform requires you to upload some of your best images. Their inspectors will check your files, and once you are approved, you’ll be able to upload photos for sale.
You will earn money based on your contributor’s level. The more downloads you get, the more you’ll earn.
Sign up here to sell photos online on Depositphotos.
8. Getty Images
Getty Images is a stock photography agency that specialized in high-end images. Publishers and brands looking for exclusivity are prepared to pay a premium on this website.
Which means you can earn a lot more.
To apply, you need to be 18 years old. Then simply download the Getty Images app from the App Store or Google Play. Upload 3 to 6 sample images or videos (via YouTube links), and within a week, you’ll know if you’re accepted to either Getty Images or iStock by Getty Images.
If you are approved to submit your images to Getty Images, your content will need to be exclusive. This means you won’t be able to submit the same images anywhere else.
Your images will need to be of the highest quality to be accepted. The rates look similar to other stock sites, but you will earn more per image as buyers pay a premium.
Images sell for $175 for an extra small resolution to $499 for a large resolution. This means you can get between $35 to $100 per image.
Stocksy has some great creative, original, and diverse arty photos. As a contributor, you become an active owner of the website, which is run as a cooperative. This means you can drive business decisions through elections, voting, and annual general meetings.
Plus, it has one of the highest payouts around. You can earn 50% royalty on a standard license and 75% royalty on an extended license.
You can apply once you are 16 years old (with parental permission), which is a bonus if you want to sell photos online before 18.
But keep in mind that Stocksy requires 100% exclusive content. You can still work with other agencies, but all the photos you upload to Stocksy cannot be uploaded anywhere else.
Sign up here to sell photos online on Stocksy.
Canva is a bit different from the other stock agencies we have looked at so far. It is primarily a drag-and-drop web-based graphic design software, with over 10 million users from 179 countries.
People worldwide use it to create presentations, social media graphics, and more. Canva provides thousands of photos to use for free to its users. But it also offers premium stock images for sale. And that’s where you come in.
Canva doesn’t require exclusivity. It makes purchasing photos extremely easy for its users, giving you access to a big customer base, ready to remove watermarks from your images for a price.
To sign up, create an account, apply to contribute, and if accepted, you can start to upload your images straight away.
Your earnings will depend on the type of license people buy. You will earn 35% of what buyers pay. It’s definitely worth a try!
Sign up here to sell photos online on Canva.
11. Envato Market
Envato Market is a massive website that includes ThemeForest, AudioJungle, GraphicRiver, and many more brands.
They sell everything from sound effects to WordPress plugins. And they have a market dedicated to stock photography called Envato Elements.
Authors on Envato Elements get a share of 50% of the net revenues from subscriptions. This means that your earnings as an author are directly linked to the money collected from each subscriber.
To apply, you will need to submit your portfolio for review, and Envato’s team will decide if you can become one of their authors.
Sign up here to sell photos online on Envato Market.
EyeEm is a global creative community that encourages photographers to connect with brands (including big names like Airbnb and Spotify) to provide original content.
Their core mission is to help emerging talent gain real opportunities and sell their inspiring work. This makes it a bit different than your standard stock photo agency.
Unlike many other websites, they don’t have a minimum payout threshold, and they encourage you to upload creative images.
Simply apply to become a contributor and upload your portfolio to get started. They also have an AI system to automatically keyword your images, saving you tons of time.
One thing I love about EyeEm is that they will submit your images to other marketplaces, including Getty Images. It’s great if you don’t want to spend tons of time worrying about the technical aspect of selling photos online but just on the artistic side.
The payout is based on your revenues: the more you sell, the more you earn.
Sign up here to sell photos online on EyeEm.
13. Creative Market
Creative Market is mainly selling graphics and fonts to designers. But they also sell stock photos.
It works a bit differently than other stock agencies, as in you will need to set up your own shop.
Once you apply, you will go through an approval process before being able to sell your photos. But once you are in, it’s easy to upload images.
As soon as your shop is open, you will be able to upload any image you like, and within seconds it will be available for sale. Plus, you can set your own prices and earn 60% of each sale.
And you can sell the same photos everywhere else as there is no exclusivity required.
Sign up here to open a shop on Creative Market.
Twenty20 is now part of the Envato Market family, but it still has its own uploading system. It is similar to other stock agency sites, but it has a few perks that set it apart.
For starters, Twenty20 accepts mobile photography, so no need for a fancy DSLR.
And second, Twenty20 runs daily challenges amongst its contributors to determine the best photographers in different categories. Each challenge has either a set cash prize or the chance to be featured in the “Editor’s Pick,” which will give you the opportunity to be put in front of more buyers.
Plus, Twenty20 (with EyeEM) have, by far, the easiest model release methods, and they pay out immediately rather than having to reach a threshold.
Sign up here to sell photos online on Twenty20.
CanStockPhoto was started by a university student in 2004 and has remained a great stock agency to join throughout the years.
It looks a bit dated compared to some other fancy stock agencies, but it still has some good points compared to others.
You just need to submit 3 images to sign up and wait for your account approval.
Although sales here are not in the same numbers as some of the big players, like Shutterstock, you can still get a good amount of passive income selling your photos.
Plus, they have an easy upload process, speedy approval time, and a good royalty of around 50% of the sale price (except for images downloaded with a subscription).
Sign up here to sell photos online on CanStockPhoto.
Tip: Different agencies like different content. If some of your photos don’t sell on a website, it doesn’t mean they won’t sell on another stock agency website.
Use the one that works best for you. Check your acceptance rate across all agencies and decide which ones are best for the type of content you produce.
Pond5 isn’t really a stock photo agency. It’s a video marketplace. It’s actually the only video marketplace you’ll need if you want to sell videos.
Selling videos is still less competitive than selling photos, and there are significant opportunities to make money.
You can upload both editorial and creative videos. If you want to give selling videos a try, make sure to check it out!
Etsy is a great marketplace with over 60 million users who are always on the lookout for creative items.
If you like the idea of selling prints instead of stock photos, opening up an Etsy shop could be a great option. Many photographers use Etsy as a way to make some extra money.
But unlike selling on any stock photography site, you’ll need to put a bit more effort into Etsy.
First, you’ll need to decide what you are going to sell. Some popular options are physical prints, digital prints, Lightroom presets, photo books. Then you’ll need to open an Etsy shop.
Etsy takes only 5% of the sale price, making it quite attractive from a profit point of view. So by investing time in opening a shop, you could make a good income.
Your own website
Yes! You can sell photos on your own website.
Creating your own website can be a great choice if you want to control everything: from your price point to what type of photos you sell.
But remember that you will be in charge of marketing and bringing potential clients to your website. You won’t have access to the millions of users that stock agencies have.
Creating an Instagram account with your top photos and connecting with other photographers can help you to sell your photos online on your own website. And if anything, it will make it easier to showcase your portfolio to potential clients.
What type of photos sells best?
So you now know where to sell your photos online. But what should you photograph?
Many people make the beginners’ mistake to think you can simply go on holiday somewhere and upload your beautiful landscape photos and start to make money.
I wish it were that easy!
Sure, you might get lucky and sell a few random pictures here and there, but if you really want to make money, you need to be a lot more intentional than that.
Stock photography today is about documenting reality and lifestyle.
A photo of a millennial drinking a latte in a coffee shop or a group of friends meeting for dinner is what buyers want. Not a picture of your last vacation.
Understanding what buyers want is far more important than creating stunning artistic images.
So let’s go through what sells today.
Top stock photos to sell online
1. Inspiring landscapes
Think about peaceful locations and unspoiled beauty. Images that connect people to nature and the wildness to escape everyday life. This is the only category where you might be able to use some of your travel photos.
2. Modern working spaces
With more and more people working from home, think about home office set up, zoom calls, ways to connect with people remotely. But also ordinary situations like kids running in the background while mum and dad work on their laptops.
3. Everyday objects in use
Again, think about daily situations like opening a bottle of wine, using a calculator, writing with a pen on a piece of paper. Anything that can be used to illustrate close-ups of simple actions.
Food search is on the rise, especially with people stuck inside and the need to cook more at home. Think about top-down views of bread, cakes, cookies. Or people in action, preparing family meals.
5. Christmas and holidays
Holidays, and especially Christmas time, are incredibly popular topics. Anything cozy that reminds of Christmas time sells incredibly well: wrapping gifts, a warm fireplace next to a Christmas tree, close-ups of Christmas decorations, Christmas presents under the tree. But don’t forget Halloween, Easter, or Valentine’s day.
6. People doing regular things
This will require a bit more effort; to be able to license royalty-free photos with people, you’ll need a signed release from them (more on that here).
But if you can get some friends, family, or a model to pose for you, you can create some incredibly sellable photos.
- Recreate everyday moments with family and friends: kids playing with a puppy, a mum hugging her daughter.
- Represent diversity and inclusion.
- Shoot authentic images of people immersed in their local culture during travels.
- Don’t forget to shoot people of all ages and kinds: think grandma and grandpa, but also single mums or same-gender couples.
- Create portraits of professionals in action: doctors, nurses, people working in grocery stores, or gig economy workers.
- Strive for emotional images: people crying, laughing, smiling, sad, happy.
Tip: shooting with models can set you apart
Shooting models is more complicated and more expensive.
First, you actually need to find a model. Then you need to work out all the legal implications behind selling a photo with people (like getting a model release). This can be time-consuming and requires good organizational skills. And a lot of patience.
And because it’s trickier, fewer people are willing to do it. Less competition means more opportunities for you to make money.
How to find models:
- Ask friends and family. Easy!
- Look for model groups on Facebook. New aspiring models or actors look for free pictures for their books. You can take pictures for them, and they can pose for you. That’s a win-win situation. Make sure you pick models that can actually act, not pure fashion models.
- Offer free pictures for small businesses. Go around your local neighborhood and offer to take free pictures while they work. Some small businesses cannot hire a photographer as it can be costly, and they’ll be thrilled to pose for you. Ask them for a release to use those photos to allow you to sell them.
7. Isolate objects
Stand-alone objects on a white background are easy to cut out and perfect to create photoshop images.
This is especially popular with bloggers. Top-down view of objects, flat-lay images, or working space with enough white background that can be used to write something on, to create captivating graphics. Like a white desk with a laptop, some plants, and a pair of headphones.
What are concepts? Look at online magazines and find trends. Think of a word and how you could represent that with a picture or a series of images. A few examples are allergies, cold, camping, a sunny day, digital nomad, travel.
10. Aerial photography
Yes, drones have been around for a while, but catching a glimpse of the world from a different perspective is still a novelty and something that sells extremely well.
If you have access to a drone, think about locations that might not be too easy to access or require a license or permission to shoot. If you can shoot something unique like a city with empty streets, or people from an aerial angle, you could have a winner photo in your hands.
Tip: Before going out to shoot new material, go through your hard drive, and look for photos that are already there that could be perfect candidates for stock photos. Then upload them to a couple of websites.
This will help you learn how everything works, understand the legal stuff and be better prepared to shoot stock photos. Plus, you might even make some money from that!
How to sell photos online: 10 top tips to becoming a pro
1. Have a plan
Decide how many hours you can set aside every week and split your time between shooting, editing, and uploading. If, for example, you work full-time, you could spend the weekend shooting and 2 hours every evening editing and uploading photos.
And before you shoot anything, create a shooting plan: make a list of everything you want to shoot, look for inspiration images, and save them on your laptop or phone as a reference.
2. Know the algorithm
Stock photography agencies have algorithms that determine what photos they will show and how often they will show them.
These algorithms change all the time, and no one really knows how they work exactly. But there are a few variables that can always help you to stay on top of the changes, no matter what agency you use:
- Sales. The more you sell, the more likely you will be shown on top of searches. But how can you sell a lot if you are just starting out? That’s where points 2 and 3 come to the rescue.
- Number of views. The more views your photos get, the more likely they will show up at the top. How do you get views? Pick topics that sell and relevant topics. For example, if you got on the trend of taking photos of people with masks at the start of the pandemic, you would have made lots of money!
- Novelty. New photos are shown more often than old ones. See below.
3. Upload regularly
The algorithm prioritizes contributors who upload regularly.
Every time you upload new photos, your new images will be shown more than your old ones.
So let’s say you take a batch of 100 pictures and are ready to upload them. Uploading 20 a day for 5 days instead of all 100 pictures in one go will make stock agencies happier, and your photos will have a bigger chance of being noticed.
And the same is true for consistency.
Again, if you only have 100 pictures to upload and you know you won’t be able to shoot more pictures in the next month, you are much better off uploading 25 pictures a week for the month than to upload them all in one go or a week and then…crickets.
Lots of smaller batches across consistent time = More money
So, if you are serious about selling photos online, upload a few images per week.
4. Quantity over quality
I saw a thread on Reddit the other day.
A guy was complaining that selling photos online today isn’t worth it.
He said something along these lines:
I uploaded 10 photos on Shutterstock and I haven’t sold anything in a week. There is no money to make selling photos.
I couldn’t stop laughing.
Ten photos? You need to upload thousands of photos if you actually want to make money!
Let’s get things straight: all your photos need to be technically perfect. You must know photography well. Whether you are using a cheap camera or a top-of-the-range model, you need to know what you are doing.
If you want to sell your photos, you need to create a good composition and know what proper exposure is.
But this doesn’t mean you need to take a master in photography at university. Start by reading your camera manual. Watch YouTube videos. With all the online resources that we have today, it’s never been easier to learn how to take photos.
But don’t spend a month trying to take 10 perfect images hoping that they will sell like crazy.
If you want to make money selling photos online, it’s all about quantity.
When you shoot photos, there is no way to know which one will take off. And it’s never the one you think that will be a great hit.
There is a degree of luck and timing, and the more you can upload, the more you’ll bring luck on your side.
5. Focus on small trends
At the beginning of the post, I mentioned that the global stock images and videos market is worth billions now.
That’s a lot of money.
There are some big players in the market, and small photographers like you and I are not the major contributors. There are massive companies with teams of photographers, big budgets, and the ability to create sets, pay models and send agencies thousands of pictures every day.
How can you even compete with them?
You can’t. Period.
Don’t try to imitate what they do. Concentrate on small trends that are easier to cover. Don’t focus on broad subjects. Sure broad subjects might have a wider audience, but too many people will cover them, and it can be much harder to stand out.
So, for example, don’t shoot a broad subject like London. But concentrate on photos of London buses or London markets.
Think about subjects you have access to, that for other people, could be difficult to photograph.
Is your best friend a vet? Ask if you can stage a photo shoot while he’s working.
Are you renovating your house? Take pictures of walls being taken down or being plastered.
Unique situations can create great opportunities to create a small series of photos that could be difficult for others to replicate.
6. It’s about keywords. It’s not about art
You probably know by now that selling photos online is not about creating some artistically beautiful images.
But one of the most important things you need to learn about is keywords.
Keywords for stock photos are a bit like hashtags on Instagram.
If you want your buyers to find your photos amongst millions of others, spending time adding the appropriate keywords is one of the most important steps you can take.
When you are adding keywords to your photos, think about the buyer.
How are they going to find an image?
They will type something like: woman working at a computer, money on white background, young man working from home.
If your images aren’t categorized with the right keywords, people will never find them.
Your keywords should describe what the image is about:
- Describe what you see
- Describe where you are
- Add conceptual words
- Stick to the facts
- Check for spelling errors
Don’t get all arty when you add keywords. Just be specific.
Adding the right keywords to your images is what’s going to make the difference between being found or disappearing on page 1,245 of the search.
How can you find good keywords for stock photos?
Search for similar images on stock websites and look at what keywords they used for that type of photo. You will normally find them below the image, like here.
Make sure each keyword you use is absolutely relevant. If you add irrelevant keywords to your image, when people will see it in the wrong context, they will move on and won’t click on it. The algorithm will think your photos don’t attract buyers and could stop showing them as often as before.
Avoid brand names in your keywords. Images containing keywords like iPhone, Macbook, etc., can be rejected. Use smartphone or laptop instead.
Pick between 20 to 30 keywords and add them to your image description.
So, where do you put your keywords?
- Filename. Make your filename descriptive and short. A brief explanation of what the image contains.
- Title. This should be similar to the file name. Some websites use the title, others the filename, some use both.
- Description. Again, add exactly what the image contains. Some websites have a limit of around 200 words, so keep that in mind and don’t write a novel. Google uses title and description to find images, so you want to make sure people can find your photographs by being as relevant as possible.
Tip: Photo editing software like Lightroom let you add information, including keywords, filename, and description, to each image. Once you add them, they are embedded in the file, and most stock agency websites will read that data and automatically fill the keyword section.
This can save you a lot of time, as you won’t have to add them manually on each site.
You can add keywords in any order on some websites, but on others, you need to add the most important keywords first. Check with each one to make sure you are following the correct system.
7. Keep it natural
Do not overuse photo editing software.
Fake photoshop backgrounds, filters, and over-edited sunsets are a thing of the past.
Today, less is more.
These days, stock photography is about creating natural beautiful images that customers can easily adapt to their own needs. If you apply a filter to an image, they won’t be able to modify it easily.
So keep it natural.
8. Keep track of your money
You now know, the more photos you upload, the more likely you are to sell. You also know that it is good to upload your photos to a few websites, especially when you are just starting out, to find out which one is best to sell your photos.
But there is another important thing you always need to keep in mind: most stock agencies have a minimum payout. This means you need to reach a certain threshold before you can withdraw your hard-earned money.
So, if you sell $20 worth of images and the threshold is $30, you could be waiting for a long time.
This is why you need to be organized and treat selling photos as a business. Create a spreadsheet, keep track of where your money is, and keep uploading to a specific agency until you can withdraw.
9. Don’t take rejection personally
No matter how good a photographer you are, there will be a day (one of the first days of your upload, in fact) when some of your photos will be rejected.
And this will happen a lot of times. For many different reasons.
Don’t waste your time trying to figure out exactly why. You are much better off shooting more images and upload a new batch.
Remember: it’s not about a single great photo. It’s about the number of photos that you upload.
10. Be patient
Uploading 5 pictures of your mum and 10 images of your vacation isn’t going to work. You need to stick with stock photography for a while to make money.
Legal stuff you must know before you start selling stock photos
Stock photography is a business. And like any type of business, it has its own set of basic principles you need to know and understand well to make money.
You need to learn about all licensing types you can offer, model and property releases, and copyright laws in your country.
Type of licenses
- Editorial use. Image sold to be used in blogs, newspapers, or other online publications without the intention to sell.
- Royalty-Free. The buyer can use images sold under a royalty-free license for an unlimited duration and unlimited use. As a buyer, you basically license it once for life. As a photographer, you won’t make much money with this type of image. Normally $0.25-$0.40 per sale.
- Enhanced or Extended RF License. The image can also be used on products for large print runs. This type of image is more pricy to buy, and as a photographer, you can make $15-$150 per image, or even more.
- Exclusive License. This means you will sell your image just once and whoever buys it now owns the license to do whatever they want with the image.
- Creative Commons. This type of image is free to use under certain conditions, including attribution. Visit Creative Commons for more info on this type of license.
Legal aspects of selling photos online
Normally if someone is in a public space, there is no right to privacy, which means as a photographer, you can take a picture of people, buildings, vehicles, animals, etc., without asking for permission.
But this doesn’t mean you can actually sell these photos for money.
When you make any image available to a large number of people, you need to consider how you are going to license it:
- Editorial license: If you are simply licensing an image as an education image or for news-related stories, you don’t need permission from the subjects.
- Commercial use: If someone uses an image for any commercial use (on a product or simply on a page that sells a product), you will need to have a written model release from any person in that photo. Plus, you will need to remove any visible and recognizable brand on the image or license plate. You will also need a property release if you are shooting inside a private building or on private property.
What is a release?
A release is a legal document that gives you the right to use a person’s image or a building in a photo.
Whenever you shoot an image with people or a particular building and want to license it for commercial use, you will need to get all models in it to sign it with a witness. The same goes for owners of buildings.
Top resources you need to sell photos online
Editing photos, adding keywords, and uploading them to several websites can become quite labor-intensive, but some tools can help you make your workflow much faster.
Let’s check them out!
Apps and tools
Photo Mechanic: If you ever tried to view and select hundreds of images in Lightroom, you know how slow it can get. Photo Mechanic will help you view, organize, and select your photos much faster than in Lightroom. Plus, it integrates seamlessly with it, allowing you to significantly speed up your workflow. You can also use it to add keywords to your images. It’s a paid tool, but you can try it for free for 30 days!
ImStocker: Great website to help you identify possible keywords for your images.
Microstock Keyword Tool: Another simple and useful free tool for gathering ideas on keywords.
Easy Release: If you plan to shoot with models, and you don’t want the hassle of bringing a pen and paper around with you, Easy Release is a must. It allows you to get people to sign model and property release forms digitally with a slick application. Available for Apple or Android.
StockSubmitter: This tool allows you to upload your photos to multiple agencies in one go. It automates your microstock workflow. You can try it for free for up to 33 submissions a month. But it’s incredibly reasonably priced considering how much time it will save you in the long run.
Deepmeta: If you are going to upload on iStock and Getty Images, this free app will save you hundreds of hours.
Great websites to check
Microstock Group: a great forum where you can ask questions and meet other photographers interested in microstock. The website also has a list of the most lucrative stock agencies to sell your photos online, based on users’ actual feedback.
Backyard Silver: Steve Heap shares tons of useful resources on his stock photography journey, including how much he makes every month.
Reddit Stock Photography: Reddit community of people who take stock photos for money.
Luka Ažman’s YouTube Channel: Luka is a full-time stock photographer, and he shares some great tips on how he got there and what you can do to become a full-time stock photographer.
Selling photos online F.A.Q.
How do you make money selling stock photography?
There are several ways to make money with stock photos:
- You can upload them on stock agency websites and license them for money.
- You can start your own website. This will enable you to set your own prices and have 100% control over your portfolio. But you’ll need to promote your website yourself.
- Or you can print your photos on different products. There are plenty of things to make and sell, such as mugs, t-shirts, and calendars, using a print-on-demand service like Printify.
Where can I sell photos for money?
- Adobe Stock
- iStock Photo
- Getty Images
- Envato Market
- Creative Market
Top tip: There are plenty of stock agencies out there where you can sell your photos. But at the beginning, pick 2 to 3 websites from this list, and concentrate on those.
Each one has its own tools, keywords, and rejection policies. If you subscribe to too many, you can easily get lost. When you get into the swing of things, you can start uploading to more agencies.
Is selling stock photography still worth it?
Selling stock photography is getting harder and harder every year. Today everyone can take great pictures with a smartphone or a low-budget camera.
But you can still make good money from stock photography if you take it seriously and focus on what sells.
But you won’t make money overnight.
By spending a few hours a week and being consistent, you can expect to earn anything between $200-$500 a month within a few months.
Ready to sell photos online?
I hope this article has inspired you to start selling your photos.
But this can be a great side hustle for anyone who loves photography or even for professionals that want to earn some passive income.
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