Looking at the internet landscape develop over the years there’s something I’m noticing. The need for visual content is growing and I think the demand will keep growing into the future.
We’re becoming a more visual society and telling interesting stories online is relying more and more on pictures and videos. If you consider yourself a visual content creator and you’re good at it there’s there’s a market for you to sell your photos for cash.
There’s a market to sell your photos with:
- Niche websites/blogs
- Local or national Businesses
- Creative/marketing agencies
- Stock photo sites
- On your own website/online store (Etsy)
If you’re looking to launch a side hustle, start your own business or just make some extra cash you can combine your creativity with a demand for great photos by selling your photos.
What We’re Covering:
- Equipment You Need to Get Started
- Types of Pictures to Take
- 5 Ways Make More Sales
- 17 Websites For You to Use to Sell Photos
- Wrapping This Up
Let’s get started with the right equipment you’ll need to get started.
Buying The Right Equipment
If you don’t have the right equipment you won’t be able to take professional photos.
Consider buying equipment an investment if you’re going to see this project through. It’s possible, to take amazing photos with an iPhone but it’s not the most professional option.
You want to be able to control more settings like aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Another problem with phone cameras is that the zoom feature is not as reliable as a professional camera. Smartphones are normally digital zoom while a professional camera is optical zoom.
Buying a Professional Camera
It’s important to invest in a professional camera. The most common type of camera is a DSLR camera which stands for “digital single-lense reflex”. There are kits online that you can look at to buy all the essentials you’re going to need in one shot.
The most popular makers of cameras are Cannon, Nikon and Sony. So if you want to make money and not get stranded with a bad camera then I’d suggest sticking with name brands.
Do research for the type of camera that works best for what you want to do and take everything one step at a time. Depending on the type of package you buy there’s a chance your camera and lens will be sold separately. But that’s why we are should you a great starter package to get you going quick.
Extra Equipment to Buy
Here’s a list of “must have” items to get you started:
- Camera Lenses (Between 24mm to 150mm)
- Stable Tripod (Aluminum, Swivel)
- SD Cards (32 Gig Minimum)
- Light Tent/Box
- Photo Backdrops
- Portable Lighting
By no means do you need all this equipment to get started but it’s good to know what you could potentially use for different types of projects.
People tend to get carried away when they first start taking photography serious but you can take everything one step at a time. You can spend a lot of money on lenses and tripods or you can get equipment that works and upgrade later.
Something you should 100% buy is multiple memory cards and a hard drive to save all of your photos. The last thing you want while you’re editing photos is to lose your data. So it helps to back up all of your work so bad things don’t happen. SD cards corrupt and computers crash so it’s necessary to have backup.
Finally, the lighting and background is something you have to think of because you want to eliminate glares and shadows in your photos. The lighting kit pictured above is for beginners and has the essentials you need to take professional photos at home.
Types of Pictures to Take
Websites are becoming the biggest market for online stock photography. Which makes sense because websites are becoming more visual with their design. Since content in general is becoming more visual website owners are not only looking for images that go with their design but images that go with blog posts as well.
It’s a never ending struggle for website owners and bloggers to find photos that don’t look tacky on their articles and websites. Niche website owners in particular have trouble finding photos that can speak directly to their audience without looking boring. Here are some topics that can get your mind thinking about audiences a bit:
- Animals: Bunnies, Snakes, Mice, Lizards, Birds
- Musical instruments, studios, microphones, technology
- Medical devices, doctors, nurses, signs, supplies and decor
- Cars, car parts, car equipment
- Outdoor environments, outdoor equipment
Here are some resources that can help you see what types of niche websites exist out there that would need photos:
Think about this…
What are topics or things that you’re interested in. Because if you’re interested in something then there’s a big chance websites exist about those topics. And your success depends on you doing something you enjoy while providing value.
It’s impossible to take pictures of everything and everyone. If you niche down into specific industries then you’re able to take better photos people are more likely to use.
Take your time and perform experiments to figure out what you enjoy photographing. Then look for websites that can use your photographs. I guarantee that website owners are always on the hunt for good visuals for their site.
Ask yourself if there is a way for you to fill a gap and provide value to the people running these websites.
5 Ways to Make More Photo Sales
You can sell your photos as physical products, calendars, mugs or anything else you can think of. Or you can sell the photos themselves to websites so other people can use them as designs they can sell.
People are always looking for unique images for creative projects and you can help them out with that.
Check these sites out:
- TeeSpring Start designing your product, set a price, and start selling. Teespring will handle production, shipping and anything else..
- Threadless Global artist community that features unique designs to buy and sell on merchandise.
- CafePress Start by uploading your photos or designs. Then customers can order them on any type of physical product or clothing.
- Redbubble They claim 700,000 creatives worldwide are making things like shirts, stickers, phone cases, and pillows. They allow you to open your own shop online.
- Printful You can create & sell custom design products online because their focus is print-on-demand dropshipping.
The reason these websites are different than the websites we mention below is because this is all extra ways to make money and expand.
Bonus: Join Facebook Groups
Here’s a trick NO ONE is talking about. There are blogging/niche facebook groups filled with hundreds of thousands of people talking about everything related to their businesses.
Now, imagine you joined those groups and made posts on how to take incredible photos for your blog. Or about resources for finding the best photos for your blog and Pinterest. I guarantee that people will make you the “go-to” person on photography.
Being helpful that way is how you can promote yourself without actually promoting. You’ll be able to understand what your potential audience wants and what they want to learn about. Then when they need photos you can be there to offer your services.
Let’s move on to selling your photos online:
16 Ways to Sell Your Photos Online
There are many different websites to sell stock photography to. With these sites, the terms typically allow for multiple people to purchase the photo. You typically get paid a small amount for each person who purchases your photo. This makes it a great way to get residual income.
1. iStock Photo
iStock photos has been purchased by Getty Images and they’re great for starting out. Their platform will tell you what images sell well and point you in the right direction to make more sales. The sign up process is straight forward.
First you go to gettyimages.com/workwithus and they ask you to download the app and join their creator community.
Here are the steps right from their website:
- To apply, download our Contributor by Getty Images app.
- Share 3 to 6 samples of your photos, videos, or illustrations (video submissions will need to be uploaded to YouTube for review).
- We’ll review your samples and let you know if you’re accepted to either Getty Images or iStock by Getty Images.
- You must be at least 18 years of age to apply.
There you go. It’s that simple. Earning potential and royalty amounts are covered on the app. It will depend on the amount of downloads you get.
2. Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock is a platform that is part of the adobe suite of tools to help you edit any type of creative asset you can think of. They’re the creator of the most well known editing software in the world (photoshop).
To sign up and sell on the Adobe Stock marketplace you want to go to contributor.stock.adobe.com and create your new account for free.
Adobe Stock even has a new tool that allows you to quickly tag photos once you upload them based on Adobe’s recommendations. That way more people can find your photos and you can make more money:
There’s a FAQ section on the page that covers all the information about getting started. Here’s what they say about payments:
“Every time someone purchases your content, you get a 33% commission for photos and vector art and a 35% commission for videos based on the price of the image. You can request a payout via Paypal or Skrill when you have reached at least $25 in royalties.”
This is a great place to start and see what kinds of images do well online.
Shutterstock is one of the most well known stock image websites. Since starting out they have paid out over $500 Million in photo royalties to creators and there’s no plan to slow down.
They have a section where they tell you every month about the most requested images. That way you can go out and take photos you know can sell. It’s huge to know the analytics so you don’t waste your time taking pictures of things that won’t make money.
Shutterstock also offers additional marketplaces where you can make more money. And it’s all in their network.
If you want to try Shutterstock for yourself make sure to go to submit.shutterstock.com
And fill out the application to get started.
Alamy has two different commission structures.
- 50% commission split for Exclusive images
- 40% commission split for Non-exclusive images
This commission structure is one of the best in the market. There are over 180 Million photos on the platform currently and always growing. One great thing about this site is that if you don’t want to give Alamy exclusive rights to your photos you can sell them on other platforms!
To become a contributor all you need to do go to this signup form and get started. Click here.
Etsy has been known as a website to buy and sell handmade goods. But it’s been expanding and offering creatives a chance to make money and sell unique products. It’s a place where you can sell art and photography. And something unique to Etsy is that you can sell printable items. Meaning things that people can buy and print on their own or at a store.
With Etsy you control how much you sell things for and you get a larger cut of the profits. Etsy asks for a $0.20 cent listing fee, 5% sales commision and a 3% +0.25 processing fee. The rest of the revenue is yours. However the responsibility falls on you to get customers into your store.
Once you start selling on the platform there’s a handbook to guide you through the process of selling and growing your business. Check it out here.
Fotomoto is not a traditional online marketplace but it does help photographers sell photos. The purpose of using fotomoto is to give your personal website the functionality to sell photos.
The sign up is quick and there’s no confusing set up process. You can set up your packages and take the widget code to place it on your site. It’s very straight forward. There’s a free version of the software that allows you to pay Fotomoto a commission when you make a sale. That way you don’t have to pay a monthly fee while you’re not making sales.
500px is one of my favorite sites because of their functionality. The royalty structure has changed over the years and decreased but the payouts are still high. Currently they’re giving up to 60% in royalties.
After you make an account and start uploading photos you can make your photos available for commercial licensing. That means you can potentially see your photos used by big named brands.
Another bonus of working with 500px is their partnership with getty images which is arguably the biggest website in the world to find stock photography.
Their pricing structure is competitive too.
- Awesome ($2.99 USD per Month)
- Pro ($4.00 USD Per Month)
- Pro and Adobe ($11.99 USD per Month) and it comes with access to Adobe Creative Suite.
Of all the packages you could buy that are on this list I think 500px is the best one. To sign up just Click here and create an account.
Snapped4U is marketed as a website for event photography and portrait photography. It’s a website where you can send your customers to after an event so they can purchase the photos you took.
Here’s what Snapped4u says about their commission structure:
“We retain a commission on each photo that sells: On US accounts the sales commission is $0.50 on photos priced $5 or less and 10% on all others. On non-US accounts the sales commission is $0.60 on photos priced $5 or less and 12% on all others.”
There is a sign up fee of $10 to get started but that’s it. There’s no monthly membership fee to keep your account open.
Blue Mellon is a simple online host for your photos. It’s not a stock photography website but instead it’s a place to store your photos. You have customers that pay you for your work and when they’re ready to download their photos you can send them to a BlueMelon page to download their photos.
Also, there’s no royalty structure with Blue Mellon.
You pay a fixed price for photo storage per year and when you make a sale 100% of the sale purchase is yours to keep!
These guys are the only ones doing a plan structured this way and I think it’s worth looking into if you’re running your own photography business.
TourPhotos is built for the tourism niche. Travel agencies that sell photo packages will use this as a hub for the photos they take on an excursion for the public to purchase.
This site is also for travel photographers to sell their photos to anyone looking to buy or license travel photos.
TourPhotos is a free platform with a high, 19% commission structure. Since it’s a niche website it makes sense that they would charge more since less people use the site.
Again, if you’re a travel photographer and want exposure for your photos or a place for customers to buy them then this platform is for you. Thankfully, despite the high commission you aren’t paying a monthly membership fee and you’re not paying for digital storage.
If you want to learn more about TourPhotos they have a helpful explainer video for you to maximize the usage of their site. Click here to check them out.
Stocksy has opened their doors to new creatives for the first time in 2 years. They’re looking to expand their catalogue and want unique photos from all over the world. They consider the artists that contribute to the website “co-owners” to the overall business. It’s a refreshing take on the business model and they pay out the highest royalties to most stock photography websites.
Because of the desire to be “co-owners” with the creative talent, Stocksy requires that every image artists submit be exclusive to the site. You’re not allowed to license anything submitted to Stocksy to any other website.
Stocksy pays out 50% to 75% in royalties to their artists which is the highest in the industry.
Here are the steps to apply for Stocksy’s program:
- Go to https://www.stocksy.com/cta/apply
- Create a login
- Fill out the form
- Submit a minimum 25 photos for review
Once they review your submission the 25 photos are added to your online portfolio and your photos will be up for sale.
Depending on the type of photographer you are, them EyeEm can be for you. Specifically, they’re looking for photographers with work that’s focused on commercial and advertising. Photos that can be used for local or national brands.
After creating a free account you see that there are different licensing pricing options for customers.
- Social – $20
- Web – $50
- Full – $250.
The royalties are generous and they’ll pay you 50% for each image sold.
You can also use EyeEm to find clients with their Collective program. After signing up and being accepted you have the opportunity to be connected with global brands for paid work. It’s a platform that pairs creatives with companies all over the world.
So there’s more than one way to make money with the site if you’re willing to put your work out there.
Smupmug is a portfolio site with great tools for the professional photographer. 85% of the sale goes to the photographer. Remember this is not a stock photography website to sell photos but rather it’s a partner to help photographers store, share, and sell their photos to customers.
With their Pro plan you get unlimited storage, domain, website, ecommerce functionality and 21 website templates to help launch your site. SmugMug is for the photographer that wants a robust, one stop shop solution to run their photography business online.
The pro plan is $360 per year and it saves you the headache of figuring out how to design your own website with the ability to sell photos. It’s just one straightforward price.
Instaproofs is an all in one platform to help photographers host, share and sell the photos they take at events for their customers. It comes with complete ecommerce functionality, ability to invoice, no commissions and 10,000 photo uploads for the lowest plan that starts at $9 monthly.
You can create brandable contracts and invoices inside the tool as well as accept digital payments. This is a great solution for the gig photographer to showcase their work and easily have their customers download prints after the event.
15. Fine Art America
Fine Art America is a Print on Demand (POD) site. That means the products are made to order. For example, if you place an order for a wood canvas photo it won’t be made until you place the order.
This gives the buyer more options for products than just the photo itself. You can order regular prints, greeting cards or even phone cases with the art you want. This allows complete customized made to order products.
You need to be strategic with the way you price your products because Fine Art America will mark up everything on the site to cover creation and shipping. For example, if you want to profit $12 then since the site takes 65% of the sale they will sell the item for $30. That way you get your $12/35% and they keep their $18/65%
The pricing structure for print on demand sites makes sense because as the seller you’re very “hands-off”. They will print and ship everything so you can focus on being creative.
It’s a great option for someone that doesn’t want to deal with the business side of making sales and just wants to focus on the photography.
123RF is one of the largest stock photography sites on the planet and has been around since 2005. They have some of the largest companies and national brands as their clients and are always looking for more photos to add to their catalogue.
For every photo sold you get between 30%-60% commission depending on the exclusivity of the photo and the size of the client buying the photo. 123RF is a great way to diversify and see which stock site you enjoy working with the best.
Wrapping this up…
There’s no right way or wrong way to make money as a photographer. I think it’s better to have as many avenues as possible bringing you income.
You can sell your photos to stock photography websites, you can start your own photography business and have people buy their photos straight from your website or you can create products with your images and sell those. Starting slow and making different avenues for yourself can be the best investment you could make.
What’s important is that you take the time to understand each business model and dive deep so you can turn your passion into a career that supports you. What website did you like the best? And is there a business model you think would work better over another? Let us know in the comment section below. And if you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask!