Sell photos online: Here’s how to make money by selling pictures online

Whether you take photos professionally or as a hobby, the good news is that you can make money from your photos. With your own website, you have excellent control over your photo sales, but you also have to organize marketing. Stock photo platforms offer a convenient alternative, but competition is fierce in this category. For commissioned photography and direct sales to media, you’ll need to spend time building your contact network. Whether you take photos for fun or want to become a professional photographer, we’ll show you how you can sell your photos online and what advantages and disadvantages are behind each method.

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How to sell pictures online: From commission to stock photography

Turn your passion for photography into a side-hustle by taking photos and selling them over the Internet. Behind this simple-sounding process lies an online marketing principle that is characterized by diverse opportunity. To give you an overview of the different types of sales that photographers can engage in, we have listed a few of the best known here:

Commissioned photography

Corporate events, concerts, and birthday parties - many photographers are hired online for events in order to capture these special moments in professional quality. Weddings in particular are usually considered an extremely lucrative source of income, but the professional competition is high. Other avenues that contract photographers can take include family photoshoots or product photography. In the latter, for example, you can offer culinary photography or product pictures for online shops.

Selling to newspapers and other media

Information media such as newspapers, magazines and brochures often embellish their textual content with graphics and photos to provide visual appeal. If you, as a photographer, have built up an appealing portfolio, then you can dare to attempt to contact a medium and offer them your photos.

In doing so, however, you should first make sure that your photographic works fit your potential client’s image. A cooking magazine that specializes in desserts, for example, will have little use for pictures of vegetables. There are various search engines on the Internet which can be used to find all kinds of media.

Stock photography

Another common form of selling photos online is via stock photo platforms. These platforms give you the opportunity to upload your images and make them available to other Internet users. The more often your photos are downloaded, the more sales you get.

However, the competition here is also very strong, as millions of users want to make a profit in this way. For this reason, you need to find a way to make your photos stand out from the crowd. A large number of high-quality images which perhaps have a specific style or theme will increase your chances of success. Below we present online photo selling websites in more detail.

Selling photos online via your own website – the pros and cons

One way you can sell your images online is through a custom photographer website and is especially used in commissioned photography. In this case, you market your photography skills and/or uploaded images. Also in other creative professions artist’s websites are created to present the (artistic) things that an artist has made.

Pros of having your own photo website

Besides the creation of a personal portfolio, in which you can give free rein to your creativity, one of the most attractive aspects is that you are your own boss and consequently have control over which images you want to upload and how much money you target for them. This in turn means that your revenue can be significantly higher than if you have to give a share of it to, say, a stock photo agency.

In addition, the direct sale of photos is not the only source of income with your own website. With your portfolio, you simultaneously advertise yourself as a commissioned photographer and, with your website, you have a platform on which you can provide information about your conditions and contact options.

Another common source of income is what is known as affiliate marketing. Here, you add links on your website that redirect Internet users to an online retailer with whom you have previously entered into a partnership. If the user subsequently makes a purchase from the merchant, you are paid a commission. On a photographer’s website, it is a good idea to set links that are related to the topic of photography. So it’s best to look for an affiliate partner that offers cameras, lenses and the like, for example.

Cons of your own website

There is a lot of competition in the photography industry, as photography is one of the most popular professions. For this reason, it’s crucial that you take steps to ensure that your website can hold its own alongside your competition. Increase the appeal of your website by building it clearly and showcasing your images in creative ways. For example, you can distribute your photos among different categories such as themes, locations, and styles. Ideally, you’ll even find a niche to fill a need for photos that few do.

Building an attractive website is easy and affordable. Building block solutions offer easy handling, customizable design templates and ideally also your own domain and tools for marketing and sales. Most of the time you need to invest in a good customer loyalty. Personal announcements via social media and entertaining photo stories on your website are just two ideas on how to make a positive impression.

Pros Cons
✔ Portfolio of your photographic work ✘ Tough competition
✔ Decision-making power over photo selection & sales price ✘ Independent website design & niche identification
✔ More sales & revenue streams ✘ Time expenditure due to customer build-up & maintenance
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How to sell photos online via stock photo websites

If you want to turn to stock photography to market your images online, there are a number of image databases to choose from, visited by millions of users every day. We have collected a few of the most popular ones for you:

Alamy

This British photo database was founded in the late 1990s and offers several million photos as well as other media such as videos and computer graphics. Photo sellers can easily register as image providers on the website and then upload their images.

Conditions

  • Classification of image providers into three categories: Silver, Gold, and Platinum
  • Each photo seller starts with Gold and 40 percent share of photo sales
  • Remaining 60 percent goes to Alamy as commission
  • Downgrading or upgrading depending on the level of sales
  • For Gold level at least 250 dollars per year must be achieved
  • Plus for students: 100 percent of sales for a period of two years
Pros Cons
✔ Large customer reach ✘ Strong competition
✔ Stockimo app ✘ Good images can go down next to many bad ones
✔ Forum for image providers ✘ Automatic downgrade & Platinum level only with high turnover

Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock service belongs to the American company Adobe Inc., founded in 1982 and has since launched many popular software products, such as Adobe Photoshop. Adobe Stock hosts millions of stock media of various types.

Conditions

  • Image providers can receive up to 33 percent of revenue
  • Amount of revenue depends on the subscription with which users purchase your photos
  • An example: Subscription for 350 or 750 pictures per month gives you 0.33 dollar revenue per photo & with subscription for 40 pictures the amount rises to 0.82 dollar
  • Payout of your earnings starting from revenue amount of 25 dollars - but validated tax form is required among others
Pros Cons
✔ Wide customer reach ✘ Revenue is dependent on customer subscription
✔ Access to Adobe Portfolio & Discord community Adobe ID & minimum age 18
✔ Assistance through e.g. tutorials ✘ Many specifications regarding photo quality

Shutterstock

Shutterstock has existed since 2003 under the management of Jon Oringer. Users from numerous countries can access over 380 million photos here. Other media such as music and videos are also offered.

Conditions

  • Six different image levels can be climbed as an image provider
  • The first level guarantees a 15 percent share of sales, the last level promises 40 percent.
  • The more often photos are downloaded, the higher the image level and the higher the turnover
  • Payout is possible from a revenue level of 35 dollars onwards
  • Warning! Downgrading to the first revenue level in each new year.
Pros Cons
✔ Copyright ownership & artist credit ✘ Great competition
✔ Image provider app “Shutterstock Contributor” ✘ Downgrade in new year & highest revenue level difficult to achieve
✔ Shot list for inspiration ✘ Rejection of images & multiple defaults

iStock

At iStock Photo, formerly iStockphoto, you can offer and buy photos and vector graphics. The microstock agency, headquartered in Canada, was founded in 2000 and is subordinate to the larger stock photo agency Getty Images. Together, the two have over 1.5 million customers.

Conditions

  • Turnover depends on photo sales type - exclusive or non-exclusive - and number of downloads
  • Non-exclusive photo sales mean 15 percent of turnover

Exclusive photo sales start at 25 percent; increase up to 45 percent possible

Pros Cons
✔ Copyright ownership ✘ Only 15 percent revenue from non-exclusive photo sales
✔ Creative briefings ✘ Application process with app
✔ Strong presence from Getty Images ✘ Many negative customer reviews

500px

The 500px platform was launched on LiveJournal in 2003 and owes its name to the image size of 500 pixels, which was fixed as the maximum at that time. When it was officially founded in 2009, the number of pixels was increased in accordance with current requirements. Amateur and professional photographers upload their photos for sale here.

Conditions

  • Non-exclusive image sales promise 30 percent of revenue
  • Doubling to 60 percent for exclusive image sales
  • Fee-based membership required to upload unlimited photos
  • “Awesome” membership costs $3.99; “Pro” membership costs $7.99 (as of October 2021)
Pros Cons
✔ Points system & direct feedback ✘ Limited Standard Membership
✔ Popular app (over 4 out of 5 stars) ✘ Chargeable membership upgrades
✔ Portfolio website with “Pro” membership ✘ Photo rating is reduced

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