Who wouldn’t want to earn money by selling their photos online? Let’s take a look at how and where you can start to sell photos online.
Over 33% of the world’s population owns a smartphone, which means that essentially the same number of people now have access to the Internet.
The Internet has made communication easier than ever before, united the whole world, and created the archetype of the information exchange.
The Internet has also made it easier than ever for photographers all over the world to not only share but also monetize their work. Without further ado, let’s jump straight to it…
Best places to sell photos online
1. Selling photos on your own website
I think it’s best to start with our personal favorite – WordPress (the self-hosted version). WordPress is a great option for photographers that are confident that they want to retain control over their own images and brand.
With the repository housing around 55,300 plugins, it’s easier than ever to set up a store to sell your own work without sacrificing the prestige of your brand by selling on other stock photography websites.
Although some might argue that it takes far too long to set a website up with WordPress, most will find that it is really easy and quick to get started, and even for those who do find it difficult, it’s definitely worth it in the end.
Selling your photos on your own website might be more difficult unless you are already fairly well-known and have built up a community around your work.
Most big businesses and individuals will prefer to purchase images on stock photography websites which they know is 100% reliable and secure.
But the advantages of selling your work on your own website are:
- You can set your own competitive prices.
- Nobody else takes a cut from the sale of your work.
- You have full control over how your work is displayed.
- You can define your own terms and conditions.
- And, once again – you’re in full, total control.
The great news is that this can be easily done with Modula.
All you need to do is create a gallery with the images that you’d like to sell and create a product using WooCommerce that is both Virtual and Downloadable as shown in the image below.
You’ll then need to add the files that you’d like to sell – in this case, images – and can add as many as you’d like if you’d like to sell them in a bundle.
Otherwise – if you’d like all of your photos to be sold separately you can create multiple products for each image (by clicking Add File).
Then, when editing your Modula gallery in WordPress, you can hide the edit button on any of the images, scroll down to the URL section and paste in the URL to the specific product that you’ve just created with WooCommerce.
2. Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock has the credibility of being the makers of the most popular photo editing software on the market, and also any photos that are uploaded to the marketplace are easily accessible in other Adobe products.
This increases the visibility of your work as it can become easily accessible from within their Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop or Illustrator software.
The freedom you are given when you choose to sell your creative work on Adobe Stock is incredible.
You can even sell your photos elsewhere since Adobe Stock does not require that you give them exclusive selling rights. And above all, profits are usually between 20% and 60%.
If you think what you have as it takes as a photographer, don’t hold back. It’s time to turn your passion into profit.
Just as you’d hope, setting up an account as an Adobe Stock contributor is just as easy as logging in with your existing Adobe ID or creating a new one.
The only disadvantage of joining the Adobe Stock network as a contributor is that you will be competing with some of the world’s most talented photographers. This means it’s going to require a lot of hard work to get people to pay attention to your creative work.
Adobe Stock Advantages
– Adobe has a great reputation in the media industry so you know you’re in good hands.
– Great support from their team when you need it.
– Trusted & used by professionals.
Adobe Stock Disadvantages
– Lots of competition which makes it hard to get attention.
– No audio-only submissions allowed.
Shutterstock is the most popular stock photography website and has been for over 15 years. They not only have millions of images but also have videos, music tracks that and most importantly millions of purchasing customers.
According to their website over $500 million in payouts to their contributors have been fulfilled. This means, as a creator, you can earn a significant amount of money by selling your images on the Shutterstock marketplace in the long run.
On top of that, Shutterstock allows you to retain the copyright of your images which means you do still get some control. Furthermore, they also provide credit to the image’s owners, which is a huge benefit if you’re trying to build a brand around your creative work.
Contributors can earn anywhere between 20-30% based on how many times your content has been downloaded by their customers at the end of each month.
The fact that Shutterstock is quite well known in the industry might not necessarily be a good thing. Stock photography sites that are quite popular are notorious for making it more difficult for new, aspiring photographers to actually make some money.
Publishing and selling your work on the Shutterstock marketplace does not limit you to exclusively selling through their network – so it’s definitely still worth giving it a try…
– By far the most popular paid stock photography site so if your work is good, the chances are some people will find it.
– Getting started isn’t very complicated.
– Trusted & used by professionals.
– You don’t own your brand and the way your photos are distributed so nobody will “discover” you as a photographer.
Whether your equipment consists of a top of the line DSLR camera or the latest smartphone, 500px is worth checking out.
Even if you only sign up for the free subscription, you will be able to license and monetize your photos in their community with over 13 million members and growing.
The paid membership plans include such perks as advertising your services so you can find more opportunities to make money and an Adobe CC plan.
For smartphone users, 500px has an Android and iPhone app so you can snap pictures and upload them on the go.
You’ll be pleased to hear that getting started with 500px is as easy as logging into Gmail. Once you’ve created an account with them you’ll immediately be able to start uploading and sharing your work to make some money!
– 500px is also very popular & has a great reputation in the media industry.
– You can build up a profile with your work.
– Getting started is very easy.
– Trusted & used by professionals.
– The free account is limited to 20 photos per week which might not be sufficient for some heavy users of the platform.
Foap has been featured in ABC News as being a profitable app for photo selling. Users make 50% of the profits from Foap even when big brands, such as Sony and MasterCard buy their photos.
The way that Foap works is particularly interesting when compared to the other regular stock photography websites in the rest of this post. Foap defines itself as a customized visual-content platform powered by creatives for creative professionals. But what does that actually mean?
As mentioned above, Foap really isn’t a regular stock photography website. The process looks like outlined below:
A brand looking for the perfect photo would turn to Foap and send them their brief which details the tone, aesthetics and target audience.
Photographers can then compete in what Foap interestingly calls Missions.
Submitting a photo or video to one of Foap’s missions is the easiest way to make the most money out of selling your creative work. All you need to do is produce a photo that matches that of the described Mission brief to satisfy the requirements and the kind of imagery that the brand is looking for. With Missions, just one photo has the potential to make hundreds of dollars.
Whether you’re a photographer or a company looking for photo or video content, Foap customer service representatives are available 24 hours a day, all year round.
– The way the platform works is unique and tends to give photographers more opportunities to participate than other platforms.
– Allegedly used and trusted by some major brands such as Nivea, Volvo and Heineken just to name a few.
– The Foap platform isn’t as popular or as well-known as other stock photography websites which can make it more difficult to succeeed.
Alamy is another great place to start selling your stock photos online right away without subjecting yourself to any complicated rules. Although the Alamy network may not be as popular as Shutterstock and Adobe Stock which means it won’t have as many customers – it is certainly still worth considering.
At the time of writing, Alamy has made up to $180 million in payouts to their contributing photographers which is absolutely incredible. Alamy is one of the most well-known places for photographers to sell their images because you actually make a surprising 50% on each sale…
– Alamy takes a lower cut so photographers can actually earn up to a suprising 50% on every sale.
– While Alamy may not be as popular as some other stock photography sites it also has a great reputation and has paid out over $100 million to their contributing photographers.
– There isn’t much of a community aspect to the Alamy platform.
– Building up a profile that you can share with people who want to see your work isn’t really something that can be done.
– Apart from the 50% cut which is very significant, photographers on Alamy (as is the case with most other stock photography websites) don’t get much exposure.
7. iStock Photo (by Getty Images)
iStock Photo is another great place. They have a number of resources that are geared towards helping photographers understand how exactly they can start selling their photos online.
The service is owned and operated by Getty Images which is a good thing because it knows that you’re in good hands.
The commission you receive when someone downloads your photo starts at a mere 15% but can actually increase all the way to 45%. This is, however, entirely dependent on the popularity of your profile and work on the website, and if a customer purchases one of your images as a part of their monthly (or yearly) subscription you can only receive 15% of the sale.
iStock Photo Advantages
– iStock Photo also has a great reputation and is a popular destination used by businesses and inndividuals looking for profesisional stock photography.
– Owned by Getty Images, you know that you’re in good hands and will get the support that you need as a photographer if your work stands out on their platform.
iStock Photo Disadvantages
– The process of joininng isn’t as easy as it is for some of the other stock photography websites that are listed in this post because the service is owned and controlled by Getty Images.
– iStock Photo’s regulations surrounding model releases, capturing photographs in certain places without permission are strict – and rightly so.
Although Stocksy was founded back in 2013, they aren’t that well-known when compared to popular alternatives such as Shutterstock and 500px – but we think you should consider them.
In my opinion, yes – you definitely should. They have a serious vetting process in place for their photographers which means that your chances of being accepted aren’t that high, but if you do this puts you at an advantage.
Wouldn’t you rather be a part of a stock photography network that prides itself on quality rather than just accepting every application they get?
Stocksy is thrilled to announce the reopening of Call to Artists for the first time in 2 years. At Stocksy, we are renowned for our co-op model, making artists co-owners in a business that pays the highest royalties in the industry (50-75%) and is dedicated to creative integrity.
Applications are open to anyone. We commonly look for artists with an eye for storytelling or who have complete bodies of work.
We’re currently seeking new international talent, with a focus on Southeast and East Asia, the Middle East, Australasia and Western Europe; as we look to represent and challenge traditional beauty ideals and stereotypes for a more inclusive world.
Here’s a snippet from their page for applications. In short, at the moment they’re looking for new international talent, and they’ve reopened the application process which they refer to as a “Call to Artists” for the first time in 2 years. Now’s the time to join!
– Premium network of photographers that they truly partner with to ensure quality.
– Stocksy pays the highest royalties in the entire industry by far (50-75%) so they’re not taking a huge cut of your profits.
– Stocksy is dedicated to creative integrity.
– Joining isn’t easy especially if you miss the period where the “Call to Artists” is open.
How to Sell Your Photos Online: Where Do You Start?
The process is actually very simple but let’s break it down.
1. Choose Your Stock Photography Site of Choice
Hopefully, the first part of this post has made this process significantly easier for you but in case you’re still struggling to make your choice, here’s my recommendation:
Just start with the one that sounds most suitable.
If you start with Adobe Stock or Shutterstock, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to be bound to using them to sell your photos for life. You’ll always be able to transition to another platform or even transition to selling your photos on your own website.
The key to successfully start selling your photos online is not to overcomplicate the process.
2. Create An Account
This step is very straightforward. Just create your account and fill out your profile with all of the necessary (and accurate) information to complete your profile and in some cases also the application you need to submit to join the stock photography network.
If the site that you’ve decided to join has a review system in place, this can take a while so you may need to take a break between steps 2 and 3.
3. Start Producing and Sharing Work That Has The Potential To Be Used by People
This might be obvious but often comes up when people say that they are struggling to sell their photos. Not every photo will sell equally well.
Obviously, it’s important to keep an eye out on stock photography websites to see what it is that is more popular. One such example could be city photography, and this is something that shouldn’t be particularly difficult for you to capture if you already live in a city and are able to take unique photos of buildings, etc.
Summary: Best Places to Sell Your Photos Online
It’s important to keep in mind that the customers that you’re targeting when selling your photos or creative work online are bloggers and small to medium-sized business owners.
Here are the types of most commonly purchased images:
- People working (on computers etc.)
- Food (i.e. people are trying to make others hungry)
- Tools (i.e. hammers, gears, and screws)
- Cities (i.e. cityscapes, buildings, and people)
- Nature photography (i.e. landscapes, animals etc)
- Travel (i.e. photos from interesting places around the world are always in-demand)
Alternatively, you might want to check out these posts:
- The best hosting for photographers
- The definitive guide to creating an online photography portfolio
- The best photo editing software for photographers
One great way to see whether the stock photography website you’re thinking of selling your work on is right for you is to browse through their most popular categories to check whether it aligns with your work or work that you think you’re able to produce. We hope that this guide has made it easier for you to decide where to start selling your photos online to make money!