In these crazy times, many of us are looking for ways to make additional income. Launching a side hustle or online job takes time. Though we might have more of that, it's still hard to know where to start. Selling photos online is an easy way to get extra cash.
This article will give you the rundown on how to:
- Sell your photos online.
- What websites to sell your photos too
- How to make the most money selling your photos
I will never forget the first time my cell phone came equipped with its very own camera. In 2005, a cell phone with a camera was all the new rage, and if I was lucky with service, I could even send a photo message for $1.00.
Ten years later, I had over 2,000 photos on my iPhone. With the likes of cloud storage, smartphones, and cell phone cameras stronger than some of the original computers that sent a man to the moon – it is estimated that there are some 14+ trillion photos taken every year, which might even be a conservative estimate.
In 2015, some people took 1.8 billion digital photos daily. While it might seem like you see photos everywhere, with the likes of social media and advertising, selling photos online is a great way to make money.
High-quality photos are in demand, and if you know how to take some solid pictures, you can easily make some serious money selling your photos online; here is how:
How To Start Selling Photos Online 101:
The first step in selling photos online that you will need to take is deciding whether you plan on selling your photos to other websites or on your website. If you're confused, don't worry – you can start by exploring both options.
However, before you ever think about selling photos online, you might want first to consider the quality of your photos, your photo editing skills, and the overall uniqueness/desire for your photos.
To start selling photos online, make sure you first invest in:
- A decent camera with multiple lenses
- The right photo editing software
- Yourself, i.e., reading up and researching photography courses, videos, and articles.
- Know why you need to sell (Save money, get rid of your job, etc.)
Once you think you know enough about photography (or perhaps you're an experienced photographer already), you can start selling your photos online.
Most contributors typically start with one of the websites below!
9 Sites Where You Can Sell Your Photos Online
Here is a quick list of 9 places where you can sell your photos online, followed by a quick review of each:
- SmugMug Pro
- Alamy Stock
- 500px Prime
- Bonus: Fotomoto
SmugMug Pro is one of the best options you can leverage when selling your photos online. For one, they let you pick the price of your photos. Secondly, you get to keep 85% of the profit!
How it works is pretty straightforward. SmugMug charges .79 per photo; you then add your price to it. Let's say you want to charge $5.00 for a picture of a cow you took. You would sell the photo for $5.79, and you would keep 85% of the $5 markup, or $4.25!
SmugMug is an excellent option. They let you keep much of the profit. However, they do charge a monthly “Contributor Subscription Fee” of $12.50. That isn't a lot – sell three photos a month, and you've covered your investments!
Photo contributors can make 85%!
If you have never heard of Shutterstock, chances are you have had your head in the sand for some time.
Shutterstock is one of the largest online photo dealers out there, with over 200 million images and payouts exceeding half a billion dollars! Shutterstock lets photo sellers determine copyright rules and determine photo privileges.
They pay out each month. After you download a photo, your account is rewarded a percentage of the sale. However, because of their success, they don't pay out as much as someone like Alamy.
Photo contributors can make 20-30%.
Before writing this article, I had no clue Etsy let photographers sell their photos on their platform. But it makes sense if you think about it – you can find everything from wood sunglasses and watches to soap.
That being said, it's also not the ideal platform for selling your photos due to my first statement – most people don't think of Etsy as a top online platform for photography sales. However, they do support Etsy business owners with their photo selling guide.
The positive with selling photos on Etsy is you set your price and keep 96.5% of the profit (they keep 3.5% of all sales).
Photo contributors can make 96.5% of their sales.
iStockphoto, powered by Getty Images, is one of the oldest platforms for photographers to sell their work, and they have a solid reputation.
With that said, if you're new to the online photo selling business, iStockphoto has some stringent conditions when it comes to using their website due to the fact they already have 200,000 contributors. You can start by applying as a contributor and work your way up to the “Exclusive” club to earn the most.
Photo contributors can make 15% up to 45%.
Adobe – the PDF company – also happens to be the creators of the photo editing software PhotoShop. They are the O.G.'s of selling photos online, and they have long been a prime destination for those looking to sell their photos online.
The royalty programs Adobe offers make them a preferred destination for those looking to make money selling photos.
Photo contributors can earn 20-60%.
If you want to keep most of your money, selling your photos on Alamy Stock is an excellent option as they let you keep 50% of your sales. While Alamy is not as big as some of the other platforms we have already discussed, like Adobe, they're still a reliable option for selling photos online!
Photo contributors can make 50% of photos sold.
500px Prime is regarded as one of the better platforms/places to sell your photos online because they are free, offer you support when creating a portfolio, and also promote a discovery algorithm for visitors.
You are thus creating more exposure for your photos! More exposure means more sales.
Note, there are rumors that in 2017 500px sold some user photos to Fotolia. This is most likely no longer an issue in 2020, but be mindful when considering the best platform to sell on.
PhotoShelter is an online website that uses cloud storage for sellers to choose the best package for their needs. Offering 100s of features such as professional image watermark security to help their sellers, PhotoShelter offers plans range from $10 to $49 per month.
Photo contributors can make money selling with their platform. However, their pricing structure varies.
Bonus: Check Out Fotomoto
Fotomoto is not necessarily a website to sell photos, but instead a widget/browser plugin. How Fotomoto explains it,
“Fotomoto is a print-on-demand eCommerce widget that integrates seamlessly into your existing website. Just add our code to your site, sit back, and start making money.”
In other words, Fotomoto helps you sell your photos from your website with ease, and they will even package and ship photos for you. They offer three plans, Free, Pro, and Pro Plus, each taking a percentage of the sale ranging from 22% to 10%.
Photo contributors can make 78-90% depending on their Fotomoto package.
Sell Your Photos on Your Website
The number one reason why it's enticing to sell your photos on your website?
You keep all the profits. While selling on your website is not quite as simple as selling photos to all the big stock photo websites mentioned above, selling photos online with your WordPress website can be done.
Things you can control:
- Your prices and what you sell them for
- How to structure contracts – annual contracts and your terms
- You can customize your work and how it's displayed.
While creating your website and managing it can be a job in itself if taking photos and editing them are something you enjoy, you might find operating your website just as joyful.
Starting your website for the first time has a bit of a learning curve, but there is plenty of help with Youtube videos' likes and is very similar to starting a blog; know what pitfalls to avoid.
When you set up your website to sell your photos, consider these pointers:
- Create a name that fits your photos niche
- Select a free them that includes online shopping options such as Woocommerce
- Design your website and add some content
- Write an about you page
- Start publishing your photos using a gallery plugin like Modula
- Market your website to gain visitors
- Promote page on the likes of Instagram & Pinterest to gain more visitors
- Land recurring clients by offering monthly photo subscriptions or package deals
Tips making the most money selling photos online:
Like any industry, there are actionable tips to make more money selling anything – including selling photos online.
1. Sell photos people want to buy!
People want to buy photos for their social media accounts, businesses, and blogs. With that said, your picture of your dinner might not sell like a picture of someone traveling.
Always ask yourself what the “Buyer” wants and what is in high demand if you're going to sell tons of photos and make money in the process!
Here are the most common types of photos being bought online:
- Nature – nature sells! Trees, plants, flowers, animals, you name it!
- People – people collaborating, living life, smiling, walking, working out!
- Working at Computers – photos of people working at computers
- Money – personal finance companies always need photos of money.
- Cities – city skylines, buildings, skyscrapers, you name it!
- Food – food sells! Food bloggers always need online photos of food.
- Travel – travel bloggers are continually looking for stock images from around the world.
- Industry – think of machines, buildings, industry-specific photos.
- Technology – pictures of computers, tools, gadgets, cell-phones, iPads are in high demand
2. Put yourself in the buyer's shoes
As we mentioned earlier, it's best to put yourself in the prospective buyer's shoes.
For example, there are not many photos for real estate agents and people who own small construction businesses to buy online. So perhaps, reach out to people who own businesses and ask what kind of photos they need:
Consider reaching out to:
- Real estate agents
- Small business owners like painters or plumbers
- Bloggers in different niches
- Anyone who owns an online company
3. Make it easy to get paid
Getting paid to sell your photos online is not a complicated process, but the easier you make it on buyers and websites you sell to, the more you can make (and faster).
Be sure that if you have a website OR you sell to some of the top sites that buy photos; you have the following payment options setup:
- Set up a Paypal account
- Stripe or Square – for reoccurring billing on your website.
- Apple Pay
- Woo-commerce photography plugin
4. Make your online portfolio sexy
The best tip we can offer when it comes to selling your photos online, in addition to having a very professional feel behind your photos or website, is to make your portfolio sexy.
The better your layout and photo portfolio look, the higher chances you will sell online photos. Knowing where to sell is half the battle. The other half is getting enough eyes on your photos to sell them – and that starts with appearances.
One way to help you do this is to offer free stock photos to attract prospective buyers to your photos. You can also promote on social media, especially Instagram. Just make sure your social media accounts are equally as good-looking and have a theme to them!
Research the right hash-tags to help you gain more traction!
Like anything you put your mind to, selling photos online can be lucrative. Combined with a passion for photography, taking pride in your work, and photo editing, you might be able to turn a part-time job like freelance photography into a full-time gig! Statistics vary for how much someone might make selling photos online, but it depends on your goal.
Will you shoot and sell photos to pay off your student loans, or are you doing it so you can escape the rat race? Either way, no matter what you decide to do when it comes to starting your online photo selling side hustle, be sure to have fun, do your research, and take high-quality photos!