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Effective Tips to Make Money Selling Stock Photos

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Whether you’re a professional photographer or an enthusiast looking to make money selling stock photos can be a lucrative venture. In today’s digital era, there are so many various ways to monetise your photos and start making extra money from ...

Whether you’re a professional photographer or an enthusiast looking to make money selling stock photos can be a lucrative venture. In today’s digital era, there are so many various ways to monetise your photos and start making extra money from your home. Whether you want to sell your existing image collection or embark on new projects, in this post we will be discussing effective tips to make money selling stock photos.

Process for Stock Photography

Upload High-Quality Images to Multiple Stock Photo Sites:

To increase your chances of selling photos, ensure that your images meet the quality standards of stock photo sites. Submit your photos to multiple platforms to broaden your reach and attract a larger audience.

Include People in Your Photos:

Including people in your photos adds a human element and makes them more relatable. However, make sure to obtain signed model release forms from individuals you photograph to ensure legal compliance when using their images.

Review Terms and Conditions:

Before selling your photos on stock image sites, carefully review their terms and conditions. Pay attention to payment schedules, pricing, and any restrictions on cancelling your account. Consider exploring different stock libraries to compare potential earnings.

Stay Informed with Contributor Newsletters:

Sign up for newsletters from stock photo sites to gain insights into trending photo subjects and learn how to improve your photography and editing skills. These newsletters often provide valuable tips to help you create marketable images.

Use Relevant Keywords:

When uploading photos to stock image sites, use descriptive and relevant keywords to increase visibility. Well-optimized keywords make it easier for potential buyers to find and purchase your images.

Consider Selling Prints:

For higher profits, explore selling prints of your photos. Opt for professional printing labs that specialize in art or framed prints. Selling limited or signed editions can also enhance the value and appeal of your prints.

Utilize Photo Hosting Sites:

Take advantage of photographer-friendly website hosting services that provide secure storage for your digital images, portfolio showcases, and e-commerce tools for selling prints, downloads, and wall art. Consider platforms like Zenfolio or Smugmug, but be aware of associated costs and commission fees.

Open an Online Photo Store:

Create your own website or set up an Etsy store to retain more control over your profits. Print-on-demand services can minimize upfront costs and storage requirements, making it easier to sell a variety of products without inventory.

Leverage Social Media:

Leverage your social media presence to showcase your work and attract potential buyers. Engage with your followers and consider incorporating affiliate links to earn commissions from recommended products. Always disclose if a social media post is an advertisement.

Explore Print-on-Demand Products:

Take advantage of print-on-demand services to offer a wide range of customizable products featuring your photos. By partnering with these platforms, you can focus on photography while they handle production, printing, and shipping.

Bonus Tips for Aspiring Photographers:

  1. Identify your photography niche and specialize in it to enhance your marketability.
  2. Continuously improve your camera skills to deliver high-quality photos.
  3. Determine your pricing strategy to ensure profitability and cover expenses.
  4. Offer your services to friends and family for events or portraits to build a portfolio and gain referrals.
  5. Utilize social media platforms as your portfolio and actively promote your work.
  6. Reach out to picture editors and publications to submit your photos for publication.
  7. Seek press passes to cover exclusive events, which can yield valuable and sellable shots.
  8. Be prepared for the challenges of freelance photography and persist through the initial low-priced sales to establish a successful career.
  9. Always carry your camera to capture unique and everyday moments.
  10. Backup your best photos using external drives or cloud storage.
  11. Familiarize yourself with tax regulations and freelancing essentials. Familiarize yourself with tax regulations and freelancing essentials to ensure compliance and minimize stress in the long run.
  12. Be mindful of copyright and trademark issues when including recognizable products, brands, or buildings in your photos. Seek permission if necessary.
  13. Avoid replicating generic photos and aim for uniqueness, quirkiness, or captivating elements to stand out in the market.

With these 13 effective tips, you can maximize your earnings and make the most of selling stock photos. Whether you choose to upload images to stock photo sites, sell prints through various channels, leverage social media, or explore print-on-demand products, the key is to consistently produce high-quality images and stay informed about market trends. Remember, becoming a freelance photographer requires patience, perseverance, and continuous improvement, but with dedication and passion, you can turn your photography hobby into a rewarding source of income.

So, grab your camera, start capturing captivating moments, and embark on your journey to monetize your photography skills in the thriving world of stock photography.

Challenges Faced by Stock Photographers

Becoming a successful stock photographer is not without its challenges. Many aspiring contributors often find themselves giving up within the first six months due to various reasons, with the primary one being a lack of sufficient returns during the initial period. While image quality plays a role in this, it is not the sole factor. The competition among thousands of contributors and the extensive library of stock photos accumulated over the past 15 years pose additional hurdles. Furthermore, consistently uploading a significant number of correctly keyworded images, such as a monthly quota of 100, demands dedication and effort.

Creating unique and marketable content in an oversaturated industry requires a great deal of creativity. Contrary to what some “Make Money by Selling Your Images as Stock Photography” posts suggest, simply offloading unused photos onto a site won’t yield any substantial earnings. Stock photography is a business, and to succeed in this field, one must produce original content that meets the specific demands of buyers, rather than resorting to cliché stock photo shots.

Those with a knack for producing such content or those willing to study market trends and learn the art of creating marketable images have a better chance of succeeding. However, it is important to note that success in stock photography requires a significant amount of hard work and perseverance.

Practical Tips for Stock Photography Success

While thorough research and planning are essential, there are additional factors to consider in order to achieve success in the world of stock photography. Here are some practical tips:

Keywording: Keywords play a crucial role in helping potential buyers discover your images. It is important to make your keywords as descriptive as possible. Depending on the microstock agency you work with, listing keywords in order of importance may be necessary. Prioritize specific keywords over generic ones, and clearly indicate the number of subjects in the image, include relevant objects, actions, and concepts. While some platforms offer automated keyword tools, it is advisable to perform due diligence and arrange keywords manually for optimal effectiveness. Several helpful keywording tools are available to assist in this process.

Consider the End User: To sell your photos effectively, it is crucial to understand the needs and preferences of the end users. Whether it’s bloggers, marketing agencies, businesses, or magazines, the content that sells is determined by those who use it. Focus on creating images that help illustrate concepts or complement the content being created. Understand what buyers are looking for, such as images related to family, teamwork, trust, or ones that provide ample negative space for text placement. By composing images with the end users in mind, you increase your chances of making sales.

Regular Uploads: Consistently uploading new content is essential for several reasons. Firstly, the more photos you have available, the greater your chances of making sales. Secondly, regular uploads ensure that your images remain prominent in search results on most platforms. Additionally, trends change over time, and images that were popular in the past may lose their appeal. By consistently uploading new, high-quality content, you increase the visibility of your images in current searches and keep them relevant to changing trends. While old photos can still sell, refreshing your content keeps it attractive to buyers. If a stock site features a separate category for new photos, take advantage of it.

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Passive income is possible in stock photography, and once you reach a certain threshold, such as earning $500 per month, you can maintain that level for a while. However, without regular uploads, your income may decrease over time due to what is known as “time decay.” To prevent this, it is crucial to continue uploading new, high-quality content to keep your images searchable and appealing to buyers.

While stock photography presents its challenges, perseverance and commitment, combined with the application of these practical tips, can lead to a successful career in stock photography. It’s important to approach stock photography as a business and invest the necessary time and effort into creating original, high-quality content that meets the demands of buyers.

Another aspect to consider is diversifying your portfolio. Don’t limit yourself to just one genre or style of photography. Explore different subjects, concepts, and styles to cater to a broader range of potential buyers. This diversification can help you tap into new markets and increase your chances of making sales.

Furthermore, it’s crucial to stay updated with the latest trends in the industry. Keep an eye on popular themes, concepts, and styles that are in demand. Stay active in online communities, forums, and social media groups related to stock photography to stay informed about the changing needs and preferences of buyers.

Building a strong network within the industry can also be beneficial. Connect with other stock photographers, attend photography conferences or workshops, and join relevant associations or groups. Networking can not only provide valuable insights and guidance but also open doors to collaboration opportunities and exposure to potential clients.

Lastly, do not underestimate the power of continuous learning and improvement. Stay curious and embrace new techniques, technologies, and software tools that can enhance your photography skills and workflow. The more you invest in your own growth and development as a photographer, the better equipped you’ll be to create compelling and marketable images.

As an avid observer of the ever-changing trends in the world of micro stock photography, I find it fascinating to explore the diverse subjects and styles that capture the attention of buyers. While the market is filled with an array of captivating imagery, there are certain categories that tend to perform exceptionally well. Let’s delve into these popular micro stock categories and uncover the secrets behind their success.

Lifestyle: Capturing Moments of Authenticity

When it comes to stock photography, lifestyle images reign supreme. These captivating visuals depict real-life moments and evoke a sense of relatability. Whether it’s a heartwarming family dinner, the signing of a lease, a child walking their furry companion, or parents engrossed in playtime with their children, these snapshots of genuine human experiences have an immense appeal.

However, it’s worth noting that images featuring people usually require model releases. Acquiring these releases may involve a bit of effort, but the rewards can be well worth it. So, don’t shy away from seeking out models who can bring life to your lifestyle shots. Embrace authenticity, and you’ll find a receptive market waiting to embrace your work.

Nature and Landscapes: Infusing Life into the Frame

Nature has an undeniable allure that captivates photographers and viewers alike. It’s no wonder that landscape photography holds a special place in the hearts of many. However, with such widespread popularity comes a challenge – the market is flooded with exceptional landscape images. To make your mark in this competitive niche, you must strive for absolute excellence.

One way to elevate your landscape photography is by incorporating people into the frame. By adding a human element, you create a sense of scale and connection, making your images stand out from the rest. So, venture into breathtaking landscapes, but don’t forget to infuse them with the vibrancy of human presence. This unique approach can help you carve out a niche in this vast and awe-inspiring genre.

Business and Industry: The Power of Everyday Moments

In the realm of micro-stock photography, the business and industry niche holds significant sway. Images depicting people in meetings, working on their computers, or collaborating as a team are perpetually in demand. These visuals encapsulate the essence of the modern workplace, making them a valuable asset for businesses of all kinds.

The beauty of this category is its accessibility. Each one of us is connected to the world of work in some way or another. Whether you’re an employee yourself or have access to individuals engaged in various professions, you possess the potential to create compelling imagery in this genre.

Allow me to share a fascinating anecdote I stumbled upon recently. There was a stock photographer who experienced remarkable success with a photo she took while technicians were installing solar panels on her roof. Being at the right place at the right time, capturing a popular technology in action, turned out to be an incredibly rewarding combination. It goes to show that even the seemingly mundane can hold immense appeal in the world of business and industry stock photography.

Travel Photography: Moments from Far and Wide

If there’s one area where luck often smiles upon photographers, it’s travel photography. Those who embark on adventures, armed with their trusty cameras, have the opportunity to capture unique perspectives and unveil hidden gems. These compelling images, showcasing destinations that are not yet overly saturated, hold great potential for sales.

I have encountered several individuals who have managed to generate a notable income from their travel photography endeavours. While it may not make you a fortune overnight, dedicating yourself to this niche can yield substantial results, especially if you’re already a frequent traveller. Consider perusing the request lists on various stock sites, aligning your travel plans with the demand, and venturing into unusual locations. By doing so, you can turn your passion for exploration into a profitable venture.

Alternatively, you can find inspiration right in your own hometown or bioregion. By capturing your familiar surroundings from different angles and perspectives, you can create a fresh take on your local environment. Many stock photographers have achieved significant sales by employing this strategy, tapping into the beauty and uniqueness of their immediate surroundings.

However, it’s important to note that if you plan to capture images of private property with the intention of selling them commercially, you’ll need to obtain property releases, unless you intend to use them purely for editorial purposes.

Current News: Capturing the Pulse of the World

News agencies are always on the lookout for powerful visuals that can accompany their stories. Therefore, current news stock photos hold a special place in the market. Events and protests that dominate the news cycle often demand compelling images that reflect the prevailing sentiments and capture the essence of these moments.

One insightful tip shared by Alexandre Rotenberg of is to simply shoot what’s making headlines if you want to boost your sales. By immersing yourself in the current events and capturing impactful photographs, you can tap into a lucrative market. In fact, some stock sites, such as Alamy, have dedicated sections for live news coverage, offering a less stringent acceptance process for these images.

You don’t have to travel far to find newsworthy subjects. Focus on what’s happening locally, within your region. Even something as significant as a local protest or event can be a goldmine for compelling images. If an event aligns with your location or travel plans, seize the opportunity to capture extraordinary visuals that can make an impact.

Holidays: Capturing the Festive Spirit

There’s always something magical about holiday-themed photos. From joyful celebrations to festive decorations, these images evoke a sense of warmth and cheer. It’s no surprise that they are highly sought after in the micro stock market.

To thrive in the holiday niche, it’s essential to plan well in advance. Start envisioning and shooting holiday-themed images several months ahead of the actual holiday. For example, Thanksgiving-themed images can be captured early in the year, while Christmas-themed photos can be prepared during the summer months. By doing so, you’ll ensure that your images are ready for sale by the time the holiday season approaches.

Pro Tip: During your holiday-themed photo shoots, take an abundance of photos. Then, gradually upload a selection of 10-20 images each week leading up to the holiday. This approach allows you to consistently feature in the “Newest” category, capturing the attention of potential buyers who are actively searching for fresh and relevant content.

make money selling stock photos

Transform your passion and start to make money selling stock photos

Harness the power of online platforms to sell your photos and generate extra income effortlessly. Numerous stock photography sites and online marketplaces present excellent opportunities to monetize those untouched files residing on your hard drive. The best part? Once you’ve edited and uploaded your photos, it requires minimal effort on your part.

Let’s explore the best platforms to sell your photos online, providing you with a gateway to success:

500px: Over 1 million customers purchase stock images from 500px, offering tremendous exposure for your work. Free users can earn up to 60% and paid users up to 100% net for every exclusive license sold. Notably, your images may even appear in prominent advertising campaigns through commercial licensing opportunities.

To get started, sign up for a free account with 500px, submit your photos, enable your store, and complete the necessary forms for each image, such as model releases and liability releases. Additionally, you have the choice between exclusive or non-exclusive licenses, with non-exclusive photos earning photographers 25% of net sales.

SmugMug: For professionals, SmugMug provides a comprehensive subscription plan starting at $28 per month. With this plan, you can create stunning galleries and sell your photos using a personalized website with a custom domain. Enjoy features like automatic watermark protection, client management tools, and sales management capabilities. Take advantage of this platform to exercise your entrepreneurial spirit and determine your own pricing.

Shutterstock: Join Shutterstock and earn up to 40% commission for each image download. Your commission percentage increases based on the number of image licenses sold annually. Additionally, you have the opportunity to refer other photographers and earn a small profit each time they sell an image within their first two years. By referring customers through your unique link, you can earn up to 20% (up to $200 total) on their initial payment.

iStock by Getty Images: With a long-standing history in the stock photography industry, iStock provides a reputable platform for selling your images. Apply by downloading the iStock app, submitting an application, and showcasing samples of your work. Both exclusive and non-exclusive sellers can benefit from this platform, with exclusive sellers earning a tiered commission rate based on their annual sales.

Adobe Stock: Seamlessly integrate your stock photos into Adobe products by becoming an Adobe Stock contributor. If you use Adobe Lightroom, you can import your photos directly into the stock library. As an Adobe user, you’ll earn 33% of sales for your photos, with pricing dependent on the buyer’s subscription terms. Additionally, a Bonus Program offers perks like free subscriptions to Adobe products based on download milestones.

Stocksy: Join Stocksy, an online cooperative of artists dedicated to providing high quality work and earning fair royalties. As a co-op member, you can sell your exclusive photos and actively participate in the decision-making process. You may even receive patronage dividend payments if the co-op generates a surplus. Stocksy offers straightforward payouts, with photographers earning 50% for regular licenses and 75% for extended licenses and Market Freeze options.

Dreamstime: is a user-friendly platform for selling stock photography and royalty-free photos. Simply create a free account and start uploading your photos. Your earnings are determined by a complex schedule that factors in the “content level” and license details. As your images gain popularity and reach higher content levels, you can earn between 45% and 60% royalties for each download.

Foap: Turn your smartphone photos into cash with Foap. This app is an excellent starting point for new photographers looking to sell their photos online. Upload your photos and videos directly from your phone, and when brands purchase them, you’ll split the profits 50/50 with Foap.

Etsy: Expand your horizons on Etsy, the renowned marketplace for unique handmade items. In addition to crafts and custom products, you can sell your photos on this platform. While Etsy charges a listing fee of 20 cents, you have the freedom to set your prices and enjoy potentially higher profit margins. Keep in mind that marketing your photos will be crucial, as not all Etsy visitors are specifically searching for images.

Society6: Society6 empowers artists to monetize their creativity by printing their designs on various products, ranging from home decor to apparel. As an artist, you can upload your designs and set your markup, with Society6 adding a 10% artist share on most items. You have the flexibility to determine your royalties by adjusting your markup, keeping in mind that excessively high prices may impact sales.

Fine Art America: If you specialize in fine art photography, Fine Art America is the ideal online marketplace for showcasing and selling your work. Sell your photos as prints, posters, or on various merchandise, including clothing and home decor items. You have control over the pricing and can set your desired earnings for each product sold. Fine Art America also offers premium features and promotional tools to boost your visibility.

Blurb: Blurb is a self-publishing service designed for creating visually stunning print books and ebooks. Whether you want to publish a photo book or showcase your portfolio, Blurb provides an intuitive platform. Design your book directly on Blurb or import designs from Lightroom or InDesign. Blurb prints copies as you sell them and facilitates distribution through online stores and retail channels, giving you the freedom to set your markup and determine your earnings.

Patreon: For creators of various art forms, Patreon is a premier subscription platform that enables you to connect with your dedicated fans and offer exclusive content and perks. Set up subscription tiers with corresponding rewards, such as videos, chats, articles, or digital content. Patreon offers different creator plans with associated fees, allowing you to retain the majority of your earnings while enjoying valuable features and support.

Easy Digital Downloads: Utilize the Easy Digital Downloads plugin for WordPress to sell digital products, including your photos, through your own website. This plugin streamlines payment processing, shopping carts, and file downloads, enabling you to sell your photos directly to your audience. Instead of paying a cut per sale, you pay an annual fee to use the plugin, starting at $199 per year.

Embark on your journey to monetize your photography skills by exploring these diverse online platforms. With dedication, high-quality work, and strategic marketing, you can turn your passion into a thriving business. Embrace the opportunities available in the digital marketplace and start earning from your stunning photographic creations.

Alternative Ways to Sell Photos Online

There are multiple avenues to monetize your photos online, whether you’re selling digital images, providing digital downloads, creating print collections or photo books, or designing products featuring your photography. The internet offers numerous platforms where you can sell photos in various formats. Consider the following options:

Stock Photography Websites

Stock photography websites allow you to sell your photos to multiple buyers who can use them for various purposes, such as book covers, presentations, flyers, or blog articles. Selling photos on stock sites eliminates the need for potential buyers to specifically search for your work since they are already seeking images for their projects. To succeed on stock photo websites, it’s crucial to optimize your photos’ information, including relevant keywords, descriptions, tags, and other metadata. This ensures that your photos appear in search results and increases the likelihood of a sale.

Art Marketplaces

If you prefer selling physical copies of your photos for home decor purposes, online fine art marketplaces provide a platform to showcase and sell your designs. You can upload your photos and choose from a range of print-on-demand items to offer through your personal store. These platforms often offer printing and framing services, allowing customers to purchase prints in different sizes and select frames that suit their preferences. Additionally, you can explore options like printing your photos on pillows, tote bags, T-shirts, or other customizable products.

Sell Prints from Photo Shoots

For photographers specializing in portrait and event photography, setting up a photo website or using a plug-in can simplify the process of selling prints and downloads to clients. This option is particularly useful for photographers who cover events like weddings or pet photoshoots. By offering an easy-to-use platform, you can allow customers to order prints and digital downloads directly from your website, providing them with a convenient way to access and enjoy your work.

Photo Books

Creating a collection of your photos and compiling them into a photo book is an excellent method to offer a print-on-demand product. Self-publishing services like Lulu or Blurb enable you to design your book and list it for sale on platforms like Amazon. When someone purchases a copy, the service prints and ships it, eliminating the need for upfront costs or managing inventory. Photo books are a popular choice for photography enthusiasts who appreciate and want to display your work.

Fan Sites

If you have a dedicated fan base or are in the process of building one, you can sell subscriptions through platforms like Patreon or Substack. This allows your most passionate followers to gain exclusive access to your digital photos and receive additional content like behind-the-scenes insights, tips, or advice for budding photographers. By providing exclusive perks and content, you can cultivate a community of supporters who value your work and are willing to pay for exclusive access.

To maximize your success in selling photos online, consider the following tips:

  • Research and choose the right platforms for your photography style and target audience.
  • Optimize your photos’ metadata, including titles, descriptions, tags, and categorization.
  • Understand the preferences and needs of potential buyers to create photos that align with their interests.
  • Familiarize yourself with different types of rights you can sell, such as editorial use, commercial use, retail use, exclusive rights, non-exclusive rights, royalty-free, and rights managed.
  • Obtain proper model release forms if your photos include identifiable people.
  • Regularly update your portfolio and stay active on the platforms you choose to maximize visibility and potential sales.


The world of micro stock photography is a dynamic and ever-evolving landscape. By understanding the popular categories that attract buyers, you can tailor your photography to meet market demands. Remember to infuse your work with authenticity, explore unique perspectives, and capture the pulse of the world around you. With dedication, creativity, and a keen eye, you can create engaging content that resonates with viewers and opens doors to exciting opportunities in the realm of micro stock photography. Happy shooting! By utilizing these strategies and leveraging the power of online platforms, you can transform your passion for photography into a source of regular income.

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