How to Make Money Selling Photos?

How to make money selling photos on the stock photography sites and which one to choose? Follow our advice.

If you are a photographer or an illustrator, you must know how to make good money selling your work on the Internet in the microstock photography banks.

Even an amateur with a good camera can put the photos to use, make money and cover the expanses on the hobby, instead of just saving them on the computer. If you spend enough time working on such websites, you may even turn it into the main source of income.

How you can receive money by selling photos on the stock photography sites and which sites are the most profitable will be explained in the article below.

What is a stock photography and how to make money by it?


A stock photography site is an agency, which sells photos, vector images, 3D graphics and videos on the Internet. These sites are also called micropayment photography databases, microstock agencies, microstocks and photostocks.

The materials of the database are taken from the photographers all around the world. You can find the professionals as well as amateurs among them.

The agency is a negotiator between the photographer and the customer in exchange for a percentage.

Photostocks sell photos Royalty Free. It means a photo is sold infinite amount of times (e.g. a good picture can be sold 500 times per year). As only non-exclusive rights are sold, your work will be used only in a limited way.

With such license photographers sell the same image on different stock websites.

It should be noted that browsing photos on the stock photography site you don’t sell them at the moment, but entrust the website with searching buyers.

This is a huge advantage, as you don’t need to look for the clients. The agency will sell it instead of you, because thousands of customers work with them.

Now you can do the favourite scenes (or those you can do) and know there is already a potential buyer.

5 steps which will teach you how to make money selling photos

1. The preparation of the pictures to the selling.

To have successful sales you must know and follow three rules: to take photos with the maximum quality, to do the commercial photo stories and add new pictures regularly.

The quality of the image influences on whether it will be included in the database. The number of sales depends on the photo story. That’s why you must pay attention to the images’ concepts.

Things the buyers need most:

  • Photos of people in different appearances: at work, on vacation, in moves, in different surroundings (in the office, home, nature, group portraits, just against the white background, etc).
  • Photos concerning the subjects of business, medicine, technology, family, love, where people or objects, symbolizing these spheres are represented on the foreground.
    It especially concerns the objects against the white background (money, pills and medical equipment, food, electronic devices, decorations, flowers and so on).
  • Well done and edited nature is also often sold.
  • Buyers need the elements of the design – some vector illustrations and different backgrounds, which they will use with their own text and other objects.

2. The registration and browsing photos on the stock photography sites.

To sell your works you need to register first. From huge number of agencies that sell pictures you should choose few most profitable (they will be discussed and described later).

You’ll have the opportunity to sell your photos after registration. Every photography database suggests several ways how to browse the images: by ftp, by http (by the web form) or by their unique way. All needed information is presented on their websites.

After browsing every picture you have to know how to write:

  • title, image name – it’s better to write not less than 3 words
  • description – preferable to write more than 5 words
  • keywords – up to 50
  • categories – chose from the given (not all photobanks provide with this opportunity).

Keywords are the most significant parameter from all mentioned above. The buyers usually search the images using keywords. The more words you write the better are chances that your work will be noticed.

3. Checking your works.

After you browse your photos and write all needed parameters, they line up in the queue to be checked by the inspectors. It may last few days. After the photo is approved, it becomes available to the download and you get the e-mail, which confirms it.

In case the inspectors find drawbacks of the work or see no commercial value, the work is refused and you’ll get the letter explaining why they refused.

You may fix it, get rid of the drawbacks and send it again.

Read also: Make Money on Web Cam

4. The purchase of your photos.

To buy a photo the clients send money to the agency first, i.e. “buy credit” which allows buying a definite number of photos.

Every downloaded picture is paid by the agency, which gives you money and increases the sum of money you’ve made. Every photo on a website is automatically generated in few smaller variants of the same picture, which cost less. That’s why the sum paid for each sale depends on the chosen size of the picture.

Generally the photographer gets 40% of the value of the downloaded photo ($0, 25 – $5). If the photo is bought to be used as a part of the goods (postcards, calendars, posters, mouse pads, etc.), the purchase of the advanced license takes place and the photographer gets $20 – $100.

5. Getting money.

When you reach the minimum sum (on different websites it varies from $30 to $100), you may cash it.

There are several ways how to do it:

  • Skrill (Moneybookers) payment system
  • PayPal payment system
  • Direct transfer to the Payoneer card
  • A cheque drawn to a named person

Popular photostocks for selling photos

1. Shutterstock is the most popular.

It is considered to be the first by the income and number of sales, that’s why it’s extremely difficult to get there. In order to start working there you must pass an exam and put 10 photos, 1 of them must be approved. Only then you’ll be able to browse and sell your works.

Earlier (right up to December 2015) the exam was successful if 7 out of 10 photos were approved. It was a huge obstacle for the newcomers. Now, in case you really want it, you’ll pass the exam without big difficulties.

In case of a failure you are allowed to take the exam again, but not sooner than in a month. You are allowed to take the exam as many times as you wish.

The peculiarity of the Shutterstock is that the service has the customer’s subscription, which costs $249 per month. It gives the opportunity to download 25 photos every day that gives the stimulus to browse many photos and provide the photographers with high income.

You make 25 cents for every download and when your income reaches the point of $500, you’ll be paid 30 cents per picture. It means that if a photo is downloaded 1000 times, you’ll make $250.

2. Istockphoto is a photobank with the entrance exam of three photos.

This website has the strictest requirements to the photos (to their quality and topics), so be watchful and don’t browse whatever. Photos are moderated within a week. In case you fail the exam, you have a possibility to start again at once without any restrictions.

Your income is 20% from the price of the download, which usually is from $1 to $40. If you become an exclusive photographer (and put up your work only there), you are paid 40%.

3. Fotolia is a less popular photobank.

There are no exams, but you must pass a small test. Fotolia won’t bring you much profit, but additional income is guaranteed. The information about every download is sent to your e-mail.
The fee from the service is from 33% to 64%.

4. Dreamstime is an average stock photography site.

There is no need to pass exams or tests, or browse scans of your documents. The picture’s requirement – starting from 3 megapixels.

A limit on adding photos – 100 files a day. Payment – 50%. Money can be pulled out when you reach $100.

On a note: Sites to Make Money Online

How much money can you make selling photos?

Here is an example of calculating money you are able to make using above mentioned stock photography sites:

  • ShutterStock: for 5 browsed photos — $1
  • iStockPhoto: for 8 browsed photos — $1
  • Dreamstime: for 20 browsed photos — $1
  • Fotolia: for 20 browsed photos — $1

The numbers aren’t supposed to be constant and like an axiom, but as a way to count income it may be easily used.

Let’s count how much money a person may make selling photos for a month, if he browses 7 photos a week (365 pictures every year). It’s an optimal amount that every newcomer is able to do.

Browsing your photos on each from the 4 mentioned websites, every month you can make:

  • Shutterstock: $73.00
  • IStockPhoto: $45.62
  • Dreamstime: $18.25
  • Fotolia: $18.25

Total — $155.12

Total yearly income – $1 861.44

Making extra money by selling photos is not that difficult as it may seem from the first sight. Even a beginner is sure to cope with it. Follow our advice and make money using your hobby.

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