Photography has become more accessible than ever. Just look at smartphones. The iPhone 8 has a 12-megapixel camera. That’s pretty awesome, considering my old DSLR only had 10 megapixels. And speaking of DSLRs, cameras are also more affordable these days. I can walk into a camera store and get an entry-level DSLR which has better specs than professional-grade cameras from a few years back. That’s progress!
So it’s not surprising that we’re seeing more and more photographers these days. I would consider myself one of those newly-minted photographers. I started taking pictures using an old Nokia with VGA camera. It was loads of fun, and I eventually moved up to an iPhone and Canon DSLR as my go-to cameras.
I got a lot of good feedback about my photos. That was when I started looking into selling my photos online, mostly on stock photo websites. I opted to sell online because as much as I love taking pictures, I’m not one of those photographers with contacts in magazines and production houses. I was basically on my own.
But the cool thing about selling photos online is that anyone can do it. Your work will speak for itself. You upload it, and if someone likes it, they will buy it.
It seems simple, but there’s more to it than that. You’ll have to ensure that the photos you upload are top-quality, and that your prices are competitive. Also, you need to make sure the websites you’re selling on are legit. Trust me, there are a lot of shady websites out there looking to scam photographers.
To help you avoid those sites, I’ve compiled a list of legit platforms for you to sell photos on. Stick with these and you’ll have a great chance of making decent money off your work!
Snapped4U is a great place to start because the site focuses on event photographs only. I’ve learned that events are the best way for a starting photographer to develop their skills. During an event, you don’t have to worry about dressing up the set, because the event planner would have already done that. All you have to do is show up with your gear and start taking photos.
The site charges as $.50 commission for every photo you sell that is priced $5 and below. That commission becomes 10% for images priced above $5.
If you fancy turning your images into merch, Redbubble is the platform for you. On RedBubble, you don’t sell stock photos; you sell actual physical items that use your photos as designs. The site supplies the items, and adds your design whenever someone orders it.
These products include t-shirts, vinyl stickers, phone and tablet cases, mugs, tote bags… and a whole lot more. If you prefer a more traditional presentation of your work, you can always sell your images as posters, photographic prints or wall tapestries.
RedBubble has a base price for each product. This rate covers their manufacturing costs, and their sales commission. You then add your profit margin to this amount. The total cost will be the selling price.
Let’s say the base price of a mug is $5. You can choose to add any percentage as your profit. If you specify 20%, the final selling price will be $6. If the mug sells, $5 goes to Redbubble, and $1 goes to you.
I love this setup because Redbubble does all the hard work. I’ll I need to do is create images that I think people would like to buy.
IStockPhoto is one of the pillars of the stock photo scene. For as long as I remember, this site was one of my go-to sites for stock images. It’s pretty cool to now sell images through the site.
Whenever your image sells, you can earn a royalty that ranges from 15% up to 45%. The amount changes based on the type of image and license. You can earn more by selling exclusively on iStockPhoto. It’s up to you to weigh your potential earnings selling across different sites vs. selling exclusively on iStockPhoto.
Important note: the site is very particular about the quality of photos being sold through them. So I suggest you give this a try once you’ve built up your skills and portfolio.
If iStockPhoto is too intimidating, you can give 123RoyaltyFree a try. Their standards aren’t as high as other sites’. This gives you a great opportunity to test the market before trying more stringent selling platforms.
The ease of entry comes has a trade-off though: 123RoyaltyFree tends to pay lower than other sites. You can make around 30% to 60% in royalties. The percentage changes based on your contribution amount. The amount of royalties you earn increases the more photos you upload.
You can also sell a wide variety of stock material on 123RoyaltyFree, such as vectors and video. If you’re skilled in graphic design and video production, you may want to give this site a try.
Dreamstime is one of the biggest stock photo selling platforms out there. They host 79 million images and have 21 million users. It may be a bit more difficult to get noticed with all that competition, but Dreamstime’s payment rates more than make up for it. They’re one of the better-paying sites I’ve used. Depending on image type and license, you can make anywhere from 25% to 50% in royalties. Sell exclusively on Dreamstime, and that amount goes up to a whopping 60%!
Take note that Dreamstime is pretty stringent when it comes to quality. But if you’ve got pro-level skills, as well as a pro-level portfolio, give this site a shot!
Crestock is another beginner-friendly selling platform. You can earn 20% to 40% per photo, which translates to about $0.25 to $0.40. Not the highest rate, but the site is still a great place to start selling photos.
Pro tip: the site favors images that show people. If your portfolio contains lots of photos of people, you’re in luck.
CanStockPhoto is an appropriate choice for starting photographers. Royalties range from 20% to 50%. The dollar amount depends on the selling price of the image, but $0.50 to $12.50 are good ballpark figures. Not the highest rate, but it isn’t hard to get your photos accepted.
The vetting process is pretty easy to ace: submit your three best images for review, and wait for their response, which usually comes within 24 hours.
Fotolia, which is owned by Adobe, is one of the bigger stock photos sites on the internet. Given the site’s ownership, it’s not surprising that Fotolia is integrated with Adobe’s creative cloud apps, including Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC, and InDesign CC.
The site gives you credits for each image sold. You can then redeem these credits for cash. Each credit is worth $1.40, and you can get anywhere from 1 to 30 credits per photo sold.
You can submit a wide variety of images and subject matters. That said, Fotolia recommends that potential contributors scope out the other images on the site to get a feel for the type and quality of works being sold.
If you chose not to go exclusive with any of the bigger sites above, I recommend you sell on BigStockPhoto as well. You’ll get 30% royalties per image sold. The dollar amount will depend on the price of the photo, but that can net you anywhere from $0.50 to $25.
You can sell images with a wide variety of subjects on BigStockPhoto. They accept landscapes, cityscapes, and even vector images and illustrations.
Yup, Etsy is a selling platform for crafts and handmade items, but I was surprised to learn it’s also a great place to sell photos! Etsy only charges you 3.5% plus $0.20 per sale, which is really low!
The tradeoff here is that there isn’t much of a market for digital files here. You’ll actually have to print your images, get them framed, then ship product to buyers. Personally, I like selling on Etsy. I’m still a fan of print media, and I feel a stronger connection with my audience whenever they buy physical items.
The payoff is also pretty sweet. I can charge higher for printed photos than digital ones.
The Verdict: Legit or Scam?
All these sites are legit, and provide great opportunities to sell photos online! Make sure you familiarize yourself with their commission and royalty rates, so you can maximize your earnings.
This review is based on my own experiences selling photos through various stock image sites. Have you tried selling your photos online? Which site did you use, and how much did you make for each sale?
Let’s hear your stories!