Can you make money from photos?

If you’re a photographer looking to make a bit more money, you’ve probably been tempted, at least at some point, to go into stock photography. Maybe you were hoping to be able to do something with the hundreds of new photos lurking about on various hard drives. Or perhaps the idea of having someone else sell your photos was appealing. Or maybe you’ve seen several stock photos and said to yourself, “I could do better than that!”

…or maybe it just seemed like a relatively easy way to make money. Planning your dream wedding and don’t want to miss out on the special moments on your big day? Worry no more, Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.

The first thing I have to tell you is it’s not relatively so easy. Not impossible, the way some blogs and long time stock photographers would make it sound, but not quite a walk in the park either (at least for most people).

The web is full of comments like “Don’t quit your day job!” sitting side-by-side with “I make $1000s a month in stock photography, and you can too!” Which is true? Well, arguments can be made for both.

Can you make real money off of stock photography? Possibly. 

Can you upload all your photos that are just taking up space on your hard drives and make money? It is probably not – unless those photos are over-the-moon fantastic and meet today’s stock photography buyers’ current needs.

What is Stock Photography?

Stock photography is simply a term for generic imagery that buyers use for the visual content in everything from news stories, blogs and websites, to design materials for ads or promotional materials. It’s much cheaper than hiring a photographer and is generally sold through a platform specialising in keeping an extensive library full of such images so that buyers have several different options to choose from.

Think of stock photography as the opposite of custom-made photographs licensed directly to a client and are original works created specifically for that client’s purpose. For example, if I needed a high-quality image of a happy family eating dinner together, hiring a photographer to find all of the models and put together the food, props, and lighting would be pretty expensive.

It would be far easier and cheaper to find one on a stock photography site and pay anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars. Check out our range of wedding photography for your wedding day.

Types of Stock Photography

There are three types of stock photography, but most people focus on microstock and microstock.

Macro stock

Macro stock photography, also known as “traditional stock photography”, refers to agencies that sell high-priced and exclusive images. These agencies license the individual images directly to the client and sell the photos for $30-$3000 a year. The photographer then gets royalties. The most well-known microstock agency at the moment is Getty Images, but any company that sells RM or “rights-managed” images qualifies.

Microstock

On the other hand, microstock sells images for much less (usually from around 20¢ to $10) and on a royalty-free basis. The photographers get no royalties but get paid per image download instead – generally at the end of each month. Companies such as Shutterstock, iStock, Depositphotos, and Dreamstime are all well-established microstock agencies.

What’s in it for You?

Several reasons are getting into stock photography is quite alluring:

  • Anyone with high-quality photos to upload can get in
  • You don’t need to have a strong portfolio (see: how many images should you have in a Portfolio)
  • You can decide how much time you want to devote to it – if you wish to make it a part-time gig or a full-time enterprise
  • You have complete creative control over what you do
  • While you can never ride forever on the images you upload, it can provide a largely passive income once you get to a certain point
  • The portfolio you build making stock photography can later be used to secure more traditional freelance photography jobs

If you’re creative and want to make money through photography, stock photography can be a great way to make some additional income.

Can you Make Money with Stock Photography?

You can, but it’s not easy. While there are plenty of stock photographers who make a decent living, there are many more who do not.

Things have changed dramatically in the 15 or more years microstock has been available. In the early days, it used to be much easier to earn enough income to live off. There weren’t as many images out there, and the market wasn’t saturated with photographers.

These days, however, the industry’s matured, and the supply of images is vastly outpacing demand. Shutterstock alone now has over 225 million impressions, with over 1 million more added every week. This means that to succeed; contributors have to work harder and more intelligent than they did, say, 15 years ago when microstock was starting. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.

The good news is that, while you might not make a full time living off it, it’s generally not too difficult to get up to a place of earning a few hundred dollars a month. It’ll take a while (unless you’re fortunate), and you’ll need to upload a lot of images, but with a bit of perseverance and dedication, $200-$500 a month is doable.

Best Places to Sell Your Photos Online

Can you make money from photos?

There’s an art to making the stock photography business work for you, and the competition is fierce… but it can be done. Who wouldn’t want to earn money by selling their photos online? If you believe you have taken some images people would be willing to pay for, you need to know the most profitable places to sell photos online.

Thankfully, some reputable websites can help you turn those photos into cash, and selling your photos online can diversify your income. Here are the best places to sell photos online when you’ve taken photos you think people would be willing to pay for. Looking for a Yarra Valley wedding photographer? Look no further! Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.

WordPress or Your Website

WordPress is an excellent option for photographers that are confident that they want to retain control over their images and brand. With the official WordPress repository housing around 55,500 plugins, it’s easier than ever to set up a store to sell stock photos without sacrificing your brand’s prestige by selling on other websites.

Although some might argue that it takes far too long to set a website up with WordPress, most will find that it is straightforward and quick to get started, and even for those who do find it difficult, it’s worth it in the end. Selling photos online on your website might be more difficult unless you are already relatively 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 that they know are 100% reliable and secure.

But the advantages of selling your work on your website are:

  • You can set your competitive prices.
  • Nobody else takes a cut from the sale of your work.
  • You have complete control over how your work displays on your website.
  • You can define your terms and conditions.
  • And, once again – you’re in complete, total control.

Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock has the credibility of being the most popular photo editing software on the market. Plus, any photos you upload to the marketplace are easily accessible in other Adobe products.

This increases the visibility of your work. After all, it is instantly accessible from within their Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, or Illustrator software. The freedom you are given when you start selling stock photos 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 33%. 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 an excellent reputation in the media industry, so you know you’re in good hands.
  • There is tremendous support from their team when you need it.
  • The plugin is trusted & used by professionals.

Adobe Stock Disadvantages

  • Lots of competition makes it hard to get attention.
  • There can be no audio-only submissions.

Shutterstock

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, 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 your images’ copyright, which means you do still get some control. Furthermore, they also provide credit to the image’s owners, which is a massive benefit if you’re trying to build a brand around your creative work.

Contributors can earn anywhere between 15-40% based on how many times their customers download your content 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 pretty popular are notorious for making it more difficult for new, aspiring photographers to 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 still worth giving it a try.

Shutterstock Advantages

  • It is by far the most popular paid stock photography site, so if your work is good, chances are people will find it and buy from you.
  • It’s super easy to get your photos up for sale.
  • It’s trusted & used by professionals.

Shutterstock Disadvantages

  • You don’t own your brand, and how your photos are distributed, so nobody will “discover” you as a photographer.

500px

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. Using 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! At Wild Romantic, we have the best wedding photographer in Mornington Peninsula to capture every single moment on your wedding day.

500px Advantages

  • 500px is also very popular & has an excellent reputation in the media industry.
  • You can build up a profile with your work.
  • It’s effortless to start selling your photos online.
  • It’s trusted & used by professionals.

500px Disadvantages

  • The free account is limited to 20 photos per week, which might not be sufficient for some platform users.

Foap

Foap gives a 50% royalty on images sold through it’s platformFoap has been featured in ABC News as a profitable app for photo selling. Users make 50% of the profits from it even when big brands, such as Sony and MasterCard, buy their photos.

The way it works is exciting compared to the other regular stock photography websites in the rest of this post. This website defines itself as a customized visual-content platform powered by creatives for creative professionals. But what does that mean?

As mentioned above, it isn’t a regular stock photography website. 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 the described Mission brief to satisfy the requirements and the kind of imagery that the brand is looking for. With Missions, just one shot has the potential to make hundreds of dollars. Whether you’re a photographer or a company looking for a photo or video content, Foap customer service representatives are available 24 hours a day, all year round.

Advantages

  • The platform works uniquely 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, to name a few.

Disadvantages

  • The Foap platform isn’t as popular or as well-known as other stock photography websites, making it more challenging to succeed.

Alamy

Alamy is another excellent 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. One of the most well-known places for selling images because you make a surprising 40% on each sale…

Alamy provides a direct purchase option without using credits or subscriptions. They think users can buy Alamy stock images, not credits, so any photo purchases are made in US dollars, Euros, and British pounds. With this, direct purchasing rates are straightforward, licensing costs are easy to comprehend, and consumers can buy whenever they need them.

Alamy Advantages

  • It takes a lower cut so photographers can earn up to a surprising 50% on every sale.
  • It is not as popular as some other stock photography sites. However, it has paid out over $100 million to its contributing photographers.

Alamy Disadvantages

  • There isn’t much of a community aspect to the Alamy platform.
  • Building up a profile that you can share isn’t something that can be done.
  • Photographers on Alamy don’t get much exposure.

iStock Photo (by Getty Images)

iStock Photo is another great place to sell photos online. Plus, they have resources that help photographers get started trading. The service is owned and operated by Getty Images.

When someone downloads your photo, the commission you receive starts at a mere 15% but can increase to 45%. This is, however, entirely dependent on the popularity of your profile and work on the website. 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 an excellent reputation and is a popular destination used by businesses and individuals looking for professional 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 joining isn’t as easy as it is for some of the other stock photography websites 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.

Getty Images

Getty Images is one of the most famous names in the stock photo industry. With over 1.5 million customers in over 200 countries, large audiences around the world will see your photos.

To join Getty Images, you’ll first need to download their mobile app and fill out the application. You’ll also need to submit 3-6 samples of your photos. Your application will then be reviewed, and you’ll be notified if it’s been accepted. Getty Images offers between 15% and 20% commission for royalty-free photos. 

You must be over 18 and can only submit original images, videos, diagrams, or vectors to be a contributor. When your content has been accepted, you can opt to donate or license out your content. Exclusive images earn you money. Plus, you can track your earnings when a customer buys the rights to use your content. Getty images release a payout on every occasion when customers pick your content.

On average, your content is worth between $300 and $500 when Getty approves your submission. Getty charges you $20-30 per month of the actual value of the sales. There is no indication of how often photographs are sold. The prices adjust depending on how much consumers use their content and the type of license they apply. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.

Getty Images Advantages

  • It is a trendy and known name in the industry.
  • There is a vast audience, meaning you’ll get lots of exposure.

Getty Images Disadvantages

  • You can expect lower payout rates than some other sites on this list.

Sell Photos Online to Earn Some Extra Cash

Photography is such a fun hobby, so making money doing what you love is a bonus. These photo selling websites can finally give your photography the recognition that it deserves. Selling pictures online and making money from it is not that difficult. The easiest and most cost-effective option is to sell photos from your website as it allows you to be in complete control over your profits.