Selling Photographs Online: Where to Start Earning

Selling Photographs Online

Selling Photographs Online

Selling photographs online for passive income can be hard to do as a photographer. You generally have specific projects or hope to sell different photos to different publications.

Maybe take on commissions to make up the gaps. Whether you specialize in travel, weddings, or journalism, you are subject to the whim of your opportunities.

Unless you take stock photos, obviously. But is there any money in that? Given the common recommendation to provide stock for Creative Commons, it might not feel like it.

The truth is that it depends; you have to stick with it in order to begin making decent royalties on your stock images.

You also need to know where to sell them. So here are ten sites you can use to start earning money selling photographs online.

1. Your Own Site

You have two approaches that you can take when you sell from your own site. One is to create a traditional e-commerce system and sell licenses for your own chosen price.

The other is to provide free photos as Creative Commons but to earn money through PPC and ad revenue. You might also be able to find an associated affiliate program, which is one of the most common ways people earn a passive income using their website.

But there are two big downsides to using your own site: first is that you have to market it yourself; second is that you have to invest a lot of time before you start to see an increase in traffic that makes any profit feasible.

But on the plus side, you get the full fee minus minor costs like hosting. Unlike on stock sites, where you only get a fraction of the price from each picture chosen.

2. Selling Photographs Online: iStock

An associated website of Getty Images, this is one of the more popular sites on this list.

They don’t just accept images: they deal with multiple media formats. You can sell images, vectors, illustrations, videos, and audio.

They also have two pay grades: Contributor and Exclusive Contributor. The first pays 15% per download, and the second pays 45%.

Their incentives to people who use iStock only are interesting, and often worth it for those who don’t want to spread their photos on multiple sites and deal with managing them all.

3. Fotolia

Adobe-owned Fotolia is recommended by Dollar Photo Club. They are not currently taking new contributors and only allow a selected number of buyers at any given time.

They are often referred to as the “classy” stock site and they are aimed more at the creative type than what you might find in the business category.

They pay more than iStock at 33% for all members. They up their commission rates based on the popularity of the seller. So the longer you sell and the more often your images are downloaded, the higher your earnings potential for credit sales.

4. Adobe Stock

Speaking of Adobe, there is also Adobe Stock. They use the same method for selling photographs online and it can be worth it to post your images in both sites’ galleries.

You can find a lot more basic stock images on Adobe than on Fotolia. And you can expect people to be more interested in direct photos rather than artsy ones there.

Although, that is a loose rule and anything can be posted at either as long as it meets the terms and conditions.

5. Shutterstock

The massive community, Shutterstock, is perfect if you want to reach an incredibly large audience. Unfortunately, its size puts you at risk of being lost in the crowd.

Nonetheless, they welcome videos, images and vectors and are dedicated to helping you protect your content. As long as your contributions are of the highest possible quality, you’ll succeed in keeping yourself distinguished.

6. Dreamstime

Dreamstime usually attracts people because of their free images, which tend to be much better than on sites like Morguefile.

But they also have a huge paid stock community and you can make a pretty penny there. They do have weekly upload limits, but it is high enough that it shouldn’t pose a problem for most.

Plus, they allow you to direct upload from FTP servers. The maximum amount of images per week depends on your approval rating. So the higher your rating, the more you can publish.

7. 123RF

There is a unique earnings system in place on 123RF. Like many sites, the amount of commission is based on your level.

They have levels 1 – 10, based on an annual credit total. The commission rate starts at 30%, and can grow to up to 60%. Image size and license will impact your monthly stats that go towards your final annual contributor level.

Image size and license will impact your monthly stats that go towards your final annual contributor level.

8. Alamy

Alamy has a historical category, which already sets them apart. But unless you are a historical image hunter, that won’t be what attracts you to their service.

What does is the way that they select their images…they accept pretty much anything. The only quality control they do is based around technical aspects. They also have additional revenue options.

9. Crestock

Crestock is a bit lower on revenue, starting at 20% or $0.25 per subscription download (which most will be). They only grow to 40% or $0.40, as well…that is at the extremely high download end.

But they are much more low key in what they will accept and it is a great place for beginners to start experimenting with what sells on stock sites. They guide you through the process of setting descriptions,

They guide you through the process of setting descriptions, metadata and keywords to attract views. And that’s another valuable lesson for new photographers.

10. Stocksy

Stocksy is an interesting site. They don’t do individual uploads for acceptance the way others do.

Instead, they have a general Call To Artists. Photographers, Illustrators and Graphic Designers can submit their portfolio and they will choose contributors based on those samples.

Once you have been accepted, you can start to submit your work for inclusion in their stock service. They have limited space per year, so interested artists should respond to their CTA as soon as possible.

Otherwise, you will have to wait another year before they are open again.

Keep in mind that they demand high quality, creativity and exclusivity from all submissions. The same can be said about applications to join. So only show your best photographic work. Not the usual stock photos.


I hope you have found the above 10 sites for selling photographs online inspiring and helpful.

So, to give you an additional helping hand in your quest, here are some tips on editing your photos.

And here is a little tutorial on how to create more visual content easier.

Lastly, here are a few ideas on how to showcase your photos at home or in your office!

Do you have a site to add to the list? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

This article was written by Annie Wallace.

Annie Wallace is a social media enthusiast, amateur photographer and stay-at-home mom.

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