Selling stock photos online is a terrific way to make money from your photography. There are many ways to go about selling your photos, but 11 stand out above the rest. The easiest way to sell photos is to become a contributor on stock image sites that already have millions of buyers, such as Shutterstock, Dreamstime, and iStockPhoto.
Table of Contents:
11 Best Places to Sell Your Stock Photos Online
- Adobe Stock
- iStockPhoto & Getty Images
- Envato & PhotoDune
- Create Your Own Website
Here are the 11 top places to sell your photos online as stock images:
1. Sell Stock Photos on Shutterstock
Shutterstock boasts that it has paid over $1 billion worldwide to its community of contributors over the last 15 years, which clearly demonstrates there’s money to be made selling your photos on Shutterstock. The company has more than 1.9 million active customers, which is the main reason that Shutterstock tops this list.
How to Start Selling Photos on Shutterstock
To become a Shutterstock contributor, you simply need to register your free account and start submitting images for review. Every creative asset submitted to the site undergoes a review process to ensure it meets the site’s quality and submission standards, and to double-check that it is tagged with appropriate keywords and metadata.
Once you join the Shutterstock program, you can upload new images directly from your contributor dashboard. Shutterstock also allows you to upload images and monitor your earnings from its Contributor Mobile app, available for both the Apple App Store and Google Play.
As a Shutterstock contributor, you’ll have access to your personal contributor dashboard that keeps track of your submissions pending approval, image portfolio, earnings over time, and top-performing images. The dashboard is simple to use and offers a quick glimpse of everything you need to know to make money through Shutterstock.
Technical requirements for Shutterstock photo submissions are detailed yet straightforward. If you have any questions or need support, Shutterstock offers both a community forum and contributor blog to support you. Phone and email support are also available.
Content approved for Shutterstock is non-exclusive. This means you can submit images submitted on Shutterstock to other sites, including your own.
What You Can Earn Selling Photos on Shutterstock
There are two different ways Shutterstock prices its images. Since what you’ll earn as a contributor is tied to how buyers pay Shutterstock, it’s important to understand the two different sales models.
The first way to buy images on Shutterstock is through prepaid image packs. With these plans, buyers pay between $9.16 to $14.50 per image, based on the number of images they commit to purchasing.
The second way to purchase images through Shutterstock is through an annual subscription plan, where buyers pay between $0.27 and $2.90 per image based on the total number of images they commit to each month. For these plans, the image commitments range from 10 to 750 images per month.
How you’ll be paid by Shutterstock as a contributor is tied to a number of factors, including image size, the type of license purchased, and whether the buyer was using a prepaid image pack plan or an annual subscription plan. On average, you will earn between 25 cents to $2.85 per image purchased. The more your lifetime earnings with Shutterstock grow, the more you’ll earn per image download.
If your images are purchased through an enhanced license, you’ll receive a premium of 20% to 30% of the total purchase price. An enhanced license grants buyers permission to use purchased images on items that will be resold such as merchandise and web templates. Enhanced license or not, photographers always keep the copyright for images licensed through Shutterstock.
To get an idea of what photos sell best on Shutterstock, you’ll want to visit The Shot List; it will help you understand the types of images that have the greatest potential for making money.
2. Ways to Sell Stock Images Online on Etsy
Etsy may be best known as an online marketplace for homemade and artisan goods, but it’s also a popular forum for selling stock photos. Bloggers and website owners, in particular, often buy stock photos on Etsy to give their sites a consistent look and feel.
How to Start Selling Photos on Etsy
Etsy makes it easy to start selling photos on its site. You simply need to create an Etsy seller’s account and pay a $0.25 listing fee for every item you upload to the platform. You’ll also pay a 5% transaction fee and a 3%-plus-$0.25 payment processing fee for every item you sell.
Some stock photo sellers opt to upgrade to an Etsy Plus account for an additional $10 a month. The Plus account gives sellers an expanded set of tools, including more ways to customize their shops, 15 selling credits, and $5 in Etsy advertising credits.
You can list stock photos on Etsy and on other stock image sites as well. Oftentimes, you’ll make more money if you list your photography on multiple sites.
What You Can Earn Selling Photos on Etsy
The beauty of selling your stock photos on Etsy is that you get to keep all the profits after paying your listing, transaction, and payment processing fees. Most single images on Etsy are priced under $5 each, while image collections generally fall in the $8 to $50 range.
With Etsy, you’ll likely earn several dollars for your images and image collections rather than just the few cents you’d typically get on traditional stock photo sites. The trade-off, though, is that Etsy doesn’t get the same massive customer traffic that big stock sites do.
Unlike with typical stock photo sites, when you sell your images on Etsy you must instruct Etsy how to download your images once customers have paid. It’s not difficult to do, it’s just a step that you as a seller must undergo to ensure your customers receive the correct files for the images they purchase from you on Etsy.
3. Use Adobe Stock to Sell Stock Photos Online
Since Adobe is one of the leading providers of image creation and editing software on the planet, it probably comes as no surprise that Adobe Stock is one of the most popular venues for buying and selling dazzling stock images online. Contributors can list photos, vectors, videos, and templates for sale on Adobe Stock under dozens of categories, the most popular of which include travel, holidays, business, sports, people, backgrounds, seasons, and animals.
How to Start Selling Photos on Adobe Stock
As with most stock photo sites, you must be at least 18 years old to become an Adobe Stock Contributor. To get started, you’ll need to sign up for a free Adobe Stock Contributor Account.
You can submit photos immediately after signing up for your account, but it’s important that you begin with only your very best work. Every image you submit will be reviewed by the Adobe Stock team; it generally takes about five days to see the status of your submission. You can easily submit images in just a few clicks via your Adobe Stock contributor dashboard.
To ensure your images get through the screening process, make sure you follow Adobe Stock’s content requirements. Be sure to describe your images accurately using relevant keywords that will help buyers find your photos when they perform image searches.
As with all high-quality stock image sites, it’s unlikely that all your photo submissions to Adobe Stock will be approved, and the reasons images are rejected don’t always have anything to do with image quality. If a photo lacks aesthetic or commercial appeal, it’s likely to be rejected—even if the photo quality is high. Images may also be rejected because they appear not to meet Adobe’s legal standards—for instance, if there are copyrighted or trademarked items in the photos.
Content approved for Adobe Stock is non-exclusive. In other words, the photos you list on Adobe Stock can also be submitted to other stock image sites.
What You Can Earn Selling Photos on Adobe Stock
You will receive a 33% commission for both photos and vector images listed on Adobe Stock. The commission is based on the actual price that Adobe Stock receives for those images, which varies by sales plan. Average payouts per image range from $0.33 per image to $26.40 for extended license purchases.
You can request a payment for royalties earned on Adobe Stock once you’ve achieved a minimum royalty threshold of $25. Payments are made through either PayPal, Payoneer, or Skrill; you’ll select your payment preference when you create your contributor account.
Adobe Stock offers several free online tutorials to help you achieve greater success on its platform. They’re worth taking advantage of.
4. Sell Stock Photos on iStock & Getty Images
You can start selling your stock photos on two amazing sites—iStock and Getty Images—through the Contributor by Getty platform. Together these two brands serve more than 1.5 million customers in more than 200 countries. Even better, Getty Contributors welcomes all types of photographers and image creators—from beginners to full-time professionals.
How to Start Selling Photos on iStock & Getty Images
You can apply to list your photos on these two sites through the Contributor by Getty app, available for both the Apple App Store and Google Play. When completing your application, you will be asked to share three to six samples of your very best work. You must be 18 years old to apply.
If approved, you’ll be granted permission to submit images to appear on the iStock website. You may also be approved to submit images for the Getty Images website, which typically displays only the best of the best photos.
Content approved for iStock is non-exclusive, which means you can list those images on multiple stock websites. Content approved for Getty Images is exclusive to the Getty Image family; you are not allowed to submit that content to other stock photo sites.
What You Can Earn Selling Photos on iStockPhoto & Getty Images
Once accepted into the Getty Contributor program, you can add new photos for approval at any time. You’ll then earn a commission every time a buyer licenses your content.
Images licensed through GettyImages.com receive a 20% commission. Buyers pay between $50 and $499 for leasing images through Getty Images, which means your royalty as a seller can be between $10 to $99.80 per image downloaded. With those high payouts, it should come as no surprise that it’s far more difficult to get your images listed on the exclusive Getty Images website.
Images licensed through iStock.com receive a royalty rate of 15%—or up to 45% for exclusive contributions. Buyers on iStock pay considerably less for images, where photos are sold both through subscription and credit plans. The average price buyers pay for images ranges between $8.67 to $33 per photo. At a 15% royalty rate, that means that photographers are paid between $1.30 and $4.95 for each photo downloaded.
Royalties for both sites are paid through PayPal or Payoneer; you choose your preference once you are accepted as a contributor. As with all stock sites, the photographer retains the copyright for all photos licensed through the Getty Contributor program.
5. Sell Stock Photos on Envato Elements & PhotoDune
PhotoDune and Envato Elements are both owned by Envato Market, which serves more than 2 million customers. More than 35,000 creatives currently license images on these two websites, which can both be accessed through the same image submission process.
How to Start Selling Photos on Envato Elements & PhotoDune
You’ll need to complete an author application through Envato Market before you can begin selling your photos as stock images on PhotoDune and Envato Elements. The application simply asks you to provide contact information and the type of content you’d like to list, and asks how many items you’d upload to the site upon acceptance.
Once you complete the basic application, you are then asked to submit a diverse portfolio of images for review. Next, Envato content experts review your portfolio submission based on overall quality, technical compliance, and commercial viability. If approved, you can start uploading content immediately, though every item you submit going forward will be reviewed before appearing on either site.
It typically takes the Envato Market review team two to three days to review submissions. Your photos may be approved, receive a hard rejection—in which case they cannot be resubmitted—or receive a soft rejection, in which case the photo can be resubmitted with a few tweaks as identified by the review team.
Content approved for Envato Elements & Photo Dune is non-exclusive, provided you have not already entered into an exclusivity agreement with Envato Market. Exclusive content experts on Envato Market must abide by the terms of their original agreement.
What You Can Earn Selling Photos on Envato Elements & PhotoDune
Envato Elements offers customers an unlimited subscription to access its assets. Buyers subscribe to Envato Elements at a cost of $10.75 to $16.50 per month per member. Photographers and other creative asset contributors are paid 50% of the net subscription revenue that’s calculated based on Envato’s share model.
The PhotoDune website works on a single image license model. Buyers on PhotoDune can license photos for an average of $2 to $5 for a standard license, or up to $40 for an extended license. Photographers earn 50% of that sale price or around $1 to $20 per photo licensed.
6. How to Sell Stock Photos Online on 123rf
The stock photo mega-website 123rf is another top online marketplace where you can sell your stock photos. The big benefit of listing your images here is massive exposure; 123rf receives more than 41 million visitors each month.
How to Start Selling Photos on 123rf
To sign up as a 123rf Content Contributor, you’ll need to accept the terms of the 123rf.com Content Contributor Agreement and complete the Content Contributor application. You must submit 10 original images along with your application that will then be reviewed by the 123rf team. You’ll be notified of whether you’re accepted into the program within one to four weeks.
Once approved for the 123rf Contributor program, you will need to upload your personal identification—which is required to receive payment for your photos—and then you can start uploading new images into the system via your 123rf personal contributor dashboard.
When you sell images on 123rf, you’re still free to sell the same images on other sites as well. Think of 123rf as one source for selling stock photos, but if you want to maximize your income, be sure to list your photos on other sites as well.
What You Can Earn Selling Photos on 123rf
Like many other stock photo sites, 123rf sells its images through both a credits model and a subscription plan. Photographers earn a royalty between 30% to 60% commission on the net proceeds of each image downloaded—the total amount of which varies by the plan the buyer uses to make image purchases.
The more images a buyer licenses, the less they will pay per image. This means as a photographer, you might earn less per photo, but more overall.
The 123rf royalty compensation plan rewards contributors whose images are downloaded frequently. When first joining the program, you begin at Contributor Level One (see chart below). As more of your images are downloaded over time, you advance up the Contributor Level ranks, where you receive higher compensation for each image. Average contributor compensation for stock images ranges from $0.22 to $0.43 for items licensed through subscription plans.
7. Make Money Selling Stock Photos on Dreamstime
Dreamstime is another active marketplace where you can start selling stock photos online. The site has over 28 million users, which makes it an excellent platform for making money from your photography.
How to Start Selling Photos on Dreamstime
Dreamstime accepts photo submissions from both professional and amateur photographers. As long as you meet the Dreamstime image submission criteria, you can create a free account and begin uploading files to Dreamstime in a matter of minutes The Dreamtime content review team will then judge your uploads on a variety of factors, including technical precision, aesthetics, and commercial viability.
Once accepted into the Dreamstime community as a contributor, you can continue to submit more photos for consideration. Every item you submit will be reviewed before appearing on the site.
The total number of images you can upload each week will depend on your image approval rating percentage. For example, If you have an approval rating of 80%, you can upload the maximum amount of images allowed per week—which is typically 50 submissions if you’re a new photographer. If you have an image approval rating of 10% or less, though, you’ll be limited to uploading one-sixth the maximum number of images allowed per week.
Maximum upload volumes are reset each week by Dreamstime. Contributors with an 85% approval rating or that contribute images exclusively to the Dreamstime site can submit up to 50% more images than other contributors can.
There are two types of contributors on Dreamstime: non-exclusive and exclusive. As a non-exclusive contributor, any images listed on Dreamstime can be listed on other sites as well. As an exclusive contributor, you commit to listing certain works only on Dreamstime.
What You Can Earn Selling Photos on Dreamstime
Non-exclusive Dreamstime contributors earn 25% to 50% revenue share for images licensed through the site, while exclusive contributors earn 27.5% to 55%. When first joining the program, your files will be included in the Dreamstime database as level one content. As an image is downloaded more frequently, the price for the image will rise as will the content level rating—hence, you’ll begin receiving a higher payment for the same image with every new download.
As you can see in the chart below, image contributors receive anywhere from $0.68 to $7.34 cents per image for standard license photo downloads. Extended image licenses that grant commercial usage rights net between $13 and $26.40 per download.
8. Sell Your Photos on Depositphotos
Depositphotos has more than 4 million customers worldwide and is highly regarded for its high-quality image collection, which earns a 4.8-star satisfaction rating based on reviews from more than 700,000 customers. With so many happy customers, Depositphotos is a terrific place to start selling stock photos online.
How to Start Selling Photos on Depositphotos
To get started as a contributor with Depositphotos, you must first register as a contributor. When signing up, you’ll be asked to pass a brief examination test that involves uploading a handful of your best image files. Depositphotos inspectors will review your submissions, and if they meet the company’s technical file requirements and image quality standards, you’ll be accepted as a Depositphotos contributor once you accept the terms of the Depositphotos’ contributor Supply Agreement.
You can contribute images to DepositPhotos on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis. You need to be at least 18 years old to apply to become a contributor. You also need to have the required release documents—including model releases and commercial property releases when appropriate—and verify that you have rights to the images you submit to the platform.
Once accepted as a contributor, you can then submit more images to the site, though each will undergo a quality inspection before it goes live on Depositphotos.com. Once your files are approved, they’ll be posted immediately—which means you can start earning money from your stock photos from that moment forward.
What You Can Earn Selling Photos on Depositphotos
The income that you can earn on Depositphotos is directly linked to your contributor level. All new contributors are assigned to level one and stay at that level until they have made it to 499 customer downloads.
Depositphotos has five contributor levels. Level one, or green, is the entry level. Level five, or platinum, is the highest contributor level and is only met when a contributing photographer has achieved a total of 150,000 paid downloads.
Depositphotos uses both a subscription model and a direct download model to license creative assets to its customers. The fees you’ll earn as a contributing photographer will vary based on the model used by customers to license your photos.
Contributors earn royalties of 34% to 42% for images licensed through direct download purchases. As these images are typically priced in the $2.99 to $4.99 range, the royalties photographers receive average between $1.02 and $2.10 per download. For images licensed through the subscription model, contributors earn 30 cents to 35 cents per image.
9. Sell Stock Photos on Stocksy
Stocksy is a place where buyers can lease what the company describes as “art forward stock photos.” It’s not your typical stock photo site, as it’s much choosier about the type of photos it allows on its site. It may be an ideal place for you to sell your images as stock photos if you specialize in creating artistic and unusual, yet still commercially viable images.
How to Start Selling Photos on Stocksy
Stocksy is a co-op where artists are co-owners in the business. The company goes through periods when it accepts new contributors to its site, and periods when it doesn’t. You’ll need to check the Stocksy Call to Artist page to confirm that enrollment is open before submitting your application to join Stocksy as a contributing artist.
Submitting an application is fairly straightforward. You’ll first supply some contact information, complete a short questionnaire, and then supply a minimum of 25 photos for the Stocksy team to review. It takes up to two months after submitting your application to learn whether you’re approved as a contributor.
Contributors to Stocksy must agree to make their submissions exclusive. That means any image approved for licensing on Stocksy cannot be listed for license on a competing stock photo site or on your own website.
While anyone can apply to become a contributor on Stocksy, the company is really looking for experienced artists with large portfolios who can contribute significantly to the site’s extraordinary image collection. Bottom line, it’s not easy to become a Stocksy contributor as the creative standards are sky-high, but the financial rewards can be considerable for artists who are brought into the fold.
What You Can Earn Selling Photos on Stocksy
Stocksy pays its artists the highest royalties in the stock photos industry. Contributors earn a 50% to 70% royalty for every image downloaded. Stocksy image prices range from $15 to $125 for standard licenses and $100 to $500 for extended licenses. That means photographers can earn between $7.50 and $350 per image downloaded by Stocksy buyers.
10. Use Photoshelter to Sell Stock Photos Online
Thus far, we’ve only discussed websites that have large customer bases and millions of photo assets already online. Photoshelter offers a different way to sell your images as stock photos. With Photoshelter, you create your own online presence using the Photoshelter website-building platform.
Photoshelter offers nine different templates that help you easily build your website in a matter of minutes. This website platform for photographers comes with a built-in shopping cart so you can sell your photos as stock images and instantaneously deliver high-resolution files to your buyers. You can also connect your Photoshelter website to print services companies and sell prints of your photos.
Photoshelter offers three different plans which cost between $10 and $45 per month when billed annually. The two main differences between the plans are the file storage allotment—which ranges from 4GB to unlimited—and the bandwidth allotment for client downloads, which ranges from 5GB to 50GB.
All Photoshelter plans allow you to use your own domain name. Each plan also comes with the top features most photographers need, including the ability to upload images in various image formats, lightboxes for client collaboration, image watermarks, sitewide keyword search capabilities, and unlimited traffic allowances.
The toughest part about selling stock photos online with Photoshelter is that you are solely responsible for getting visitors to your website. You must build your customer base and your website traffic yourself, which can be an uphill battle.
The top reasons to set up your own website using the Photoshelter platform is that it’s easy to get started, your images do not have to go through an image approval process, and you have considerable control over what your website looks like. Even better, you get to keep 100% of the profits you earn from every photo.
11. Create a Website & Sell Stock Photos Online
Last, but certainly not least, you can start selling stock photos online through your own website that you build using any of the top website builders or ecommerce platforms available on the market today. If you’re on a shoestring budget, you can start a WordPress website on Dreamhost for as low as $2.59 per month.
The upside of using a traditional website or ecommerce platform to build your photography website is that you’ll have a great deal of control over design and features. A downside to doing it all yourself, though, is that finding the right plugins, templates, image security tools, and ecommerce tools for downloading content to your buyers can require considerable time and effort.
Whether you build your own website from the ground up or use a photographer-friendly builder like Photoshelter, you must create your own customer base from scratch. Many people who sell stock photos online join the top stock photo mega-websites first, and then create their own custom website after they’ve built a large portfolio and a strong reputation as a stock photographer.
How to Make the Most Money Selling Stock Photos Online
You’ve just learned where to sell your stock photos online, but finding the right websites to list your photos is just the beginning. If you want to make the most money selling stock photos online, you need to make sure the images you create have true commercial viability. You also need to make sure the best customers for your photos can easily find your images online.
There is a lot of competition for stock images. In fact, most stock photo providers already have millions of images on their websites with thousands of new photos coming online every day. That’s why you must understand the nuances of how to make your images stand out in a crowded field.
Here are the top tips that will help you make the most money from your stock photos:
- Use relevant keywords: Make sure you add accurate descriptions to every photo you submit. Use keywords buyers are likely to use when conducting a photo search.
- Explore bestselling images: Visit stock photography sites to view trending searches and bestseller lists. This will help you better understand buyers’ patterns regarding colors, themes, photo subjects, and image composition preferences.
- Think like a customer thinks: Before taking stock photos, consider who would use the photo concept you’re about to shoot, where they would use it, and what message they might want to convey through the image.
- Keep images crisp and uncluttered: Eliminate distracting elements in your photos. Make sure each photo offers an impactful point of focus.
- Diversity is good: The problem with many stock photos is the people and images often look so much alike. To stand out, offer both variety and diversity in your photos.
- Create image collections: Many online stock photo buyers will buy multiple images from the same photo collection to convey a consistent look and feel in their projects.
- Do your research: Once you have a subject matter in mind for a stock photo, look at what’s available on the market already before doing a photo shoot—that way you can create new photos that will blow the competition away.
- Submit new images often: Many buyers prefer to use fresh stock photos that aren’t widely used by others yet. That’s why it’s smart to add new photos to your portfolio often.
- Read stock photo sites’ contributor blogs: Most large stock photo sites have blogs specifically written for their image contributors. These blogs offer invaluable tips on how to create better photos that sell well.
- Acquire appropriate model and property releases: When using people in your photos or commercial buildings that require a fee for entry, you’ll need to submit a model or property release along with your stock photo submission. You won’t make money selling stock photos without these releases.
Learning how to make the most money selling stock photos online will require some trial and error on your part. Yet, if you keep the tips mentioned above in mind as you begin your journey, you’ll likely sell far more stock photos and make more money than you’d ever make by just winging it.
You can make money selling stock photos on all types of subjects, including business, fashion, sports, food, holidays, nature, travel, money, people, editorial, animals, architecture, and beauty. The best way to start is to become a contributing photographer on one of the top stock image sites, such as Shutterstock, 123rf, Dreamstime, or Adobe Stock.
Shutterstock tops our list of best websites for both photographers who want to sell photos and businesses that want to purchase images. The site is easy to use and contains millions of high-quality images that are ideal for a wide variety of applications. Buyers pay a fair price for images while photographers receive a competitive royalty for every image that is licensed through the Shutterstock website.