How to Sell Photos Online: Best Websites and Tips
Money may not buy happiness, but it can surely improve your life. Maybe you've already created a photography website to offer your services. Or perhaps photography is still just a hobby for you. Either way, selling photos online is a great way to make money from your existing work.
With a nearly endless amount of sites through which to sell your photos online available, monetizing your images has never been easier. Well, except for the fact that you need to learn about all those sites in order to choose where to sell your work. Luckily for you, we've done that research and put together a curated list of the best sites on which to sell your photos online and tips on how to do it successfully.
Best places to sell your photos online:
Your own website
01. Your own website
If you still haven't claimed your very own piece of internet land, go create a photography website before you do anything else today. In addition to boosting your online presence and helping you promote your photography business online, creating a portfolio will allow you to take full control over all aspects of selling your photos.
Wix Art Store offers all the tools you need to showcase your work in the highest quality and sell digital and print copies of your photos online. Unlike all other sites in this list, Wix Art Store does not charge any commission fees, and it allows you to set your own competitive prices. Thanks to this, it’s the most profitable way to make money by selling your photos online.
With over 200 million media files up for purchase, Shutterstock is one of the largest stock platforms on the internet, and arguably the most popular stock photography website out there. This micro-stock site allows you to sell photography without exclusivity, allowing you to keep your copyrights and sell your photos elsewhere if you choose to. Furthermore, each image is published with credit to the creator, which means millions of buyers will potentially be exposed to your name.
Shutterstock pays creators between 20% to 30% commission every time someone purchases and downloads their content. The percentage you gain from selling your photos will be determined by your lifetime earnings, meaning your commission will be higher the more you sell. The platform also offers several affiliate programs where you can make money by referring other photographers or customers to the site.
First and foremost, 500px is a community-based platform for photographers. The main purpose of the site is to give shutterbugs a platform where they can showcase their work and connect with other like-minded individuals. You can like and comment on other users’ work, as well as participate in diverse photography contests and even share your own workshops and online photography classes.
Any of the images you share on your profile can then be listed for sale on the Marketplace. There, you’ll be able to choose whether you want to sell your images with or without an exclusivity license. While commission for non-exclusive photos is usually around 30%, exclusive licenses will grant you 60% of the net sale price.
Operated by Getty Images, a high-end stock photography site, iStock’s contributor standards are noticeably higher than those in other platforms. In order to sell your photos online on this micro-stock marketplace, you’ll first need to go through an acceptance process. After submitting a few samples of your work, the images will be reviewed and you’ll be accepted either into iStock or Getty Images.
iStock offers a wide range of resources that will help you improve your photography selling practices, from understanding how to update images to photography networking forums. The commission you’ll get for your photos usually ranges from 25% to 40%, but can drop as low as 15% if the customer is purchasing your work as part of their subscription plan.
Alamy might not be one of the largest online photography selling platforms, thus offering a narrower range of potential sellers, but it does offer a significantly higher commission than most. The percentage photographers take from each sale starts at 50%, which you can cash in once you’ve made $50 or more.
While the platform aims to offer a broad catalog including all types of photography, it does state they prefer images captured with a DSLR or an equivalent type of camera. Essentially, this means you can upload any photo to sell online as long as it meets certain quality standards.
06. Adobe Stock
From the creators of Photoshop and Lightroom comes Adobe Stock, one of the most renowned stock photo marketplaces on the internet. Ever since acquiring Fotoalia in 2014, Adobe Stock has also become one of the largest stock photo selling sites. In addition to the inherent credibility that the brand’s name gives to this platform, one of the main reasons to choose this platform over others is the huge exposure your work could get. Images uploaded to Adobe Stock become a part of the Adobe Stock library, meaning they’re accessible across all of the brand’s programs and applications.
The platform offers commissions ranging from 20% to 60%, which you can deposit in your bank when you reach a $25 threshold. Since Adobe Stock does not demand exclusive selling rights, you’ll be able to sell the same photos on other platforms.
Stocksy is a mid-range stock photography marketplace especially popular among publishers. Its high entry barrier level means that the chances of being accepted as a contributor are quite low. However, if you do make it in you’ll be part of a selected group of photographers. In order to apply to the site, you’ll need to share at least 25 images for review, along with all the keywords and necessary model releases.
This platform demands exclusive rights, meaning you won’t be able to sell your photos anywhere else, but in exchange offers generous commissions ranging from 50% to 70%. Plus, you’ll be able to say you’re part of quite an exclusive group of media creators.
Launched in 2005, 123RF boosts a catalog of over 110 million files, with hundreds of thousands of new ones added every day. Unlike most other sites dedicated to selling photos online, this platform determines the contributor’s commission based on how many files they’ve uploaded to the platform.
The percentages range between 30% to 60% based on your level of contribution to the site. These levels are on a scale of 1 to 10, going from newbie (0-999 images) to pro (over one million images).
EyeEm, pronounced “I am,” is a stock photography site focused on advertising imagery. If your work comprises commercial and product photography, this might just be the perfect place to sell your photos online. The platform uses artificial intelligence to determine which shots have the most commercial potential, so you should spend some time looking for advertising photography inspiration before choosing the images you want to sell here.
Photographers get 50% of the revenue on each photo sold through the site, which can be sold anywhere between $20 to $250 depending on the type of license needed: social, web, or full. EyeEm allows you to retain your own copyrights and partners with other stock photo marketplaces to increase the exposure your images get.
When looking at the way Foap allows users to sell photos online, you will find it to be somewhere between a stock photography site and a photography contest hub. Rather than enabling photographers to upload their favorite images to the site, Foap creates “missions” based on briefs provided by businesses. Because of this, your creative process will probably be closer to reaching out to brands than simply monetizing existing images.
These so-called missions see photographers compete to satisfy the requirements and the types of photos that the brand is looking for. Briefs include details such as the tone, aesthetics, and audience of the images. Users take 50% of the winning images price, and are given the chance to work with international brands such as Nivea, Heineken, Acana, MasterCard and more.
You may not have heard of Crestock before, but by the time you’re done reading about it you’ll definitely want to check it out. The platform offers a more passive way to make money with photography, acting a bit like a third-party version of your own online photography store.
All you need to do is upload your photos for review and after being evaluated by the Crestock team they’ll be added to your portfolio on the site. Depending on the number of times your images are downloaded, you’ll get a commission between 20% to 40% of the sale cost. Furthermore, you can also make money by participating in the platform’s affiliate programs.
Internationally known as the go-to place for handmade goods and unique gifts, Etsy is probably one of the last sites you think of when looking for where to sell photos online. However, with well over 44 million buyers, its potential should not be underestimated.
For starters, Etsy allows you to sell both digital and printed copies of your photos. Of all platforms on this list, the only other one offering this service is the Wix Art Store. And while it is not a commission-free platform, it only keeps 20 cents on each sale, as well as 3.5% of the sale price. To make the most of it, you’ll need to sharpen your photography marketing skills in order to make sure you can compete with the high user offering of the site. You can also look into our guide on how to sell art online, and keep reading for additional tips.
How to sell photos online
Identify your niche
Select your best work
Optimize your portfolio
Keep up with trends
Use different platforms
01. Identify your niche
Defining your specific targeted audience is the first step to successfully selling your photos online. If you’ve been in the industry long enough, you have probably already developed a personal photography style and found the type of photography in which you thrive. If not, there’s no time like the present.
Once you’ve chosen the platform on which you’ll start building your photography career, do some keyword research to help you identify what people are searching for. Take a look at this guide on SEO for photographers to learn how to nail your research.
Finding the right keywords for your work will impact three main areas of your online photography selling journey:
Ensuring there is a demand for the type of photos you capture
Helping you write SEO-friendly alt text for your images
Giving you an overall look of the photography style that works best
02. Select your best work
You only get one chance at making a good impression, and you never know when that might be. With this in mind, it's important to make sure that all the photos you put up for sale meet certain standards. Yes, even if the platform you chose to sell your photos on gives you a higher commission if you upload lots of files.
As soon as you start making money with photography, you need to think of yourself as a brand and make all decisions accordingly. In the long run, consistency and high-quality standards can make or break your dream of becoming a professional photographer.
03. Optimize your portfolio
Your photography website serves as the core of your online presence. That’s why it’s important that every person who visits your site is exposed to the possibility of purchasing your work. The easiest way to do this is by adding a tool such as the Wix Art Store and converting your portfolio into an eCommerce site. If for some reason you decide against this option, make sure to add links to the platforms on which you sell your photos.
04. Keep up with trends
Like it or not, staying on top of the latest photography trends is an absolute must. Being able to identify changes in the industry will help you ensure your work evolves accordingly, which is especially important when you’re working with stock photography marketplaces.
05. Use different platforms
One of the biggest benefits of selling photos online is that you don't need to limit your businesses to a single platform. By combining two or more of them, you'll significantly increase your exposure and maximize your chances of making money.
Even if you choose to concentrate all your efforts on selling your photos on a single site, you should still use other platforms to promote it. For example, if you are selling photos online with Wix Art Store from within your portfolio, make sure to mention this on your photography Instagram account and other social media channels.
Cross-platform promotion is a free and effective way to drive more exposure and attention to your images, which will hopefully translate into monetary compensation.
By Judit Ruiz Ricart
Editor of the Wix Photography Blog