Passive Income: Stock Photography – Making money selling your photos

How many photos do you take a month? I’m guessing that quite a few, I mean, most of us reading this will have phones capable of taking outstanding photos.

What if you could make money off those photos? What if people were willing to pay you in order to use your photos in their ad campaigns, blogs, website and so on? You can and they do. It’s really as simple as that. It’s been done for years, however, the process has gotten slightly easier for those of us who like shortcuts. What if, you could use stock photography to earn money in your down time, you can read our introduction to passive income before you get started with this one.

Instead of having to send emails, hire an agent or sell your soul at some crossroads, you can just upload your photos to stock photography sites and let them sell your photos for you, of course, the money you get is way; and we’re talking WAY; less than if you did all the hard work yourself, however, we are talking about low effort ways of earning money, so there’s really no point in complaining.

It’s worth noting that you will earn more money as your photography improves or if it’s already of a good standard. The great thing is that most of the sites I’m about to recommend have great blogs and advice on the type of photography they are after, so I’m sure you will be a pro in no time.

With no further ado, here are my top 3 sites for selling your photos, I’ve put them in my preferred order and tried to explain why, but I would recommend you try them all out and find the one that suits you most, this will vary depending on the type of things you’re taking photos of and how much time you want to put into the upload process.

It’s also worth noting that there are loads more sites that you can use, these are just the ones I’ve found to be most effective or user-friendly, I’ve also not included ones that want exclusivity of your photos, mainly because it’s not something that appealed to me, but they do exist should this be your chosen route.

1. Shutterstock

This is THE ONE, you will make more money here than on any of the other sites and as of late last year, they are pretty damn user-friendly too, plus you get really good insights and statistics into how your photos are selling, meaning you can quite easily adapt the photos you take in order to see increased sales and interest.

It’s customer base is huge, so, although there is a lot of competition, you will start to see sales pretty quickly, not to mention that once you’ve submitted a photo it’s normally approved within a few days, if not, you get an explanation as to why it hasn’t been accepted, meaning it’s easy to fix mistakes and learn more about the kind of photos they want to sell.

How much money will you be making? To start off with, not a lot. Most people who buy a photo have a subscription, meaning you will be getting a measly $0.25 per photo sold, however, if after a few months you’ve submitted 500-1000 photos, you can easily be selling 100’s of photos a month and this will only continue to grow over time. Shutterstock is by far the easiest way to start on this path and see the quickest success.

PROS: Big marketplaces mean quick and high number of sales. Good user interface for uploading photos.

CONS: Most sales will be to subscribers and only earn $0.25 each.

2. Pond5

I absolutely loved the idea of this site and I loved using it.  The user interface is amazing, a true pleasure to work with, it also draws you in by allowing you to set a price for your photos, meaning you can make some very healthy profit if you sell some.

There lies the issue though, their marketplace is a lot smaller than some of their competition and their photos a little more expensive. This means you kind of have to actively promote your portfolio if you hope to make some money out of it, however, it’s easy infrastructure and rate of pay means it may be worth bulk uploading photos to every once in a while, just don’t expect a very quick reward for your effort.

PROS: Best user interface for uploading photos. Set your own price and earn more per sale.

CONS: Smaller marketplace means sales are less frequent.

3. iStock

Another great option and the little sister to world famous, Getty Images, which means you will definitely see sales due to its huge marketplace!

The main reason this is not top of my list is that I personally, saw quicker sales on Shutterstock and prefer their user interface, actually, that’s an understatement, the iStock (and Getty) user interface for uploading photos is a pain in the ass and there’s no point in sugar coating it.

However, iStock offers OPTIONAL exclusivity, meaning if you want to earn a tad more than the shocking $0.20 per photo (for subscribers) you can opt to sell some exclusively on iStock and earn 45% of the sale price, this might be worthwhile if a few of the photos are doing well on that particular site or you’re shooting a niche that is in demand.

PROS: Big marketplaces mean quick and high number of sales. Optional exclusivity.

CONS: Most sales will be to subscribers and only earn $0.20.  Less than friendly interface for uploading photos.

Uploading your new photos on a regular basis is a pretty easy routine to get used to, not to mention that once you start to see sales, you automatically start looking for more photo opportunities.

Passive incomes tend to grow over time, so if you start setting things up now, then hopefully they will come in handy next time you hit a dry season.

Have you sold stock photography in the past? What sites did you prefer? I would love to hear from you. You can find out more about our Photography services and see our Shutterstock portfolio via our Photography & Videography page.

Misael Trujillo.

Events Manager, Graphic Design, Photography, Social Media @Kitschinc. Punk Rock Shows as @PSDead. Co-Creator of @WeAreFoodScouts. Songs for @LarkhillUK.

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