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I am a huge fan of creating income from multiple sources, and with as little extra effort as possible. For me personally, stock photography isn’t something I have put a lot of focus in to, but I have sold a handful of images on stock photography sites. Stock photography is a game of quantity. By which I mean that if you want to make a lot of money from it, you generally need to be shooting and uploading huge amounts of images or film footage specifically for it. However, I’ve found a way to make a bit of extra income from images that I already have through stock photography. For me, these are mostly personal photographs, from travel and adventures, or occasionally still-life photos, such as images of my home or plants, that I’ve taken for social media or a blog post, and that are also suitable for selling as stock photos. Over the years, I’ve sold images on a number of different websites, so in this post, I want to cover the best stock photography sites to sell your photos.
Who Buys Stock Photos, and What Type of Photos Sell the Best?
Stock photos are bought by many people who need images for their projects. These include a website or blog owners, graphic designers, small businesses, magazines, newspapers, and even large corporations. The type of photos that do the best vary depending on the platform, but generally speaking, images with good lighting, minimal post-processing, and a clear subject do well.
However, choosing which site to use can be a little confusing, because there are multiple platforms are available. To help narrow down the selection process, I’ve created this blog post outlining some of the best stock photography sites on the market today where you can start selling your photos – from popular marketplaces like Shutterstock and Adobe Stock, as well as more niche options such as 500px and Foap.
The Best Stock Photography Sites to Sell Your Images
Dreamtime was the first stock photography site that I ever joined. When I was just starting out, I found it to be one of the easiest places to sign up for and get started on. While writing this article, I logged in to my account to find out I have $75 of earnings that I’d not even noticed – nice right? If you want to see the types of images that I have listed on Dreamstime, you can see my own profile here. They have also recently updated their backend submission platform to use AI tools to make submitting images much easier and faster.
Dreamstime is a well-established stock photography marketplace founded in 2000. It is one of the largest libraries, with over 106 million images and videos. It offers photographers a variety of options to choose from, whether they are selling photos or looking for free images. Photographers have the opportunity to make money off of their work by signing up as a contributor. Each image that is sold results in 25% to 60% commission (your commission increases over time if you sell more photos). For me, that’s usually between $0.35 and $3 a sale. Dreamstime is free and easy to sign up for, so I would recommend this as a great option if you’re just getting started.
Shutterstock is one of the most popular stock photography sites today. It has millions of users and offers various images across different genres, claiming to have paid photographers over $1 Billion over their 15 years in business. Commission rates on Shutterstock are around the industry average, at 20-30%, but since they are such a huge site with so many images on offer, their prices can be cheaper than some other sites. So it’s up to you whether you want to potentially earn less per image but possibly sell more, or you’d rather sign up to a site where you might sell fewer images, but the commission is higher.
For the purposes of writing this article, I did create an account and upload some images. Creating the account was easy, but I did find that uploading images was a little more time consuming that with Dreamstime. So if you’re torn between the two, I’d personally choose Dreamstime if you want an easy(er) submission process.
Adobe Stock is one of my go-to sites for selling my images. It’s not that they necessarily have the best rates, although they are pretty good, at a royalty share of up to 40%.
I joined Adobe Stock during the pandemic, when I was looking to see if I could make some extra cash, and it did earn me a bit of extra income. It’s easier to upload images on Abode than on some sites, as they have AI to assist with the tagging (although it doesn’t always get it right). And for most photographers, you probably already have an Adobe account anyway. However, while I do find the earnings from Adobe higher, I have noticed that they won’t accept a lot of images that are accepted on other platforms, such as some of the images of sporting events that I have where there are a lot of sponsorship logos.
Scopio is another platform that I have stock images listed on. When they were just starting out, they approached me, and I signed up, because I liked what they were doing. Scopio’s niche is focused on authentic and diverse images that feature people (and sometimes animals) from around the world. A lot of their images have a strong travel focus, and I have found that those are the ones of mine that do well on there.
Scopio doesn’t advertise what commission rates they offer their contributors, which I do find a little off-putting. But they claim that they pitch their photographers to clients for work, and that it’s possible for their contributers to earn up to $500 an image. For me it’s been closer to a few dollars per image, but it’s better than nothing.
Alamy is an established and respected stock photography platform that offers photographers competitive royalty rates on their images. As one of the oldest marketplaces in the industry, Alamy has a vast collection of over 150 million professionally-shot images across multiple genres, making it easy for buyers to find exactly what they’re looking for. Not only does Alamy have an extensive library of images, but it also offers photographers up to 50% commission rate on sales.
iStock Photo is a stock photography platform that allows photographers to make money from their work. It was founded in 2000 and has become one of the biggest marketplaces for stock photos (it’s part of the Getty Images family). The site offers a variety of images, ranging from generic subjects to niche topics. It also caters to different types of customers, from businesses to bloggers. Photographers who choose to sell their images on iStock can make anywhere from 15% for non-exclusive rights to up to 45% commission for exclusive content, depending on the downloaded license type and image size.
Getty Images is the world’s most respected stock image marketplace, offering a vast library of over 400 million professionally-shot images and videos across many genres. It has been a leader in the stock photography industry since its founding in 1995, allowing photographers to share their work and make money selling their photos. Unlike many other stock photography sites, Getty Images has super high standards and photographers must apply with a selection of images to see if they are suitable. They also offer licensing differently to most other sites.
BigStock is a stock photography website that offers users access to millions of images and videos from professional photographers worldwide. They offer high-quality photos and videos and an easy-to-use platform that makes it simple for customers to find what they’re looking for. The site also provides photographers a royalty share of up to 30% when their images are purchased.
Stocksy is a stock photography platform founded in 2013 as an alternative to the traditional stock photo industry. The site boasts a unique selection of curated, high-quality images and videos exclusive to Stocksy. It also offers photographers competitive royalty rates of up to 50% on all sales. Additionally, the platform is dedicated to providing a safe and secure marketplace for buyers and sellers, making it an ideal choice for photographers looking to make money from their work.
If you’re looking for more of a niche market, 500px could be a great option. It offers high-end stock photos at affordable prices and allows buyers to find unique images that may not be available elsewhere. Each photographer has a profile page so buyers can find out more about who the photographer behind the images. Photographers can earn varying amounts of the royalties depending on whether they are on a free or paid plan, and if they offer exclusivity or not.
Other Options For Selling Photos
SmugMug is an online photo-sharing platform that lets photographers showcase and sells their images for 15% commission. Founded in 2002, the site offers a range of features to help photographers manage their portfolios, such as customisable privacy settings, galleries, and customised pricing. The platform also provides users with tools to promote their work, including search engine optimisation, marketing, and analytics.
SmugMug also offers photographers a variety of pricing options and the ability to set their commission rates on sales. This makes it an attractive option for those looking to make money from their photos without joining a stock photography marketplace.
Etsy gets a mention here, although it’s not really a stock photography site. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sell images on there. Because some people do.
Etsy is mostly thought of as a site for selling handmade items, but you can also list your images on there. It works especially well for images that might be used by other businesses, such as flat-lays or backgrounds.
With Etsy, you have the benefit of being able to set your own prices, although you do pay to list items, as well as paying a commission.
In my opinion though, Etsy is more suited to selling prints (or other printed goods) rather than digital files.
Should I Sell Images As Exclusive On A Platform?
Most stock image sites will offer you a high commission rate if an image is available exclusively on their platform. I used to do this when I was selling images only on Dreamstime. But since my sales weren’t that high on their platform, and I wanted to see if I could get more sales in other places, I ended my exclusivity deal with them and listed on other sites too. I would say that I probably make slightly more in sales now, as I make sales on multiple platforms rather than just the one. So for me, it was worth opting for non-exclusivity and selling on multiple sites. But this does depend on the type of work you are selling, and the platforms you choose to work with.
Can I Sell Photos On Multiple Stock Image Sites?
Yes. Unless you’ve agreed with one of the websites that the images you are selling with them are exclusive (i.e. they are the only website who can sell them), then you are free to sell your images on multiple sites. The only reason many people don’t list their images on multiple sites is that uploading and listing them can be a time consuming process.
Can I Sell Wedding Photos As Stock Images?
No. At least, you probably shouldn’t. Unless you shot for free, and signed an agreement to say that you can do whatever you want with the images, then most of the time when a client hires you for a photography job, whether that’s a wedding or a commercial job, your contract will allow you to use the images for your own marketing but not to sell them to third-parties. Even if you haven’t got this in your contract, just asking yourself if you think it’s ethically ok to re-sell images that a client has paid you for, and whether that could come back to bite you in the ass at some point if you did. Styled shoots however, should be fine as long as you have a model release (as all stock image sites will require releases for any images with people in them).
It Sounds Too Easy. What Are The Cons?
Selling stock photos is easy. But uploading them can be time consuming. When you are uploading them to sell on a stock photography website, you’ll need to title, caption and usually keyword your images. For stock photography, you are usually uploading a lot of images, so this whole process can take time. AI is starting to speed up the process on a number of platforms, but it still requires the human touch to make sure everything is correct. And for 50 images that you upload, title, caption and keyword, you might only sell a couple. So it’s not loads of money. But they great thing is that once they are up there, they have the potential to keep earning for you. Just don’t bank on making your fortune from it 😉
Do I Keep The Copyright?
Generally speaking, yes, you do. But always read the terms and conditions! Some websites will offer you the option to sell the rights to your images for a higher fee, so just make sure you know exactly what that entails. Just remember that when you sell an image, you won’t be credited for it when it’s used in most cases, even though the copyright is still yours.
Many different stock photography marketplaces are available to photographers who want to make money from their work. Each platform offers unique features and benefits that cater to the needs of both buyers and sellers. From iStock and Dreamstime to BigStock, Getty Images, Stocksy, and SmugMug, there is something for everyone regarding stock photography. With a little research and the right platform, you can easily make some extra cash from those photos you’ve got sitting around on drives that aren’t doing anything.
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