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Photographers: Sell Your Photos and Make Money!

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Best Photo Marketplace
Best for Direct Selling
Best for Amateur Photographers
foap logo

We’ve all snapped thousands of photos with our smartphones and cameras over the years. But if you’re like me, they’re just sitting on a your phone, hard drive or cloud storage and taking up lots of e-space. Instead of only sharing digital memories with select friends on social media (if anyone at all), why not make a little extra money from your photos? It’s an easy and passive way to turn your hobby into an additional revenue stream. This article shares a few ways you can turn your photos into cash and will hopefully inspire you to find the best stock photo sites for photographers and grow your income.

How To Sell Stock Photography Online?

First off, you might be wondering what the heck we mean by sell “stock photography.” Well, luckily for you, we have an entire article dedicated to stock photos (often also referred to as “royalty free” or “free use images” too). So, start there and get familiar, then come back here. Or if you’re ready to start right away, read on, we won’t stop you!

Why Should I Sell My Photos?

According to mylio.com, if all photos stored in a year were printed as 4×6 prints and lined up end to end they would stretch out over 200 million miles (or 1.1 round trips from the earth to the sun). By 2017, that number is expected to double to 2.5 round trips (or 1272.1 billion photos) 78.8% of which are snapped on our mobile devices. With so many photos out there, are they just going into a black hole of wasted space? Not anymore thanks to online marketplaces for selling stock photos.

Businesses and publishers are taking advantage of having access to photographers around the world for a fraction of the cost of hiring a professional. More frequently they’re now turning to photography sites to crowd-source for photos for their brands and stories. Either by passively browsing via search or more actively challenging photographers to take and submit specific photos for a larger monetary incentive. So, in addition to fortune, you could earn a little fame and turn those unused and unpublished photos into the next big advertising campaign or editorial piece.

Best Place to Sell Stock Photos

Next logical question: where to sell stock photos? No matter what your motivation is, there are dozens of sites out there that will buy your stock photos. Which site you choose and how much you can make depends on a few factors. We’ll get into these below in our review of the best stock photo sites to sell on. In addition to picking our “best for” in each category, we get into the pros and cons of each one. So, are you ready to start selling stock photography?

Best Photo Marketplace | Best for Direct SellingBest for Amateur Photographers

Best Photo Marketplace: 500px Review

500px logoVisit Website

500px is a community made up of over 5 million photographers who create and upload their work for others to see and buy. They offer three types of plans for members: Free, Plus, and Awesome.  Awesome gives you the most amount of features, including unlimited uploads and advanced statistics and settings. After creating a free account, upload your photo via computer or third party site, add a description, tags, and location and submit your photo for review (along with a model release if there are recognizable people in the picture). Then you’ll receive a notification once it’s been approved and can track your views and sales through your account. They also have a feed (similar to Instagram) where you can browse through and interact with recently uploaded pictures from others. Feeling up for a challenge? Use their Photo Quests to submit specific photos for a chance to compete for prizes including cash, recognition and more.

Pros

Cons

  • Get exposure to publishers and buyers without having to market yourself
  • Earn up to $300 per photo or more with their photo “quests”
  • Upload directly from Flickr, Instagram or Dropbox, and other popular photo sharing services
  • Can add watermarks so users can’t download photos unless purchased
  • Fees for withdrawing money: PayPal (fees may apply), check ($10 fee) or wire transfer ($25 fee)
  • Takes 45 days to process payment once purchased
  • Some countries are restricted from selling
  • Limited support

Pricing

Pricing is based on whether you give 500px exclusive rights to sell your stock photos (which means you can’t sell an individual photo anywhere else). Exclusive photos have a higher payout (double the royalty percentage). Price per photo for the buyer is based on the license type and the quality of the photo, so the better the license (where to use and for how long) and the higher resolution, the more you’ll get paid.

  • Non-Exclusive to 500px: 30% of net sales (price ranges from $34-$149 per photo, plus $99-$499 for extended licenses)
  • Exclusive to 500px: 60% of net sales (price ranges from $34-$149 per photo, plus $99-$499 for extended licenses)

Best for Direct Selling: SmugMug Review

SmugMug logoVisit Website

SmugMug is a popular photo sharing service for photographers to showcase and sell their photos from events and weddings but can also be used for sharing personal photos. After signing up, you can easily drag and drop your photos into a browser to upload them from your computer or mobile phone. You can also connect via Dropbox. Then, you have the option of creating a customized website for your photos. You can brand it with your colors, fonts and logo or embed it into your existing website. Organize photos into albums using drag and drop tools and track sales history through their online portal. Although you must “pay to play” by signing up for a Smug Mug subscription, plans start at as little as $3/month, and you can try them out risk-free to see if it’s a good fit before committing to anything.

Pros

Cons

  • Free 14-day trial (no credit card required)
  • Upload unlimited photos (on all plan types)
  • You and others can order photos as prints or printed on gifts in addition to digital downloads
  • Flexible plans to change level or cancel at anytime
  • Embed galleries into existing website and custom “showcase”
  • Set your price and keep a higher portion of your sales
  • Customer service via email or ticket system
  • Pro membership required to sell photos ($3-35/month depending on level and annual vs. monthly plan)
  • More geared towards sellers so you must market your photos yourself

Pricing

Set your own prices using a price list (or create packages to sell larger quantities at once for events or groups). You can even offer promo codes for discounts to incentivize customers to purchase. Your profit is 85% of your sales (SmugMug’s 15% fee includes credit card payments, customer service for refunds, applicable taxes, etc.). Payments are issued on the first business day after the 7th of each month.

Best for Amateur Photographers: Foap Review

Foap logoVisit Website

Foap is an app that allows anyone the ability to sell photos taken from their iPhone or Android. Users download the free app to their smartphone then take or upload photos to the Foap market and list it for sale. Add tags to help it get more visibility in search and create albums to organize by type. The only downside is before your photo gets listed in the marketplace for sale, it must receive an average rating of 2.6 or higher from 5 other users. However, they also pay you to curate other’s photos (or your own), so that’s another option. Similar to 500px, Foap partners with brands and businesses to challenge users to Missions to submit photos of specific shots for a larger incentive (upwards of $2,000 if your photo is chosen). Learn more about Foap Missions in the video below.

Pros

Cons

  • Upload from your iPhone or Android
  • Easy to use website and apps
  • You can make money off other people’s photos too
  • Straightforward photo pricing structure
  • Personal support via email
  • Must get votes on photos to qualify for a sale
  • Not as high of a payout for photos
  • Must upload via mobile app (so more limited to smartphone photos)

Pricing

  • $5 per photo and you can sell any photo an unlimited number of times
  • $0.25 for every curated photo sold in an album (can be your photo or someone else’s)

Other Ways to Sell Stock Images

We should note that most the companies we reviewed for best stock photography provider also offer selling programs as well. So don’t by any means feel like you’re limited to only these three options. However, we believe these companies are a good place to start. Depending on how creative you are in wanting to make a buck, there are other ways you can sell stock photos, including an online shop like Etsy or a WordPress plugin like SellMedia. However, those require a little more work and technical know-how so not recommended if you don’t have the time, patience or expertise.

Additional Photography Resources

Want to brush up on your photography skills before getting started? We recommend taking a photography class online on a site like Lynda to brush up on your skills. Already an amateur or professional photographer? Even the best could probably benefit from a good photo editing software to maximize the quality of their pics.

Have you tried selling your photographs online ? If so, how did it go?


About Sadie Cornelius
Sadie has acted as the email marketing coordinator and web designer for one of the world's largest travel companies and managed social media for dozens of major brands. She has a breadth and depth of web and marketing knowledge that reaches far and wide. She loves all things Mac and keeping up with all the latest web trends.

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3 Comments on "Photographers: Sell Your Photos and Make Money!"

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Toni Laird
Toni Laird

I don’t quite understand what you wrote about Smugmug:

They keep a big portion (85%) of your sales

Your profit is 85% of your sales (SmugMug’s 15% fee includes credit card payments, customer service for refunds, applicable taxes, etc.).

Which is it?

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