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How to Sell Stock Photos and Make Money

Don't Work Another Day is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own.
  By Chris Panteli | Last Updated:  February 7, 2021

By 2023 the global stock photography industry is expected to be worth an incredible $4 billion! How would you like to get a share of that?

Thanks to modern technology it's never been easier to sell your photos. These days it's entirely possible to take amazing photos using just your smartphone!

There are some people that do make thousands of dollars a month selling their photos. Realistically most people don't earn that much. However, for many people selling stock photos is an easy side gig that can help supplement your income. Plus, if you take lots of photos anyway, then why not try earning something for them!

Keep reading to learn what stock photography is, how to sell stock photos to make money, tips to succeeding selling stock photos, how much money you can make, and more!

What Is Stock Photography?

Simply put stock photography is a term for images that people can buy to use for their own content. This includes bloggers, websites, and physical media such as magazines or promotional materials.

As technology has advanced numerous platforms have begun offering libraries full of images and videos. Buyers can then license these images for their own use. Buying image's in this way is often far cheaper than creating your own images. Hiring professional photographers, models, and props can be costly. 

It's much easier and cheaper to find images to use on a stock photography website. The cost can be anything from a few cents up to a few dollars. This is great news for you though as it means you have the potential to earn from your photos!

The most common form of making money from stock photography is known as microstock. Microstock is when images are sold from as little as a few cents up to about $10. The sales are also sold on a royalty-free basis. Photographers get paid for every image download, usually on a monthly basis. Microstock is considered the easiest method of earning from stock photography.

Best Places to Sell Stock Photos

Why Stock Photography Is A Good Idea

There are lots of great reasons that stock photography is an easy side gig. First, if you can take high-quality photos, then you can upload them. Many smartphones have cameras that are easily capable of taking fantastic pictures. This means you don't need to buy expensive camera equipment.

A great thing about this side gig is that you have total control. You can put as much time into it as you like and take whatever photos you want. Once your portfolio is large enough you will then be earning a nice passive income!

Plus, if you are interested in working as a professional photographer, then you can use your portfolio to secure photography work.

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Will I Get Rich From Stock Photography?

Let's be honest, you probably won't get rich selling your photos. If you work hard you could make a full-time living from stock photography, but most people will fall into the side income range. This means realistically you could earn a few hundred dollars a month. Still, $300-$500 a month isn't bad for just uploading photos you take anyway!

There is a massive amount of competition as most people have a smartphone capable of taking high-quality pictures. One stock website, Shutterstock, has more than 350 million images!

That's not to say you can't get rich selling your photos. You could if you dedicated yourself to it. However, for most people, it's best to think about it as a side hustle and enjoy the extra passive income every month.

How Hard Is It To Make Money From Stock Photography?

Many people often quit stock photography in the first few months. The main reason for quitting is due to not making much money. Keep in mind that this is not a get rich quick scheme. Like most things, it will take hard work and a little patience. By the way, if you find a get-rich-quick scheme that actually works let me know!

The main reason people earn nothing or truly little is due to uploading poor quality images. Another factor is the fact you are competing against thousands of others.

To make money consistently you will need to upload lots of high-quality images, research what photos sell, and concentrate on creating the content people want to buy.

Make Money Selling Stock Photos Online

6 Tips For Succeeding At Stock Photography

Now that you know how the industry works here are some top tips to help you get the most out of it and more importantly, earn more!


Potential buyers find images by searching for them. Attaching the right keywords to your photos is vital for buyers to find them.

Make sure that your keywords are specific, listed in order of importance, and as descriptive as possible. For example, you upload a picture of a dog jumping into a fountain. In this instance, you could write the following keywords – dog, jumping, fountain, animal.

Understanding how to use keywords will get easier with practice. Many sites also offer fantastic tools that can help with this. Getting it right means more people will find your photos which means more sales for you!

Take Multiple Shots

When taking a picture take it from as many angles as you can. The reason this is important is that different buyers are looking for different things. For example, you take a picture of your dog eating. A dog food company will want a picture that shows the food prominently, but a dog charity will want a photo focusing more on the dog. By having numerous photos of the same thing from different angles there is more potential to earn!

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Think About What Sells Best

Some types of pictures will sell better than others. It's important to understand that and concentrate on taking photos of things that are more likely to sell.

Businesses mainly want photos showing people working for their websites or other promotional materials. Try getting photos of people talking on the phone, working on a computer, or doing a presentation.

A hugely popular category is food. Examples of popular food photos include people cooking, pictures of different meals, and even empty plates!

Nature and travel are two hot topics when it comes to stock photography. Photos of animals, birds, and flowers are always in demand. If you travel anywhere, then get lots of shots! The hotel, the local area or beach, and photos of local people are all popular types of stock photos. When traveling to a city try to get pics of buildings, commuters, and cityscapes.

These are some of the top areas that sell, but if you do your research there are others that may be in demand.

Make Sure To Regularly Upload Your Photos

Many platforms operate a system that promotes photos of users that are active. If you upload regularly, then your photos will have a better chance of being deemed more relevant than others.

Any old photos you have uploaded could still sell, but regularly uploading high-quality images gives you a better chance.

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Have the Right Equipment

While it's perfectly possible to sell stock photos while shooting on a modern smartphone, there's a good chance those with more advanced equipment will outsell you.

You don't need to invest in the latest and greatest, however.

You can pick up a high quality camera for around $1,000.

Unfortunately for photographers, it doesn't end at the camera. Depending on the type of photography you plan to shoot, you might need to invest in various types of camera lenses. For example, landscape photographers will want to invest in a wide angle lens to capture wider shots. Portrait photographers will want to invest in a telephoto lens to capture more detail in closer settings. 

Invest in Software to Make More Money

Once you've taken your photos, the work doesn't stop. You'll need to edit your photos using software like Photoshop to increase the quality of your photos. 

This software will cost around $50 per month for the cloud version or you could opt for a comparable software that is free to save money. 

If you're new to photo editing software, you'll want to spend some time understanding how it works and the options you have. There are many different YouTube videos and books that are perfect resources for beginners. 

Related: Make Money with Photoshop

Best Places to Sell Stock Photos

There are lots of great sites or apps to sell photos to. To help you get started here are two of the best known.

Shutterstock is probably one of the best-known stock photography sites. As mentioned earlier the site has more than 350 million images that are available to buyers in more than 150 countries! That's a lot of potential customers.

Clients range from individual bloggers right up to large international corporations. The potential is there to make a steady income uploading your photos on Shutterstock.

Adobe Stock is a site that is remarkably like Shutterstock with similar rates of pay. One feature that is unique to Adobe Stock is that users of Adobe software can buy photos directly through any other Adobe platform. This is great for reaching more potential customers. It's also a very easy platform to submit photos to.

These two sites are great places to start. The good news is that you don't have to limit yourself to one site. You can upload your photos across multiple sites and maximize your earnings. The only time you can't do this is if you have agreed to exclusive rights for a photo. Otherwise, you can upload to as many sites as you like!

3 More Ways To Make Money From Stock Photos

Apart from selling your photos on stock photography sites, there are some other ways you could earn from your photos.

Selfie Apps

Selling selfies is a great way of making some easy money from your photos. Terms and payments vary so make sure to check the requirements before starting. To get started check out Pay Your Selfie and Scoopshot. Both are available on the Play Store and the App Store.

Start Your Own Blog Or Website

Selling photos directly using your own website or blog is a great way to earn more. This is because there are no fees or commissions to pay. You keep 100% of everything you sell!

All you need to do is create a simple site showcasing your work. You could sell photos individually or in bundles. If your site gets popular, then you can add more revenue streams such as ads or affiliate links.

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There are 3 ways to make money from selling your photos via Instagram.

First, offer your photos for sale. Lots of brands want genuine photos to use in their ad campaigns. You could sell them individually or as bundles. Remember the topics that are popular are things like food, travel, and nature.

Another way to earn from Instagram photos is once you've got a decent following. Many brands will pay you to post a photo with their product. If you have several thousand followers, this could be a good earner.

One final method is to sell physical copies of your photos. In your bio put a link to your website or blog for buyers to follow and make an order.

Realistic Income From Stock Photography

Selling stock photography can be extremely lucrative with some photographers make well over 6 figures. 

But this likely isn't the case for most.

For most amateur photographers, you can expect to make a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per year selling stock photography at the beginning of your career. As you become more experienced and have more photos to sell, this number can increase dramatically. 

More seasoned photographers can realistically make over $10,000 annually from their photography side hustle

Final Thoughts on How to Sell Stock Photos and Make Money 

Making money from stock photography isn't easy, but it is perfectly doable and it can be a great side hustle to build your passive income portfolio.

If you regularly upload high-quality photos for popular topics, then you could easily start earning $300 – $500 per month or more.

As you become a more experienced photographer, you'll likely sell more photos, giving your earnings a boost. 

Have you made money selling stock photos? Comment your experience below!


Hey, I’m Chris. I have a degree in Business Economics from the University of Liverpool, own a small fast food business and run I will help you to make money, save money, and think about money in a way that will give you back your freedom.
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