How to Sell Photos Online: 13 Websites to Sell Your Photos

Written on December 14, 2021
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When you’re starting a photography business, selling photos online through stock or print websites can be a great way to generate passive income and market your business, but it requires a lot of upfront work.

Below, we’ll discuss the best websites to sell your photos and go through three essential steps to set up your photography business.

13 Best Websites to Sell Your Photos Online

You’ll find that many photographers sell their photos through stock photo or print websites. Most stock photo websites tend to sell royalty-free images, which means that customers have to purchase the license to download images from a stock photo website.

The alternative to stock photo sites is print sites, which allow photographers to sell print images of their photos. Print sites enable photographers to earn much more than stock agencies, but the negative is that there is high competition on these sites.

1. Adobe Stock

For each photo you sell on Adobe Stock, you can potentially earn up to 33% of the amount paid by the customer. But again, like Shutterstock, this amount depends on what type of licensing the customer purchased as well as his or her subscription plan. To sell on Adobe Stock, you will need to:

  1. Create a contributor account
  2. Upload photos in JPEG format
  3. Assign photo properties and keywords
  4. Sign model release forms
  5. Submit your image for approval

After your photo is approved, you will then be able to earn royalties through the Adobe Stock site.

2. Getty Images and iStock

Getty Images and iStock are some of the leading stock photo websites in the world. iStock is part of Getty Images and was originally the first source for user-generated stock photos. The difference between Getty Images and iStock is that iStock is a microstock agency while Getty Images is a stock photo site. Stock sites generally require exclusivity. This means that if you are selling your photos non-exclusively, you will only receive a royalty rate of 15%.

3. Photodune

PhotoDune is a microstock agency that sells royalty-free photos and images. The website is also a community for photographers to ask questions and share resources with each other. Photographers who want to sell their photos on Photodune have to submit a portfolio of their best images before uploading images of their work to the site. They will then have to wait to be approved by Photodune. They will be able to upload their photos to customers to purchase once they’re approved.

Photodune sells photos at a fixed price. Each photo can sell anywhere from $1 to $56. PhotoDune takes a percentage of the sales amount, which ranges from 33% to 70%.

4. Depositphotos

Depositphotos is a content marketplace that sells royalty-free images along with other content like videos and editorial files. There are two ways Depositphotos sells images: through subscriptions or on demand. Photographers that sell their photos on Depositphotos get paid based on their contributor level, and each level is determined by the number of photos you sell.

Here is a chart which breaks down the six contributor levels:

Level Number of Downloads Subscription
Less than 499
500 to 4,999
5,000 to 24,999
25,000 to 149,000
Over 150,000

To break down this chart, we’ll give you an example to clarify the concept. If you are at the Silver level, you have sold between 5,000 to 24,999 photos on the site. For every photo that is sold by someone who purchased a subscription, you’ll earn $0.32.

5. Shutterstock

Shutterstock is one of the largest websites that market and resell stock photos and other types of creative content. To sign up for Shutterstock, you create an account and input basic information about yourself, and upload photos to the website. Shutterstock then reviews your portfolio to check for quality. Once you’re approved, customers will then be able to purchase your pictures through the platform.

One thing to note about Shutterstock is that, previously, Shutterstock paid you according to your lifetime earnings on the platform. Many photographers preferred the old earning structure because they were rewarded for making more sales on the platform. However, recently Shutterstock implemented a new earnings structure, which was based on total sales for the year. The unfortunate downside to this new earning structure is that your tier rank resets every year on January 1st, making it harder for photographers to move up and earn more money.

6. Dreamstime

Dreamstime is a stock photo agency that has been around since 2000. Dreamstime pays its contributors using a tiered royalty system, and they’re more generous with photographers who are exclusive contributors. Contributors can earn between 25% to 50% of the revenue share. Dreamstime is a good photo agency for beginner photographers, as they aren’t as selective as some other sites like Getty Images.

7. 123RF

123RF is another stock photo agency that works similarly to sites like Depositphoto or Shutterstock. 123RF allows you to upload content on other platforms because all content sold on 123RF is non-exclusive. Photographers can make between 30% to 60% from each license sold, but that number depends on how many of their photos are accepted on their website. But there is a catch—to earn 60%, you would have to have over one million photos or more accepted by the website.

8. Bigstockphoto

Bigstockphoto is one of the oldest international microstock photography websites on the market. Like most stock websites, you will need to pass a test first in order to start submitting your photos to the website. Each photo you submit on Bigstockphoto will have to go through an approval process.

As you begin to submit more photos, you will be assigned an approval rate, which is the percentage of photos submitted that were approved. An approval rate of less than 50% means that you can only submit 10 images per day. Photographers on Bigstockphoto can potentially make $0.25 to $0.50 per photo, depending on whether the customer buys the photo via subscription or credit. Bigstockphoto has a lucrative referral program, which allows you to earn 35% of the amount for every first purchase photo of yours purchased through your referral.

9. EyeEm

Another way to sell your photographs is through EyeEm, a company that uses artificial intelligence to find the best images to sell to its customers. EyeEm is also a partner of Getty Images, which means that if EyeEm’s algorithm likes your photo, it will add the image to Getty Images, potentially allowing your photo to earn higher commissions and more eyeballs on your photos. Another added benefit of EyeEm is that it hosts a massive community of photographers.

10. Pond5

Though mostly known for its extensive stock video collection, Pond5 is an online royalty-free media marketplace company that has started to expand its library of stock photography and sound effects. Although not as well known as other stock photography sites, Pond5 is generous with its royalties. Contributors are allowed to set their prices, which is incredibly convenient. Each time your image sells, you earn 40% to 60% of the revenue.

11. Alamy

Alamy is an incredibly popular site for selling photos, with an extensive image library of over 120 million. Alamy has one of the highest commission rates for photographers, allowing you to take 40% of each direct sale from the platform. Another compelling aspect of Alamy is that you can sell your photos non-exclusively, which means you can also sell your photos outside of the platform. However, although you can earn more per photo on Alamy, sometimes it can be harder to sell those photos as frequently as other larger stock platforms.

12. Fine Arts America

If you want to sell your photos via print, Fine Arts America is a popular choice for thousands of photographers. You can sell phone cases, wall art, mugs, and more with your photos printed on them with Fine Arts America. Fine Arts America charges a base price, and you can set the markup. For customers that purchase your photos digitally, Fine Arts America takes a 30% cut from the price.

13. Etsy

Etsy is a trendy eCommerce platform that sells handmade crafts and vintage items. Like Fine Arts America, Etsy photographers primarily use Etsy to sell digital images of physical prints. Setting up your own Etsy shop is incredibly easy. Setting up a listing only costs $0.20 for each digital or print photo, and your work is showcased to millions of Etsy users. Unfortunately, like most major eCommerce sites, the downside is that you are competing with millions of other talented photographers. Additionally, unlike Fine Arts America, Etsy does not handle fulfillment or shipping, which means you’ll have to handle those tasks yourself.

How to Sell Photos Online: 3 Essential Steps

1. Pick a niche

The photography world is incredibly saturated. If you want to have a shot at making a living as a professional photographer outside of stock photos, you’ll need to pick a niche that works for you in order to build a profitable brand. A niche is not just a broad category like events, weddings, music, etc. Choosing the right niche means being as specific as possible with what type of subject you shoot. A proper niche is one that is well-defined and profitable. For example, if you have experience shooting bands, you could specialize in a music genre like hip-hop or rock.

2. Create a website

Creating a website is a must for any photographer who wants to sell their photos for more than a few pennies and showcase their artistry. If you’re interested in selling your photos via your own website, the first thing you’ll need to do is to ensure that your website is fully equipped with an online store. You can do this either through a plugin, which is a piece of software that allows you to enhance your website, or by using website builders. Here are a few popular website builders for creatives:

  • Pixpa
  • Smugmug
  • Squarespace
  • Wix

3. Use social media

As a photographer, one of the best ways to generate leads, drive traffic to your site, and build a following is through social platforms. Many photographers have found success using Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to sell their photos and network with photographers. But like using any platform for business, you need a compelling social media strategy. 

Instagram and Pinterest are two social channels in particular that can help you find more potential customers organically. Many photographers make their income from social media by selling licensing to their photos or prints of their photos through these platforms. By taking high-quality images and using hashtags, you can gradually build an organic social following, leading to transactions down the line.

The Bottom Line

Selling photos using stock or print websites can be a profitable way to earn an income as a professional photographer. But remember, it can take some time before you see any action happening on these websites, as it’s not a rare occurrence for photographers to sell only one or two photos per year. If your photos aren’t selling like hotcakes, don’t get discouraged. You will have to face trial and error to see what websites work best for you.