This guide will explore some things you should know about how to sell your photography online, with resources and business ideas to help you find the best way to sell photos online. We also list some online selling sites where you can list your photos.
The ability to make money online as a photographer by selling your photos online, like a YouTuber or an Instagrammer, is all about harnessing the creativity at the heart of your work and applying it to the monetization of your talents.
It can seem hard to make it when anyone with the newest iPhone can call themselves a photographer and everyone is using some sort of free photo editing software. But success for most creators who turn to entrepreneurship comes down to three things:
- Finding your niche
- Building an audience
- Creating several streams of passive income
Best places to sell photos online
To start, here are 18 best places to sell or license images and photos online:
- SmugMug Pro
- iStock Photo
- Getty Images
- Can Stock Photo
- Adobe Stock
Licensing is one of the most popular ways to “sell” your photos online to brands, publishers, or anyone who might have an interest in using your photos for their own purposes.
And that’s the key here. You need to work backward and think about how your photos can be used by a brand or publisher. Versatile photos that express ideas tend to be popular, especially when they feature human subjects.
There are a lot of stock photo sites to choose from. Let’s look at the top places to sell photos online:
Alamy sports the world’s most diverse stock photo collection, with over 215 million stock images, vectors, videos, and 360-degree panoramic images. You can sell anything from everyday images to specific niches. The platform has more than 60,000 contributors worldwide and over 110,000 buyers. It also offers an app, Stockimo, where you can sell iPhone photos and earn extra cash from your selfies.
Alamy pays contributors monthly and has a straightforward payment structure. If your images are exclusive with Alamy, you receive 50% of direct sales. Images not exclusive to Alamy receive 40% of all direct sales. There are also no long-term contracts with Alamy.
500px Licensing (formerly 500px Prime) hosts millions of photographers selling photos online through its stock photography site, 500px. Its distribution partners serve over one million customers around the world and are the go-to choice for creative content. All content submitted to the site is royalty free, meaning it’s licensed for unlimited, perpetual use, and pricing is based on file size.
500px is also a community-based platform for amateur and professional photographers. You can follow other photographers, list your photos in their marketplace, and participate in Photo Quest competitions for prizes. You can earn up to 60% royalties on exclusive pictures and a 30% commission payout for non-exclusive photos.
Getting started is simple. All you have to do is create an account, submit your photos, authorize your store, and fill out the forms for each image, including model and liability releases—then start selling!
3. SmugMug Pro
Whether you’re a new photographer or an established pro, SmugMug can help sell your photos online with a beautiful portfolio, sales platform, and tools to help you grow. SmugMug lets you keep 85% of the profit between the price you set and SmugMug’s default print prices.
Say you sell a 5×7 print for $10.79. If the SmugMug default price is $0.79, the markup for that print is $10. In this case, you keep $8.50 as profit. However, you’ll need to sign up for a monthly membership, which costs, at minimum, $200 per year on the Portfolio plan, though the plan gives you access to tons of ecommerce tools to help sell photos online.
Considered the easiest way to sell photos online for some, Shutterstock is a leading stock photography website for selling photos online. The platform has paid out over a billion dollars to its community in the past 15 years, and it can get your photos seen by millions of customers.
Shutterstock is considered a micro-stock site, where photos are cheaper and non-exclusive, and the main way to increase downloads is by contributing a large quantity of images that can be used as visual metaphors. Don’t expect to earn as much here, but it’s a good place if you’re just learning how to sell stock photos.
Payouts are based on your earnings over time and range from 20% to 30%. There’s also an affiliate program where you can earn additional money if you refer new photographers or customers.
5. iStock Photo
iStock Photo is the micro-stock offshoot of by Getty Images. The major difference between the two is your photos on iStock are non-exclusive, which means you can sell your photography with other agencies as well. However, this means you earn a much lower commission than exclusive photos. Commission ranges from 15% to 45%, depending on whether the photos are exclusive or non-exclusive.
The current exclusivity rates, according to parent company Getty, are as follows:
If you want to sell photos online, opening up an Etsy photography shop may be a great option for you. It’s easy to get started: you can sell prints quickly, and the fee structure benefits both professional and beginner photographers. Etsy takes only 5% of the transaction price, which includes the shipping cost you set. If you take payments through Etsy Payments, it also collects a 3% + $0.25 payment-processing fee after a print is sold.
The difference between Etsy and other places to sell photos online is that most people won’t come searching for stock images. You’ll want to invest in designs and in marketing your Etsy store to get the most out of the platform. However, with a small cut from each sale, it may be worth your energy.
If you want to learn more about how to sell photos on Etsy, read this guide.
7. Getty Images
Getty Images is on the higher end of stock photography sites. It attracts brands and publishers looking for high-quality or hard-to-find exclusive images to license. The platform, along with its microstock site, iStock, reaches over 1.5 million customers around the world.
The standards for how to sell your photography online here as a contributor are predictably higher than many other stock photo sites. However, the rates for photos licensed through Getty Images start at 20% and can reach as high as 45%.
Stocksy is a popular mid-range stock photography site, the best way to sell photos online for many publishers and creatives. Becoming a Stocksy contributor offers high payouts—photographers can earn a 50% royalty on standard licenses and a 75% royalty on extended licenses—but all photos are 100% exclusive, which means you can’t reuse them on other stock photo websites.
Stocksy is also an artist-owned cooperative, which means you get part ownership of the business and can help control it’s direction. Contributors can also receive profit-sharing in the form of patronage returns when the co-op has a surplus. Amounts are determined based on your contributions to the co-op through the sale of your photos and/or footage.
If you’re interested in selling photos on Stocksy, check out its contributor application FAQ.
9. Can Stock Photo
More than 92,000+ photographers have learned how to sell your photos online with Can Stock Photo. There are various payout structures ranging from percentages to fixed amounts, and Can Stock gives you $5 for every 50 photos your referral sells. When you sell photos on Can Stock Photo, it also lists your photos for sale on Fotosearch, a stock photography agency.
10. Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock is one of the best places to sell photos online for free because, when you list photos for sale here, they’re also available on stock site Fotolia. If you already use the Adobe suite for other creative projects, you can add your images, videos, vectors, or illustrations to Adobe Stock directly from Adobe Lightroom CC and Adobe Bridge CC,and through the web.
Selling photos on Adobe Stock, you can reach millions of buyers and gain exposure to the world’s largest creative community inside their favorite apps. And you can earn 33% commission on the photos you sell through it.
Twenty20 started as a tool for Instagram photographers to sell their images to brands. Now it’s a robust stock photography site where you can sell photos online and connect with potential clients. You can earn money three ways:
- Earning $2 per photo licensed
- Earning cash prizes from photo challenges
- Receiving 100% commission from whatever brands hire you for scheduled shoots
With Twenty20, you can sell photos on its app or upload to your own website page on the brand’s domain. Either way, it’s a great place to sell pictures online and make money online doing what you love.
Depositphotos is a global marketplace for visual content with a library of over 150-million files and clients from more than 200 countries. Depositphotos has over 100,000 contributors from all over the world, and is trusted by leading international companies including Warner Bros., TripAdvisor, Subaru, and more. Commissions are based on a contributor’s experience and status on the platform, as well as the resolution and license type, and range between 34% and 42%.
For nearly 20 years, Dreamstime has provided high-quality images to clients in the creative market—from independent customers in the private sector to Fortune 500 companies. The stock agency sports over:
- 31 million registered members
- 600,000 contributing photographers
- 144 million photos, illustrations, cliparts, and vectors
- 20 million monthly unique monthly website visitors
Dreamstime offers a generous payout to contributors. However, it requires more commitment, so it’s not exactly the easiest way to sell photos online. You must have at least 70% of your portfolio on the site for at least six months. But non-exclusive contributors can earn 25%–50%, and exclusive photos generate a 27.5%–55% commission. You can also earn money for referrals, both on the contributor and the purchaser side.
EyeEm focuses more on advertising stock photography, making it one of the best places to sell photos online if you’re looking to be in the commercial photography space. You can also get booked for shoots by brands like Airbnb, Spotify, and other big brands.
It supports a community of more than 25 million photographers and videographers from over 150 countries and offers a 50% commission for each photo sold.
123RF is a big player in the stock photography industry. All content on the platform is non-exclusive, so you can sell on other websites as well. Plus, 123RF will market your photos to over five million buyers across 44 countries and in 17 different languages. Once you become a contributor, you can earn between 30% and 60% for each license sold.
Foap is defined by its community of over three million creatives. Whether you want to upload a professional shoot (or try and make money selling photos of yourself!), you can use Foap’s app to sell your photos.
Foap offers contributors a few different ways for how to sell your photography online:
- $5 for every photo sold
- $100–$2,500 for Missions, where brands submit a photo brief and set a cash prize for winning entries
- Selling photos online via partner platforms, such as Adobe and Alamy
If you want to know the best way to sell photos online to brands like KraftHeinz, Nivea, Heineken, and more, Foap is a great option for you.
Zenfolio makes selling photos online for beginners and professionals easy. You can build a website to showcase your work, attract new customers, and sell your photos online. Plus, it offers photography print and digital product options, with a commission fee of 7%. However, you have to have a monthly subscription with Zenfolio, which starts at $5 per month.
Pixieset offers photographers the complete package to share, deliver, and sell photos online. With Pixieset, you can easily create a beautiful online store to sell photography prints, products, and more with automatic fulfillment.
Pixieset gives you full control over your store. All you need to do is set the sale price for your products and market your photos. It takes a 15% commission for free plans, but 0% on paid plans, which start at only $8 per month.