Photography is a hard business to break into, especially the upper brackets. But the internet does make it possible to earn a few dollars off of your photos — especially if you’ve found some great shots. More and more people have what amount to high-quality digital cameras these days and, if you’re one of them, at least a few of your photos may be able to make you a little money as stock photos. There are many sites that will allow you to upload your photos and sell them as stock photography.
I wouldn’t suggest stock photography as a ‘get rich quick scheme,’ of course. Most sites are looking for a certain level of work, which isn’t out of reach for amateur photographers but does require a little extra effort. If you do want to make more than a few dollars through selling stock photography, it’s a good idea to practice beyond your family snapshots. A quick head’s up: most sites have been inundated with everyone’s travel and family photos for the past ten years. You’re more likely to sell if you’ve got something a little different.
5 Stock Photography Sites
As far as stock photography sites go, iStockphoto is pretty well known. They’ve been in business since 2001 and have an extensive collection of stock photography to sell. In order to contribute you’re work, you’ll need to sign up for a free iStockphoto account. You’ll also be asked to read a manual on the site’s quality standards and answer a short quiz. Lastly, iStockphoto wants to see three samples of your best photography. It may sound like a lot of work, but if your photos pass iStockphoto’s standards, it’s one of the best options for selling stock photography. iStockphoto has much higher traffic than many other stock photography site and sells more photos. You’ll get 20 to 40 percent of all downloads of your photos.
Stockxpert offers a respectable reach: it’s paired with stock.xchng, a site where a huge number of people look for free photos. Stockxpert offers low-priced stock photos to both stock.xchng’s members as well as the rest of the internet. Just like iStockphoto, Stockxpert requires that you sign up for a free account and then apply to be a seller and requires a few sample photos. You’ll receive 50 percent of the price of each photo you sell.
If you’re more concerned about the percentage of royalties than anything else, Fotolia might be a good option. This site offers photographers 64 percent of sales and has a record of accepting far more photos than most other stock photography sites. It isn’t necessarily my first pick: Fotolia doesn’t have as much traffic as other sites. But for the right photographer, Fotolia is a good fit.
Crestock does require you to register for a free account before you really get to look at the site’s terms, but the terms aren’t really unusual. You’ll receive 30 percent of the price of every image you sell through Crestock. Sign up is simple — that registration takes care of most of the site’s requirements. As soon as you’re registered, you can start uploading photos immediately. Crestock staff then review them and make them available for purchase.
Dreamstime offers a sliding scale of compensation for photographs, based on the number of downloads. Better selling photos have a higher price tag, and photographers can get from 50 to 60 percent of the sale price. Dreamstime also offers bonuses in certain situations. To get started with this site, you’ll need to set up an account and submit sample files. Dreamstime then reviews your samples; if they’re approved, those photos will be made available for sale immediately.
There are plenty of sites like CafePress and Photrade that offer you the opportunity to put your photographs on t-shirts, mugs and other items up for sale. While some people can have a lot of success selling products through such sites, that route requires a lot of marketing, as well as some pretty great photos. In contrast, the sites above pretty much require users to upload photos and walk away. Actually taking the photographs is the main area you’ll need to work on; sites like iStockphoto and Stockxpert take care of marketing your work to all the designers looking for stock photography. You might find yourself doing some photo editing, of course, but you won’t be expected to pay for an ad for your own work.
You’ll also find that there are many other stock selling options out there, like Shutterpoint, that require a fee from photographers before they start selling photos. Shutterpoint’s range from $19.00 to $49.00 for a year’s worth of access.There are also sites with other requirements, often meant to limit the site to professional photographers. Some sites do offer higher payouts in exchange for photographers meeting more strenuous requirements.
Like I said before, stock photography isn’t a fast way to get rich. With a little work, you can post images that keep bringing in a little money long after you’ve submitted the file.
If there’s a particular stock photography site that you’ve sold through successfully, please add it in the comments. I know there are many more options out there, and I’d like to hear about your experiences with those other sites. If you have any resources for photographers looking to start selling stock photography, feel free to include those as well.