Selling Photos Online

Revenue in February’14: US$ 6,006.22
Total Photos in portfolio: +/- 8000 photos
Total Revenue from Microstock in 2014: US$ 12,141.27

It’s now easier than ever to earn extra money from your images by selling them online via micro stock photography sites such as Shutterstock, Fotolia, Dreamstime and many more (please keep reading to find out how much I earn from each stock photography site)..

Make money online by selling your digital photos
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It goes without saying that to be successful your shots need to be ‘good stock photographs’ and available in high resolution format. But presuming that all this is in order, how do you maximize sale ability?

Good Stock Photographs

Firstly, you must know how to take good stock photographs. For those who haven’t heard what stock photography is.. Stock photography is photography or imagery that can be licensed for specific uses. Its use is very popular with designers, graphic artists, art directors, advertising agencies, and marketing professionals, in magazine ads, websites, and marketing brochures. Instead of hiring a professional photographer to create an image, a buyer licenses an image and the photographer is paid a commission. There are many books talk on how you can take good stock photographs, and here are just some of the very basic points;

- No digital noise, please…
Most agencies rank each photo based on it’s overall quality and potential for salability. Make sure your photos are clear, crisp, nicely composed, well lit and most importantly free of digital noise caused by high iso, underexposure, long exposures and over-processing.

- No snapshots or tourist-like photos, please…
Do not ever think that you’ll earn lots of money by selling your snapshots or tourist-like photos. This is not a get rich quick scheme. Your photos must be commercially in demand and highly usable for art directors or designers. You can take a look at the most popular files once you’ve signed up to an agency to get an idea of what is selling. You can also review other professional sites like GettyImages, Corbis, and Comstock to get some inspirations.

- No logo/copyrighted material, please…
When you’re submitting photos to the microstockphoto agencies, make sure they don’t have any company logos, trademarks, third-party images and brands.

- Ask your model to sign a model release..
Unless if you’re submitting editorial images, you must provide a model release for any recognizable person in your image. Each agency has its own standard model release form that you have to fill in and send along with each image containing a recognizable person. I usually send the same format of model release [Download model release], and send it to all agencies without any problems.

Some useful shooting models tips available on this site:

- Download Free Model Posing Guides
- Choosing and Communicating with Models
- Portrait Photography Tips
- How To Use Light in Photography
- Studio Lighting Video Tutorial

Choosing The Right Photo Agency

You need to find out whether a website will be worth your while by logging on and having a look around. Views the types of images stocked, and determine whether yours are on par with their quality and style. You can check how many visitors (traffic graphs are available below) and the number of times each image has been downloaded. You can also join the community forum usually available on the agency and ask the other members regarding their selling/month, etc. Use this information to answer the question: How likely is it that I will actually sell my images through this website?

Categorizing & Keywording

Sellers can usually place images in more than one category – exploit this by placing yours in as many as possible. The importance of this is that while visitor and site members browse websites, photo buyers shop by category. Getting your photos listed within the right categories ensures they appear in front of the right audience.

Keywords are there to give your photos a further away of being found by searches, and websites will give you a certain amount of characters to play with, which you should exhaust. Keep your keywords simply and accurate. Remember, do NOT enter “junk” keywords or keywords that are not applicable to an image. This will slow down your approval process or even worse, get your photos being rejected.

Here’s a neat online keywording tool to help stock photographers keywording their images with high quality keywords.


Usually you have three ways to upload your photos to the agencies. The most common one is using the web upload form which is available on all stock photo agencies. Then you have the ActiveX/Java uploading system which available only on some of the agencies. The last one is via FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software which I think is the easiest way of uploading your photos as what you need to do is to drag and drop your files from your computer to their server. You can also schedule your upload anytime you want (I usually do my uploading at night just before going to sleep). Unfortunately, one of my biggest money maker agencies (ie. Istockphoto) does not have this option available, instead the agency has its own uploading software where you have to pay to get the pro version.

To be able to transfer your photos via FTP you will need an FTP Client such as CuteFTP and FileZilla for Windows users or Cyberduck for Mac users. You can go to software repository sites such as or to find your FTP client program, read the user reviews, download & install it to your computer.

Below are some stock agencies where I submit my photos to..


This is currently my favorite microstock photo agency. Monthly income has been great, photo review time has been stellar. It takes around 2-3 days max until they review your photos and and add them to their database. Uploading images and adding model release is also very easy on this site. For me and many other stock photographers, Shutterstock is ranked first giving us more than 40-50% of total income.

Shutterstock is the pioneer of selling photos by subscription where a buyer can download up to 750 images over a period of time. You’ll get 25 cents every time one of your images is downloaded. Uploading photos is easy, they have 3 uploading system; (FTP, HTML, and activeX).

Visit Shutterstock


Visit Dreamstime

Dreamstime has been online since 2000 as a Royalty-Free stock photography website, selling CD imagery. The concept has been redesigned, upgraded and adapted to the market’s need, evolving into a powerful and active community in March 2004. Your commission is .50 for each photo downloaded, but I believe your commision would increase as more people donwload your photos. Please visit their site to check the detail of their royalty figure.

123RF is wholly owned by Inmagine. They have been in the Royalty Free industry since year 2000 and had since accumulated a strong database of repeated users. Prices for single images are available in low-res, med-res and high-res and are set at $1, $2 and $3 respectively. You will be paid a direct 50% of the actual price for each of your image sold.You can also earn money from their subscription revenue which is based on the total of downloaded images that belong to you and on the total revenue in that particular month.

Visit 123RF


Fotolia has a lot of earning potential. For each photograph sold, the photographer receives a commission based on the type of license sold to the customer. Fotolia currently has a local presence in 5 major countries: USA, France, Spain, Germany, and UK. For more info about their commission structure, please visit

Visit Fotolia


Since launching the site last May 2005, BigStockPhoto has grown to over 11 million images. It’s one of the fastest growing stock photo sites. The site has a sophisticated search engine, multiple light boxes that can be shared with friends and colleagues, how-to articles and tutorials, forums, and an easy-to-use features for uploading and downloading photos. Whenever a person downloads one of your photos, your account balance increases by 50 cents, you can also make up to $20.00 for special licensed photo sold.

Visit BigStockPhoto


Istock was the first and the biggest microstock agency online. This is the agency that rejected most of my photos. From 95 photos submitted this month they only accepted probably around 15 of them :(. They also have this ridiculous upload limits for non exclusive contributors. If you’re a new member (base) you can upload 15 photos per week (that’s right! you have to wait for 168 hours until you can submit another batch of 15 photos). If you’ve been there for a while like me and have more than 25000 downloads, you can only submit 30 photos per week. Earnings are also decreasing each month. My suggestion is if you’re new and NOT thinking of becoming Istock exclusive contributor just don’t bother to submit on their site since it looks they’re really giving their non-exclusive photographers a hard time

Visit Istockphoto

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1. Can I make a living out of this?

Well, I think it all depends on which country you’re living in. But here’s an idea on your earning potential from the industry. Meet Yuri Arcurs, a full time stock photographer and a uni student at Aarchus University. He makes $300/day (times that by 30 days, which is around $9000/month) by selling his photos on Shutterstock alone!! Now, that’s the figure you and I should aiming for because I’m sure you can have a pretty good life in whichever country you’re living in with more than 10K/month (and it keeps growing if you keep taking photos).

Click to enlarge

2. Can you post the same photo on multiple stock photography websites?

Yes, you can..unless if you choose for being exclusive with Dreamstime or any other agencies that offer exclusivity. Then, you MUST only submit your photos to that agency.

3. What type of photography seems to be the most profitable?

Shoot what you like.. But keep in mind that your photos must be commercially in demand. While some photographers say that people photos always sell really good, my best sellers have always been landscape/travel photographs.

4. Are you selling the same photos at multiple agencies?

Yes, I am.. as I’m not being exclusive to any agency and I’m selling all my photos as Royalty Free.

5. How do you increase your sales?

I think the key is you have to upload lots and lots good photos. See FAQ no. 1 above for an inspiration.

6. Do you have any keywording tips?

Please check out the keywording tips posts here, here, and here

7. Can I see your portfolio?

Sure, You can go to my Free Pictures and Photoblog sites to see my work.

8. How much do you earn each month?

Below is my earning stats from September 2005


Total Revenue from Microstock in 2014: US$ 12,141.27

February’14: $ 6,006.22
January’14: $ 6,135.05

Total Revenue from Microstock in 2013: US$ 69,252.26

December’13: $ 5,465.32
November’13: $ 5,932.23
October’13: $ 6,100.54
September’13: $ 6,853.00
August’13: $ 6,412.20
July’13: $ 6,287.00
June’13: $ 6,184.31
May’13: $ 5,766.25
April’13: $ 6,012.85
March’13: $ 6,246.29
February’13: $ 6,046.22
January’13: $ 6,435.05

Total Revenue from Microstock in 2012: US$ 57,137.02

December’12: US$ 5,991.20
November’12: US$ 5,669.37
October’12: US$ 5,905.74
September’12: US$ 5,305.24
August’12: US$ 5,225.14
July’12: US$ 4,805.82
June’12: US$ 4,325.35
May’12: US$ 4,502.22
April’12: US$ 4,254.23
March’12: US$ 3,954.23
February’12:: $3,711.87
January’12: $3,487.36

Total Revenue from Microstock in 2011: US$ 33,945.69

December’11: US$ 3,248.77
November’11: US$ 3,706.74
October’11: US$ 3,466.25
September’11: US$ 3,350.27
August’11: US$ 3,347.27
July’11: US$ 3,599.17
June’11: US$ 3,264.83
May’11: US$ 3,022.54
April’11: US$ 2,936.25
March’11: US$ 2,752.54
February’11:: $2,134.43
January’11: $2,245.73

Total Revenue from Microstock in 2010: US$ 41,953.83

December’10: US$ 2,641.31
November’10: US$ 3,152.54
October’10: US$ 3,255.59
September’10: US$ 3,623.22
August’10: US$ 3,985.98
July’10: US$ 3,199.33
June’10: US$ 3,423.12
May’10: US$ 3,323.34
April’10: US$ 3,911.59
March’10: US$ 3,723.9
February’10: US$ 3,745.39
January’10: US$ 3,968.52

Total Revenue from Microstock in 2009: US$37,538.91

December’09: US$ 3,224.12
November’09: US$ 3,968.52
October’09: US$ 3,842.32
September’09: US$ 4,203.05
August’09: US$ 3,637.00
July’09: US$ 3,537.00
June’09: US$ 3,663.35
May’09: US$ 3,098.32
April’09: US$ 3,094.72
March’09: US$ 3,141.53
February’09: US$ 2,899.51
January’09: US$ 2,766.47

Total Revenue from Microstock in 2008: US$30,521.71

December’08: US$ 2,609.72
November’08: US$ 2,615.78
October’08: US$ 2,622.24
September’08: US$ 2,614.5
August’08: US$ 2596.61
July’08: US$ 2248.64
June’08: US$ 2546.61
May’08: US$ 2874.93
April’08: US$ 2687.79
March’08: US$ 2381.30
February’08: US$ 2455.02
January’08: US$ 2241.39

Total Revenue from Microstock in 2007: US$25,662.79

December’07: US$1707.33
November’07: US$2035.89
October’07: US$2124.36
September’07: US$2034.24
August’07: US$1966.26
July’07: $1987.43
June’07: $2048.15
May’07: $2278.92
April’07: $2354.59
March’07: $2561.99
February’07:: $2194.88
January’07: $2368.75

Total Revenue from Microstock in 2006: US$23,725.79

December’06: $1840.20
November’06: $2025.67
October’06: $1722.91
September’06: $1876.76
August’06: $2038.33
July’06: $1921.87
June’06: $2060.23
May’06: $2286.5
April’06: $1924.50
March’06: $2120.35
February’06: $2062.70
January’06: $1845.84

Total Revenue from Microstock in 2005: US$5,004.14

December’05: $1216.83
November’05: $1421.92
October’05: $1384.59
September’05: $980.80

This page would be updated every month (next update: 1st of March 2013)

See also: MicroStock Photography | Photography Business | Photography Tips

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