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)

879 Responses to “Selling Photos Online”

  1. Bryan says:

    very popular post and a good subject, i keep thinking about getting into this space and now i know i need to

  2. rebecca says:

    Reading the guidelines for uploading photos to various stock sites they would like you not to embed your own watermark, website name, or copyright notice in your images.
    I would like to sell my photos but they all have a copy write embedded in them.
    Does anyone know if there is a way to remove this using Photoshop CS5 or another program?


  3. The Captain says:


    I would shoot in RAW if you have the ability to do so. Many arguments about this, but basic fact is that RAW image has more detail in it.

    Many of the arguments against raw were made when memory cards were far more expensive. Storage is relatively reasonable now.

    And any time you work on JPEG image, some detail is lost. I’d shoot RAW, save as a JPEG for uploading to most sites and keep TIFF’s as archival files on my computer.

  4. Dma76 says:

    You can use photo shop to crop it if it’s in a corner.

  5. Bahamas Photographer says:

    I’ve been considering doing this for awhile. I wondered if it was worth it with how saturated the market is. Looking at those numbers makes me what to give a shoot though. Thanks for sharing

  6. TheMoodySparrow says:

    Thanks for the article. Very useful and motivational!

  7. Andrew says:

    I’m grateful I stumbled upon your web site on msn. Thanks for the sensible critique. My wife and me ended up just getting ready to study relating to this. I’m thrilled to see this sort of good information currently being shared freely out there.

  8. Brice says:

    Is really exciting, You’re an excessively professional writer. I have joined your feed and turn up for searching for more of your excellent publish. Also, I’ve got shared your web blog inside my web sites!

  9. Photography Forum says:

    Great tips and thanks for sharing.

    Drew Warner
    Photography Talk

  10. theo says:

    this is very nice way for few extra cash. can though someone take for example ready pics from google and simply upload them to these sites and wait to get paid? i mean. sth like this shouldn’t be checked or illegal?

  11. John MacGregor says:

    I was a semi-professional photographer for about 10 years and have a lot of stock images “35mm slide” that I want to sell. looking at any ideas you may have including web site.

    let me know

  12. Hondenrassen says:

    Thats a good idea, but I wouldn’t know how and don’t think my photo would be good enough to buy

  13. Josiah says:

    This is a very helpful post. I was looking for something that could sustain my hobby in photography and here is the answer. Thanks for making it really detailed even saying how much you earn. It inspires me to do the same. 🙂

  14. mette jensen says:

    I have a question about keywords. Do I write them in the title line, or when I upload a photo at a stock place, is there an option called “keyword” where I can write all my important words? Is there a MAX of how many is good to use, or is it better to have many?

    New to the Stock world but very interested!

    Greetings Mette

  15. Katee says:

    Make sure to check your settings on your camera. Sometimes the cameras are set at lower MP even though they can shoot higher MP. Always check to make sure you are shooting the with the highest MP your camera offers 🙂

  16. Annette says:

    Can you recommend cameras (cheap) for us starters… I used to have a Nikon D80 but it got broke and right now I can’t afford an expensive one … Thank You! 🙂

  17. santhosh says:

    Awesome blog, It’s so infomative and usefull, thanks a lot! If you post more of this great stuff, I’ll visit your blog again!

  18. Robert says:

    It is interesting to read your article on using microstock photo companies. I’m starting to build up a portfolio and am considering starting to use some of these sites. I am curious whether I retain any right to print the photos uploaded. If I wanted to print cards and sell in a local shop, but the photo is uploaded, do I still have the ability to do that?

  19. Andy says:

    I just graduated from NYIP this summer and considered where to start my own photo business. This article is very practical and helpful. I am going to give a try soon. Thanks!

  20. Billy says:

    A new great site for monetizing sunset and sunrise pictures specifically just went live… Gnarly Sunset has a higher payout per photo sold than most stock image sites and is accepting submissions from any photographers, no matter the skill. Gnarly Sunset is run by a top professional marketer.

  21. PhotographyTalk says:

    That is impressive revenue in a very challenging and flooded market…kudos!

  22. Alex says:

    In your FAQ, you say “But keep in mind that your photos must be commercially in demand.” how do you find out if your photos are so?

  23. shankar says:

    When u say that u earn 50cents each time ur photo is downloaded does that mean “Bought/Sold” or “Viewed ” ..? kindly acknowledge

  24. shankar says:

    So each time a picture is viewed it earns that right?. Or does it have to be sold?

  25. MW says:

    Thank you so much for writing this and replying to comments! I would like to know what L lenses you are using with your 5Ds currently.

  26. Joe says:

    The first paragraph is overly optimistic “It’s now easier than ever to earn extra money from your images by selling them online via micro stock photography sites”

    It should be changed to, it’s now harder than ever to break into microstock. The market is over saturated and competition is extremely fierce. Most amateur photographers, will find it tough to even get ‘accepted’ into some of the bigger stock agencies which have increasingly higher standards of acceptance rates. It is false to think they if you are the occasional shooter, there will be demand for your photos. Microstock is a business and only the very active submitters make any decent money.

    Have a look at the top microstock sites for example: iStockphoto. You have to pass an application test, and then submit 3 of your best photos. These are judged very stringently and most times, new photographers are rejected. Browse the microstock sites for examples of the quality of each photo and see if you can do better or at least as good. Good luck!

  27. Diwatasalangit says:

    I really want to thank you for sharing this wonderful idea, l8ly im tired thingking of what job fits me, until i saw this site.i lov to traveling and taking nice view thats why i bought canon60d but i dont know how to use this as my hobby and work to. my question is when my models are (for exmples my children, cousins, nephew etc.)do i need model release too? and wher do i need to send those papers? by mail or by fax? pls let me know it would helps me alot. thank you.


  28. Danielle says:

    Hi John,
    I don’t know if this is relevant to your question however while browsing in a Staples store the other day I came across a machine that’s made by the company Ion, the machine is called “Slides to PC” which can digitalize 35mm slides and 35mm negatives to your computer. Thought this may be helpful since you were interested in online opportunities if you weren’t already aware of this information. Good luck, hope you find the opportunities your searching for!

  29. Danielle says:

    Hi Rebecca,
    I’m confused as to how all your photographs have a copy right embedded in them, does your camera have a function for this? Or do you have the originals saved that do not contain the embedded copyright image? I am new to photography and need to find software to place a copyright watermark on my photographs so I can share them.

  30. diwata says:

    I just saw your photofolio and its really amazing. are u usinG photo editing like cs3,cs5 and etc? pls teach me some of your technic in photo editing. thanks.

  31. l0shmi says:

    I must agree with you Joe

  32. Mangesh G says:

    Great information shared here, nice job done.

    I was wondering if there any photo contests where we can participate without geographical constrains?

    It is very hard to find on Internet, atleast while i tried to search…


  33. Trevor says:

    How do you place a copyright on your photos? I’m excited to start getting my pictures out there but I need to protect them.

  34. James says:

    Thank you very much for your article. As a retiree, having done photography some 40 years ago I was intrigued. I picked up a camera and started shooting again. I have signed up for 6 stock photo places mentioned. Rejected so far by Shuttershock and IStock, but have had some 30 images accepted at other stock houses. AND already sold one image. The commission was, well… let’s just say I have a long way to go to make a living at this but I think I will get there in several years. Thank you again for taking the time to write this article. Very encouraging.
    Jim Z.

  35. Brian Weck says:

    iStockphoto and Shutterstock are a decent stock media resource, especially for photos. Please keep in mind StockFuel as well for your stock media demands. Cheaper and easier to manage than most. Also, a much higher payout.

  36. wissam hlayhel says:

    I have one question,

    when opening an account on “shutterstock”, they ask about sending a scan of your ID. Can we consider this as safe ?


  37. Good to hear that. All the best James!

  38. You don’t need to do that, when you upload photos to the agencies, their software will automatically add a watermark to your photos.

  39. Tampa Wedding Photographer says:

    Very informative. It’s nice to know that many of the images I would have thrown away, could actually bring me some money.

  40. jenny says:

    jpg10 is good for the photos that won’t work for stock photography.

  41. The Captain says:

    Where is jpeg10?

    There must be at least 200 comments in this area. How are supposed to know what the hell you’re talking about?

  42. Dee says:

    HI,i have a lot of Nature photographs including the untouched heaven on Earth ‘Kashmir’ accompanied with the Indian wildlife pics,So how could make money out of it.Please help.
    Those interested in buying these pics could contact me @ and i would make them to take a look at my work.

  43. amber says:

    tree photos
    i sell mine here

  44. Dhillon says:

    oo this is a great site.. useful content, I am trying to sell my photo too.. but worried about save as feature of the browsers .. the only way I have found to protect photos is to use SWF flash…
    please comment if you have any solutions for “save as” protection..

  45. Thomas says:

    Hello, Sir I am going to buy a 60d, for photography, I’ve been taking photos for quite some time but never thought of it seriously until now.
    Is the 60d enough for stock photography by today’s standards.
    And will I be able to get a stable income of about 2000$pm. Are the figures you quoted attainable. I kow its not”get rich scheme”. I’m asking if I put the work into will it be worth it, Please reply Sir?

  46. D.SAUNDERS says:

    i would like to sell erotic photos

  47. Merrit says:

    I’m guessing so, Eric. 🙂

  48. Ann says:

    Thanks for the blog…it is really useful. You seem to be doing really well at dreamstime, and I was wondering whether your earnings increases are more closely tied to an increase in rank (you mentioned that as you sell more of a photo the price goes up) rather than significant rises in actual sales/numbers? In comparison with other sites such as shutterstock?

  49. PaulB says:

    What a great page! I’ve always been interested in photography and posted many images on the like of Facebook and Twitter, but will now seriously consider uploading some of the better ones to Microstock sites, so thank you. I will also be ‘tweeting’ this page to my 6500 followers…I’m sure they’ll all find it really useful too.
    Thanks once again.

  50. TimD says:

    I have a lot of ISO 50 Velvia slides from the 35mm era. Velvia was one of the most fine-grained films available then and now(it is still available today).

    If I scan 35mm slides on a good high-pixel density scanner with good dynamic range specs, will 35mm scans sell in this digital age?

    35mm scans are going to have a little bit of grain from the slide itself and from the digitizing process. Some also say that 35mm seems “fuzzy” to them compared to digital.

    Are stock buyers going to be interested in 35mm scans? I have plenty of digital now, but some of my favorite work is still from the film era.

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