Selling Photos for Money

If you are a photographer, there is a fine line you may be tempted to cross one day, that line which seperates taking pictures for fun and taking pictures for profit.

Selling Your Pictures

Okay, you saw that line and now you’ve decided to cross it. What is the first step to selling photos?

Step 1 – Take Great Pictures

This step is sort of easier said than done. Just yesterday I was speaking to a man who asked, “How can you not take good pictures? They’re all digital now.” So I went over a few things in this list that could harm your chances at selling photos.


1) Make sure your photos are in focus

Photos must be crisp and clear. Take pictures with a good lens. Point and shoot cameras are not the best if you want to sell stock photos. Also make sure you don’t shake your camera and use a tripod when necessary. Common sense helps too. Don’t take flower pictures on a windy day.

2) Your photos should be large images (at least 6mb minimum).

Some stock agencies like Alamy require large stock photos of at least 24mb
uncompressed. This is the size of a jpeg image opened up in Photoshop.

3) Pictures should not be over processed.

In the early stages of selling stock photos, we all go a little crazy in Photoshop or any other photo editor of our choice. We want to make sure the picture is bright enough, so we boost up the brightness. The same can be done with the color, so we boost the saturation. Images should also not be over sharpened.

4) The subjects must be interesting

Stock photos fit a need, typically, that is the need of a picture buyer or art director. Make your pictures interesting, not bizarre, but interesting. Take one shot, step back, move over a few steps and take a picture of the subject from another angle. It’s amazing what a few steps can do for your image quality.

These are only four areas to be aware of when you take your first step towards selling your own pictures to stock photo agencies.

Step 2 – Find Someplace to Sell Your Pictures

You have many options once you decide to sell your pictures. Most of the options involve selling your pictures online. I will only list two of the options here.

1) You can sell your pictures through a stock photo agency.

There are two ways to go with this option. You can sell images via a macrostock agency or through a microstock agency. This is a bit of a controversial topic but I believe selling photos through macrostock such as Photographer’s Direct or Alamy is your best option. By doing so, your images may sell less often and have longer intervals between sales, but you will earn more money.

Look at the following two images. You’ll notice they are the same exact picture.

This stock photo below sold for $1.05 as a royalty free image on a microstock site.


This stock photo sold as a rights managed image for $30.00 on a macrostock site.


These are the exact same images but the one sold at Alamy, a macrostock agency, sold for almost 30x as much as the one which sold on the microstock agency website.

Selling photos on microstock sites can cheapen your photography and the photography of all others at the same time. Macro vs. micro is a big decision to make for someone who is just beginning to sell photos. I never would have gone the microstock route if I had known about Alamy and Photographer’s Direct right from the beginning.

Make sure you find some place, but not just any place, to sell your pictures.

2) You can sell your pictures on your own website.

This is a much more difficult task but can be lucrative if you’re very dedicated to keeping your site updated with new photos quite regularly. Two sites I’ve seen that are quite good are those of photographers Shelia Smart and Lori Carey.

Step 3 – Submitting Your Photos

This is where a lot of photographers who have crossed the line fail when it comes to selling photos. The reason for their failure, they do not submit their photos to online agencies or create their own site. There is no way to sell photos if you do not post them on your own website or submit them to a stock photo agency.

Two things will happen if you submit your photos to a stock agency. Allow me to take my submissions to Alamy as an example.

1) Your photos will be accepted, giving you an opportunity to make money selling photos.

2) Your photos will be rejected. This is not the end of your photography career. Each stock agency will provide you with a reason for why your photos were rejected. Lern from your rejects.

Then…………………. Submit once again.

Do Riches Await?

Could you make a lot of money selling stock photos? First of all, it depends on what you think is a lot of money. There are plenty of photographers who make a few thousand dollars a year selling stock photos. There are quite a few who make $30,000 – $50,000. However, those earning in the higher range are the exception, not the rule.

If you have thousands of photos to sell, microstock may be a way for you to earn some decent money. But selling photos via Alamy or Photographer’s Direct, which are macrostock agencies, in my opinion, would be your best choice for your photos to earn more money.

Comment below to tell others your experience in selling stock photos

2 thoughts on “Selling Photos for Money

  1. Really nice pointers! I went ahead and signed up with photographers direct after stumbling onto your post. Really a huge wealth of assignments and not these “boring” stock photos i was afraid they were buying, like people smiling and pointing at a whiteboard in an office or whatever, they even have really inspiring artistic assignments. Anyway, i just wanted to let you know that your post helped :)

  2. Hi David,

    Glad I could be of help.

    I wanted to sign up the first time I heard about them. But then I saw the warning that said photographers could not sign up for Photographer’s Direct if they had ANY photos on a microstock site. It took me a year to delete my photos from any microstock sites like iStockphoto, 123rf and a couple others.

    I haven’t sold anything through them yet, but almost sold a photo or two for an assignment. My portfolio there is only 163 photos, but I hope to increase that soon.

    Pass this post on to anyone you think will find it helpful or share via one of the buttons.


    P.S. Are you on Twitter?

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