Can You Make Money Selling Stock Photos?

You probably always had an interest in taking photos of things that catch your eye. It may be from your smartphone or from the camera you have lying around. Maybe you are someone that bought a camera to capture these moments for yourself. Or you are someone who is thinking of buying a camera to make some money selling your photos online.

Whatever the circumstance that led you to this post, I will talk about some key points that will answer many of your questions. Including, can you make money selling stock photos? benefits of doing stock photography, where to sell your stock photos, And is it worth your time?

Things to Keep in Mind Before You Start Selling Photos Online

  • You can’t just upload any random photo you took. Your Photos need to be of high quality to be accepted by microstock sites. Low-resolution photos or photos that are blurry are not accepted by well-known stock photo agencies.
  • Although you can get away with something like the latest iPhone or Android smartphone camera, it is best if you have a standalone camera that you can use for this. Preferably an entry-level DSLR camera.
  • If you are going to include people in your photos, you need to have release forms for the photographs that state you have permission to use them.
  • If you are taking a photo of something like a city landscape, you have to make sure that the photos don’t contain any brands, logos, license plates, etc. So if you take a nice landscape photo but it has the golden arches of the McDonald’s logo, it will not get accepted.
  • Uploading your photos is not enough. The photos you upload need to be tagged or keyworded properly. Otherwise, they have no chance of being found by the end-user.
  • If you are in this to make some money then you can’t just shoot anything that you like. Some niches do better than others. For e.g: Fitness, business environments, food-related.

What Are The Benefits of Doing Stock Photography

Photographer on a Hill

There’s no doubt there are people who earn a decent income by just taking photos and selling them. In fact, some of them make more than a full-time income.

When you are doing stock photography you will learn a whole heap of stuff. When your photo entries get rejected by the stock agencies, (I know this is not a benefit but bear with me here) you will get a reason as to why it was rejected. So even though you may have thought it was a perfect photo or your editing was good enough. You will learn about the areas where your photos can be improved.

As you do stock photos you’ll also realize what kind of photos will sell and what don’t. You will understand what images look good as you learn how to take photos at the correct angles and correct lighting conditions.

The best feeling in the world is getting a sale and seeing your work used by others. The passive income of having a large collection of photos online where you can earn money can be very helpful for paying the bills.

Lastly, it is fun to take photos, traveling to locations, and seeing the things a photographer sees is what a lot of us love about photography.

Where Can I Sell Photos Online?

There are a ton of places where you can sell your stock photos. These are the most popular sites that people have found success in. If you want to have a chance of making some cash you can’t ignore these sites because of their traffic and earnings reported by some users that upload to them.

I’m not going to list everyone’s pay rate percentage here because that really depends on what rights you give to your photos. If you choose to sell a photo exclusively to a site, you can get a bigger cut. Most non-exclusive photos go from 15% to 60%.


Shutterstock, founded in 2003, currently maintains a library of over 200 million photos. Shutterstock also has the biggest reach/customer base. With Shutterstock, you can expect to earn anything from 15% to 40% per image.

Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock (former Fotolia) is also a known source for stock images. The amount of sales you get from adobe stock is slightly less compared to Shutterstock but pays more money per sale. One cool thing about adobe stock is; it is integrated into adobe software where the images get additional traffic.


A relative newcomer, launched in 2009 500px has gone on to become one of the top dogs of stock photos. Like Shutterstock, Your photos have to be of excellent quality to be accepted into their libraries.


This photo stock agency has 90 million images in the library. It is also one of the top stock photo sites that people use to sell their photos.


Founded in the year 2000 they are one of the key players of stock photos. Acquired by Getty Images, many have earned money from their images on this site.


The last site I want to mention here is Dreamstime. A well-known stock agency that has been used by many stock image photographers successfully.

How Much Money Can You Earn From Selling Photos Online?

OK, the thing you are dying to know, how much can you really make by selling stock photos? Well, I got some not so good news for you.

Your commission for photos in today’s market will most likely be anywhere from $0.25 to $0.45 per photo. And on a rare occasion, you may get, anywhere from $5 to $50. Although you can get more, it is highly unlikely for the majority.

Let’s say you are someone with 2000+ images uploaded AND you are uploading regularly. Most people report they earn around $100 – $500 per month.

And for someone with the same amount of photos uploaded but Not uploading regularly or not uploading at all have reported to getting around $40 – $70 per month.

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So, you can see that fresh photos are required by these agencies for you to earn an amount worth something. Otherwise, it’s just pocket change.

There was a time where you could earn $1 per photo and having a 1000 photo library meant a good chunk of cash. Nowadays as more people upload photos similar to yours, your income will decrease. Hence even having a large collection of photos uploaded doesn’t scale well as a passive income source.

Conclusion, Is Selling Photos Online Worth it?

If you ask me, I will say it’s not for me. The amount of time that requires you to get ready to go outside with your gear, to take photos, to edit your photos to upload them and having a bunch of them rejected for quality reasons and doing it all over again on a regular basis for a few dollars a month is not something that interests me. I’m sure you’d agree too.

Imagine taking a few hours to do all the above and to see your photo used in a big, high budget advertisement and you being paid $0.25cents for it.

Honestly, there are much better ways to earn a passive income. I have written a paragraph on how you can do that online and build a proper online business based on something you are passionate about. Including photography.

The Best Alternate Passive Income Stream (If You Are into Making The Big Bucks Online)

Don’t be discouraged by what you read at the end of this article. Although selling stock photos might not make you the kind of money you can pay your bills with. Building a website on a niche like photography can reward you way more than you ever thought.

You can learn how to create a website based on photography or anything else, and earn money that goes into the 5 digit range per month and beyond. All you need is to learn how to create a website on something you are passionate about and learn how to drive traffic to that site.

Wealthy Affiliate teaches you step-by-step on how to set up everything. I have personally been a member with them for almost 10 years and I have reviewed them in great detail as well.

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