How to Sell Photos: Your Guide to a Creative Income

Enhance your income by selling prints and stock photography. We show you how to navigate the world of online sales and protect your copyright!

Make Money by Selling Photos Online

Selling photos online can be a great source of additional revenue for photographers. There are more ways to get paid in your photography business than just shooting images. With your creative business, selling photos online can allow you to make money in more ways than one. There are a handful of ways to sell your photos online to earn money as a photographer.

Two photographers sit at a concrete desk with their laptops and coffee.
Hope & Stay

Being a Photographer is More than Photographing

These days, there are so many opportunities for anyone to become a photographer. This profession has become very accessible, which is wonderful for those who are discovering their creative gifts. However, the accessibility of this art has also created a saturated market.

Diversifying Your Income

It can be more difficult these days to make income as a photographer because of this. That’s why it’s so important for photographers to find other ways to start creating revenue. There are plenty of options for photographers to start earning online to be able to grow their businesses. This is called diversifying your income.

Creating Security in Small Businesses

For small businesses, diversifying your income can be a total game changer. Creating more than one stream of income brings more security into your job. If you are a freelance photographer, this is especially important. Life can be unpredictable and having backup methods for creating cash flow also put business owners at peace of mind.

A black and white portrait of a woman in a cowboy hat is framed and hanging on a white wall
Hope & Stay

Why Should I Diversify My Income as a Photographer?

As a photographer, your income will typically come from the shoots you perform. This can result in slower seasons for certain types of photographers, like wedding photographers for example. Preparing for the slow season can be tough financially. When you start to diversify your income as a photographer, you open your business to more opportunities.

Opening up Free Time in Your Business

If you are making money from more than one stream of income, this also allows you more time to work on your business. When you make money from more than just shooting images, you can shoot fewer sessions and take more time for your business. Opening up to the creation of an online business can give you the gift of spare time.

Scaling Your Business While You Earn Income

Spare time can allow you to focus more energy of your business on marketing and overall housekeeping responsibilities. When you have that time, it allows your business to grow and scale. It’s worth trying to find ways to create new earning opportunities for your photo business when you sell photos online.

Create Consistent Pay for Yourself

One of the hardest parts of being a freelancer is the inconsistency of payment. Sometimes it can be hard to wait for the next paycheck to come in. Since there isn’t a consistent pay schedule when you are a freelance photographer, creating consistent pay can benefit you and your business.

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Hope & Stay

Sell Printed Images

If you want to sell your photos, selling printed images is a great way to get started. You can eliminate the need for in-person print sales by selling photos directly from a website. Creating an online experience to help customers purchase your images can create an easy and seamless experience for clients to procure your prints.

Get Paid for Work You’ve Already Created

One of the best parts of print sales for photographers is the fact that you can market pictures you’ve already created. If you want to sell images digitally but you don’t have the time, selling prints to clients is the perfect option.

For both consumer and fine art photographers, online print sales are an easy way to sell your photos. Creating a website specifically for your print sales will allow customers a distraction-free experience. This may help them when they are considering buying prints from you. If they are met with distractions, they may not be as inclined to buy your work.

How Fine Art Photographers Can Sell Photos Online

If you are a fine art photographer, creating a gallery of images to sell can be simple. Remind people that fine art images are a beautiful way to decorate their space. Sell your images with ease by promoting your prints on social media.

If you’re wondering how to sell photos on social media, just keep sharing your pictures with your audience. Direct them to your print shop website and sell your prints per image or in bundles. Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest can be valuable tools to sell your photos online.

Black and white prints cover a home's wall. A woman stands at the window holding a cup of coffee.
Hope & Stay

Curating Print Galleries as a Photographer

One idea for fine art photographers to sell images is to curate specific print galleries. If you have a bunch of images that match well with each other, use your skills as an editor to curate galleries. This will help your potential customers to understand how prints may fit together in their living space, which will allow you to start selling photos in a greater volume.

Sell Photos Online as a Consumer Photographer

For consumer photographers, you have the option to emotionally connect your clients to the idea of prints. When you’ve photographed a wedding or a family, it can be easy to connect the dots between the digital and print photo options. Remind your clients that these are lifelong memories they can treasure on a daily basis with printed images.

Use ShootProof to Sell Photo Prints

Sell online photos that you’ve created for clients with ease using ShootProof’s digital systems. Selling photos online can be easy with ShootProof’s gallery options. With the option to sell both digital files and printed images, easily and quickly create a sales platform for your imagery. Sell images to past clients that you have already worked with to decorate their homes.

Removing the Hard Work from Print Sales

With ShootProof, you can connect your photo business to several photo print labs. From there, you can set your price to start selling photos online. You don’t even need to do the printing yourself – the photo labs can take care of that for you.

All you need to do to sell your images with ShootProof is to let people know that they are for sale. A great way to earn money with print sales is to communicate the value of printed images.

A bride poses with a disco ball while surrounded by orange and yellow flowers
Cortnie Dee

Communicating the Value of Print Images

Communicating the value of print images will help you to start selling photos online. Reach out to your clients and let them know the value of keeping printed memories. If you are a consumer photo business, this is especially impactful to earn money. Sell your photos online with ease by explaining the value of having a physical object beyond a digital copy.

Printed Photography Has Permanence

There may be moments where hard drives crash, USB sticks fail, or files corrupt. By having a physical product to sell from your photo website, you can bring value into your clients lives. Not only does selling prints allow you the opportunity to make money with photos, but it allows your clients a wonderful experience.

Growing Your Photo Business with Print Sales

Some photo businesses earn a lot of money for their small business with print sales. That is because they know how to communicate the importance of print to their potential buyers. Read more about explaining the value of print sales to your photography clients.

Sell Stock Photography

Another great way to earn money as a photographer is to create a stock photo archive. There are many ways to do this. You can independently sell stock photography on your website, or look into stock imagery sites to generate revenue.

A bride in a high-neck laced gown poses in a white room decorated with yellow and orange flowers.
Cortnie Dee

Creating a Stock Photography Website

If you plan to create an independent stock image archive on your website, it’s a more difficult route. However, it can eliminate cuts that broker sites may take out of the image sales that you make. If you know how to market your stock photos well, this could be a viable option to sell photos online.

Promoting Your Stock Photography

If you want to sell images on your website, you must promote your stock images. It will help if you have an audience already to share your website with. If you don’t already have an audience, work on building one through social media. Share what you’re doing with a social audience that has a use for stock images.

Who Can You Market Your Stock Photos To?

Stock images are often purchased by those who put out a lot of written content. This could mean magazines, bloggers, and websites that create a lot of written content. Stock photography is heavily used in editorial content. It can easily illustrate articles that would otherwise be difficult to read.

Selling Photography to Content Creators

Get your stock photographs to bloggers and editors who are creating large amounts of content. Stock photos aren’t always used for websites, either. Some brands and bloggers used stock photography for social media posts as well. It can be hard to create original daily content for brands and creators – these images can help them with that process.

Earn Money With Stock Images

Creating unique content can help you to earn money with stock images. If you are trying to sell stock photos, you have to make sure that your photography stands out. There are so many stock images available out there and you need to be sure that yours are unique.

Sell your images that have unique qualities to them. If you want to sell more, you must figure out how to differentiate your photography from the others that are putting out content to the same stock photography website as you.

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Hope & Stay

What Type of Photos Sell Best?

For example: if you are trying to sell a stock image of a flower, it’s likely that there are hundreds of stock pictures that are showing up in the same search. But if a photo editor is looking for a photo of a flower in a hat that narrows it down so you can start selling your photos. Thinking of original content is a great way to earn money with stock photography.

Can You Make Money Selling Photos of Yourself?

You can even earn money by selling photos of yourself. If you are creative with your self-portraiture, you can easily push these out to a stock photo website. Think of things that will suit for illustrative images. Run through different emotions in your self-portraits to make money selling photos of yourself.

Look Around on Stock Photography Sites

Is there something you can create that other stock photography creators won’t be thinking of? Look around on stock sites and see where there are gaps missing. Try to be the one to get started on filling those gaps. The more creative you can get, the more likely it is that you’ll be selling photos online.

Can you sell photos as a beginner?

As long as you have an internet connection, you can sell photos online. Whether you are taking photos with an iPhone or a DSLR camera, there is room for you. If you are creating photos that are illustrative and original, you can have success in stock photography. All it takes is finding the right website and the right buyers for your content.

Tips for creating work for stock photography sites

We’ve put together some quick tips for creating original work to sell stock pictures:

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Cortnie Dee

Consider Your Lighting

Are the images well lit? Try using a flash setup to make your images pop. If you are photographing on a blank backdrop or seamless, experiment with lighting. Consider lighting the same subject in several different ways.
This will help to convey different moods for different uses of the images. For example, if you take a photo of a smiling person with basic diffused light, you have a smiling person. Now if you move the light under the subject, the image takes on a sinister mood.

Research Stock Photos That Interest You

You may not want to create work like ladies laughing while eating salad. Look into niches that interest you and see how others are creating in that space. Try to develop content that’s completely original based on what you’ve already seen done.

Don’t Copy Other Photographers

It can be tempting to want to replicate what you’ve already seen. To have success in stock photography, however, it’s important to create original work. You’ll want your images to be the ones to stand out to clients.

Think Outside the Box

Sometimes stock photos don’t even make sense, but someone has a use for them. Use your creative mind to come up with ideas that may feel a bit ridiculous. Think about what these photos can be used to illustrate.
Imagine someone is writing a very specific article. Build your image around that thought. What kind of story does your photo convey?

Getting Creative with Your Imagery

For example, a photo of money can be useful for articles about economics. But if someone is searching for money pictures, and they come across a completely original image of money sticking out of a plant pot, that may be exactly what they need. They could be writing about economic growth and that image is the perfect one to illustrate the article. In that case, your photo beats out the other money images.

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Hope & Stay

How to Find Stock Photography Sites

When you are searching online for a place to sell photos, it can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, we’ve put together a list of the best places to sell photos online. Take a peek at each website and see which one is the right fit for you.

Comparing Stock Websites

They all have different audiences and different markets. Look into where your imagery fits in. Doing your research before making a decision about your sales plan can have a big impact on how you sell your photos. Look at how you can price per image on each website.

Best Places to Sell Your Photos Online

Sell photos on your own website:

  • ShootProof
  • Adobe Stock
  • Shutterstock
  • Alamy
  • Etsy
  • Fotomoto
  • Crestock
  • 500px
  • Snapped4u
  • PhotoShelter
  • Foap
  • iStock Photo (by Getty Images)
  • Stocksy
  • EyeEm
  • SmugMug
  • Instaproofs
  • GuruShots
  • Fine Art America
A bride in a high neck lace gown wears a yellow rose in her hair and holds a bouquet with various orange and coral colored roses.
Cortnie Dee

How to Sell Your Images as Stock Photography

If you are trying to figure out how to sell stock images, any website in the list above is a great place to start. These three steps will guide you through the actual act of selling stock images for your photo business.

Making the Decision on Your Stock Website of Choice

You can distribute stock images on pretty much any website that allows it. Some are more popular than others. Adobe Stock, for example. Adobe Stock is a big spot for creators who are just starting to generate revenue from stock. Each platform has a set of pros and cons, so do your research before you start using a website to sell stock images.

Create an Account

Create an account with the website of your choice. This is typically a quick and easy process where you create a username, password, and fill in details. Sometimes a website like these can have options to fill in bio details, a profile photo, and so on. If the website you choose has this option, make sure to fill it out and give your brand some personality.

Start Producing and Sharing Work That Has Potential to Be Used by People

The most important part of this whole process is creating and sharing work. Start thinking about ideas for stock images that will start bringing in sales for your business. Don’t be afraid to get some things wrong. The interesting thing about these images is that your image can be bought a multitude of times, or only once.

A bride in a high-neck laced gown poses in a white room decorated with yellow and orange flowers.
Cortnie Dee

How Much Money Can You Make with Stock Photography?

There are a number of different factors that contribute to how much income you can make with stock photography. Depending on the service you’re using, there are fees associated with making the sale in the first place that go right to the website. Then there is the type of license, duration of usage, sizing, placements, and more to consider.

Depending on the license of the stock images, you can make a lot of money with just one sale, or little sums of cash for many sales. It all depends on how the client is planning to use the images. Consider the different types of licensing:

Is the photograph going to be on one blog post, once? Is it going to become a website banner advertisement? Will it be used on a major billboard?

Brokering the Usage of Your Visuals as a Photographer

There are many opportunities for your images to be used in different ways. Those different methods of usage will affect how much you’ll end up making on your stock images. But aside from stock images, there are also major image licensing archives that can sell your photographs for major projects.

Use a Model Release When Selling Stock Images of People

A major key to selling stock photos with other people in them is to use a model release. This will allow you to use the likeness of a person when you are reproducing the images of them. Protect your business with a model release. Have the person in the photo sign the release before or right after your photo shoot.

Having a model release can save you a lot of legal headaches down the road. If you sell an image of someone without getting a model release signed first, you can be sued. The moral of the story: get a model release signed.

A bride in a high neck lace gown poses in front of large windows decorated with yellow and orange flowers.
Cortnie Dee

What are Image Licensing Agencies?

Image licensing agencies are like stock photo websites but on a larger scale. These are agencies specifically built for image licensing for major deals. Photographers will often end up with image licensing agencies to get their photographs published in books, major magazines and larger visual projects.

How Do Image Licensing Agencies Work?

Agencies for image licensing will take a cut from the licensing of your photographs. The deals that these agencies broker for photographers are often larger scale than online stock photography deals.

Examples of Image Licensing Agencies

  • Trunk Archive
  • Polaris Images
  • Art + Commerce
  • Cache Agency

How to Get Represented by an Image Licensing Agency

Getting your work represented by an image licensing agency can be difficult. For beginner photographers, it’s much less likely. More often than not, image licensing agencies work with esteemed photographers who have been working in the industry for a long time. They have a very large and sought after portfolio.

Some image licensing agencies accept portfolios for review to consider new clients. It doesn’t hurt, if you think you have a high-quality breadth of work to license, to reach out. Research agencies ahead of time and make sure that the caliber of your photography matches up with those that they represent.

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Hope & Stay

Types of Image Licensing

There are different types of image licensing that have different costs associated with them. For image licensing agencies, these are brokered by agents working on your behalf. Let’s go over the different types of image licensing, as they have different cost implications.

Commercial Image Licensing

Commercial photography refers to imagery that advertises or promotes a product, person, idea or service. If the image is being used to promote something, it’s typically considered a commercial usage. Typically, commercial image licensing will be a heftier fee. This is because it’s being used as an advertisement to bring in money for a business.

Editorial Image Licensing

Editorial image licenses are for photographs used for editorial purposes like journalism, blogging, and education. These images could be used in newspapers, print and online magazines, blogs or educational books. Editorial image licenses typically don’t cost as much as commercial licenses.

Important Terms to Remember for Image Licensing

Image licensing has a lot of terms associated with it depending on what the client is trying to do. Be sure to read everything you are licensing very thoroughly before agreeing. This goes for stock images as well. Make sure you know which rights you are willing to give to clients from your stock website.

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Hope & Stay

Exclusive License

An exclusive license refers to the licensing abilities being limited by both the client and the licensor. Exclusive licenses keep photographers from licensing the work to multiple parties. The exclusive license can also limit the client’s usage of the image – i.e. only allow them to use the image in certain spaces.

Exclusive licenses can entail a variety of stipulations that can be very specific or very general. This type of license can create limitations on when and where the photo gets used and how it gets used.

Non-Exclusive License

A non-exclusive license means that the photographer can give other clients licensing rights to the image if they so choose. These could be the same rights that the initial client has, or they could be a totally different set of rights. Images licenses are typically non-exclusive unless there is an exclusive license negotiation.

Why Would a Photographer Choose an Exclusive License?

Photographers can license their images to be exclusive or non-exclusive and still make good money off of the photographs. Some photographers may choose to go with exclusive licensing because the payment can often be higher than a non-exclusive license. However, if you have a sought after image that multiple clients can see value in, you can make the same amount or more with a non-exclusive license.

Buy Out

Buyouts are generally not favored by photographers. Photographers own the copyright to their images from the moment they are taken. But buyouts are a broad term that can refer to clients that hope to acquire the copyright to the image. If your client asks for a buy out of your photograph, be clear with them on what rights you are willing to give up.

A bride in a high neck lace dress poses on a Moroccan rug in a room with huge windows decorated with orange and yellow roses.
Cortnie Dee

Unlimited Use

Unlimited use means that a client want to purchase a broad set of rights to use the image. They want to use the visuals across different types of media and for different uses. This could refer to different durations of use, different regions, different languages, and so on.

Creative Fee

The creative fee can be charged by the photographer for their work in creating the visual. This might refer to the photographer’s time and energy in creating the final image. It may also reflect a number of contributing factors like the photographer’s education and expertise that contribute to the resulting shot.

Looking for More Information on Image Licensing?

The Picture Licensing Universal System (PLUS) Coalition is a non-profit organization aimed at simplifying and facilitating the communication and management of image rights. This group works internationally to help photographers work through licensing their visuals. Learn more about the PLUS coalition.

How Do You Copyright Your Work in the U.S.?

It’s very important for photographers to remember that their work is copyrighted. In the United States, from the moment that you click the shutter, that copyright is owned by you. However, to avoid some legal complications that may arise in licensing and stock, officially copyrighting your images can be a safety net.

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Hope & Stay

Are there cases when photographers don’t own the copyright?

This may not be the case 100% of the time, as some work for hire situations would leave the copyright in the employer’s hands. Work for hire situations are typically jobs where you show up, the employer gives you a camera they own, a memory card they own, and hires you to shoot specified images.

Why Would You Register Copyright on Your Work?

When the copyright isn’t registered, you may only be entitled to some damages and maybe profits made from the unacceptable usage. However, if your image is misused or stolen when you have a registered copyright, you can pursue statutory damages. When you’re working professionally and especially when publishing work in the online space, it’s easy to have your work stolen.

Statutory damages are damages that can be granted by a judge or jury to the copyright owner in an infringement suit. These can be anywhere from $750 to $30,000 per work. Registering your copyright is worth a lot more in the case that your image is stolen and reproduced.

How to Register a Copyright

Following the steps on will allow you to register your photograph’s copyright. For photographs, this should be a “Work of the Visual Arts” for the Type of Work. For single photographs, there is a $35 fee and you must send the Copyright Office a copy of your work. Once your copyright is registered, you should receive a certificate of copyright in the mail.

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Hope & Stay

Get Started Selling Your Photographs Online Today

Your business deserves additional streams of revenue. By selling online photos, you give yourself the opportunity to spend less time worrying about where your next paycheck is coming from!


Megan Breukelman is a Brooklyn-based photographer, marketer, and host of the Photo Opp Podcast. She aims to eat cupcakes and help photographers build on their passions.

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