Stock photography may be a crowded market. However, it still offers some value as a bit of extra income on your photography, or a way for freelance photographers to avoid the proverbial “all your eggs in one basket.” While surviving on stock photography alone is tough to do, there are still a few perks of selling photos with a stock photo agency.
Some stock photography websites allow anyone to join. Others are a bit more selective but offer a better royalty rate. Many agencies pay photographers a percentage of the profit from their images, though each option may vary a bit.
Interested in making your images available for purchase? Here are 10 excellent places to sell stock photography.
Top 10 places to sell stock photography
With over 60 million images, Alamy is the largest stock photo website, but they also pay well too. Photographers earn 50% of every sale, and aren’t restricted to selling exclusively with Alamy. To join, photographers need to fill out a form and pass a quality control test.
While Alamy doesn’t edit or alter the images you submit, they do have strict guidelines. Images must be shot on a DSLR or mirrorless with at least six megapixels (though likely not a problem in today’s camera market). They’ll reject images for 26 different reasons, including bad exposure, camera artefacts, sharpness, and over-editing.
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2. Fotolia and Adobe Stock
Fotolia is now part of Adobe Stock, which sells images directly to Creative Cloud users. This is important. Users of popular programs like Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator can buy images directly from their design program, which will theoretically place your image in front of more people than just the website alone.
Photographers earn 33% of each sale through both Fotolia and Adobe Stock. For images downloaded from a subscription plan, the minimum guaranteed payment depends on the photographer’s rank. To sell here, you must be 18 or older with a confirmed Fotolia account.
3. Getty Images
Getty Images is a well-known platform that offers both stock photos as well as editorial images of current events and celebrities. Photos with Getty are either royalty-free or rights managed. Microstock, which allows users to use the image as many times as they’d like once downloaded, isn’t on Getty, which is good for photographers.
While highly reputable, Getty Images is hard to break into. They no longer have a way for you to submit images, but according to a post on their previous Flickr group, editors look through Flickr to handpick photographers to invite to the platform. For more details, read the announcement here.
4. iStock Photo
Offer your images only with iStock Photo, and you could be looking at royalty rates of up to 45%. Of course, if you don’t want to commit to just one platform, you can still choose to do so and earn a 15% royalty instead.
But perhaps what’s even more lucrative about iStock Photo is that it’s also a community of photographers too. Once you join, you have access to online forums to chat and learn with other artists. Anyone can create an account and access the forums, but to sell with iStock, you’ll also have to pass a quiz and submit samples of your work.
5. Can Stock Photo
Can Stock Photo is both fast and fair. They pay up to 50% on each image downloaded. With funds available for withdrawal to Paypal once reaching $50 and by check once reaching $100. Images on Can Stock Photo are also available for download on Fotosearch, so there’s potential for more exposure.
Signing up is a matter of sending an application and three images. Most photographers receive a response on the same day. You can upload a large number of images at once, and they’re often live on the site quickly.
With over 35 million images, Dreamstime is a well-known microstock website. Photographers can expect a 25-50% royalty, though can only withdraw once their account balance exceeds $100. If you upload an exclusive image, you’ll receive an extra 10%.
Photographers must be approved to get started, then are given access to an FTP to upload their images to. Images must be at least three megapixels, and can also be rejected for excessive noise and other quality issues. Photographers have an approval rating. Those with a higher rating can upload the maximum number of images per week, though profiles with low ratings are much more limited in their number of uploads. Exclusive contributors are also granted additional uploads.
As a well-known database with over 350 million images, Shutterstock is an excellent option for selling stock photos. Along with having a wide reach, they also offer resources for photographers looking to improve their work and make the most out of their stock photos.
Shutterstock contributors earn up to 33% of the sale. Contributors earn a higher percentage as their lifetime earnings grows, so while payout could be slow at first, it does have a pretty big potential. Shutterstock also sells enhanced image licenses, where photographers take home $28, and custom images as well. Plus, selling stock isn’t the only way for photographers to earn money. When you make a referral to another photographer, you’ll earn $.04 of every sale that new contributor makes for the next two years. Customer referrals earn 20% of their first purchase (up to $200).
123RF is another platform that pays more as you get established, with the potential for a 60% royalty for the highest-ranked photographers, and 30% for those just getting started. Extended licenses also enhance the possibility of a higher payout.
After the initial sign-up and upload, 123RF is fast and easy to use. Since the more photos you add, the higher your commissions are, the quick uploads are a big advantage.
Stocksy is relatively new on the stock photo scene but worth considering nonetheless. They pay out a 50% commission, and unlike many others, accept smartphone photographers too. This new form of photography is on the rise with the growing mobile penetration, and an online smartphone photography course may be good way to turn into a mobile photographer. While Stocksy only takes in a limited number of new photographers every year, they encourage creativity. They want more than the boring traditional stock photo.
Stocksy images must be exclusively sold on that platform. Photographers can still work with other stock photo agencies, but cannot sell an image that’s on Stocksy anywhere else. They’re also a bit slower to respond, with submitted portfolios reviewed within one to two months.
The beauty in Crestock is the simplicity. Applying is just filling out a form and uploading photos, then waiting for approval by the editing team. The photographer retains their rights and can still sell on other stock websites too. Pay is between 20-40%. While not as well known, it’s still a solid option, particularly because you can sell images elsewhere too.
BONUS: The “DIY” Option
Not happy with the payout on stock photography websites? Going through a stock photo agency isn’t the only way to sell stock photos. Many photographers sell stock photography on their own website, with photography-focused website builders like Pixpa. The DIY option has the advantage of cutting out the middle man and working on your own terms. The downside is it is often more difficult to build a customer base since a lot of people prefer working with agencies that have millions of photos.
Stock photography is a good way to diversify a professional photographer’s income, or help enthusiasts buy all that new gear they’ve been eyeing. There are many different options for selling stock photos, with varying pay rates and guidelines. It's up to you to find one (or a few) that suits your photography style!
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