If you’re looking for a way to fund that next camera lens and extra gear, then you should be selling your photos online. It’s a realistic way to support your passion with very little effort.
As a photographer, you already know that the competition out there is tough. So I’ll let you in on the secret to selling your photos online successfully.
First, it takes skill and a unique aesthetic, but it doesn’t stop there. The second factor is that you need to know how to market yourself as a photographer.
You could have the most stunning photos, but if you don’t know how to run the business side, your sales will suffer.
So in today’s article, I’m going to teach you how to sell your photos online and start getting paid for your passion.
5 Ways to Make Money with Photography
- Sell your photography via direct stock
- Sell your photography as prints
- Sell Photos using Microstock
- Sell your photos for Free Stock Sites
- Sell your photos on apps
#1. Sell Your Photography via Direct Stock
Direct stock is a term that refers to selling your photography on your own website. You can create a Shopify site with templates that are actually for photography, and you can go with a plan for as inexpensive as $29 a month.
Shopify also offers apps that are specifically made for photographers. So Photo Lock, for example, is an antitheft image protection app, and Creative Hub is an app that specializes in printing fine art pieces for photographers that are meticulous about print quality.
On your own website, consider selling licenses to your photos. So if you specialize in travel landscape photography, for example, you could sell photo licenses to travel magazines and vacation companies.
You can also sell physical goods on your site. This would include selling prints and putting your photos onto merch.
To do this, you can easily download a Shopify app called printiful, and in just a few clicks, you can sell your photography on virtually everything, from mugs to books and t-shirts.
To sell photos directly to a buyer, you’re going to need to spend some time marketing your business. I would recommend that you post the photos that you’re selling on social media and direct people to your website from there.
You can use hashtags to get accounts with larger audiences to repost your images, or you can have your friends and family post your photos on their own Instagram, and that’s going to help expand your reach.
If you’re at a phase where you’re ready to start putting paid dollars behind your business, consider running Facebook ads.
Facebook ads are a powerful tool that can help grow your business exponentially, but it’s a pretty deep topic, and luckily we do have a video that’s going to show you everything you need to know to fuel your business through Facebook ads.
#2. Sell Your Photography as Prints
In addition to having your own website, you can be a merchant on popular print on demand sites. Print on demand sites takes care of all the details.
You don’t have to worry about production, shipping or selling. All you do is upload your work and get paid.
Print on demand sites is a double-edged sword, though, because those kinds of sites have tons of traffic, but they also have tons of competition amongst merchants.
One thing that I will say, though, is that it’s a good way to introduce yourself to customers that would have never heard of your business otherwise.
And it’s a good way to get creative with your merch. With society6.com, for example, you can put your artwork on virtually anything.
You can make your photos available and duvets, shower curtains, face masks, and even tapestries. Society6.com can be competitive, though, so also try fineartamerica.com to find success. If you have pretty artsy photos, this would be a good platform for you.
They have canvas prints, framed prints, and even acrylic prints. And the nice thing about fineartamerica.com is that they let you determine the cost on top of their base cost.
So if the base price for a framed print is $50 and you choose to price it at $75, fineartamerica.com takes home $50, and you get the $25.
Don’t just stop at those two, though. The more print on demand sites your photography is available on, the better chance you have of selling.
#3. Sell Photos using Microstock
Microstock will likely be the route that gets you the most money. So what’s a microstock company? A microstock photography company is a company that sources their images online, and they do so from a wider range of photographers.
This is nice because traditional agencies will only work with select artists, but micro stocks have a willingness to accept images from amateurs and hobbyists.
Another thing to note about Microstock sites is that they’re selling their images at a very low cost. This can be anywhere from 20 cents to $10 for royalty-free images.
So which Microstock sites are the best. Here’s my list. Shutterstock, 500 pixels, Depositphotos, Photodune, Adobe Stock, and Alamy is another great platform since it has one of the highest commission rates for each photo sold at 50%.
They’ll determine your photo’s price once you upload it, and they’re not exclusive, which means you don’t have to give them exclusive rights to your photos.
With stock sites, you have to strategize and play with the search algorithm. What I mean by that is if you’re able to get your photo on the first page for a specific search term, like Paris, you’re going to see sales for that photo rise.
To get found for specific search terms, make sure you’re tagging your photos with relevant terms that describe what’s in the picture and get inside of the head of the person that’s searching.
So if I’m selling a photo of Niagara Falls and I’m targeting travel agencies, I might include words like vacation, travel, or Canadian tourism as image tags, in addition to the more descriptive tags like Niagara or waterfall.
It will be harder and more competitive to rank for the common subject matter. You might be up against 10,000 other images for the Eiffel tower, for example.
So think about unique photos companies may have trouble finding. To do this, try some test searches of your own to determine what’s lacking on stock photography sites and plan a shoot to fill that gap.
Ask yourself if there are underrepresented niches, emerging trends, or upcoming events that people will want photos of, So instead of just shooting the Eiffel tower, you might want to shoot a local parade in France.
#4. Sell your photos for Free Stock Sites
Sell your photos for free on stock sites, free stock sites, make photos available for free to anyone who’s looking. Whether it’s for personal or commercial purposes, anyone can download these.
However, they do encourage people to make donations. That said, this is not going to be a massive money earner, but if you have photos that aren’t selling well on other sites, upload those here.
Though you can only expect to make a couple of hundred bucks using this method, it’s at least better than having those photos sit on a hard drive somewhere and not making any money at all. Check out Pexels, Unsplash, and Pixabay.
#5. Sell Your Photos on Apps
Some apps have competitions for a specific type of photo, where the winner that is selected gets a cash prize.
Competitions are a ton of fun, and you get these design challenges that push you in new directions, and there’s an excitement that builds up.
But this is more of an entertainment exercise rather than a way to make consistent money. In addition to competitions, some apps also can sell your photos as stock directly on the app, just how I mentioned before. So check out Snapwire and Shutterstock for these.
Tips to see real growth when selling photos online
All right. So here are some tips to see real growth when you’re selling your photos online. The more consistent you are with posting your photos to different sites and on social media, the more revenue you’ll generate.
The nice thing is that once you upload a photo for sale, it has the potential of making money even years after you’ve posted it. Passive income is the name of the game here.
Business images like meetings, handshakes and suits and ties are highly searched, so they do have the potential to bring in quite a bit of dough.
There are tons of images in the sector, so to stand out, you’re going to want to make sure that your images are looking authentic.
Many of the people searching for business stock images are using these images on their marketing materials to represent their own business.
So you’ll want to make sure that these images are as natural as possible. Guys, just as you would always get a contract when you’re shooting, make sure that you’re diligent and read the terms and conditions before starting with any stock sites, apps, and print-on-demand services.
Pay attention to what percentage you get to take home, payment terms, and who owns the content. Don’t forget to get signed model and location releases because this can protect you from future hassles later on.
So that about covers it. I’m going to challenge you to start today. Upload at least one image to a print on demand site, like Society6 or a Shopify app, like Printify, right after you’re reading this article.