“I have some great photos. How can I sell them? I don’t have a lot of spare time but I’d like to make some money. What’s a good place to start?”
The easiest and fastest way for you to make money with photography is to sell your photos online via microstock sites. Some popular sites are:
Many people earn decent money, even entire livelihoods, from shooting microstock, and you can too. Just sign up for a free account and upload some photos — that’s it. Your work is immediately available for licensing worldwide and money should come rolling in.
Benefits of microstock sites include:
- Free to join — No sign-up or monthly fees
- Non-exclusive — Sell the same photos at multiple sites
- No limits to your copyright— You keep your work
What Is Stock Photography?
Stock photography is photography that’s already been taken and is lying around somewhere, ready to use. The opposite is assignment photography, where someone pays you to go off and photograph something.
For the photographer, assignment photography is more glamorous and fun, in that “hey, National Geographic hired me to spend three months photographing in the rain-forest” sort of way. But stock is where the money’s at. Even professional photographers do assignment work almost at cost, just to get the stock. And assignment is a one-time payment, whereas stock is recurrent income — every month, you get money deposited into your bank account, almost for life. It’s like a salary or a retirement paycheck. You can do nothing, and lie on a beach, and still get paid. Now that’s what I want.
Microstock is the low-cost segment of stock photography. Whereas the major, traditional stock agencies charge clients high prices for “rights-managed” images, microstock agencies charge only a few dollars for “royalty-free” images. More importantly to us, whereas the major agencies accept work from only select photographers, microstock agencies actively seek images from anyone, even amateurs and hobbyists.
Microstock began in 2000, when iStockphoto was started by Bruce Livingstone. He sold the site for $50 million. See, microstock does pay.
A great advantage of most microstock agencies is that they’re “non-exclusive.” That means they don’t have a lock on your photos — you are free to submit the same shots to other agencies and clients. Since the sign-up is free, you can upload your images to a bunch of microstock sites and learn which ones pay best for you.
How Much Does Microstock Pay?
Microstock photos earn about $9 per year. That’s not much, but if you have 100 or 1,000 pictures that’s $900 or $9,000 per year, which is useful money. The key is volume: submit many photos and hope they each get licensed many times.
It’s true, microstock doesn’t pay a lot. The term “micropayment” is used both as a description and a criticism. But it doesn’t take much money to feel rich. As Dickens observed: “Annual income, twenty pounds; annual expenditure, nineteen pounds; result, happiness.”
How To Sign Up
Look for a link such as “sell images” or “photographers.” There’ll be a contract with policies and terms, and you may have to submit photos for review, to see if your work is of high enough quality. Once approved, you have to “tag” your images with keywords (for searching) and upload them for inspection. Some sites allow you to have your own page, so you can refer friends and clients direct to your photos.
Let’s see the top 40 microstock websites.