Get ahead of the crowd with Premium
Register Forgot password

How to Sell Your Photos Online

Jennifer Coles 17th Jul 2020 34 Comments

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Would you like to sell your photos online and make some handy extra cash?

You don’t have to be a professional to do it nowadays.

Have you ever taken a photograph, uploaded it to a social networking site, and been surprised by just how many people comment on it? If so, it’s likely you could make a bit of cash if by selling your photos online.


Why sell your photos online?

Young photographer on yellow background

Although photography was once considered a rather expensive and complicated hobby, modern technology has created many a budding Herb Ritts or Mario Testino.

Yes, there are a lot of amateur photographers about, but the demand for digital images is also increasing. Every day, new photographs are needed for company websites, public sector newsletters, corporate presentations and thousands of other uses.

This means if you have a camera and an eye for a good image you can sell your photos for good money.

Selling your photos is not hard to do. There are buyers all around the world, so sell your photos online and you can make money while you sleep!

This isn’t child’s play, but you’re not expected to produce a work of art either. If you can capture an image that is well-constructed, well-lit and properly focused, we’ll show you how to set up a passive stream of income.


How does it work to sell your photos online?

Step 1: Register with an online agency

Woman using laptop

There are lots of online agencies. Some popular sites include

When you register your details, the site will usually ask you to send between five to ten photos so it can test the quality and type of photos you send them. If your photos don’t conform to the site’s requirements, they will be rejected.

If this happens, don’t worry – just try again, taking their comments into consideration. Sometimes it may just be because they already have too many of the sort of photo you’re sending.


Step 2: Upload your pictures

Upload symbol

Once you’ve received the go ahead from the agency you can upload batches of pictures. Each photo is manually checked by the agency in question, so if you want your pictures to go on sale quickly, send them in batches of 5 or 10.


Step 3: Pictures are Go!

Woman relaxing with a book

After your pictures have been checked and cleared you’ll be notified when they go live on the website, usually after about 24 hours.

Then there’s nothing to do after that except wait until people buy your photos. Once your account reaches a certain limit you can get your hands on the cash. The usual method of payment is by cheque or PayPal.


Top tips for perfect pictures

Subject matter

It can be tempting to take pictures of things that are pretty or cute – a great sunset, a bluebell wood, or an adorable shot of your cat peeking out of a plant pot. These types of pictures often have limited commercial value, however.

Stock libraries want a wide range of pictures, covering many different subjects, ideas, concepts, cultures and issues.

When a buyer types a search term – no matter how obscure – into their site, they want to find an image to match their needs.

Think about the types of photographs you see in the news.

  • A story about food hygiene might be accompanied by a shot of someone washing their hands.
  • An article about petrol prices might show someone fuelling their car.
  • We use a lot of pictures of money, credit cards and simple pound signs!

These descriptive images are the real money spinners.


Picture quality

Poor quality photo on phone

We’ve all taken dud photographs. Maybe it’s a family portrait in which Aunt Molly has been accidentally decapitated. Or a group shot, with an unknown stranger throwing crazy dance moves in the background. Perhaps overuse of the flash has left your subjects looking like Casper the Friendly Ghost.

If you’re using a digital camera, a bad shot is not the end of the world. But there are a few rules of thumb that you can follow to improve picture quality.

  • Buyers often want high resolution images they can crop to fit into a particular space.  Leave a little extra space around the subject of your picture, so it can be cropped to size without losing anything crucial.
  • Generally speaking, buyers want clear, bright colours, as anything washed out or over-saturated will not reproduce so well. It’s often worth playing with the exposure settings on your digital camera to improve this.
  • Try to get a ‘clean’ shot. This means there is nothing in the background that will detract from the focus of your picture. And hold the camera steady and straight.

There are hundreds of websites offering tips on digital photography. Photography Mad has a nice creative feel. Remember, rules are made to be broken.


Legal considerations

Woman signing model release form

  • Pictures of identifiable houses or models (any person who is in the photo) will in most cases need a release form. This is signed by the model or house owner to cite that their permission has been given for you to profit from their personal belongings. Each website has a release form for you to download if you need it.
  • Avoid taking pictures of car registration plates, company logos (these might be Registered Trade Marks) and anything that could be considered inflammatory (racist graffiti, for example).
  • Finally, decide how much control you want over how your image is used. In UK law, a photographer automatically owns the copyright to his or her work unless they sell it on and sign a contract.
  • Most online agencies allow the photographer to retain copyright, but they sell the pictures under different licenses. The buyer will have to specify whether they intend to use the photo in a magazine selling 100,000 copies a month, a website with a medium number of unique visitors, or for private personal use. The price will reflect this scale of use.

It is quite possible that you could sell an image through an online agency for £3, and discover it is on the front page of a book being sold around the world. If you are concerned about this look for a site that allows you to sell ‘rights managed’ images, and to apply restrictions to the sale of your photographs. It’s a complicated topic, but Alamy explains the different structures well.


Submissions guidelines

Guidelines page on tablet

Most of the stock sites specify that if you want to submit a photo to sell, it has to be a high quality (low compression) JPEG.

The higher the image resolution, the more you’ll be paid. Image resolutions are grouped into web resolution (below 1200 by 1000 pixels, this will fit straight onto a web page), medium resolution and high resolution. The high resolution shots will normally take a few minutes to download.


How much can you make if you sell your photos onlne?

Woman holding cash

The price you earn depends on the resolution of your photographs, as higher quality images are more expensive.

The types of photo-selling websites can be divided into microstock (high volumes of photos, low prices paid per photo) and macrostock (vice versa). There have been suggestions that microstock sites devalue photography, but on the other hand, selling a photo for just a few pounds can give a beginner a confidence boost.



Miniature photo shoot

With a Fotolia subscription, the minimum commission you can earn is 33%. It pays 5p for an extra small photo, £1 for a small photo and £2 for a medium photo. However, the more you contribute and the more photos you sell, the higher you climb in rank and therefore the more money you can make on commission.

123RF also operate in a similar way as your commission is based on the package that buyers have – varying from 30% to 60%. The minimum amount you can earn is 35p for a blog resolution photo, and up to £1.34 for an ultra-high resolution photo.

To make money on either of these sites you will need to sell a lot of photos.

The royalty structure on iStockphoto is 15%, but you could make up to 45% for exclusive pictures when your ranking is high. This being said, its rates of pay are very low and depend on the buyers, so you may not get anything for web resolution photos. This site is probably only good to look at when you can sell high resolution photos of very good quality.



Freelance photographer talking on the phone

Photographers Direct give you 80% commission, and there is no set price for each photograph. Buyers contact photographers direct to discuss a price. This makes the process less automatic, but has the benefit of putting you in touch with buyers. This website does not accept photographers who also sell on microstock sites.

Alamy supplies a high-end market of editorial, advertising and publishing companies, so it’s safe to say anything you submit has to be high quality that follows their submission guidelines strictly. If you do, you have the potential to earn 65% commission. Their prices begin with £35 for a web resolution royalty-free photo, and up to £230 for the highest resolution royalty-free picture. Exclusive pictures command a slightly higher selling price.


Sell news photos for big money

If you witness a potential news story or have an interesting celebrity encounter, get a snap of it and you could make serious money by selling your photo to an agency.

Agencies will sell your photos on to major newspapers and magazines in exchange for commission.

They will pass images on to the Daily Mail, The Sun, The Daily Telegraph, Heat and the Daily Mirror to name a few. Most agencies accept images in all formats, including those taken on a mobile phone.

The clearer your image is, the better it’ll sell, but if yours is the only photo available, quality won’t be as much of an issue.


How much can I earn?

Holding dollar bills on blue background

How much you can earn depends on what the photo depicts. If it’s a huge, unexpected occurrence which will become global news, you stand to make hundreds if not thousands.

Likewise a celebrity snap – if you manage to capture someone famous in an embarrassing or unusual situation, there’s potential for you to make serious cash.

However, a photo of a Z-list personality walking down the street won’t be anywhere near as valuable. Nevertheless, every little helps develop your portfolio online and nab that extra bit of cash.

Get snapping!

Got any picture-perfect money spinners? Tell us about it in the comments below.

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nick's Photography
Nick's Photography
9 years ago

I am with microstock agencies over one year, and believe me guys it is no as easy as it looks. You need a really big and quality portfolio to manage something that can be called “passive income” and even than – you do not know how long it will last. Many thousands images are added on a daily basis !

Good luck to everybody

11 years ago

Great tips thanx! This can become your source of income very easily if you learn from those already selling their pics. The more natural the more valuable

Emma York
Emma York
11 years ago

Great tips! I’ve been successful with your tips above and just wanted to say thanks.
Just an extra tip to anyone in the same position… I’ve found that selling to Clients works best if you show your photos off in a video slideshow too. I first used preciousflix.com who are great, and I use them when I don’t have the time.

Thanks again

11 years ago

This method seems quite easy and can be used as an alternative for cash

11 years ago

i recently used easemysell.com and gumroad.com both website are very simple and easy to use , one can sell his digital content from the portal and collect money as well

11 years ago

here is more info on (making money with) digital photography: products-online.nl/category/products/digital-photography/

Ceola Leinonen
Ceola Leinonen
12 years ago

Just reading your posts and thought I would add that it is an interesting website.

13 years ago

Hi there, Just a couple of questions if you’d be so kind as to help me with: I understand each site has it’s individual terms and conditions, but *in general* when submitting your photos, does that photo have to be previously unpublished (for free, I mean)? – For example on your Facebook account or if you’ve discussed it on a photography forum and posted it. I’m assuming the answer is that it doesn’t have to be, as you have the rights to distribute your photo as you please because you remain the copyright holder, is that true? What about hosting… Read more »

9 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

In response to your last question, these agencies seem to require your photos to be as raw and unprocessed as possible which leaves the buyer free to edit as they wish. The agency will reject your photo if it is unsuitable and give a reason so it might be a good idea to keep a copy of the original and make only the edits that the agency suggests. In my opinion it would be best to try capture the shot ‘in the camera’ rather than have to edit too much if possible.

14 years ago

Thanks for the info – do you know if you can sell the same picture twice?

Paul Prowse
14 years ago
Reply to  Emma

Hi Emma, Generally, there’s nothing to stop you selling the same picture twice. Check the terms if in doubt – but most sites like Picture Nation, 123RF etc. simply licence your picture for sale. What this means is that only a copy of your image is sold – NOT the copyright of the image – so you’re free to sell them elsewhere. If you’re selling the copyright of the image, this should be specifically stated. (This is only normally the case when selling a picture to a newspaper or magazine… but even here, you may be able to sell the… Read more »

14 years ago
Reply to  Paul Prowse

Thank you so much for your response, you’ve been very helpful!

14 years ago

Great info – I have signed up with all of the companies mentioned.

12 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Hi there, I wondered how people had got on with this / how successful it had been, and how you’d managed to earn? Also, any learning curves?

Lesley 🙂

1 2 3

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

Send this to a friend