The Challenges of Selling Photography on Stock Sites

What could be more fun than making a hobby a full-time paying business? 

Photography is an extremely popular hobby, and you may be considering selling your photos on stock image websites. Maybe you travel a lot and take hundreds of photos on every trip

Perhaps you just love street photography, and you wander around downtown taking photos of buildings and people. What if you could upload them to websites and sell them for supplemental or even full-time income?

Finding a stockphotography marketplace to sell on

There are dozens of stock image websites to sell your photography work on, from Getty to iStockPhotos, Dreamstime, and more. If you’re a student of supply and demand economics, the first hurdle to making money selling photos online is the gigantic number of them out there competing with yours. 

Just one site, iStockPhotos, advertises over 200 million images for sale. Prices vary hugely also from hundreds of dollars for one shot to under a dollar. 

Get started and prepare your photos for sale

Now that you’ve decided to jump in, consider that you’re going to have to upload your photos to multiple sites to increase your exposure. Though most of these sites let you use an FTP program to upload multiple images at one time, you still must title each of them, write a description, and set up keywords so buyers can find them. This takes time, and you’re doing it multiple times for different sites for every image.

You’ll want to make sure you set up a record-keeping system that will help you down the line.

  • What websites you have active listings on
  • Identify what images you’ve listed
  • Whether or not the images are exclusive
  • When you listed those image
  • How much you’ve listed the images for
  • What titles you’ve given them
  • What descriptions you’ve given them
  • What keywords and tags they have
  • What has sold and how many times
  • What the fee structures are for each image

If you search for making money on stock sites articles, you’ll often see that the photographers who are making hundreds of dollars or more per month have online portfolios of thousands of images. It’s pretty much a full-time job for part-time income. 

Don’t forget that each stock photography website has a fee structure, most taking a percentage of the sale price, often more than half.

So, should you forget making money online with photography?

If you’re able to create a blog and promote it on social media sites, you could do better if you sell your own photos. Using WordPress, you can build a site and set up an online store to sell your photos. There are photography store plugins just for this purpose. Your best approach is if you work in a niche or theme for the subject matter.

Suppose you write about camping or the RV lifestyle as an example. If you are a great photographer, you may be able to sell your images on your site. By creating articles and posts rich with keywords and phrases in your niche, you could over time build a customer base of businesses who want camping images for their websites.

Stock photography sites are highly competitive, with casual shooters to professionals selling their art. If you can find a niche that sells, stick to it for more income. If you’re not discouraged, give the stock photography sites a try, but don’t expect more than a few hundred bucks per year for income.

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