How to sell photos online is a question I have been working on for almost a decade. I have tried almost a dozen different ways to sell photos. While some avenues have been more successful than others, I am excited to share with you the most successful ways to sell photos online.
As many of you already know from other posts, I love photography. While I am in a season of life that does not let me shoot new photographs right now, I still have a passion for photography. Even though I am not making new photographs, I actually still passively make money off of them.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to shoot photographs all over the U.S. and the world. It took a lot of honesty with myself, patience, and persistence to build my skills to produce good photographs. Many of my photos have been sold to people around the world using several different platforms of selling. To have someone purchase a photograph that you created from scratch is an extremely rewarding experience.
Enough about me, we are here to help you sell photos online.
1. Stock Photography
My guess is you have heard about stock photography, especially if you are a fellow blogger.
For me, this has been my most successful way on how to sell photos online.
Using Shutterstock or iStock Photo is probably the easiest way to earn extra money online selling your photos. All you have to do is head over to one of these sites, sign up, upload, get accepted, then sit and wait to get paid.
Want to get started? Andrew goes into how he got started with Shutterstock.
A Personal Story
About five years ago I was in St. Louis. While there we visited a high vantage point in the hotel we were staying at. It just happened that vantage point looked over the St. Louis Gateway Arch. I snapped a quick shot (this article’s featured image) through the glass window not thinking anything about it. Later on, I decided to add it to Shutterstock and iStock Photo.
To be honest, compared to the other photos I was uploading, I was not too excited about this photo.
To my surprise, this photo has been a best seller for me since that day. Between the two hosting services I have made well over $1,000 off of the photograph.
Why did this photo do so well? My theory is because it is from a different angle than your typical St. Louis Arch photograph. Go ahead and take a look at the top St Louis Arch photos on ShutterStock and compare them to mine above. Notice how it is completely different from the other top sellers. This is what you should do for your stock photography. Find a topic on one of the stock photography sites that is selling well. Then analyze the competition to figure out how you can do your photo better bringing fresh content to the topic.
2. Direct Sells
A few years back I was very active in marketing my photographs. I was blogging every day, creating conversations on Twitter, and gaining visitors like crazy. This is when I had a few people directly contact me to use my photos. One client was a hospital in Iowa looking for photos to use on their website. The second client was a marketing company out of Sweden looking to use my Portland Headlight photo for one of their clients.
Overall, I made over $75 off of these two deals. While not much, I was still very excited.
Lesson Learned: One thing I learned was to only work with clients who have a budget. The hospital did not so I gave them a one-year license for free as long as they gave me credit for my work on the site. I thought this would give me exposure. It did not.
Never give your work for free! It usually never works out.
I learned from this mistake when the Swedish deal came up. Here I made sure that I was going to get some money out of them. We came up with a deal for $75, they signed the license, then I sent them a digital copy of the image. It was essentially a direct stock photography deal.
If you read my 8 Extremely Flexible Part-Time Jobs for Us Grown Ups article, you know I once started an Etsy shop a while back. I did not spend much time on my shop to get it going but did sell a couple of photographs there. I have heard that if you work fairly consistently on your own shop for about a year that it can become pretty lucrative.
As I said, I did not really work very hard on my shop so nothing huge ever materialized with Etsy. Out of the photographs I did sell, I made around $100.
Hopefully, in the near future, I can get back into my Etsy shop. I think this could be a really nice way to make some extra income.
One time, I had the editor of a digital magazine contact me to take some photographs around the Denver area. They were doing a spotlight on the city and wanted me to take photos of local landmarks, things to do, and my favorite, food! I went around taking these photos, signed a contract with them, and then got paid a couple of hundred bucks. Later on, the article was published which was an incredible feeling!
To start your own freelance journey on how to sell your photos online, I recommend you to contact editors of any magazine around the country. This will let them know you exist and that you are hungry for some work. Do not get discouraged if they say no right away. If they turn you away, remember to follow up every couple of months or so.
Also, I am sure there are freelance websites around the internet to help you find new gigs. I do not have any personal experiences with these websites though. Oh! Article idea!
5. Consignment Shops
Alright, this idea is not about how to sell photos online but rather at a physical store. It is very similar to Etsy and Direct Sells so I wanted to include it for you. Here you can find locally-owned gift stores that sell items from local artists. Most of these stores sell items as a consignment shop would. They give your item space in the store for a certain amount of time. Once it sells then they take a cut of the income and you get the rest. Pretty sweet!
Personally, I was able to sell a couple of photographs this way. I made a modest $150 from the sales. Overall, this is a very time-consuming method compared to stock photography but you are not competing against as many photographers so the likelihood of you selling a photo is much greater. Plus you might have to sell 30 stock photos to make what you do by selling one photo in a consignment shop.
Here in Denver, there is a group of people that sell tons of photos at consignment shops around the city. As you can imagine, this takes time to build relationships with shop owners, get prints, deliver them, check in on inventory, and pick up checks. While easy work, it takes up time.
Wrapping it All Up
Here are five fantastic and very probable ways on how to sell photos online. Most of which I have done myself. Some of these methods take more time than others. Some are truly passive while others require you to reach out and find work. If you are ambitious it is possible to do all five of these methods to sell photos online.
I would recommend starting with only one at a time instead of trying to start with all five at the same time. Eventually, I think you can make photography a full-time business if you are consistent.
It takes time, patience, and persistence to sell your photos online. Do not give up if you have not sold anything in the first week. Keep pushing forward analyzing your work to make sure that it actually looks good compared to others. If not, learn how you can make your work better. Remember that failure is okay and if you learn from your mistakes you will come out ahead.
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