How to sell photos online is a question I’ve been working on for nearly a decade. I’ve tried almost a dozen different ways to sell photos. While some avenues have been more successful than others, I’m 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. Even though I’m in a season of life where I can’t take new pictures at the moment, I still have a passion for photography. Even though I don’t take new photos, I’m actually still passively earning money from it.
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to shoot all over the US and the world. It took a lot of honesty with myself, patience and persistence to build my skills to take good pictures. Many of my photos have been sold to people all over the world using various sales platforms. Getting someone to buy a photo you took from scratch is an extremely rewarding experience.
Enough about me, we’re here to help you sell photos online.
1. Stock Photography
I suspect you’ve heard of stock photography, especially if you’re a fellow blogger.
For me, this was my most successful way of selling photos online.
Using Shutterstock or iStock Photo is probably the easiest way to make extra money online by selling your photos. All you have to do is go to one of these sites, sign up, upload, get accepted and then wait to get paid.
Want to get started? Andrew talks about 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 at the hotel where we were staying. It just so happened that the vantage point overlooked the St. Louis Gateway Arch. I took a quick photo (the featured image of this article) through the glass window without thinking twice. Later I decided to add it to Shutterstock and iStock Photo.
To be honest, compared to the other photos I was uploading, I wasn’t too thrilled with this one.
To my surprise, this photo has been a bestseller for me ever since. Between the two hosting services, I made over $1,000 from the photo.
Why did this photo do so well? My theory is that it comes from a different angle than your typical St. Louis Arch photo. Go ahead and check out the top photos of St. Louis Arch on ShutterStock and compare them to mine above. Note how it is totally different from the other top sellers. Here’s what to do for your stock photos. Find a subject on one of the stock photography sites that sells well. Then analyze the competition to find out how you can make your photo better by bringing new content to the subject.
2. Direct sales
A few years ago I was very active in marketing my photos. I blogged every day, had conversations on Twitter, and got traffic like crazy. This was when I contacted a few people directly to use my photos. A client was at a hospital in Iowa looking for photos to use on their website. The second client was a marketing company from Sweden that wanted to use my Portland Headlight photo for one of their clients.
Overall, I made over $75 off these two deals. Although not much, I was still very excited.
Lesson learned: One thing I learned was to only work with clients on a budget. The hospital didn’t, so I gave them a free one-year license, as long as they gave me credit for my work on the site. I thought this would bring me fame. It didn’t.
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 I would get some money from them. We came up with a deal for $75, they signed the license and I sent them a digital copy of the image. It was essentially a direct stock photography deal.
If you read my article 8 Extremely Flexible Part-Time Jobs for Us Adults, you know that I started an Etsy shop a while ago. I didn’t spend much time on my shop to get it going, but did sell a few photos there. I’ve heard that if you work fairly consistently on your own store for about a year, it can become quite lucrative.
Like I said, I haven’t really worked very hard on my shop, so nothing great ever came out of Etsy. From the photos I’ve sold, I’ve made about $100.
Hopefully I can get back into my Etsy shop in the near future. I think this can be a really fun way to earn some extra income.
One time I had the editor of a digital magazine contact me to take some pictures in the Denver area. They were spotlighting the city and wanted me to take pictures of local landmarks, things to do and my favorite food! I went around taking these pictures, signed a contract with them, and then got paid a few hundred dollars. Later the article was published, which was an incredible feeling!
To start your own freelance journey on how to sell your photos online, I suggest you contact editors from any magazine around the country. This will let them know that you exist and that you are hungry for some work. Don’t get discouraged if they say no right away. If they reject you, don’t forget to follow up every few months.
I’m also sure there are freelance websites on the internet to help you find new gigs. However, I have no personal experience with these websites. Oh! Article idea!
5. Consignment Shops
Okay, this idea isn’t about how to sell photos online, but rather in a brick and mortar store. It’s very similar to Etsy and Direct Sells, so I wanted to include it for you. Here you will find local gift shops that sell items from local artists. Most of these stores sell items as a consignment store would. They give your item space in the store for a certain amount of time. Once it’s sold, they take a portion of the income and you get the rest. Very cool!
Personally, I was able to sell a number of photos this way. I made a modest $150 from the sale. In general, this is a very time-consuming method compared to stock photography, but you don’t compete with that many photographers, so the chances of selling a photo are much higher. In addition, you may need to sell 30 stock photos to make what you do by selling one photo in a consignment store.
Here in Denver, there’s a group of people who sell tons of photos at consignment shops around town. As you can imagine, this takes time to build relationships with store owners, get prints, deliver them, check in inventory, and collect checks. Although it is easy work, it takes time.
Here are five fantastic and highly probable ways to sell photos online. I did most of it myself. Some of these methods take more time than others. Some are really passive, while others require you to reach out and find work. If you’re ambitious, it’s possible to use all five of these methods to sell photos online.
I would recommend starting with just one at a time rather than trying to start with all five at once. Ultimately, I think you can turn photography into a full-time business if you are consistent.
It takes time, patience and persistence to sell your photos online. Don’t give up if you haven’t sold anything in the first week. Keep analyzing your work to make sure it looks really good compared to others. If not, learn how to make your work better. Remember that failure is okay and learning from your mistakes will help you move forward.
I will guard your email with my life.
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