How to Sell Stock Photos Online

If you are a photographer looking to become a professional photographer, you must be wondering how to sell your photos and how to sell your photos online. Photography is one of the most popular fields online, and many photographers can now sell their photos online through stock photography sites besides their studios and local businesses.
Although there are many online stock photography marketplaces where you can buy and sell photos, the competition to get your profile accepted and get your photos approved on these sites becomes extremely hard. Therefore, this article aims to guide you with ideas to help you start your own photography business online.

When to Start Selling Stock Photography?

The first thing you have to learn is that there are many professional and skillful photographers who have been selling their photography online for years. Thus, you should have professional photography knowledge in order to be accepted and get your work published.

If you do not already have a photography degree, you can simply start earning one or attend photography classes and workshops to improve your skills and take it to the next professional level.

Build a Creative Online Photography Portfolio

Photography is a practical art, and building a creative photography portfolio is grounded in regular and hard practice. Most photographers know you need to take many shots in order to get the perfect one that deserves to be uploaded to your online portfolio.  Before you start selling stock photography, you should make a portfolio website to help buyers to review your work and learn more about your experience and skills.

The importance of having an online portfolio lies in the fact that your profile acts like your resume, and allows clients to judge your professional level as well as contact you for projects. If you still do not have a photographer portfolio, you should start building one. Mainly, there are two types of profiles:


John Curley

Stand-alone online portfolio

This portfolio is a website you set up manually to upload your photographs and information about yourself. While a personal website gives you full control over the design and functions on the website, it also requires some knowledge of the website building and hosting process, and you will need to have web marketing experience to promote your photography profile.

Recently, many services have emerged that allow you to create am online portfolio with easy control panels to upload and manage your content. Most of these services provide several ready-made designs, a management control panel, and hosting for a monthly or yearly payment plan. Here are some of the most commonly used online portfolio services:

Creative network profile

If you do not know web design or developing, do not worry, you can create a photographer portfolio on creative photography networks that are specialized to host photographs and display them in creative and clean design themes. The big advantage of these sites is that they allow you to follow other photographers and they follow you back to increase your profile exposure and viewers.

Additionally, some of the creative networks provide a photography job search where clients can search for photographers’ portfolios and contact them.  Here are some of these sites that you can use to build an online portfolio and connect with other photographers:

Where to Sell Stock Photographs?

Photo by Hoboton

In the last few years, the number of sites that sell stock photos has increased,  and subsequently they invite photographers to sell their work on their sites and get commission, based on many factors, such as the number of website contributors and the exclusivity of the photograph. Although the sales commission may appear low for selling a photo, multiple sales, especially with large number of images in your stock photography portfolio, can result in high revenues compared to selling the photographs only once.

Although most of these stock photography sites have similar guidelines and contribution conditions, there are some differences in the sales ratios and the restrictions apply on each site for accepting the images. For example, iStockphoto is one of the oldest and most popular sites in the stock photography industry, which allows your photos to sell more frequently than on other sites. On the other hand, it is hard to get your photo approved by the site due to the enormous number of contributors on the site.

There are many similar stock photography websites you can join to start selling your photos, such as the following:

Each of these websites is a marketplace for your photos. So, you can simply visit these sites and start adding your photos to each site, unless a  site requires exclusive submission for photographs, which means that if you submit a photograph for the website, you will not be able to sell it anywhere else.

Many photographers prefer to work with certain stock photography websites based on the sales they get. For example, some websites can do more sales for your photos than others.

What to and What Not to Sell?

Photo by Ziębol

Generally, you have to focus on the unique ideas and the photos that buyers can use in their websites and projects. You do not want to upload a photo that no one can use, or one of which there are millions of similar items. You may not get the chance to sell it.

Before you upload your photos to any of the above-mentioned stock photography websites, you have to read their guidelines and the photo themes that they accept. You do not want the photos to get rejected. Actually, the most famous websites, such as iStockphoto, require you to upload many attempts before getting your photo approved.

The quality of the stock photo is very important, because most websites reject low quality photos, such as photos with wrong white balance, blurry images, images with noise, etc.

How to Promote Your Stock Photography

After you have uploaded the photographs, you should start to promote them to get more exposure and increase their number of downloads. While most of the sales come from people searching on the stock photography websites and search engines, you can give your photo sales a push by using some simple promotion tips. Additionally, most stock photography sites have affiliate programs that give commission for your for each forward client. This can be a source of extra revenue,  because your will get commission for selling your photos and another commission when you direct users to download your photo or other photos on the website.

Here are some tips that you can use to promote your stock photographs:

  • Add a link or banner to your stock photos on your website or online portfolio and let your clients check it.
  • Add your stock photography links to you email signature and communication with clients.
  • Build an email list for your friends and clients; you can use this list to send them updates about your new photographs and stock photos.
  • Use your social network accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and others to promote your newly uploaded stock photos. You can simply direct your followers to your portfolio or the stock photography.
  • Your local clients are very important, and you need to keep in touch with them either through meetings, online through social networks, or through your portfolio. Make sure to tell them about your stock photography marketplace and add a link to your business card and contracts.

Many photographers do not have the knowledge of building a successful stock photography portfolio and sell photos online. If you understand the workflow, you will have a better chance to sell your photos and get more revenues. In this article, I have tried to give a quick overview of how to sell stock online, starting from setting up your web portfolio, and moving on to some  tips to help you promote your stock photos.


About Tuts team

This is Photographytuts editorial team. provides Photoshop tutorials for photographers, photography basics, Photoshop actions, resources, and photography marketing tips.

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