Are you a photographer looking to make a little money on the side?

You can accomplish this by selling your photographs to stock photo companies, which make photos available for sale for commercial use (subject to usage licenses).

Anyone can sell photos to a stock photo website, which stores huge databases of images in galleries for clients to choose from.

Stock photos are used for blog posts, magazine articles, book covers, inspirational posters, flyers, and many other publications.

How much money can I make?

Truthfully? Not much. Most stock photo companies make a hefty portion of their profit off the sale of a photo, so you might make a few dollars (or less) when your image is sold.

However, since there’s no limit to how many times your photo can be sold, you can earn residual income over time.

It may be a slow drip, but if you’re able to sell a lot of high-quality photos, you could potentially turn this into a decent side hustle.

What types of images sell best?

The market for stock photos is extraordinarily wide-ranging, so you need to do your research on what’s currently popular.

Look over online galleries of subject-focused photos (beauty, animals, landscape, family, architecture, food, sports, and transportation) to see what is popular and marketable.

Another way to get ideas for stock photos is to flip through magazines and blogs that cater to subjects you’re interested in. They will help show you the style of stock photos.

Don’t stick to just one site

Once you have photos to upload, the sky’s the limit on how many sites you can put them on. Some sites charge a small fee for uploading stock images, while others let you do it for free.

Good sites to start with are Alamy (which pays well—photographers earn 50 percent of each sale), Fotolia/Adobe Stack (they pay 33 percent of each sale), Shutterstock (which hosts a huge database of photos—over 350 million images), and CanStock (which offers a comprehensive payout schedule).

Getty Images and iStock are great gigs, but they require an application process to screen submissions; they also scroll through Flickr and recruit photographers themselves.

Don’t over edit photos

Keep your photos on the neutral side — don’t edit or crop them too much because buyers will want the opportunity to do that once they’ve bought the rights to the photo.

Use a high-resolution lens and a digital SLR camera to take the best-quality photo possible, and leave it at that. Style points here are for composition, not editing.


Having great, marketable images doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t effectively market them. This means using keywords and tags to get your image seen by the right audience.

You’ll basically be doing search engine optimization (SEO) on your photos. It’s worth the effort; your sales will improve if you do a thorough job of tagging your pictures.

The bottom line

Selling stock photos won’t generate enough income to let you quit your day job, but with a little research and effort, you can fatten your wallet by trying your hand at this side gig.

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