sell photos onlineCreative Internet businesses/Websites have made it possible for virtually anyone with a camera to make money selling photos online. In fact, such sites have done for photographers what YouTube has done for once-obscure entertainment celebrities and video directors. Even kids are taking and selling photos online and developing reputations for themselves in the world of photography.

Equipment Required

Before you get started, you need to make sure you have what you need. You’ll need a computer, or regular access to one. You’ll also need a camera.

Almost any camera will do, even a cell phone camera. However, it’s important to note a few things when it comes to your choice of camera.

First, the better quality your pictures are, the more likely you’ll be to sell them. Therefore, your photos are most certainly going to have more appeal if they’re taken with a higher-resolution camera.

This is not to say that you must own a very expensive, professional-type camera with multiple lenses and other costly features. Actually, you can purchase 12-15 mega pixel cameras that take satisfactory to excellent quality pictures for $250 and under. Even a cell phone camera with 10 mega pixels or higher is capable of capturing images that people will pay for.

The second important thing to note is that when it comes time to market your photos in the manners which we will describe shortly, there may be a minimum requirement with regard to mega-pixel count. Many photo Websites will only accept photos taken with cameras that are a minimum of 5-7 mega pixels. So make sure you pay attention to this small detail before you start shooting and selling.

What Kind of Pictures Can I Sell?

You can sell almost any images imaginable. Publishers of both online and hard copy material often look for stock photos to go with stories or articles, and they find many of these through stock photo Websites. (We’ll describe this in more detail later on.)

The most marketable pictures tend to be nature photos, animal pictures and everyday photos of people. As you become more proficient at marketing your pictures, you’ll probably come to discover what types of pictures sell well and you may decide to spend more time focusing on a particular genre of photography.

But even those silly holiday pictures of Aunt Maude wearing reindeer antlers or the burnt Thanksgiving turkey may fetch you some cash. (Just remember that if you sell pictures of people you must have their permission first. More on that later.) The more pictures you take and submit, the better your chances of making money.

The main thing to remember when it comes to the types of images that you sell is that you must adhere to the rules that are set out by the Website/stock photo company that you market your photos with. They will not accept pornographic images. Others may specialize in a particular type of image (i.e. nature) and won’t accept other types of images. So be aware of these things when you choose a place to market your photos.

How to Sell Photos Online

As we already alluded to, stock photos Websites accept pictures from the general public of images of all different types. A few of the Internet’s most popular stock photo Websites include, and

Here’s how they work: photographers create a provider’s account with one (or more) of these stock photo Websites. (Note: Many stock photo Websites stipulate that you cannot submit the same picture to more than one stock photo Website so that only one site retains exclusive rights to a single photo. Be sure you check into this.) Once you create this account, you will be able to upload your pictures to the site, where they will be posted to users for sale.

Most stock photo sites allow you to submit as many pictures as you want (though there may be exceptions to this.) So the more pictures you submit, the more you’ll increase your potential for making money.

When a user selects one of your photos to purchase, your provider account will be credited with the agreed-upon price. Typically you’ll be paid out whenever your account reaches a minimum balance (again, this depends on the site so be sure to check this out before you sign up with a stock photo Website.)

How Much Money Will I Make?

Fee structures vary from site to site. Most stock photo Websites pay contributors a fee per image sold. This is generally a percentage of what the buyer pays for the image. Remember, you are selling rights to use the image, so the same photo can be sold again and again.

Some stock photo sites have other incentives for contributors to make money. Some pay referral fees when you get other photo contributors to join. Others may pay you to promote links to their site in Websites that you own.

How to Get Started

In this section we will walk you through the sign-up process for an iStock Photo provider’s account. Most stock photo Websites will have a very similar process.

1) Go to

2) Click on the link that reads “Sign Up.” It’s located on the top right hand corner of the page.

3) On the next page, fill out the sign-up form with your email address, choose a user name and choose a password. Choose your country of residence from the drop-down menu, and click on the Terms of Use box. Choose whether you wish to receive iStock’s various promotional emails by checking or un-checking the appropriate box(es). Then click on the box marked “Next Step.”

4) On the next page, check the box marked “I’m signing up to become an iStock contributor.” Then click on the box marked “Sign me up.”

5) On the next page, confirm that the information you submitted is correct, then click on the box marked “Confirm.” Your membership is complete, and you now have an account on

Now you can apply to become a contributor of photos to To do this, you must study iStockphoto’s contributor’s manual and then take a short quiz. You’ll also need to submit three sample photos. Your acceptance as a contributor will be based on these results. is one of the stricter stock photo Websites when it comes to their contributors, although you don’t have to be a professional to meet their standards. Other stock photo sites, such as do not require contributors to take a quiz or submit work samples in order to sell photos. Here, a contributor simply needs to create an account (the process is similar to creating an account on iStockphoto) and then start uploading photos (be sure to read their standards of submission first).

How Do Users View and Purchase My Photos?

Purchase programs may vary slightly from one stock photo site to another. Generally speaking, potential buyers have two ways to obtain stock photos. Users must first sign up for an account, the same way you did.

The first type of purchase plan, which is available with a majority of stock photo Websites, is a subscription plan. Users pay a specified monthly or annual membership fee/subscription which entitles the member to download up to a certain number of photos each month or year.

There are generally multiple subscription “tiers” or “levels” to choose from. Some come with monthly fees, other with annual rates. Some allow the purchaser to download a limited number of photos from the stock site while other plans may provide the user with unlimited photo downloads. These kinds of subscriptions are ideal for publishers who use dozens or hundreds of stock photos monthly or hundreds to thousands annually.

The second type of subscription available is the pay-per-use (or pay-per-download) type. Generally, a user must deposit a minimum amount of money into his or her account via credit card or PayPal (10 to 20 dollars is typical) to purchase credits. After this, the user can simply download a picture as needed and use the credits in his/her account. The user can top up the account whenever necessary. This kind of subscription is ideal for users who only use stock photos sporadically.

Either way, anytime a user downloads one of the photos you contributed, it will be recorded on your account. When your account reaches a minimum, you can withdraw the money by requesting a check or a deposit into an online bank account (i.e. PayPal).

Choosing Tags for Your Photos

Of course, stock photo Websites offer users thousands of photos to choose from. So how can you help to ensure that users will actually see the photos you’ve contributed? First, as mentioned already, the key is submitting lots of pictures: dozens, or hundreds.

Secondly, you must be strategic about how you tag your photos. “Tags” are keywords that you think subscribers will use to try to find pictures like the ones you’ve uploaded. Let’s use the example of a photo of a chickadee eating at a bird feeder. Some of the possible “tags” or keywords you should use might include:

* Bird(s)

* Chickadee(s)

* Bird feeder

* Bird eating at a bird feeder

* Chickadee eating at a bird feeder

* Bird at a birdfeeder

* Chickadee at a birdfeeder

* Bird eating seeds

* Chickadee eating seeds

* Bird picture(s)

* Nature

* Nature picture(s)

Choose keywords that range from general (i.e. “birds”) to specific (i.e. “chickadee eating at a bird feeder”). You should also try to include as many keyword variations as you can think of (i.e. “bird feeder” and “birdfeeder”) to catch searchers who will use those different variations/spellings.

A Note About Copyright and Liability

If you’re a professional photographer, you’re probably already familiar with the concept of copyright with regard to your photos. For those who are amateurs, copyright (with regard to photography) is the idea that any photo that you take is yours. You have exclusive rights to its ownership.

When you become a contributor to a stock photo Website, you are essentially extending your copyright to the site’s owner. Generally this does not mean that you no longer have any rights to the image(s). It simply means that you have also granted the stock photo site the right to display and sell that image for a profit for itself and for you. You are also granting anyone who purchases the image the right to use that image without paying any further fees for it.

However, generally speaking, you still maintain ownership of the image. This means that you can continue to use the image(s) yourself in whatever manner you want (as long as it doesn’t violate the stock photo site’s Terms of Use).

Nonetheless, you should always read carefully the Terms of Use for contributors of any stock photo Website you contribute to. Make sure you understand their copyright license agreement because not all stock Website’s are necessarily the same in this regard. A thorough understanding of these Terms of Use will help you avoid copyright problems down the road.

The other issue to be aware of is liability when it comes to the subject(s) of your images. Trees and wildlife are generally free domain, but you can’t contribute photos that depict images of human beings without those subjects’ knowledge and consent. Be sure that you inform people that you will be using their images this way, and if they decline then you must respect their privacy.

If your human subjects don’t mind having their images published and marketed to Internet users, it’s helpful to have them sign a simple release form. Signing a release form lets any interested parties know that your subjects have been informed that their pictures of them will be published and/or sold. It also lets buyers/users know that they’ve consented to this use of their image(s).

You can find release form templates online. (Microsoft has a good image usage release form template.) Always keep your release forms on file. You won’t necessarily ever have to produce them or refer to them, but it will be invaluable to you to have them if the need ever arises.

Hope this helps,

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(5) comments

Kelly Miles says:

March 1, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Hi Scott this article helps me understand why photography is important. When I hear photography what I have in mind is that you will be paid taking pictures to events like weddings, birthdays etc. Now I understand better why people who loves takes pictures have to spend to much for their cameras and even more spend time to take a picture all because you can really actually earn from it. I will definitely share this to my friend.

Gerald Merkley says:

March 9, 2012 at 1:55 am

Yes it’s tru even if you’re an absolute beginner you can earn money using your camera. You can find a lot of tricks and tips on how to make simple photos using all the different types of photo shop which are available online for free. You just need to be creative and artistic with your photos.

Bea Locsin says:

March 12, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Hi Scott, thank you for sharing this article, I normally ask friends to be my subject for my photography projects and I never had to let them sign any release form but I guess this is really important not just for me but the people who will be buying my photos, because for sure they don’t wanna get in trouble in buying my photos using human as part of my subject. Thanks for the tip, i need it though. I just started this career since I really love taking pictures.

Underson Peters says:

March 20, 2012 at 3:31 am

Hi Bea I love using human as my subject too but I got to pay them per photo session. Good to know that your friends are supporting you with your career, or should I say your hobby and you they do it for free, that’s so cool. The best thing about this job is you enjoy the beauty of nature and you get to travel more often. Good luck to all of us.

Sarah Barton says:

April 3, 2012 at 4:19 pm

I love taking photos, human and nature are my favorite subjects. But, I’m not really sure if I can sell them, or maybe I am not yet confident in selling those photos. I just do it for fun and as a hobby. After reading this article, I am encourage to take photography seriously. Maybe I would engage myself more in some photography class so that I can earn some while enjoying my hobby. Thanks for writing this article, it would make people who are into photography to take it seriously and make money out of their hobby.

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