It really depends on your effort, how much time you are willing to spend. I’ve been selling photos for around two years now and my income has reached approx 1000$ a month. It was 1200$ in March, even though a year ago my income was around 200$ a month.
I bet you've heard that it's possible to make some money by selling photos or videos. But is it really true? Do you have to be a professional photographer to do so? I've been selling my travel photos for almost two years now, so let me share my experience and we'll see all the pros and cons.
Is it really true?
Yes, it is. In fact, you can sell any photo you wish, like your travel photos of Rome and Paris, your home interior, the food from the restaurant, your favourite dog, cat or a hamster and even photos of yourself. There are some limitations but overall you can sell almost anything.
Where do I sell them?
There are several websites online that provide such services. You can try to sell on your own using different advertisement websites like "Craigslist" but you probably won't succeed since no one will go there to look for the photos to buy.
So the best way is to use special websites that already have millions of users who are ready to buy your photos. The most populars are:
Currently, I'm registered in all of them so I will talk more about it in my next posts.
There are several other websites like "123RF" or "Istockphotos". I will also explain why I haven't used them so far.
How much will I earn?
It really depends on the website but most of them have quite similar price tags. First of all, you have to remember that it's the website that determines the price and not you. So you can't affect it in any way.
Each website has its own pricing policy. And the price depends on which subscription the seller has bought. In other words, you can sell the same photo for 0.25$ or 100$. It's really not up to you. But I can tell you from my experience that most of the photos do sell for around 0.30$. Yes, it's true. You'll get only this much for a single photo but don't forget that you can sell the same photo again and again. In fact, the most popular of my photos has sold more than 900 times. And you can sell up to 100 and more photos a day. So it's not the price it's the number of times the photo has sold, that counts.
Also, every website has the price upgrade policy. So the more you sell the more expensive your photos become.
Shutterstock earnings breakout
As you can see, at first you start with quite low prices at only 0.25$ per photo and once you earn your first 500$ you get upgraded to the next level, where you see some rising in prices.
Currently, I have the highest level on Shutterstock and I will go into more details about earnings and how much it is possible to make every month in my next post.
How to sell photos on Shutterstock
You only get one chance at first impression. What impression do you want to make for your audience? The biggest way to make an impression is to create a beautiful website that shows off your work. Right now, you can’t go with an outdated website because more and more the world is becoming digital.
As discussed above, Shutterstock pays a very good commission on sales generated by one of the methods mentioned. You can be paid in Paypal, Skrill, and Bank Check. The minimum payment for Electronic payments is $ 75 while Check is $ 300. So it depends on how you want to get your payment. After two weeks on 1st of each month, payments are calculated.
Do I need to be a professional photographer?
No, absolutely not, nor do you need a professional camera. You can even take photos with your iPhone and upload them directly to the website. However, the competition is quite fierce, so if you really want people to buy your photos you better learn some photo editing tools like Lightroom for instance. It lets you enhance your photos, make them more bright, colourful and sharp.
The stock websites also do their checks on quality, so if your photo is blurry or out of focus they will reject it and you will have to fix it or upload another one. In fact, it will help you improve your photo editing skills and with time you'll learn to edit photos in a way that they will get approved the first time you upload them.
Shutterstock photo rejection reasons
The quantity vs quality
I have some photos that haven't sold a single time during two years period. What if I had all of my photos like that one? I wouldn't sell anything. So the quality is the one that matters, not the quantity. I know there are people who have a portfolio of around 200 photos and they're doing quite well compared to others who have thousands of photos.
What does it take to upload a photo?
Once you are all ready to upload you can do it using FTP client or a browser uploader in a specific website although sometimes they have size limitations, so I would suggest using FTP clients.
Once the photos are uploaded, comes the most boring and annoying part. You have to assign every photo to a category, add a title, description and around 50 unique keywords. And this has to be done with every photo you upload. Unfortunately, this step is very important, as it determines how easy people will be able to find your photos. And if no one can find them, then no one will buy them. So make sure to take this step seriously and add full descriptions and as unique keywords as possible. Luckily there are several tools that will generate unique keywords for you and you can apply these keywords to multiple photos. Still, it takes up quite a time.
Once it's done and your photos are approved they're out online for the people to buy them.
Who buys them?
You might wonder who really buys photos these days? Actually, lots and lots of companies. If you have a company and you need to use a photo to run your marketing campaign, you can't just use Google images. If you get caught you'll end up with pretty large fines.
So to keep it safe, most companies go to stock photography websites and buy photos, videos and audio from them, where everything is legal. Every day millions and millions of photos are being purchased and it can be your photos too.
Shutterstock states that they are selling a photo every 5 seconds.
This was a general introduction to stock photography websites and selling trends. In my next post, I'll go into more details about how much can you make in one month, is it worth start selling today, what kind of photos are selling best and what editing techniques should you use to make your photos look more tempting. Also, I will share my most profitable photos as well as my experience with video.
I'm also providing private consultations to get you started if you register on Shutterstock using this link. So if you are interested in starting selling your photos, feel free to contact me in person.