Home / Blog / A Guide to Selling Stock Photography Online: Use Stock Photo Websites to Sell Royalty-Free Photos, Stock Images

A Guide to Selling Stock Photography Online: Use Stock Photo Websites to Sell Royalty-Free Photos, Stock Images

Improvements in digital photography equipment have made it possible for professional photographers, freelance photographers and amateur photographers alike to earn money and gain exposure for their digital photographs by selling royalty-free photos online via a stock photography website.

This article will provide an introduction to selling royalty-free photographs online using a stock photography website like iStockPhoto or ShutterStock.com.

What Are Stock Photos and Royalty-Free Photos?

Stock photographs are photos that are licensed for commercial use by advertising agencies, newspapers, magazines, graphic artists, and website designers, among others. The photographer typically charges a one-time fee for use of the stock photo.

The photographer often retains ownership of the stock photo, essentially “renting” the image to clients who can download stock photos online from a stock photography website.

Royalty-free photos are digital or print images that are sold for a one-time fee. Royalty-free photos and images are exempt from residual commission-like earnings – also known as royalties–in the future.

What Type of Stock Photos Can I Sell Online Using Stock Photo Websites?

Stock photographs can fall into many categories. Stock photographs may be digital photos of items around the house, or photographs of people or animals.

There are dozens of popular genres of stock photography, including travel stock photography, medical stock photography, nature stock photography and sports stock photography, among many other categories. Many stock photographers will opt to find a niche, specializing in a certain type of digital image.

Stock images can include stock illustrations and computer generated images and photos that have been altered using photo editing software like Photoshop. Many stock photography websites will also sell royalty-free stock illustrations, stock video and stock audio.

How Do Stock Photography Websites Work?

First, an aspiring stock photographer must apply to become a contributor to a stock photography website like iStockPhoto.com, ShutterStock.com, or MicroStockPhoto.com, among many others.

Once approved, a digital photographer can upload a photograph in various sizes. Some sites have pre-set pricing depending on photo size, while other sites allow photographers to set the price.

The payment structure for stock photography websites varies. ShutterStock.com, for instance, pays a flat fee of 25 cents per photo download; once the digital photographer earns $500, the compensation per photograph rises to 30 cents per photo download. This is the more common payment structure on websites that boast cheap stock photography prices; as a result, these websites often enjoy a very large customer base.

Other websites that sell stock photography will pay freelance photographers a percentage of the photo download price. iStockPhoto.com pays 20 percent of the photo download fee; with a 40 percent fee paid out in cases where a digital image is sold exclusively through that one website.

How Can a Stock Photographer Get Started Selling Digital Photos Online?

The first step to selling photographs online involves collecting samples of work. The most successful websites that sell stock images have an application process that ensures only high-quality digital images are sold on the website.

One successful strategy for photographers seeking to get accepted as a stock photography supplier involves analyzing the other digital images that are sold on the website. Getting a feel for the website’s standards will help aspiring stock photographers to submit digital photo samples that are consistent with the site’s standards.

Once a digital photographer is accepted as a contributor for a stock photography website, he or she can post royalty-free stock photos that can then be purchased by customers.

When selecting a stock photography website, it’s important that photographers research the site’s payment structure and volume of customer traffic. Photographers can often get away with lower pricing on royalty-free images on very popular stock photography websites, as high traffic brings more potential for downloads.

Photographers should examine the strategies employed by the most successful and most popular stock photographers on the website they decide to use in order to gain insight into the best method to earn money selling digital photos on a particular website.

The earning potential for selling royalty-free stock photos online depends on the quality of the images, the resolution/size of the images, the demand for the images provided by a digital photographer and the number of images that the photographer contributes. Some stock photographers can earn hundreds — even thousands — of dollars per month selling stock photography online. In short, the online earning potential for digital photographers is limitless.

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