Alright, before we get started. Let me say I’m excited about this article! I really enjoy bringing a personal touch and felt this article “How To Sell Photos Online” allowed me to bring in some personal experiences on what really works for selling photos. I’ve done most of these.
As many of you already know from other posts, I love photography. This hobby is one of my true passions in life though, sadly, I do not get to play with my camera much anymore. Thankfully, before this downturn in production, I was able to gather a lot of different experiences that taught me how to sell photos online for extra income.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to shoot my photos all over the U.S. and the world. It took a lot of honesty with myself, patience, and persistence to build my skills to create some decent photographs. Many of my photos have sold to people around the world using several different platforms of selling. It is a very fun and addicting experience to have someone purchase a photograph that you created from scratch.
Here are some of the different ways you can sell photos online.
1. Stock Photography
Okay, everyone knows about this method on how to sell photos online already so let’s get it out of the way. Using Shutterstock or iStock Photo is probably the easiest way to earn extra money online selling your photos. All you have to do is head over to one of these sites, sign up, upload, get accepted, then sit and wait to get paid.
About five years ago I was in St. Louis. While there we visited a high vantage point in a hotel that over looked the St Louis Arch. I snapped a quick shot (this article’s featured image) through the glass window not thinking anything about it. Later on I decided to add it to Shutterstock and iStock Photo. To be honest, compared to the other photos I was uploading, I was not too excited about the one of the arch. To my surprise though, it has been a best seller for me. Between the two hosting services I have made over $1,000 off of the photograph.
Why did this photo do so well? My theory is because it is from a different angle than your typical St. Louis Arch photograph. Go ahead and take a look at the top St Louis Arch photos on ShutterStock and compare to mine above. Notice how it is completely different from the other top sellers. This is what you should do for your stock photography. Find a topic on one of the stock photography sites that is selling well. Then analyze the competition figure out how you can do your photo better bringing fresh content to the topic.
For some more great advice on stock photography check out Andrew’s experience on Selling Stock Photography.
2. Direct Sells
A few years back I was very active at marketing my photographs. I was blogging every day, creating conversations on Twitter, and gaining visitors like crazy. This is when I had a few people directly contact me to use my photos. One client was a hospital in Iowa looking for photos to use on their website. The second client was a marketing company out of Sweden looking to use my Portland Headlight photo for one of their clients.
Overall, I only made $75 off of these two deals but I was still very excited. One thing I learned was to only work with clients who have a budget. The hospital did not so I gave them a one year license for free as long as they gave me credit for my work on the site. I thought this would give me exposure. It did not.
I learned from this mistake when the Swedish deal came up. Here I made sure that I was going to get some money out of them. We came up with a deal for $75, they signed the license, then I sent them a digital copy of the image. It was essentially a direct stock photography deal.
If you read my 8 Extremely Flexible Part Time Jobs for Us Grown Ups article, you know I once started an Etsy shop a while back. I did not spend much time on my shop to get it going but did sell a couple of photographs there. I have heard that if you work fairly consistently on your own shop for about a year that it can become pretty lucrative.
Like I said, I did not really work very hard on my shop so nothing huge ever materialized with Etsy. Out of the photographs I did sell, I made around $100.
Hopefully in the near future I can get back into my Etsy shop. I think this could be a really nice way to make some extra income.
One time, I had the editor of a digital magazine contact me to take some photographs around the Denver area. They were doing a spotlight on the city and wanted me to take photos of local landmarks, things to-do, and my favorite, food! I went around taking these photos, signed a contract with them, and then got paid a couple hundred bucks. Later on, the article was published which was an incredible feeling!
To start your own freelance journey on how to sell your photos online, I recommend you to contact editors of any magazine around the country. This will let them know you exist and that you are hungry for some work. Do not get discouraged if they say no right away. If they turn you away, remember to follow up ever couple months or so.
Also, I am sure there are freelance websites around the internet to help you find new gigs. I do not have any personal experiences with these websites though. Oh! Article idea!
5. Consignment Shops
Alright, this idea is not about how to sell photos online but rather at a physical store. It is very similar to Etsy and Direct Sells so I wanted to include it for you. Here you can find locally owned gift stores that sell items from local artists. Most of these stores sell items like a consignment shop would. They give your item space in the store for a certain amount of time. Once it sells then they take a cut of the income and you get the rest. Pretty sweet!
Selling at a local store is also one method I do not have personal experience with yet. I have been wrestling with the idea for a while now but have not pulled the trigger yet. Once I do, I will let you know how it goes.
Wrapping it All Up
Here are five fantastic and very probable ways on how to sell photos online. Most of which I have done myself. Some of these methods take more time than others. Some are truly passive while others require you to reach out and find work. If you are ambitious it is possible to do all five of these methods to sell photos online. I would recommend starting with only one at a time instead of trying to start with all five at the same time.
It takes time, patience, and persistence to sell your photos online. Do not give up if you have not sold anything in the first week. Keep pushing forward analyzing your work to make sure that it actually looks good compared to others. If not, learn how you can make your work better. Remember that failure is okay and if you learn from your mistakes you will come out ahead.
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