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How to Sell Stock Photos

Are you a photographer looking to make some extra cash? Selling stock photos can be a great way to monetize your passion for photography. Stock photos are licensed multiple times to multiple buyers, making it a potentially lucrative source of income. However, with so many stock photo websites out there, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.

In this article, we will guide you through the process of selling stock photos online. We will provide you with tips and tricks to help you create high-quality images that customers will want to download. We will also share with you some of the best stock photo websites where you can sell your photos and earn money. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, this guide will help you get started on your journey to making money with stock photos.

Understanding Stock Photography

Stock photography is a type of photography that is licensed for commercial use. It is used in various media, such as websites, magazines, advertisements, and more. Stock photos are usually sold through stock photography websites or microstock agencies.

As a photographer, you retain the copyrights to your photos even after submitting them to a stock photography website or agency. However, by submitting your photos, you grant them a license to use your photos for commercial purposes.

Stock photos can be sold multiple times to multiple buyers, making it a lucrative business for photographers. However, it is important to note that stock photography websites and agencies take a percentage of the profit, usually between 15-85%. Therefore, it is important to choose your platform wisely and read the terms and conditions carefully.

In terms of pricing, microstock licenses generally sell between $1 – $5 per image. However, the pricing can vary depending on the licensing agreement and the platform. It is important to research the pricing of different platforms and adjust your pricing strategy accordingly.

Overall, understanding the basics of stock photography is crucial for photographers who want to sell their photos online. By learning the fundamentals, you can make informed decisions about which platforms to use, how to price your photos, and how to optimize your portfolio for maximum sales.

Identifying Marketable Stock Photos

When it comes to selling stock photos, it’s important to know what types of images are in demand. This section will cover some key factors to consider when identifying marketable stock photos.

Trends in Stock Photography

One important factor to keep in mind is current trends in stock photography. This can include popular themes, styles, and subject matter. For example, lifestyle and business-related images are often in high demand. Additionally, natural and authentic-looking photos are becoming increasingly popular.

It’s also important to stay up-to-date on emerging trends in the industry. This can include new technologies or social movements that may influence the types of images that are in demand.

Understanding Photo Quality

Another important factor to consider is the quality of the photo itself. This includes elements such as composition, lighting, and focus. In general, high-quality images are more likely to be accepted by stock photo agencies and sell well.

It’s also important to consider the technical aspects of the photo, such as resolution and file format. Most stock photo agencies have specific requirements for these elements, so it’s important to ensure that your photos meet these guidelines.

Overall, identifying marketable stock photos requires a combination of understanding current trends in the industry and producing high-quality images that meet the technical requirements of stock photo agencies. By keeping these factors in mind, you can increase your chances of success in the stock photography market.

How to Take Stock Photos

Taking stock photos that sell requires a combination of skill, creativity, and knowledge. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Composition Tips

Composition is key when it comes to taking stock photos. Here are some tips to help you improve your composition:

  • Use the rule of thirds to create a balanced and visually appealing image.
  • Pay attention to the background and make sure it doesn’t distract from the subject.
  • Keep it simple. Avoid cluttered images that can be confusing or overwhelming.
  • Experiment with different angles and perspectives to create interest and variety.

Lighting Techniques

Lighting can make or break a stock photo. Here are some tips to help you get the lighting right:

  • Use natural light whenever possible. It’s free, and it can create a soft and flattering effect.
  • Avoid harsh shadows by using diffused light sources or reflectors.
  • Use a tripod to keep the camera steady and avoid blurry images.
  • Experiment with different lighting setups to create different moods and effects.

Post-Processing Tips

Post-processing can help you enhance your images and make them more marketable. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your post-processing:

  • Use editing software to adjust the exposure, contrast, and color balance of your images.
  • Remove any distracting elements or blemishes using the clone or healing tool.
  • Use filters and presets to create a consistent look and feel across your portfolio.
  • Save your images in different file formats and sizes to make them more versatile and accessible to buyers.

By following these tips, you can take stock photos that are visually appealing, technically sound, and marketable. Remember to keep experimenting and learning, and don’t be afraid to take risks and try new things.

Choosing a Stock Photo Agency

When it comes to selling your stock photos, choosing the right agency is crucial. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a stock photo agency:

Agency Comparison

Do your research and compare different stock photo agencies. Look at the types of images they specialize in and the quality of their collections. Some agencies focus on specific niches, such as travel or food photography, while others offer a more diverse range of images.

Consider the reputation of the agency as well. Look for reviews from other photographers and see how they rate the agency’s customer service and overall experience. You want to choose an agency that is easy to work with and has a good track record of sales.

Royalty Rates

Another important factor to consider is the royalty rates offered by the agency. This is the percentage of the sale price that you will receive when someone purchases one of your images.

Some agencies offer higher royalty rates than others, but it’s important to consider the overall earning potential of each agency. A higher royalty rate may not be worth it if the agency has a smaller customer base or lower sales volume.

Consider the agency’s pricing structure as well. Some agencies offer a flat rate for all images, while others use a tiered pricing system based on image size or usage. Make sure you understand how the pricing works and how it will affect your earnings.

Ultimately, the best stock photo agency for you will depend on your individual needs and goals as a photographer. Take the time to research and compare different agencies to find the one that best fits your style and business model.

Creating a Portfolio

To start selling stock photos, the first step is to create a portfolio of high-quality images. Here are some tips to help you create a portfolio that will attract buyers:

  • Focus on quality over quantity: It’s better to have a small portfolio of high-quality images than a large portfolio of mediocre ones. Make sure your images are sharp, well-composed, and properly exposed.
  • Shoot a variety of subjects: Buyers are looking for a wide range of images, so try to shoot a variety of subjects. This could include landscapes, portraits, still life, and more.
  • Think about commercial appeal: While it’s important to shoot what you love, it’s also important to think about what will sell. Research the types of images that are in demand and try to shoot images that fit those trends.
  • Edit your images carefully: Before uploading your images to a stock site, make sure you edit them carefully. This means removing any distracting elements, adjusting the color and exposure, and ensuring that the image is properly cropped.
  • Organize your portfolio: Once you have a collection of images, make sure you organize them in a way that makes sense. This could include grouping them by subject, color, or style.

By following these tips, you can create a portfolio of images that will attract buyers and help you start selling stock photos. Remember to keep your portfolio updated with fresh images and to always strive for quality over quantity.

Uploading to Stock Photo Sites

When it comes to selling your photos on stock photo sites, uploading your images is the first step. In this section, we’ll cover the basics of uploading your photos to stock photo sites.

File Formats

The first thing you need to know is which file formats are accepted by the stock photo site you want to upload to. Most stock photo sites accept JPEG files, but some may also accept TIFF, EPS, or PNG files. It’s important to check the site’s guidelines before uploading to ensure that your images meet their requirements.


Keywords are an essential part of selling your photos on stock photo sites. They help customers find your images when they search for specific topics. When uploading your photos, be sure to include relevant keywords in the title, description, and tags. Use specific keywords that accurately describe your image, and avoid using irrelevant or misleading keywords.


In addition to keywords, you should also provide a detailed description of your image. This can include information about the subject, location, and any other relevant details. Be sure to include any important information that could help customers find and purchase your image.

Overall, uploading your photos to stock photo sites is a straightforward process. By following the site’s guidelines and including relevant keywords and descriptions, you can increase your chances of selling your photos and making money as a stock photographer.

Legal Aspects of Selling Stock Photos

Model Releases

When selling stock photos, it is important to have a model release for any recognizable person in the photo. A model release is a legal document that gives you permission to use a person’s likeness in a commercial context. It is important to obtain a model release from all recognizable people in your photos, even if they are in the background.

The model release should include the name and contact information of the model, a description of the intended use of the photo, and the signature of the model. You can find model release templates online or use a release form provided by the stock photo agency you are working with.

Property Releases

In addition to model releases, you may also need a property release for any recognizable private property in your photos. A property release is a legal document that gives you permission to use an individual’s property in a commercial context. This includes buildings, landmarks, and other identifiable structures.

If you are unsure whether you need a property release, it is best to err on the side of caution and obtain one. You can find property release templates online or use a release form provided by the stock photo agency you are working with.

Remember, failing to obtain the necessary releases can result in legal issues and financial penalties. So, make sure you have all the necessary releases before selling your stock photos.

Marketing Your Stock Photos

Once you have uploaded your stock photos, it’s time to market them. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Use Relevant Keywords: Make sure to use relevant and specific keywords when you upload your images. This will help potential buyers find your photos when they search for specific topics.
  • Promote Your Portfolio: Promote your portfolio on social media platforms and your personal website. Share your best photos and let people know that you are selling stock photos.
  • Collaborate with Other Photographers: Collaborate with other photographers and share your work with them. This can help you gain more exposure and potentially lead to more sales.
  • Participate in Photography Contests: Participate in photography contests and submit your best photos. This can help you gain recognition and potentially lead to more sales.
  • Offer Exclusive Photos: Offer exclusive photos to specific clients or agencies. This can help you build long-term relationships and potentially lead to more sales in the future.

Remember that marketing your stock photos is an ongoing process. Keep promoting your work and engaging with potential buyers to increase your chances of making sales.


In conclusion, selling stock photos online can be a lucrative business if you have the right mindset, skills, and equipment. To succeed, you need to be able to take high-quality photos that are in demand, and you need to be able to market them effectively. Here are a few key takeaways from this guide:

  • Stock photography is a numbers game. The more photos you have available for sale, the more opportunities you have to make money.
  • To maximize your earnings, you need to be able to identify trends and shoot photos that meet the current demand.
  • It’s important to choose the right platform to sell your photos. Consider factors such as commission rates, licensing terms, and audience reach.
  • You should always be looking for ways to improve your photography skills and stay up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques.
  • Finally, it’s important to be patient and persistent. Building a successful stock photography business takes time and effort, but the rewards can be significant.

Remember, success in stock photography is not guaranteed, but with the right approach and a little bit of luck, you can turn your passion for photography into a profitable business.