If you can get paid for doing what you love, you’ve got it made. But, as you probably know, it can be tough to figure out how to sell photos online and make money. There’s plenty of competition, and, with the dizzying number of options where you can sell photos, it’s hard to know where to focus your efforts.
This guide will help—we’ll share the best places to sell photos online, as well as IRL, and explain how to make the most of them. First up, however, we need to get your work ready for sale!
How to Make Your Photos Look More Professional
The first step of how to sell your photos is to make sure your work is the best it can be. If you can improve the quality of your photography, you’ll have a better chance at competing with the many other photographers out there. Once you have an online photography portfolio filled with attention-grabbing work, you’ll have an easier time attracting customers and selling images.
Know the Fundamentals
If you’ve been through some formal photography training, you probably remember the fundamental rules of photo composition. You know: the rule of thirds, leading lines, perspective—all that jazz. But, along the way, you may have left some of that behind to develop your own style.
That’s great, since having a unique style can help you stand out from the pack and sell pictures online. However, when it comes to expanding your skills, it’s good to get back to the basics once in a while.
And if you’ve never been exposed to these rules, they are absolutely worth learning. It’s one of the easiest ways to make your photos look more professional, and will undoubtedly improve your chances of selling photography. For more tips, take a peek at our guide, 8 Essential Photo Composition Rules.
Upgrade your Equipment
Not having the right equipment can hold your photography back and make it harder to sell your pictures. First off, if you don’t yet own a tripod, it’s time that you invest in one. They offer many benefits, making it easier to compose your shots and enabling you to experiment with longer exposures. They’re also very simple to use, and it’s easy to find inexpensive options.
The next type of equipment you should look into is lighting. That includes things like lens filters, off-camera flashes, and light reflectors.Proper lighting is essential to making your photos look professional, and upgrading your lighting equipment is an easy way to make dramatic improvements.
If you need help deciding if it’s time to upgrade your camera, lenses, or other equipment, these will help you get started:
Develop your Editing Skills
An important part of how to sell photography is making sure you have great photo editing skills. Almost every photo can be improved by some slight touch-ups. Photo editing software—whether it’s Photoshop and Lightroom, or Photoshop alternatives allows you to create some stunning effects that you can use to grab people’s attention and draw them to your online portfolio website.
Best of all, it’s easy to get started. There are lots of free online tutorials and resources to help you learn all that’s possible with Photoshop.
How to Sell Photos Online
Now that you’re all caught up on how to make your photos look as professional as possible, it’s time to delve into how to make money with your photography and learn about the best places to sell photos online.
Your Own Website
Before you start selling photos, make sure your online portfolio is in tip-top shape, up-to-date and curated with your best work. It’s the first place potential customers will go when they want to learn more about you or your work, no matter where they stumble across it in the first place. For some pointers on how to build an awesome online portfolio that helps sell your photos online, check out our Ultimate Guide to Building A Photography Website.
Whether you plan on selling photo prints or digital copies, the best website to sell photos on is your own online store. It offers many benefits, including the freedom to set your own prices and keep all of the profits. In addition, it gives you more control over exactly how your work is presented.
If you don’t have your own website yet, it’s easy to build one—as long as you choose the right website builder.
Finding the Right Website Builder
You should use a website builder that has an online store built right in. That makes it as simple as possible for both you and your customers, since you’ll have a single place to showcase your work and sell photos online.
Another thing that you should look for in an online portfolio is a built-in blog. This is useful because a great photography blog can boost your portfolio’s search ranking and help lure customers to your site. Then, you can wow them and potentially create future customers with your great content and fun shots. (Need ideas on what to blog about? Here are a few ideas.)
Built-in client proofing galleries are another useful feature that some website builders offer. This can improve your workflow—and help keep customers happy, allowing you to sell more photos in the future.
If you’re having trouble deciding which website builder is right for you, pick one that offers a free trial. Then you can try it out and decide if it works for your needs before making any commitment.
Boosting your Sales
Once you have your online store set up as part of your portfolio, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances at selling images online.
Include an About Me section in your portfolio. It can help create a connection with customers. It’s also a chance to talk about your experiences or list any photography contest wins that show your expertise.
Take some time in writing your product descriptions. Make sure they provide all the information customers will want, such as printing methods, and dimensions.
If you need some inspiration for your online store, these four artists are making a killing using their websites to sell their work.
Stock Photography Agencies
Using stock photography agencies is an easy way to sell photos online. Once you upload your images, you can start making some side income without any further effort, making it a great side hustle. There are even photo selling apps that make it easy to sell your mobile photography as stock images straight from your phone. The downside of stock agencies is the amount of money you make per sale tends to be low.
For example, Shutterstock, one of the most popular photo selling sites for independent photographers, offers pay rates starting at 20 percent of the sale price.
However, if your photos are popular enough, it can add up. Also, stock agencies typically have licensing terms that allow for multiple customers to purchase the same photos, meaning you get paid for photos again and again. Stock agencies are a good way to get your work out there and start learning which of your photos sell best.
Here are some of the best stock photography agencies to help you sell photography online:
Shutterstock is considered by many as the best site to sell photos on. It can offer consistent earnings, thanks to a high volume of image sales.
This is a well-respected agency that’s been around for many years. It’s known for its high-quality content, so it can be difficult to get your work accepted.
It offers great exposure—1.5 million customers!—since it’s owned by Getty Images. When you submit your work, its editors decide whether iStock or Getty Images is a better fit for you.
There’s potential for relatively high royalties quickly, ranging up to 60 percent. However, it comes with more requirements for image exclusivity than other photo selling websites.
When it comes to improving your stock image sales, an essential part is choosing the right subjects for your photography. Think about current events and trends. Use keyword analytic tools to compare different topics and see what people are searching for. Then, check out what types of photos are already available on the stock agencies and see if there’s an underserved niche you can fill.
For more ways to up your stock photography game, take a look at this guide on How To Create Stock Photography That Sells.
Websites, Magazines, and Other Publications
Another tip for how to sell pictures online is to pitch your work to publications like magazines, websites, and newspapers. While it takes more effort than using stock agencies, it also pays a lot better!
The first step is choosing your target. Of course, that will depend on what type of photography you focus on. One thing to keep in mind is you should seek out niche publications when possible. That’s because these publications usually receive far fewer submissions. For example, if you want to start selling wildlife photography, you’ll probably have more luck pitching to WildFowl magazine than National Geographic. To help you start finding niche publications to work with, check out this huge directory of magazines. Once you have a publication in mind, take the time to get to know it. It’s important that you thoroughly understand the publication’s focus and style, as that will help guide your pitch. When you’re ready, check if the publication’s website gives an email address or any special instructions for submissions. If not, just get in touch with the editor by emailing them a query letter. In your email, you should explain what kind of photos you want to sell them and why they’re a good fit for their publication. Keep it brief, but include all of the info they’ll want to know. Do you already have photos or are you pitching an idea? How many photos did you have in mind? Do you have an idea for an article that would accompany the photos? Then provide a link to either the photos you want to sell or some samples of your work that show off your capabilities. This is where having a stellar online photography portfolio comes in handy once again.
Here are a few more editorial photography tips to get you going.
Craft Sites and Other Online Marketplaces
If you’re wondering how to sell photography prints online, there’s a variety of digital marketplaces available. Many of them offer print-on-demand services, so you don’t have to worry about printing, framing, storage, or shipping. You simply upload your images and start selling.
Where they differ is Fine Art America sells a wide variety of products while Darkroom focuses on photo prints. For instance, with Fine Art America, you can sell your photos printed on greeting cards, phone cases, clothing, and more.
The benefit offered by these marketplaces is they can expose your work to different types of customers, which can lead to more sales. The major downside is there is lots of competition.
Some of the best ways to stand out include:
Making sure your listing features images that are strong, even when viewed in smaller sizes or on mobile. Since customers will have to click on your images to see a large version, the first thumbnails they see on your store should be easy to make out even when they’re tiny.
Carefully choosing the titles for your photos. Since customers sometimes search for a photo print of a particular subject, your listing should describe what’s in the image instead of just a creative name for the photo.
Check out this guide to learn more about how to sell pictures using these marketplaces.
Selling Photos IRL
While selling your images online offers convenience, if you’re not selling IRL as well, you’re missing out on some opportunities. Here are the best ways to sell more photos IRL.
Local Arts and Crafts Fairs
Arts and crafts fairs are great places to sell photos in your area. To get the most out of it, you should show off some photos that have a local connection. Whether it’s a landscape that features a landmark or a portrait of a local public figure, you’ll be more likely to find customers if they have a connection to the subject.
Another tip for selling photography prints in these venues is to bring lots of smaller prints rather than a few large ones. At craft fairs, most folks are not in the market for a large framed print. Often, they’ll make a purchase on a whim, so it will be an easier sell if the print is not too inconvenient to get home.
If you think your work would be more suited to an art gallery, check out this guide on How to Get Your Work in an Art Gallery.
Visit Small Businesses
Another way to sell photos IRL is by visiting business owners in your area. One place to start is businesses like bars and restaurants that may want a photo from a local photographer to spruce up their décor. Plus, every business needs an online presence these days; no matter what type of company it is, there are many small businesses in your area that would benefit from an affordable photographer to create great shots for their site!
How to Price your Photography
Deciding how to price your photography so you can sell more photos can be a real challenge. You’ll want to keep your prices low enough that your photos actually sell, but high enough that it’s fair compensation for the amount of effort you put into them.
It’s much easier to set your prices once you do a little market research. There are a lot of resources online for finding out how much photographers get paid for various gigs, and that can give you a benchmark to start with. For more guidance on pricing your photography, this primer on How To Price Artwork So It Actually Sells is an excellent start.
Sell Your Photography Skills
Now that you know where to sell photos, you should remember that selling photos isn’t the only way you can make money from your photography skills. From selling Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions to hosting photography workshops, there are a lot of options out there.
To get the most out of these options, you should work on developing your reputation as an expert. One way to do that is to show off your knowledge through a blog on your online portfolio. Make some tutorial posts, give a behind-the-scenes look into your process, or talk about your past experiences. These are all great ways to demonstrate your knowledge on your portfolio, which makes it more likely for people to shell out cash to get the benefit of your experience.
Now that you know how to sell your pictures, get out there and start earning!
Want more on how to sell photos and make money with your skills?
The Biggest Misconceptions about Freelance Work
How to License an Image: A Beginner’s Guide
The 10 Best Ways to Sell Landscape Photography Online