How To Make Money Online From Photography

by Menka Dimitrovska, Money Columnist

Published in Money on 3rd April, 2018

Most of us take thousands of photos in a year. We keep hundreds of random photos on our phone and store thousands more online. Yet we don't see the potential in them. Imagine if you sold just 1% of those photos. That would still bring you lot of money.

Chances are you have tons of photos just sitting on your cloud or hard drive, and every day you're taking new ones and adding them to your collection.

make money online from photography

Did you know that they could potentially make you up to $100 per photo?

Let's see how you can achieve that!

Getting Started with Stock Photography

You can start out with posting just a few pictures for sale. There are a few sites you can use, which I'll mention in a while.

You can't expect to get a lot of income at first, but as you add pictures to your portfolio and use appropriate hashtags/keywords (so that your pictures always come up for the relevant searches), you can expect to get more sales, and increase your rate as well.

You'll have a bit of an advantage, as fresh, new content always comes up more in search results. People want to use pictures that haven't been used hundreds of times by lots of other websites and blogs, and that's where you come in.

How Much Should You Expect to Make?

You can't really expect that selling stock photography will be your primary income, but it can become your passive income after a while, once you start posting more frequently.

You can expect to get 25-35 cents per photo in the beginning, which will start to increase after a while.

Once you get $500 in sales, you can start selling your photos for a higher rate. You'll have some that go for a few dollars, and once in a while, if you're lucky, you'll have one photo that becomes a huge hit and makes you up to $100.

make money online from phography

The important thing when selling stock photos is to find the best sites on which to do so, and make sure you know their rules and regulations before you start posting your photos. What I mean by this is that some sites are exclusive, while some are nonexclusive. Nonexclusive means that you can post the same pictures on more sites, and gather income from all, while if the site is exclusive you'll have to sign an agreement with that site, and share those images only with them. Although you won't be able to post them on other stock photography websites if you sign an exclusive agreement, exclusive sites often pay more than nonexclusive ones.

What Tools Do You Need?

If you want to start making money online from photography, all you basically need to have is a good phone. You can use an iPhone or a smart phone, as our phones usually have great cameras now, and you don't really need to invest a lot of money in special equipment. You don't need to have your own studio, because users are more and more interested in real life pictures. You can shoot almost anything, starting from your dinner preparations and cooked meals, to the dirty plates and dishes. You never know what people might search for, so as long as your pictures are interesting and depict real life situations, you can be sure they'll sell well.

make money photography

It helps to have:

  • A digital camera, since you will have more options where you can sell your photos, like sites for print, newspapers, blogs, greeting cards and many more. Some phones today trump digital cameras so having a digital camera isn't necessary.
  • Editing software. If you have and know how to use editing software, you will be able to achieve better results and make more money for your pics.

How to Take Great Photos

If you're not sure what kind of images to take, or what to focus on, here are a few tips to help you out:

  • Your photos should look like they're taken in the moment
  • People should feel like they're there (in the photo)
  • Your lighting should be good (early morning or sunset offer the best lighting)
  • You should leave out a bit of "white space" or open text area, since a lot of the stock photos are used for informational or promotional purposes
  • Use appropriate tags and keywords that identify your images. Be specific. Don't just say "lunch", add the name of the food, the recipe and the cuisine so that people who are searching for that kind of food, will stumble upon your picture.

Best Stock Photography websites


According to the site, more than 13 million people post their images on 500px. You can gain a lot of exposure and inspiration, connect with customers and your customers can even book custom photoshoots with you.

Sign up for a free account and have the option to display and sell all your photos.

The best thing about the website is that you set the prices for your pics yourself, although there is a downside as well. Since it's a very popular stock photo website, there is a lot of competition which makes it harder to sell photos.


The site has a more complicated pay system than the first one I mentioned, but the basic rule is: the more you earn, the more you get paid the next time you sell an aimage. You can also sell stock videos on Shutterstock, refer photographs and customers and get a profit.


Shutterstock has a library of more than 125 million photos and 4 million videos.


This site has been around for almost two decades and has built a huge network of contributors.

The application process is very simple. You just need to fill out a free application, select your appropriate category (photos, videos, audio or illustrations) and send samples of your work for each category you're applying to. Once you do that, their team will go through your application and they'll contact you via email to let you know if your application has been successful.

SmugMug Pro

The best thing about SmugMug Pro is that it gives you 85% of the markup for your photos. The only thing is that you need to have a Pro subscription, which stars at $12.50/month.

SmugMug Pro

The way SmugMug Pro works is simple. You just create an account, upload your photos and set your prices.

They offer lots of security features that help protect your work and they also offer you unlimited and secure storage of each photo you upload.

More Ways to Make Money Online from Photography

You already have a camera, a computer and a lot of talent and free time, but what you do not have enough of is money?

Thanks to the internet there are tons of ways you can make money from photography.

We've listed some of those here, so that you can simply go through them and pick those that fit your skills and interests the most.

1. Sell Your Own Prints

The freedom in selling your own printed pictures is that you can decide what it is you want to shoot and sell. It can become your passive income, similar to that of selling stock photos.

sell your own prints

2. Open Your Own Store

You can open your own online store and sell digital images and prints. You will have to put in a bit more work at first, and find a way to organize shipping and storage, but it will be easier from then on.

3. Open a Print-On-Demand Store

The beauty of this option is that you don't have to think about storage and you'll have almost zero set-up costs.

You can advertise and offer tons of products, like t-shirts, books, bags, keychains and a lot more products with your print, but none of them will actually exist, up until someone orders them.

You don't even have to have your own site. There are lots of sites that can do all the printing and posting for you; all you have to do is give them your photos.

4. Sell Your Work on Social Media

An important part of selling your prints on social media is your fan base. As long as you have a good following, or you know how social media works and are able to reach a lot of people, then this option might be good for you.

The best thing about it is that you don't need to have your own website, you can post all your work on your social media profile and take advantage of your potential and current audience.

5. Sell Photos for Birthday and Greeting Cards

Add a few holiday themed details, a comical text or a prose and your pictures can be used as greeting cards. You can sell them from your own website and keep the entire profit or sell them to existing stores and get a percentage of the sales.

6. Work as A Tutor, Or Have Your Own Photography Blog

You can create your own blog and write how-to blog posts about photography, share your experience and contribute to the photographers' community while earning money through advertising. You can also become an online photography tutor, critique shots and teach the basics to photographers who are just starting out.

7. Take Photos of Products

Since most of the stores now have online stores as well, which numbers are growing each day, the need for product photos increases as well. Stores need professional images of their products and are always looking for photographers.

take photos of products

You can look for such gigs locally, or find companies that are willing to ship their products to you.

8. Become an Affiliate

You can use your blog to share affiliate links and promote them to your readers. You can get affiliate links from photography stores you like and receive commission from them every time someone buys something using your affiliate link. One of the most popular affiliate programs out there is Amazon's, although there are many more.

There are so many opportunities for photographers out there, you just have to be patient and look for the one that fits you best!

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