Selling Microstock Photos
If you think photography is a costly hobby, you’re correct, it can be. But that doesn’t mean you need pro-quality equipment to generate money from your own photos! Selling Microstock Photos
In actuality, if you’ve got a decent phone cam and a steady hand, you’re already in with a shot.
But you get your clicks, you will find a growing number of opportunities to monetise photos you have already taken. And if photography’s already your bag, you will find heaps more ways to develop your skills, and income; from selling your Insta stock to pulling a Brooklyn Beckham (famous parents optional).
You know the drill: read, learn, and give it a celebration for yourself!
If you’ve got a digital camera (or fancy picking one up to get a sneak ), you’ll have more options for selling pics to stock libraries, to websites for prints, or for print-on-demand products. This is because cameras will usually produce larger file photographs (although some camera phones are trumping digi cams nowadays so this isn’t always the case).
Got a camera phone? A growing number of stock libraries are catering for cellular snaps, and you still have a shot at the other biz ideas below. Keep reading!
It helps to have…
Some kind of editing software will help buff your pics for best results, so it’s worth sniffing out a decent package (and learning how to use it!) So you can earn more money with your own photos.
Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are industry standards for photo editing. But they cost dollars! Do not crack open your wallet until you’ve checked out the freebies:
- FastStone Image Viewer can open RAW files straight out of your digital camera and save them as JPG, TIFF or PNGs. OK for basic edits such as colour correction, straightening, cropping and contrast.
- Raw Therapee is a Lightroom-like editor with loads of tools for tweaking colors, curves and more.
- PIXLR is a convincing alternative to Photoshop, and even recognises the very same shortcuts right out the bag. You can run it directly from a browser / through the program for free.
- GIMP can do much of what Photoshop excels at, though some users reckon it is a more demanding learning curve.
- There are tons of phone editing programs to be had for free or a few pence, but Snapseed (iPhone, Android, free) consistently makes the best-of lists.
- Don’t overlook the bloatware picture software bundled into your’puter, telephone or notebook. Many can make light work of the basics.
Selling Through Stock Libraries
Stock libraries buy’n’ sell digital photographs to use on websites, in books, on goods and even in ads, together with the photographer getting a cut of the sale each time.
Selling photographs through a stock website is a top way to surf passive income streams: you can upload a photo once and sell it over and over again, pretty much forever!
You may have to submit a choice of pics (and be accepted) until you can become a stock library contributor. After that, some sites will continue reviewing all your submissions, and will gladly bounce any they don’t think meet standards.
What that means is you’ll always need to be on the ball about picking your best shots. Do not get too hung up about rejections, though; combine a number of websites and post pics to them to find the best possible coverage.
Which Websites Pay Most?
Swing by Alamy first. Their pupil contributor scheme provides you 100% of the sales price of your pictures for 2 years. Total win! Your uni will have to be part of the scheme, but loads of UK and US institutions are already on the books. Selling Microstock Photos
Alamy reckons images typically sell for $90 (USD) each, but you could get anywhere from $20 to $500 depending what it is used for. If you’re not a student, or your uni isn’t registered, the pay-out’s still a fairly decent 50%. Selling phone pics through their Stockimo program (iStore only) provides you a 20% cut.
Other Websites to Check Out:
- Picfair comes with a twist: you decide to what extent your pictures sell for. Picfair then add 20 percent on top for their cut, but the sales price you set is what you get if your image sells.
- EyeEm: if Instagram and Alamy had a love child, this is what it would look like. EyeEm is a photo sharing website butif you want to earn more than’enjoys’, you could also pimp your pictures through the marketplace. EyeEm divide every sale with you 50/50, with photographs selling from $20-$250. EyeEm Bonus: regular how-to content, themed missions run by large brands, plus you’ll be able to upload pics via the net or phone.
- Foap is built around phone photographers, with everything handled through the program (Android, iTunes, free). Foap sells photos for $10 each and splits it 50/50, so you’ll make $5 per pic. They also run monthly Missions, where you can submit photographs on a theme to be in with a chance of winning extra money and perks.
Big Name Websites
Dreamstime offer up to 60% for exclusives. How much your photo sells for also goes up the longer it’s downloaded: newbie images start at between $0.34 and $2.38 (USD). If you are shooting a phone, begin with the free Dreamstime app (Android, iPhone).
IStock hands over 15 percent of a picture’s sales price, but guarantee a bigger cut if you make the pic exclusive to the website. Photos typically sell for #7 or #20 a go, but the sort of licence or subscription plan the customer purchases determines how your piece is calculated.
Shutterstock coughs up $0.25 (USD) per sale on the most common subscription plans, but say you will get a larger cut as your lifetime earnings pass different levels. To put that into context, as soon as you’ve earned $10,000, you will be bumped up to the heady heights of 38 cents a picture…
Playing the Stock (photo) Market
Making money with stock photos can involve a significant cash-in, but there are a couple of things worth bearing in mind…
- Stock photography is a numbers game: if you want sales, you’ll need to upload a great deal of quality pics to several sites.
- Photos of people are always in demand, but anyone you pap might want to sign a model release form to say they are OK with you using it (your stock library will have template forms you can print, sign and submit).
- Assess the accounts terms! When will you get paid, and in what currency? What happens to your photos if you want to cancel your account in the future?
- You often won’t get a say in how clients use your photos, so if you don’t need your selfies turning up in ads for STDs or hemorrhoid ointment, do not upload’em!
- Sign-up for contributor newsletters, as they could clue you in on what sells, what to snap next, and even how to improve your camera or editing skills.
- Add loads of keywords when you upload your images. It helps folk find (and hopefully purchase!) your pics.
Promoting Your Prints
There’s loads of freedom in selling prints (i.e., printed copies of your photos). You decide what to shoot, who to sell to, and for how much and, like selling through stock libraries, it can be a wonderful little passive revenue earner.
Now, before you leg it down to Boots to batch print your holiday snaps, there is a little more to it. While you can run off pictures on your home printer or at a high-street laboratory, better quality means higher profits! Selling Microstock Photos
That means using a suitable printing lab (one which excels in art or framed prints), opting for expert paper, or perhaps selling limited or signed editions. Sounds like a drag? Not necessarily; there’s inspiration below to get you started.
Use a Photo Host
Photographer-friendly site hosts provide you with a safe place to store your digital pics, a portfolio (so you can show’em off) and purchasing tools (so you can sell prints, downloads and wall art).
They even take care of the printing and any postage each time you make a purchase. Hashtag hallelujah, right?
But the big catch is, not only do they charge for hosting your website, they also take a cheeky cut from each sale — and that is not everyone’s cup of cocoa! If you want to give it a whirl, look out for free 14-day trials before you pony up the money: try Zenfolio or Smugmug.
Get Your Own Photo Shop
As an alternative, you can always get your own website or Etsy shop and hang onto more of your profit!
Obtaining prints or gifts to market is also super straightforward; go for print-on-demand and you won’t have to store some stock (or be out of pocket if you can’t shift it!) .
Sell on Social Media Platforms
Eventually the social media giants will wise-up and start letting us sell photos and other content right from our profiles.
But until then, take a hint from street photographer Daniel Arnold: he provided Instagram followers the opportunity to purchase prints from his feed and made $15k in a single day. Obviously it helps if you’ve already got a strong fanbase, but if you have talent (and the ideal hashtags) it’s worth a shot!
The best thing about selling on social media is that you don’t even need a website: your feed is the portfolio, and you’ve got a massive potential audience!
Print-on-demand is a brilliantly simple way to generate moolah from mouse mats, keyrings, t-shirts, bags, books and more — often with zero setup costs.
The real beauty of print-on-demand is that while you can advertise tons of products, none of them really exist until somebody buys’em — so there is no inventory to shop, lose, or fall over. Even better, there are sites out there that do all the printing, printing and posting for you, so all you have to do is take the photographs!
Blurb lets you create photo books just by importing your Facebook or Insta pictures — and you’ll be able to sell your finished novel on Blurb or Amazon.co.uk. You could also advertise books on your website (if you have one), but have Blurb/Amazon manage the payment. Easy! Selling Microstock Photos
Gifts and Goodies
Turns out you can slap a photograph on pretty much anything, from shower curtains to pet clothing and PJs; and you don’t even need a glue gun to begin!
Most print-on-demand outfits allow you to upload your photos (or illustrations), choose which products you wish to sell them on, and give you a cut of the profits if they sell.
- CafePress pays you 10% if your products sell in their market, but you can opt to have your own online shop and add a mark-up to the price (which you get as your royalty) instead. It’s free to set up and run a shop, but CafePress take 10% of your royalties monthly, up to a $10 max.
- Zazzle lets you set your own royalty rate between 5 percent and 99% but, while it’s tempting to dial it up to full whack, keep in mind that your cut is added to the sales price: go OTT and you may find it harder to make sales.
- With Spreadshirt you can add a mark-up of $1 to $20 on items sold through the market, or you can open your own shop and grab 20% commission.
- Redbubble begins with a product base price and allows you to add on a mark-up — the default is 20%, but you can tweak it as much as you like.
Running a print-on-demand store is low-fuss and low-cost — if you are contented with the occasional sale, it can be a nice way to make money on the side for relatively little effort.
The word from successful vendors is that, to earn proper bucks, you’ll need to put in the hours (so the same as a project, sadly). We’re talking uploading lots of photos or designs, getting the word out, and generally try!
Selling photos anonymously online is easy enough. But if you want to build a rep, get more glory or just have customers of your own, here are some tips to get started as a freelance photographer:
- Know your niche. When it’s individuals, pets, food or something completely left-field, it’s a lot easier to market yourself if your portfolio showcases what you do best.
- Take the time to learn your craft. You can get lucky selling stock if you don’t know your aperture from your elbow, but you can not afford to chance it when someone’s paying you for wedding pics!
- Workout your rate and be sure it covers your time, your prices and leaves you a little on top for profit. And get insurance to your gear!
- Give to photo events, portraits or parties for family and friends to develop a portfolio, and ask them to spread the word for you. Or search out your favorite bloggers and pitch them your pic ideas!
- Batter your social media account with your best pics, let folk know you are available, and tell’em how to get connected. Get cheeky and take alternative promo shots for brands, then label them to get noticed.
- Get in contact with picture editors at magazines, newspapers or websites and ask if you can submit photos or cover local events.
- You might have more chance of getting adopted by Madonna than getting a press pass, but it is like a golden ticket that could get you into sports, fashion and other exclusive events. You’ll need to apply each time (or be a member of the National Union of Journalists) but, as soon as you’re in, you’re going to get loads of saleable photo opps!
While everyone with an Insta account seems to reckon they’re a pro photographer, the reality is that being a freelancer may be the toughest route you can take.
You’ll need tons of patience, perseverance, good shoes and adequate pics — and you may well have to give away images for free when you first start out to get noticed. If you are in it for the career, don’t quit. If you’re in it for the money, get your game on with the other thoughts on this page in the meantime!
Bonus Tips for Aspiring Photographers
- Carry your camera anyplace — and not only when you are doing something or going somewhere special. Loads of businesses and brands are after photographs of everyday life and often it’s the simple things that make the best pics — believe streets, food (street food?) , facial expressions, loved ones, pets, sports… anything!
- Back-up your best pics (or any you would hate to lose): keep copies on an external drive or in cloud storage (Dropbox gives you 2GB of space for free).
- Once you start getting sales, get to grips with tax and the freelancing fundamentals. It will save you stress in the long term, and can save you money on your tax invoice.
- You may not be able to sell photos if they comprise trademarked products, brands or even specific buildings. Check out the terms with your stock library, or get the company involved and ask if you need permission to hawk your snaps.
- Do not just do the same-old or what everyone else is doing. Quirky, cute or weird is always in vogue. Amen to that! Selling Microstock Photos