Microstock, make money selling photos online

To make money selling photos the first thing we need to know is where we can sell them. Microstock agencies are online portals where photographers, both professionals and amateurs, upload their photos and once the timely review is done they are put on sale if they are accepted.

We must bear in mind that what we are selling is not really our photographs, but the right to use them by the buyer, also, depending on the use that he wants to give (for a blog, magazine, for a shirt, etc.) and the size (agencies offer different sizes for download) the price can range from a few cents (when they are purchases by subscription) to much higher prices (can reach more than 100 euros).

The most important microstock agencies to make money selling photos

On the internet there are many microstock agencies to make money selling photos, the most important of all and therefore, the one that sells the most is Shutterstock, although there are others also very important as they are Fotolia (widely used by Spanish-speaking photographers although they have bought it Adobe and surely increase its number of clients), Istockphoto or Dreamstime. These four would be the most important and we should work with if we decide to sell our photographs, although there are others like 123Rf or Depositphoto among others that although they do not have as many sales as “the big four” from time to time they can also give a joy

To make money selling photos I recommend these agencies and maybe you can get a pinch for your next trips, improve your photographic equipment or for the whim you want. Keep in mind that you’re not going to get rich with these agencies, come on, as far as I know very few are the ones who get it.

The photographs that are sold in these agencies are not exactly travel photographs or nature, which are what fans usually do, but that does not mean you are not going to sell any, in addition, if you browse through these microstock agencies you can Check what kind of photos are sold more and make them yourself.

How much is paid for each photo sold

This depends on each agency although virtually all have subscription packages with which the buyer benefits from significant discounts. Therefore the commission you will receive for each sale will depend on the following points:

    • First of all of whether the buyer uses a subscription package or not. In the first case the amount will be very low and in the second higher.
    • Of the type of license that we are selling, it is not the same to sell a photo for a web portal that to use it in an advertisement, a newspaper, etc. There are different types of licenses, the standard one, which for example can be used to put the photo on a web page, and the improved one, where the buyer can use that photo to sell products with her to give an example. The most common sales are the standard ones, but the ones that give the most benefits are the extended or improved ones.
    • Of the size of the image. Do not worry, you do not have to upload the photo in different sizes, you must upload it to the largest size and with the highest possible quality and they are responsible for selling it in different sizes. The bigger the commission the more you will receive.

Labeling of photographs

To make money selling photos over the internet it is very important to label the photos well (in English better than in Spanish). For example, if in summer we visited a beach in Ibiza and took good pictures of the sunset an example of labels that we can use seriously; Ibiza, balearics, summer, beach, sunset, landscape, holidays, and a long etc. You can visit similar photos of other users to see how they work.

Less important, at least for me, is the title (which is short and defines the image well) and the category, few are the buyers that navigate through them, at least that I know, because the most used is usually the search engine, and it looks in the labels and in the title. Some agencies ask for a description of the photo, others offer you the possibility of locating them on a map. I recommend that you make an effort to tag your photos well and give them a title that describes your photograph well, the rest of the time is secondary and may not compensate the effort required with the benefits we can obtain. It is also very important that the data of the photograph (titles, tags) you put directly in the photograph before sending them, in this way you will not need to put them again and again.

Requirements to earn money selling photos

Before you can make money selling photos you have to be accepted in the different agencies. There are agencies that do a previous exam, but normally if you have a good camera and you make pretty decent photos you will not have problems to sell your photographs. On the other hand not all agencies have the same level of demand, for example Shutterstock and Fotolia demand a high level, on the other hand 123Rf usually accept most of the photos, as long as they have a minimum of clear quality.

How do I upload the photographs

All agencies have a section to upload photos, but if you intend to upload a large amount it is better to use the FTP system. There are programs like Filezilla that can help us upload the photos more quickly. You only have to enter the access codes that the agency will provide you and enter them into the program, once connected, you must choose which photos you want to upload, and once the page is uploaded, process them and you have them ready to label them, put them in category, etc.

It is important that you have a fast internet connection, and if it can be symmetric better. A symmetric connection is one that has the same speed of rise and fall. The vast majority of internet connections are asymmetric, that is, they download much faster than they upload, and when I say a lot it is a lot, you may have contracted 20mg of downloading and that to navigate you go as a shot but to upload something to the network that is what interests us only have 2mg of rise. The problem is that the asymmetric connection is quite expensive and not offered by all companies.

How they pay us

All agencies have the option to pay via Pay Pal, so it is important that you open an account with them if you do not have one already. The minimum to charge varies depending on the agency, some require 100 dollars, another 50, etc. There are other means of payment such as transfer or check, but it depends on each agency.

The fiscal form

As the agencies are located in the United States it is necessary that you fill in the fiscal form. This form allows you to benefit from an agreement between this and other countries to pay less for your sales. For example, if you live in Spain you will go from paying 30% to 5%.


Well, if you take spectacular photos and are willing to work hard you have options to scratch some money, but do not make excessive illusions, you have to climb a lot, be constant and good photographer to see some interesting results in the medium term. In this business the most normal thing is that the first months or years you earn little or nothing, but in the long run if you try hard and you take it as a job if you can make money selling photos.

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