The prospect of selling your photos online might seem intimidating. After all, hasn’t the digital age created expectations that images should come free? Or that pretty much anyone can take a shot and, with a little software assistance, turn it into a masterpiece?
Despite such assumptions, there are still plenty of avenues for keen photographers who want to turn their passion into a living. It’s just a matter of working out which online marketplaces will serve you best and then taking steps to draw attention to your work.
Choosing appropriate microstock sites
Whereas regular stock agencies tend to source their work from professional photographers only, microstock sites are open to submissions from everyone, including beginners and amateurs.
A good place to start is Shutterstock. It’s possibly the most famous of the microstock sites. Right now, more than 35 million photos are available. Per photograph payment starts at US$0.25 and can be as high as $2.85. It might not sound like much at first, but remember that if your images are especially appealing, creative and/or useful, you may be able to sell hundreds, if not thousands, of copies.
Another popular option is iStockPhoto. It offers the potential for better earnings, because you receive a 15-45% commission. Do keep in mind, though, that the site is strict about which images it does and doesn’t accept – so save your very best for iStockPhoto.
Then there’s Fotolia, where payment is slightly more complex. You receive a cut of the sale price, but the size of that cut depends on whether or not the purchaser subscribes to the site.
Selling photography as artwork
If the idea of using microstock sites doesn’t appeal to you, there is the option of selling your photography online in the way that you would an artwork. The benefit of this is that you can ask for art prices.
One of the go-to sites for this method is Esty. You present your photos to a ready and waiting audience; they make their selection; you make a print and send it. Of course, that does mean some extra work for you, but it also means more pay! Other sites enabling “art-style” sales are DeviantArt, Red Bubble, SmugMug and Fine Art America.
How to build your online presence
The first step is to create your own site, where you showcase your best work. The first step is to create your own site, where you showcase your best work. With plenty of online photography portfolio solutions out there, you might be spoiled for choice. One excellent example used by tens of thousands of photographers is Zenfolio. is an award winning all-in-one solution which photographers (both amateur and professionals) use to share, display and sell their photographs online. Its key features also includes easy to use photo organizational tools and a highly simplified yet comprehensive e-commerce platform for sale and purchase of photos.
An example of a real-life zenfolio website in action used by Tom Keenan Photography
Next, you then need to promote it whenever and wherever possible. Take advantage of social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, and consider displaying your images in places like PhotoJojo or PopPhoto, where browsers will be linked back to your domain.