The internet is a photographer’s playground. Everything has become so visual that your skills are in high demand, and it’s easier than ever to sell online.
Despite high competition, you can still make a decent return if your photos are eye-catching and commercial – no matter your skill level.
Table of Contents
Best Websites to Sell Your Photos
- Getty Images
- iStock Photo
- Adobe Stock
- Can Stock Photo
- SmugMug Pro
- BONUS: Build a website to sell your photos
To Stand Out From the Competition
What does that even mean? How do you sell photos online successfully? And which sites will pay you a decent rate for your best shots?
You’re in the right place. Let’s break it all down.
Who’s Buying Stock Photos?
To succeed with selling stock photos, it’s best to think of the end consumer. It’s not your average Joe. More often than not, stock photos are sold to medium-large publications and media outlets.
News websites and online magazines are key purchasers of stock photos in bulk. So are large advertising agencies creating campaigns for clients.
All these clients may need imagery on anything! That’s why stock photography is so rich in variety.
Stock photo websites need a wide range of photos in different styles from different locations. Whatever your niche, this is your time to shine.
So – here are the best stock photo websites to start shilling your shots!
13 best websites to sell your photos
1. Shutterstock – Best for beginners
Shutterstock is one of the biggest platforms for selling stock photos online. Over the years, they’ve paid out over $1billion to their group of global contributors!
Shutterstock has different baby brands within their main global platform.
An example is Shutterstock Editorial is for high-quality images of entertainment and news content. Think celebrity red carpets and sports events. Offset Shutterstock is for unusual, highly polished imagery that has a unique quality to them. So beyond the main micro-stock site, you may be able to contribute to their other sites.
You won’t become a millionaire here but the platform is easy to use. With a sliding scale of how you are paid, the more photos you upload, the bigger your commission!
- The platform is easy to use.
- Extremely popular site with a far reach so you are likely to make sales.
- Not good for discoverability as you don’t own your photography brand with their licensing rules.
- You have to upload hundreds and hundreds of photos to make a decent commission.
- Starts at 15% for up to 100 image licenses. The highest level is 40% for over 25,000 image licenses per year.
- Visit Shutterstock official website to learn more.
Make sure you’re backing up your images! Read our guide on the best ways to backup photos.
2. 123RF – Best for publicity
123RF is another large stock photo website that doles out the big bucks to thousands of creators. They pride themselves on having a large variety of photos with advanced features for customers. Things like removing the background from images are possible on the platform. Their search functionality is powerful too.
The best reason to sign up is their non-exclusivity clause. You own your photos so you can get your name out there. The site also doesn’t hold your work hostage. You can join other stock photo sites and reuse your content.
- The starting commission is decent.
- You are free to sell your content on other platforms too.
- Not as big of a brand name as Shutterstock or Adobe.
- Between 30-60%
- Visit 123RF official website to learn more.
3. Alamy – Best for commissions
While Alamy is not famous like Shutterstock or Adobe, it is still popular among photography circles. Why? Well, the starting price for image licenses is a respectable $90 and up. Of which you can earn up to 50%.
Alamy is not a microstock site with low-cost images like Shutterstock. Their bread and butter are larger companies that buy photos in bulk. Therefore, they take a smaller cut from their creatives on licenses sold.
Accepting a wide range of subjects, you can thrive on this platform. Their short-term contracts are pretty great too.
- Juicy commission rates!
- Slightly lower competition than the other big stock photography lot sites.
- You can’t build a shareable profile
- Exclusivity is not bound but is encouraged! You get higher commissions for exclusive work.
- Between 40-60% depending on the site you sell on
- Visit Alamy official website to learn more.
4. 500px – Best for community
It is safe to say that 500px is a mega stock photo site. It hosts millions of photographers with a buzzing community.
You can create a shareable profile and follow fellow photographers. There is a lot of camaraderie on this site which is what draws you in.
It is an incredibly easy platform to use for photographers of all skill levels.
- Great community.
- Easy to use.
- The free membership is limited in terms of the number of photos you can upload and other features.
- Best used in the premium form so may not be best for amateurs and students.
- 60% for exclusive licenses. 30% for non-exclusive licenses
- Visit BRAND official website to learn more.
5. Getty Images – Best for professionals
Getty is one of the most famous brand names in the stock photo industry. Millions of photos. Top-quality contributors. They pride themselves on rewarding fantastic photographers worldwide.
Because of that, there is a vetting process for Getty and the competition is fierce. This is for high-quality unique content that must be exclusive to Getty only. You’ll also need to download the app to apply.
Their standards are high. But if you qualify, you are joining the ranks of the best of the best in stock photography!
- Excellent for exposure.
- A good mark of quality to be a Getty contributor.
- Commission rate is low.
- Very difficult to be accepted – needs to be via the app.
- Between 20% – 40%
- Visit Getty Images official website to learn more.
6. iStock Photo – Best microstock site with professional support
iStock Photo is Getty’s baby brand. It is the cooler, more accessible stock photo site. This is a microstock site so images are sold at much lower rates than Getty would sell them. By proxy, amateurs and pro photographers alike can be contributors.
You can expect higher commissions with iStock Photo which is a nice bonus. Your contract with them is also non-exclusive – you can post your photos elsewhere but you will get a lower commission.
That said, this is still a Getty brand, so the signup process is less straightforward than other microstock sites on this list. When you are a part of the contributor team, however, they know how to treat you well!
- More accessible to photographers of different skill levels.
- Better commission rate than the parent brand.
- Still not easy to sign up to – is also done via the Getty Images app.
- Strict regulations and complex rules regarding model releases and unlicensed location photos.
- 25-45% for exclusive content.
- Visit iStock official website to learn more.
7. Stocksy – Best for creative photographers
Stocksy names their application process a “Call to Artists”. That tells you everything you need to know about their ethos and core values when it comes to photography.
They want true creatives with a keen eye and polished work. This is one of the more difficult stock photo platforms to join because of their high standards.
Once you are in, you will be part of their co-op business model. This means that your compensation is high and you have a say in the direction of the company.
- You become a co-op employee of the company with a say in how it is run.
- Very high commission rates.
- Difficult to get into.
- They require 100% exclusivity on the content you upload.
- 50% on standard royalty licenses. 75% on extended licenses.
- Visit Stocksy official website to learn more.
8. Adobe Stock – Most well known
Adobe Creative Cloud is familiar to most people. This is the great benefit of selling through Adobe stock. You have an incredibly wide reach and a trusted brand name behind you.
If you already use Photoshop or Lightroom, you can list your photos directly after editing them. It’s a very frictionless process!
- Trusted brand name.
- Easy to sell your photos for free.
- Extremely competitive platform so your photos need to stand out!
- Visit Adobe Stock official website to learn more.
9. Can Stock Photo – Best for amateurs
Can Stock Photo is a great starting place for selling your photos online. It is quick and easy to sign up. You only need to submit 3 photos and they will let you know if you are accepted on the same day.
Their commission structure is a little complicated and fees are generally low. But as an introduction to stock photography, it is worth exploring.
- Easy to join.
- Accepts a wide range of subjects and styles.
- Commission structure is complex.
- Depends on the license. Starts at $1 per JPEG.
- Visit Can Stock Photo official website to learn more.
10. Foap – Most unique
Foap is an unusual site. It’s not your average stock photo site.
Their USP is working with brands to curate content specifically for their creative brief. A client like Sony will come to Foap with a collection of images they need. Photographers on the platform will see this brief and add suitable content to the project. The idea is to have a more customized experience for the client.
For you, this means better commission rates and great support from Foap themselves.
- High commission rate.
- Ability to work for big brands like Sony and Nivea.
- Still a niche and growing photo selling platform.
- 50% on all sales
- Visit Foap official website to learn more.
11. Twenty20 – Best for social media photographers
Twenty20 had humble beginnings. Instagram photographers could upload their images to sell to brands. Simple! Now that concept has expanded into a full-blown stock photo site with multiple ways to earn.
Unlike the others on this list, Twenty20 allows you to have a direct relationship with brands with 100% commission rate. Outside of that, the standard stock licensing is calculated as a subscriber share. That means that you are compensated proportionately from the subscription fee of buyers who like your work.
- Very easy to get started.
- The commission structure is quite complicated.
- Variable subscriber share model
- Visit Twenty20 official website to learn more.
12. SmugMug Pro – Best for portfolio sharing
Finally, let’s talk about SmugMug. SmugMug is a wonderful option for photographers of all levels. Here you can make a portfolio profile to sell photos. The platform is intuitive, easy-to-use and helps you grow.
This is less of a stock photo platform and more of a print and digital art platform. That said, the commissions are fantastic so I just had to include it!
- Helps you build a portfolio.
- Easy to sign up.
- It’s not a free platform. There is a monthly subscription starting from $7 per month.
- 85% (yes, really)!
- Visit SmugMug official website to learn more.
13. Bonus option: Build a website to sell your photos
The adage that you need to own your domains is 100% true. While these sites make it easy to sell photos and even create a following, nothing compares to your own website.
I won’t harp on this point too much as we have written an entire article on how to make a website. But suffice to say, if Shutterstock closes tomorrow, your website will still prevail.
- You get 100% of the commission! No middle man taking a cut from you.
- You control the branding and design.
- You can publicize your work under your own brand name.
- It takes time and effort (but using a great website builder can help massively).
What Type Of Photos Sell The Best?
This is the million-dollar question! There is so much competition on stock photo sites, so how do you stand out?
- Stay in your lane
It might be tempting to become a generalist when you are faced with the huge libraries these sites have. Don’t! Sticking to your niche and uploading a ton of content there will get you more attention.
- Follow the trends
Because you have niched down, you can see what brands are posting. What subjects in your area are they gravitating towards? For example, portrait photographers do well shooting masked people right now!
Selling photos online can be quick and easy. It won’t make you a millionaire… Or even a thousandaire… but as a photographer, it is a good extra revenue stream.
Our parting advice is to play the field when it comes to these sites. Don’t invest solely in one. Spread the love to maximize your earning potential!