If you’re wanting to earn some extra dollars and cents from your adventures in photography then there are many ways to go about it online: A growing number of sites can hawk your pictures around and give you a slice of the cut if your work gets picked up. Here are some of your options and the hoops you have to jump through to get signed up.
These sites are equally suitable whether you’re an amateur dabbling in photography in your spare time or a serious operator going all the way down the professional, self-employed route, though if you’re in the latter camp it’s worth setting up a dedicated site and online presence for yourself, too. Below is a small sampling, but there are new portals launching all the time.
An offshoot of the main 500px site, 500px Prime lets you buy or sell premium royalty-free stock photos taken by the portal’s members. 70% of sales go to you the photographer and you can continue to license your content elsewhere even after it’s sold through the site—you can choose to give 500px exclusive rights in return for higher licensing fees if you wish.
SmugMug is largely geared towards making your pictures look good on the web but it offers a Pro subscription option ($12.50/month and up) giving you tools for selling your photos and keeping 85% of the cut along the way. You’re doing more of the work in terms of setting out your stall and choosing prices so weigh up whether you want to invest the time and effort for a potentially bigger return.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of DepositPhotos is the free mobile app that lets you quickly sell pictures you snap on your phone for a cut of around 44% (depending on the sale price and license). If you go through the site it’s more like a typical stock photo portal, with more stringent vetting procedures and a cut of 44-52% depending on how many pictures you sell through the service.
While it lacks the professional sheen of some of the other sites here, DeviantArt makes up for it in terms of diversity and community, and it covers a whole range of artwork styles including photography. You get 20% of each photo or print sale unless you become a Premium Member ($2.49 and above a month) which gives you more control over the selling price and royalties.
Like DeviantArt, RedBubble is more for artists in general than photographers specifically, but you can still use it to sell prints of your work. It’s free to get started, with the site taking a base fee to cover the costs of managing the transaction—you’re then free to set your own price and the resulting profit. There’s plenty of help and advice on site but you’ll need to do some work to build up an audience.
Shutterstock and the other established microstock agencies typically offer lower returns for a much bigger pool of potential clients, and the vetting process is often more involved too. Shutterstock and the likes of Dreamstime and iStock are worth investigating for serious photographers who are more confident of selling high-quality pictures at greater volumes.
A storefront site like Etsy is another way to get your photos noticed and to make money from prints and digital sales, though a lot more of the promotional and pricing work is down to you. There’s an eBay-style fees structure in place, which Etsy taking $0.20 for each item listed and a 3.5% slice of every sale. If you can make it work, it can be very profitable.
Scoopshot is a little bit different than the other sites mentioned here: as well as uploading your own photos (and setting your own price) you can join in with regular shooting assignments specified by the site’s clients. Royalties are somewhat complicated—for example, if your shot is used in an advert, you get a cut of the advertising revenue rather than a flat fee.