I love stock photography!
I love it for many reasons – I make money selling my photos, I use stock photos on this site, it’s improved my photography skills, and it’s a great way to test the waters if you’re an amateur photographer. If you haven’t already, read my post titled “Is Stock Photography Right for You?”. In that post I go into the details of why I love it and how I got started.
Now I’m going to tell you my top 5 favorite places to sell my photos and some pros and cons about each.
Shutterstock is easily my favorite site to contribute to. I have made the most money with them and I have the most pictures with them.
- You earn anywhere from $0.25 to $120 per sale, depending on the license the customer buys. Majority of your sales will be $0.25, but you’ll get lots of them. The most I’ve ever been paid for one sale is $6.89.
- You get a raise as your overall earnings increase. Below is an image of their earnings breakdown. You can see that there’s a decent increase once you’ve made over $500.
- Shutterstock payments are small, but they’re frequent. I definitely wish they paid more than $0.25 for a download, but I do get the most downloads through them. You do get a raise after you’ve made a certain amount of money with them, so now I’m getting $0.33 for my smallest payment.
- Shutterstock’s minimum payout amount is $35. It was $75 for a long time, but was lowered in July 2015.
- It is easy to upload and edit multiple photos to Shutterstock at once. This is a big deal and the main reason I have more photos at Shutterstock than iStock. If iStock would make their upload process easier, then I would have about 100 more photos with them.
- Shutterstock helps you keyword. I like this feature, you can search for images similar to yours and get keyword ideas. This helps me use up all 50 of my keywords which is very important in getting your photos found.
- Shutterstock has a quick turnaround time with getting images approved. I typically only wait about 24 hours to get the notice that my images were approved or not.
- You can include a note to the person reviewing your photos if you need to explain something or have a concern about why it was rejected. I’ve had to do this and it was very easy and resolved my problem.
- Minimum file size to submit is 4MP which is fairly small and easy to accomplish.
iStock ranks #2 on my list because it has paid me the 2nd most in earnings and how much I get paid greatly influences how much I like a site.
- In order to become a contributor at iStock, you first have to pass a test. Don’t worry, it isn’t difficult, but you do need to read their manual and answer some basic questions. Don’t let this stop you, you should know the answers if you’re going to sell your work there anyway.
- iStock’s minimum payout is $100. This is a bit high when you’re first getting started.
- iStock really wants you to upload exclusively to them. Shutterstock doesn’t offer this option, but iStock will pay more if you become and exclusive contributor. You have to meet specific requirements before getting accepted as exclusive, but there’s so many sites where you can sell your images that I don’t recommend this route. Here’s their royalty rates.
- Typically I get paid around $1.00 each time someone downloads my photo.
- iStock’s upload process is tedious. I stick with them because I make decent money through them, but I really wish they’d change their upload process. You have to upload each picture individually and keyword them individually as well as categorize them and then they want you to specify words that can have multiple meanings. For example, if you have a picture of a kid they want you to clarify if “kid” is referring to a young person or a baby goat.
- iStock has been around a long time and has a good reputation. Many people are loyal to them so they have a good customer base.
- iStock accepts files 1600 x 1200 pixels or larger, which is an easy requirement to meet. iStock offers different sizes of each image on the site and our file pricing is based in part on the image dimensions, so it’s often in your best interest to provide an image in the largest pixel dimensions possible.
- Dreamstime has been pickier than iStock and Shutterstock for me. I have a lot of images that are editorial use only and they don’t accept the type of editorial that mine are. They’ve also rejected images because they have too many similar ones on their site already.
- You are paid according to your photo’s level. The level depends on how often the photo sells, if the photo is exclusive to Dreamstime, and if you’re an exclusive contributor. I do like that they let you have specific images that are exclusive without being completely exclusive to them. Here’s their level 1 payouts.
- The least you’ll ever get paid through Dreamstime is $0.34. The first image I sold there I got $2.00 and that’s not too bad. If your image gets up to level 5 (which means it’s been downloaded more than 25 times), then the least you’ll make is $6.73 per sale. That’s a great payout for an extra small image that isn’t exclusive.
- They’re upload process is pretty simple and not as time consuming as iStock, but their image approval process can take longer.
- Photos must be at least 3MP.
- Dreamstime has good account statistics and an easy to use contributor account interface.
- To become a contributor you have to read their tutorial and take a short quiz. Just like iStock, it’s a simple quiz so don’t let this stop you.
- Big Stock has been my 3rd highest paying stock site, but I ranked it under Dreamstime because it doesn’t have the large customer base that Dreamstime does and it doesn’t have the same pay potential.
- The minimum requirement for a Bigstock photo is 800 pixels on the longest side.
- Bigstock’s uploading process is simple and quick. You can upload and tag multiple images at once.
- Payouts are given weekly once you have reached $30. They’re one of the few sites that pay you more than monthly.
- Bigstock will pay you more based on how many sales you’ve had, but their highest subscription payout is $0.38 per download.
- 123rf barely squeaks in as my #5. They’re about neck and neck with Fotolia, but they win out because I can’t figure out how much I’ve earned with Fotolia since they display my earnings as credits.
- 123rf requires your photos to be at least 6MP. This is hard if you’re uploading 4MB images to other sites and don’t want to edit photos separately for 123rf than for the other stock sites. Ideally all your images are over 6MP and this isn’t a problem, but it can be for some images that aren’t sharp enough at over 6MP but are fine at 4MP.
- 123rf has an alright upload process. It isn’t as smooth as Shutterstock, but it’s better than iStock.
- Your earnings per download at 123rf are pretty simple. They don’t have an exclusivity option, but you do get paid more depending on your contributor level.
- 123rf’s minimum payout amount is $50, paid monthly
- 123rf has been growing and increasing in popularity recently. It’s worth giving them a try if you have enough time to upload to multiple sites.
There are many other stock photo agencies out there, but these made the cut as my top five. Two honorable mentions that I just recently joined are CanStock Photo and Deposit Photos. Want to see how much I make on my stock photos? Check out my income reports here! All my photography articles and tips can be found here.
Stock photography can be a great way to earn some extra passive income. Go ahead and give these agencies a try. Comment below if you are a stock photographer or are interested in becoming one. I’d love to hear your experiences!