Having read the headline, your first question is probably “do I need to be a professional photographer?” And the answer is an emphatic “no.” There are opportunities for selling photos online that are accessible for amateurs and professionals alike. In this article, we will cover the full range of possibilities, with something for every skill level.
Who’s going to buy your photos?
With more and more businesses shifting their operations online, the demand for high-quality images is growing by the day. Humans are visual creatures, and this is as true on the internet as it is in the real world. Case in point – the researchers at WebDam found that simply including images with web content inspires 650% more engagement.
In light of this, everyone with an online presence – from massive multinational corporations to small local businesses and bloggers – is on the hunt for unique and captivating images.
Which photos sell best?
- People – Professional marketers know that the images we’re most attracted to feature humans. So, any high-quality pics you have with people in them will likely sell well.
- People at work – Since it’s mostly businesses purchasing these images, it makes sense that there would be a demand for professional snaps of people working. Photos of people using laptops and technology are particularly popular.
- Cities – Beautiful snaps of buildings and cityscapes sell well, as do images of people interacting with the built environment and using public transport.
- Nature – Who doesn’t love a perfectly timed nature pic? From sunsets to macro shots of plant and insect life, beautiful nature photos will always be in demand.
- Travel – From travel bloggers to airlines, tour companies, and travel agencies, there’s a huge demand for quality travel shots in today’s market.
- Food – So long as the fare is beautifully displayed, food shots tend to do well. Images of famous cultural dishes and even food prepping can be good sellers too.
- Tools and equipment – Who would’ve thought you could get paid for taking well-framed images of nuts, bolts, and hammers? These photos can be used in everything from instructional articles and videos to professional websites. So, if you’ve got a well-stocked tool shed (or know someone who does), then you can earn an income from this source.
Pro-tip: We’re about to fill you in on the best online marketplaces for selling your photos. Take some time to browse the most popular categories on each one to get a feel for what’s going to sell.
What tools and equipment do I need?
For the entry level options listed below, all you’ll need is a smartphone with an inbuilt camera. If you’re aiming to sell your photos on the more professional level platforms, then you’ll want to consider the following:
- A good quality digital camera.
- Photo editing software – The top paid option is Adobe Photoshop, and the best free open source option is Gimp.
- A tripod – You can get these for your camera and for your smartphone.
- A gimbal – These are great for taking smooth and steady professional-quality video.
Where can I sell my photos online?
You have a number of options here, depending on the equipment you’re working with, your level of experience, and the types of photos you’re interested in selling.
Let’s start with the sites that are perfect for beginners and professionals alike before moving on to the more specialized platforms.
For photography novices, a great place to start is with apps that automate the process. Your options include:
- EyeEm – This app scrolls through the photos you already have and auto-selects the ones you’re likely to get paid for. If you approve their submission and they get picked up, you split the profits 50/50 with the app.
- Foap – Exactly the same deal as EyeEm, except Foap also offers a mission mode, filling you in on the photos that are in demand so you can tailor your offerings. If one of these photos sells, you get a bigger cut.
- miPic – This app allows you to snap away to your heart’s content. It will pull any pictures that are of high enough quality and feature them in a gallery for sale to customers in a variety of formats. They handle everything from marketing to printing and distributing, but because of this, you get a smaller commission (around the 20% mark).
- Snapwire – Taking Foap’s mission idea up a level, Snapwire is all about completing photography challenges. If buyers rate your photos, you get to level up, meaning more opportunities to earn money (you get up to 70% of the payout when you successfully complete challenges and requests).
The next level up, for professionals and amateurs alike, is to share your images on stock photo websites. The best options include:
By uploading your photos to as many of these as you can, you’ll expand your reach and improve your chances of making sales. Once you’ve been up and running for a while, you’ll get a clear picture of where most of your sales are coming from and can then shift your attention to those platforms.
If you have a good quality camera and consider yourself to be a creative type, then the following sites will allow you to charge more for your photography.
- Etsy – with Etsy, you can offer digital downloads of your photos for whatever price you choose. If you’d like to offer professional prints, you’ll need to handle the printing, presentation, packaging, postage, and other aspects of selling your photographs. However, in exchange, you get to set higher prices and take home more of the profits.
- Fotomoto – this is a great way to test out the idea of having your own photography website. Fotomoto will do the hard work for you, including website creation and print-on-demand services. There are three membership levels to choose from (free, pro, and pro plus). Though you pay for the higher membership levels, you get to keep more of the profits from your sales.
- Redbubble – Here, you can upload your photography and digital art onto a variety of templates. You can sell everything from stickers and greeting cards to posters and canvas prints of your work. The tools and templates are easy to use, Redbubble will do plenty of marketing for you, and they also offer a full suite of marketing tools for you to use on social media or your own website.
- TourPhotos – This site is great for snap-happy travelers. Upload your holiday snaps for travel agencies and tour companies to use in their ad campaigns and on their websites.
- Create your own eCommerce website – This option gives you the most control and creative freedom. However, it also demands the most work and attention. It’s great for those who already know their way around website creation or who have had success with the options listed above and are ready to take their photography business up a notch. Consider using WordPress, SquareSpace, or Shopify to bring your photography website to life.
Do I need to pay tax on the money I make selling photos online?
Depending on how much money you make and what other streams of income you have, you may need to pay tax on what you earn from your photos. For this reason, it’s best to keep track of your income and expenses.
Submit everything to your accountant at tax time and they will help you determine whether this is a business or simply a hobby. If it’s considered taxable business income, they’ll be able to help you claim all the deductions you’re entitled to.
With that said, we’ve covered everything you need to know to get started selling your photos online. Have fun, get creative, develop your skills, and your income will start to blossom.