How to sell stock photos

In some blogs and forums I often read, how easy and cool it is, to sell your own photos to earn some extra cash and generate passive income. Furthermore, some people write, they quitted their jobs and became a full-time stock image sellers. The idea sounds great and if you like to shoot pictures, why shouldn’t you earn some money with it? But all of these postings sound to good to be true. The fact is, that to sell stock photos is a hard work and you would succeed in it, when you are ready to invest a lot of time. Therefore I would like to share my experience to show you, what you need to do, to sell stock photos successfully.

First steps to sell stock photos

First of all, you need to know all about photography techniques. In my learning section I give you the first brief information about photography basics. But it is only the peak of the iceberg. To deepen you knowledge you should read some books for beginners, like „BetterPhoto Basics“ from Jim Miotke. If you are not a beginner anymore, you need to inform yourself about advanced techniques in photography. Again, you can read some books for advanced photography, like „The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography„. Or maybe you will find some free tutorials on Youtube.

To become successful in selling stock photos, it’s also important to have the proper equipment. In your stock photography portfolio is no place for photos made with a smartphone. Hence, you need to invest in a good-quality digital camera (DSLR), which is able to shoot sharp images.

When you achieved the stage of an advanced photographer and you have got some good equipment, you also need to retouch the pictures in Lightroom and Photoshop (or similar Software). Nowadays it is quite unlikely, you would sell unretouched pictures.

Build Your Portfolio

Before you get tangible results, you need to build a stock image portfolio, which requires a structured working. I recommend setting a goal of how many photos you are able to upload on a weekly, monthly or annual basis. So it depends on you, how much time do you have and how much you can invest. If you have a 9/45 job, it would be difficult to upload 200 high-quality pictures a month. In this case you could set a goal to upload 20 pictures a month. It doesn’t sound like much but uploading 20 stock photos each month is better than no uploading of stock images at all.

Where to sell stock photos

There are some good microstock agencies in the market you can offer your work to. But it does not make sense to to list all of them. After all, you are searching information to make a decision and not to leave my site with more questions you had, before you got here. So I would like to present just one of those microstock agencies to give you an introductory l information.


The microstock site Dreamstime* is one of the most searched stock photo websites around.  They are members of the Picture Archive Council of America and Centre of the Picture Industry.  Someone might say, this is the reason they are extremely selective in the number of photographs they chose. Nevertheless, the acceptance rate is quite high, provided that your photos according to their quality standards. There is a generous selling process that operates on three levels: non-exclusive image, exclusive image and exclusive photographer.  Payouts are listed on their comprehensive chart.

How much can you yearn when you sell stock photos?

The most important question comes at the end: how much can you earn monthly with stock photos and is it possible to become rich from selling stock photos? Unfortunately, I have to disappoint you, dear friend. To sell stock photos is not the golden way of earning money. Here you need to behold two factors: the number of uploads and the time.

Number of uploads

Don’t expect any miracles with a portfolio of 100 pictures. Neither with 200 or 300 photos. Nowadays you need a couple of thousands of uploads to achieve real good revenues. Just an example: to earn approximately 500,- dollar a month, you would probably need a portfolio with 1000 to 1500 photos. So expect in your first year no revenues at all or in the best case, probably a couple of hundreds of dollars of annual revenue. And this leads us to the second factor: long breathing

Long breathing is needed

The most difficult and challenging thing for the beginners is the patience. Selling stock photos is not a quick method to improve your income. In fact, you can achieve a good „pocket money“ through sell stock photos. But to get there, you will pass a learning process which does not come overnight. With the time passing by, you will learn how to increase the quality of your photos and get a feeling about which pictures sell better than the others. The better you become, the less pictures will be refused by the microstock agency. And the more you sell, the better your pictures will rank in the search results.


To sell stock photos can be an interesting way of earning money. But if you have a 9/45 job and do photography as a hobby or a second job, it would be difficult to earn so much, it would be enough for living. And even as a full-time photographer it would be a quite challenge to bring you to the desired level of sales. Unless you are ready to invest a lot of time and work really hard to extend your portfolio to a number of photos which contains several thousands of pictures. So remember: upload as much good pictures as you can and take a long breath. At the end, when you keep up about 2 – 3 years, you will be rewarded with a good extra cash. So try it out and see what happens.

If you have read until the end and if you are still willing to sell stock photos, I can also refer to the book „Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography“* by Alexandre Rothenberg. I wish you success and good luck for you project.

Stock Images

*Affiliate link: According to my full disclosure I refer that I have a partnership with Dreamstime. If you click on the link or the banner, no costs will arise for you. If you decide to make a purchase on Dreamstime, I will receive a small benefit from this microstock agency which I would reinvest to keep this blog alive. This is also according to other products, like books and software mentioned in this blog post.


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