Would you like to make some extra money selling your travel photography on microstock photo websites like Shutterstock, iStock, and 123RF?
It's something we've all thought about as travel bloggers, but if you're like me, you haven't been sure where to begin. Today's Travel Blogger Lesson by Heather Raulerson of RaulersonGirlsTravel.com will help you get started selling your photos on microstock photography websites by the end of the day.
💡 How do microstock photography sites work?
Microstock sites are one of the quickest and easiest ways to sell your photos as a travel photographer. If you are brand new to selling your photos on microstock websites, it is good practice to join a few of them as they have varying pay rates and guidelines. Most sites offer between 20% and 60% royalty to the photographer per sale.
Microstock sites work by having you upload your photos to their websites, and then they sell them for you, giving you a portion of the sale. To start, pick out a bunch of your best photos and then upload them to various sites. It is a good idea to submit your photos to multiple microstock sites to increase the possibility of your sales, and it will also help you to get an idea of which agencies work best for you. Just make sure if you do this that you're uploading your photos to site with non-exclusive agreements.
When I started, I applied to Shutterstock, iStock (now Getty Images), Alamy, and Adobe. It took me a couple of tries to get accepted to Shutterstock, and if you talk to many photographers, this is normal. Please don't get upset or discouraged by not getting accepted into Shutterstock the first time. Make sure you read through the rejection reasons, correct your photos or choose new ones, and try again.
💸 25 Microstock Photography Websites You Can Start Selling On Today
Here is a list of stock photography websites to sell your photographs. This is a non-exhaustive list, but it should be enough to get you started selling.
Shutterstock contributors earn a higher percentage as their lifetime earnings grow. So while payout could be slow at first, it does have significant potential. The payments for each license are based on your Image Level or your Video Level. All contributors reset to Level 1 for both images and videos every year on January 1st.
Contributors may request a payout when their balance reaches $35 (minimum). Shutterstock also sells stock video footage, including HD and 4K videos, as well as images and vectors.
#2) iStock by Getty Images
iStock by Getty Images only accepts applications through the Contributor by Getty Images app. Their site offers both stock photos as well as editorial images of current events and celebrities. If you are invited to iStock by Getty Images, your content will be non-exclusive, which means you can submit your original work to multiple sites.
For content licensed through iStock, royalty rates start at 15% for photos and 20% for videos and illustrations. Exclusive contributors can earn between 25% and 45%.
If you are invited to Getty Images, your content is exclusive. For content licensed through Getty Images, rates are 20% for royalty-free still images and 25% for royalty-free video clips.
#3) Adobe Stock Photos / Fotolia
Fotolia now run by Adobe Stock gives you access to millions of Creative Cloud users. They pay a competitive royalty of 33% on images and 35% on videos. Their core collection also includes videos, illustrations, and vector imagery.
Alamy is the largest stock photo website. They have a more significant, broader, more unique collection than any other library. Photographers earn up to 60% of every sale and aren't restricted to selling exclusively with Alamy.
Dreamstime is a well established microstock agency that rewards popular images with higher commissions. Contributors receive 25-50% Revenue Share. You can request payment as soon as your balance has reached $100. Dreamstime offers you the opportunity to sell your copyright on a per-file basis.
The more flags you get on your photos at Tandem, the higher your image shows up in the search rankings. Contributors will get 50% royalties for Still Images and Video Clips. Payments are sent after reaching $250.
Stocksy is relatively new on the stock photo scene. They pay out a 50% commission, and unlike many others, accept smartphone photographers too. Stocksy's content is 100% exclusive. Contributors also receive profit-sharing in the form of patronage returns when the co-op has a surplus.
Photodune by Envato Market (which you might be familiar from buying WordPress themes and plugins) has an Author program where you can sell your images, vectors, and photos. They pay more for exclusive content than non-exclusive content, but you have the option of selling either on a per-photo basis. Non-exclusive content pays a 45% royalty and exclusive content pays 62.5% – 87.5% based on your volume of sales.
#9) Can Stock Photo
Every time one of your images is downloaded at Can Stock Photo, you will earn a commission. They pay up to 50% on each image downloaded. Also, if you refer another photographer to them, you will earn $5 for every 50 photos they sell. Can Stock Photo are also available for download on Fotosearch, so there's potential for more exposure.
At 123RF, you have a chance to showcase your creative work to major advertising industries. You may also be featured here on their official blog. They pay more as you get established, with the potential for a 60% royalty for the highest-ranked photographers, and 30% for those just getting started.
#11) Big Stock
Big Stock is owned by Shutterstock but seems to attract a different buyer base. Bigstock tends to be easier to get into than some of the other agencies. This makes it a great place to begin to get used to the “system” of stock photography selling without getting too discouraged. With BigStockPhoto.com, you will earn $0.50 for every credit that a customer spends on your image, up to $3 per download. Contributors may request a payout when their balance reaches $30.
#12) 500px Prime
Five million photographers list their stock images with 500px, according to their site. You'll receive a 70% net for every license sold (standard licenses are $250), and your images may appear in big-name ad campaigns if you submit them for commercial licensing.
#13) Deposit Photos
The more sales you have at DepositPhotos, the higher your Contributor's Level. They offer individual sales of photos & vectors, but the platform is mostly subscription-based. Royalties for photos and videos are between 34-42%.
Initially Pond5 was hugely successful with stock video footage clips & audio, and now they've entered the photo & vector market as well. Exclusive video contributors receive a 60% revenue share. Non-exclusive video contributors receive a 40% revenue share. Contributors who license photographs, illustrations, 3D models, After Effects and other templates receive 50% revenue share.
The Canva royalty rate is 35% of the sale price of the various Canva licenses. Even where sales of the licenses occur in a currency other than USD, your royalties will be paid in USD. For images sold in the Photos Unlimited subscription, the royalty rate paid to contributors is 50% of net revenue earned. Payments are sent after reaching $100.
#16) Sign Elements
Sign Elements is part of the Ingram Group, with a unique approach aimed at signwriters. SignElements accepts royalty-free photos (over 4 megapixels) and vector graphics. You can earn a royalty commission – up to 40% of the revenue. The payout can be set as low as $60.
EyeEm is a massive community of photographers with direct sales as well as a portal to Getty Images. They offer a 50% royalty on all sales.
Storyblocks is a subscription-based platform where members pay a monthly or annual fee to access content within their subscription library. Contributors are then paid out based on how much of their content is downloaded within the Member Library.
Pixta offers images and vectors at 20% to 53% royalties. Your earnings are accumulated as “credits”, the currency used at PIXTA (1 credit = 100 JPY). You can submit a payment request on your account page after reaching 50 credits(5,000 JPY) through PayPal or Payoneer.
PicFair is an agency that aims to be fair to photographers, with a slightly different pricing strategy. By agreeing to the Picfair Image Contributor Agreements, images uploaded to Picfair are made available to license under the following license types: Editorial & Personal, Commercial, and Advertising, of which the pricing varies through their agency partners and sold at their local prices.
#21) Free Digital Photos
Free Digital Photos offers all their images in low resolution for free for general use. If users require an extended license or higher resolution version of the image, they can purchase a license, of which the contributor earns a 70% commission.
Zoonar European flair with three different pricing tiers to choose from and generous royalties. They don't just distribute your photos; you alone select the partners you want. The commission rate is 50%.
Uniquely for microstock, FeaturePics offers both Royalty-Free and Rights Managed licenses. The commission is 70% of the fee paid. The contributor sets the price.
#24) YAY Images
YAY Images, formerly YayMicro, offers a 50% commission on all items sold. In addition to images, you can contribute vectors, illustrations, icons, drone footage, HD and 4K video footage, sound effects, music, Lightroom presets, and photography courses.
Most Photos is a slow starter, but gaining some traction lately in the European markets. You get a 50% commission for sales. You can request payment after reaching 25 EUR.
Looking for even more microstock sites?
Dropstock maintains an up-to-date list of 122+ microstock photo agencies.
📸 What type of photos should I shoot?
The best thing for you to do is to check out what are the most downloaded images for those sites. This will show you what is trending. Also, make sure to sign up for the newsletters as the stock agencies will send out briefs on what they are needing or looking for.
Shutterstock's “Shot List” is a fantastic resource for photographers because every month, they put together a helpful list of their most requested and trending content. You don't need to be a Shutterstock contributor to access the Shot List.
The trick to selling a lot of stock photos is knowing what kinds of images will sell. While you can sell pictures of just about any subject, the best-selling photos tend to have similar characteristics. They tend to be bright, colorful, and straightforward.
Other things to remember are that there can't be any recognizable brands in your photos, and photos with people or properties will require a model or property release. Panoramic images for website banners are good sellers, and photos with plenty of copy space. Always keep in mind while you are out and about with your camera in terms of what a client would want. Although the subject matter can be almost anything, your shots will need to be well-composed, high quality, and commercially relevant.
Photos that sell well:
- Medical Concepts
- Food and Drink
- Isolated Objects
- High-Quality Nature
Videos that well sell:
- Drone Footage
- Footage with Camera Movements
⭐ Tips on how to be successful selling on stock websites
- Be consistent. Upload new photos regularly and make sure that the content you are uploading is content that buyers are looking for. The more quality images you add to your stock portfolios, the better chance you'll have of making regular sales.
- Quality over quantity. Like I mentioned in the section above, the trick to selling a lot of stock photos is knowing what kinds of images will sell. It's better to focus on uploading quality photos that buyers are currently looking for than uploading hundreds of your vacation photos from 10 years ago that aren't in demand.
- Set a goal. How many photos will you upload on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis? Set goals and milestones for yourself throughout the year. I recommend aiming for adding over 300 new images in your first year.
- Be patient! It'll get faster… In the beginning, while you're learning how to upload your photos, write descriptions, add keywords, etc, growing your portfolio can feel really slow. Don't panic! It takes time to build up a successful stock portfolio. I have been doing this for almost two years and can attest that it does take time and patience.
- Leverage tools to streamline your process. These 5 microstock submission tools let you upload your photography to 40+ microstock sites at once and can save you a ton of time.
🤷 What's your experience been like selling on microstock websites?
Drop a comment below and let us know how much you've earned, which sites have performed the best for you, plus any other tips and tricks that can help out your fellow photographers get started earning on microstock websites.
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