How to Make Money in Online Photography

November 28th, 2013 - Posted by in Blog, Making Money


Digital Photography

Everyone seems to have a camera these days and who buys a mobile phone without asking about the photo and video specs? Digital photography has revolutionized the way we collect images. You don’t need specialist developing and printing equipment anymore, just the means to store and transfer digital data. Your photographs can now be accessible to the anyone on the internet, if that’s what you want. Getting this kind of exposure for your work is quite easy…. but how do you make money from it?

Here are some ideas…..

  • Portfolio website
  • Blog
  • Print on Demand
  • Stock photography sites
  • All of the above!

1. Portfolio Website

Your own personal website can be an excellent way to showcase your work and prospective clients will get a sense of your photo style, ability, and personality. If you already know how to build a website, then you could easily do this yourself, quite cheaply. If you need more help, then there are DIY website-creation sites that allow you to put together a website. Some sites offer free templates, while others may require a small fee for their designs. However, if you want something more unique, then a professional web designer could build you a custom-made website for around £300-£2,000 plus.

Free Template Sites:

  • Moonfruit
  • Joomla Designs
  • Template Monster

Something More Exclusive:
List of 50 of the Top Award Winning Web Design Agencies
15 top web design and development trends for 2012

The most important thing about having your own site, is to have as much control as possible. So, if you engage a professional designer/programmer, then make sure they teach you how to add or edit your gallery, and upload new text etc. Your site needs to be as fresh and vibrant as possible, with carefully curated content.
Your site should contain; a “home” page, an “about” page, a site map, and contact details. If you plan on selling your work direct from your website, then you will need a shopping cart facility and a means of accepting payment. Also consider; a “terms and conditions” section, “exchange and refund policy”, and a “privacy policy” etc.

2. Blog

A blog could also help promote your work and establish your “name”. This could be set up separately, or included on your website. Consider this as your online diary, so make it personal and conversational. Write about what inspires you to take photographs, talk about other photographers you admire, or equipment/software that you like to use etc. Articles should be posted on a regular basis to ensure a constant stream of fresh information to keep you readers interested.

Great Tips from:
Quick Start Guide to Launching Your Photography Blog
How to Start a Photography Blog
Tips for Starting a New Photography Blog!  

Other things to consider:

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising your website, so that it comes up in search engine results for certain keywords. The better optimised your website is, the higher up your search engine ranking will be.

10 Basic SEO Tips To Get You Started
A Guide to Search Engine Optimization

- Link Building
Links are considered currency on the web. They tell the search engines that your website is trusted by the online community, which makes them more likely to push you up the search rankings. If you regularly provide good quality content, then you will encourage other websites to link to your articles, thus adding links to your site.

- Social networking
Aim to become part of an online community, as networking will bring you followers and help create links. Use social media to connect and build contacts, discuss, share and collaborate with like-minded people.

Twitter: Use 140 characters at a time to promote your work and search out new links.
Facebook: Give your business it’s own facebook page for promotion.
LinkedIn: This is a network for professional contacts.
stumbleupon: Use this site to recommend web content/images to other users.
reddit: This is a social news and entertainment website, where registered users can submit content.

3. Print-On-Demand

Print on demand (POD) is a process in which images are not printed until an order has been received. This means that photographs can be printed one at a time, which eliminates the need to store large quantities of stock. This type of business only developed after digital printing began, as it had not been economical to print individual copies using traditional printing techniques. So, if you wanted to produce a limited edition print run, you don’t have to print all the images at once – you only have to print a product when you receive each order.  

Print on demand services:

  • Print and sell photographs direct to your client
  • Print and sell via a third party website 

Print On Demand Websites

When you upload your images to such a website, they will deal with all aspects of the printing production, organize delivery of your products, then pay you a commission on each sale.  A good website should offer a range of printing options, including different sizes and formats, and possibly a framing service. Some sites will give you an option to print your photographs on different products, such as iPad cases, cushions, mugs and mouse pads etc., which could give you an alternative business outlet for your prints.
But which websites are worth joining? It helps if the site has lots of traffic, as this will increase the chance of getting decent sales. Research by revealed the unique visitor count for three of the biggest names in print on demand sites, in 2010. Top position was Fineartamerica, which received over 530,000 visitors per month, Red Bubble came second with over 400,000, while Imagekind received approximately 160,000 unique visitors per month.

Marketing: Artist Websites on Fine Art America

a. Fine Art America

Fineartamerica is one of the most successful print on demand websites for both established and upcoming artists and photographers. However, this website is absolutely huge with over 65,000 members, and so competition is fierce. If you want sales, then self-marketing and promotion is the key. Social networking is encouraged, as member’s webpages are set up with buttons for some of the more well known portals, and you can even customize your personal page with html coding.

Standard Accounts: Free

  • Each member receives a unique webpage which may be customized with artwork, biography information, gallery information, upcoming events, fine art blogs, etc
  • There is no limit on the number of images that you may upload, but there is a limit of 25 items for sale.
  • Each uploaded image must be at least 600 pixels in either direction, or up to 20 MB.
  • They accept images as .jpg, and .jpeg.
  • 100% commission free.
  • You have an option to “do-it-yourself”, which means you handle the entire transaction on your own, but keep all the money. Alternatively, you could allow FineArtAmerica to produce your prints and process the order, but you will receive a reduced profit.

Premium Accounts: $30 / Year

  • You get a website, where you can showcase your images, sell prints with custom framing and matting, sell greeting cards, issue press releases, advertise your upcoming events, post blogs etc.
  • You earn an extra commission on any accessories associated with your print order, such as frames, mats, etc.,The current commission rate is 5% of the total accessory price. Your agreement with Imagekind is non-exclusive We are not brokering the digital reproduction rights to anyone, nor does the public ever have access to your high-res files.

b. Redbubble

Like most print on demand websites, Redbubble offers framed prints available in various sizes and formats. However, members can also choose to have their images applied to other products, such as cards, stickers, t-shirts, posters, and calendars etc. Once you have an account, you upload your work to your “Redbubble portfolio”, which is similar to a gallery shop. They do not charge any fee to sell, or any commission on any of sales.Instead, they set the base price of the product, while you set the retail value by adding your mark up. According to the website, the average mark up is about 30%, but the choice is yours.

– Redbubble will manage all aspects of manufacturing, payment, and take care of packaging and worldwide shipping. – You retain the copyright over your art and design.

– They accept JPEG or PNG files (but don’t accept TIFF or PDF files). – Colour Profile : They prefer the sRGB colour space. – They will not accept images above 60Mb, or 10,000×10,000 pixels in size.

– If you’re uploading files larger than 20MB they should be compressed or scaled down. Actively sharing and promoting your work can significantly improve your sales, and it is recommended that you join a few of the groups on the site. Redbubble have also provided some promotional tools for you to use on your blog, email signature, and other websites.

c. Imagekind

At Imagekind, photographers get a personal store/page to display and promote their work, and sell high quality prints in a range of sizes and formats.The company was founded in 2006 and has become one of the fastest growing print on demand sites, with over 750,000 plus high quality fine art images for sale. You retain the copyright of all the images you upload. Your agreement with Imagekind is also non-exclusive, and they do not broker the digital reproduction rights to other publishers or agencies etc.

  • Unlimited uploads and storage
  • Uploads available using the “onsite uploader”, the “FTP”, or the “Flickr import”
  • They will accept TIF, JPG, or PNG files
  • You keep 100% of the profit (but they retain 5% of anything marked up 100% or over to cover transaction costs)
  • Track visits to your storefront using Google Analytics
  • Make money by selling ads with your own Google Adsense (or not)
  • Images can be viewed in public, private or locked galleries

Different Accounts Offered:
Free Account
– free Pro Account – $7.99 per month Platinum Account – $11.99 per month
Annual Account – $94.99 per year The differences between these accounts is the type and range of exposure you receive on the site, and additional framing commission (up to 15%).

Other Companies to Consider:

4. License Stock Photography

Photographers can also submit their work to a variety of stock photography websites. These sites allow members to sell or license their photographs, which are used for commercial purposes by graphic artists, newspapers and advertising agencies. The stock photography company will take care of the licensing and contracts, while you receive a percentage of the sale price.

There are three different types of stock photography.
Macro stock: High priced and exclusive stock photography, also known as traditional stock photography.
Mid stock: Stock photography priced between micro stock and macro stock
Micro stock: Low priced and inclusive stock photography

How Much Can you Earn?
Unfortunately, as competition in the stock photography market has increased, so per-picture prices have dropped. Pricing is usually determined by size of audience or readership, how long the image is to be used, country or region where the images will be used, and whether royalties are due to the image creator or owner. Often, an image can be licensed for less than $200, or in the case of the microstock photography websites as little as $1 for a low resolution license. But don’t be disheartened – if a royalty-free image from the “Dollar Bin” section is sold more than 1,000 times, then it becomes a worthwhile enterprise.

Higher paid images can make even more money, and it’s possible to earn approximately £50,000 from over 10,000 sales. According to The New York Times, Getty Images charges on average between $500 (£300 approx.) and $600 (£400 approx.) for “rights managed” images, and $250 (£160 approx.) for non-exclusive, while the photographer receives between 30% and 40%, depending on the use indicated.

The type of Licenses Available:

Royalty-free images:
The client pays a one-time fee to use the image multiple times for multiple purposes (with limits). There is no time limit on when the client can use an image. These command a lower price, but because of this they can sell in higher quantities.

Rights-managed images:
The value of a license is determined by; use of the image, print run, territories, size, and exclusivity etc. The terms of the license are clearly defined and negotiated. An image usually has a much larger print run than a Royalty-free license.These will cost more to the client (thus limiting the number of buyers), but they will give you a higher return.

Editorial Use:
This is a form of rights-managed license, where the images can only be used for news or educational purposes. These images reflect events from social, cultural and political scenes. These may be used to illustrate articles or broadcasts appearing in magazines, newspapers or any other editorial context, in either printed or electronic media. However, this is a highly competitive market and it could be tough getting your work noticed. Have a large portfolio ready, as you can increase the chance of sales by submitting hundreds of images to a number of sites.

It is also important to consider the quality of your images. You should only submit the finest examples of your work, as many companies employ a team of reviewers who check every picture submitted for technical quality, as well as artistic and commercial merit. Web-based stock photography collections use images that have been embedded with meta-data, which makes them searchable by using keywords. So consider your choice of keywords, as each image will have to be found through the website’s search engine.

1. Flickr & Getty Images

Flickr started out as an online photo sharing and image management site, which allowed members to post images of any standard, from family holiday snaps to professional looking studies of nature, and world events etc. Anyone could use these “free” images without having to pay for the privilege, which was a problem if members were hoping to earn money from their photographs. Members can remain in a free account, or upgrade to  “Flickr Pro” account. Free Flickr membership: Upload 300MB every month (30MB per photo) Post photos in up to 10 groups Upload up to 2 videos per month Flickr Pro Account – $24.95 per year:

Unlimited uploads (up to 50MB per photo) Post photos in up to 60 groups Upload and play unlimited HD videos View stats on your account In 2010, Flickr and Getty Images came together to sell images and photographs in a stock photography format. This meant, if you had a Flickr account you could license your photos through Getty Images, so that when people saw your images, they could pay to use them. Members are now able to turn on a “Request to License” link on their photo pages. Getty Images will then review the photographer’s work, and if it’s suitable for their program, they will contact the Flickr member and help handle details like permissions, releases and pricing.

The Flickr library already has over four billion images, and Getty Images has tapped into more than 100,000 photos taken by professional and semi-pro photographers who post on the site. However, neither Getty nor Flickr are forthcoming about actual rates of pay, but say they are “industry standard”. This is generally thought to be an average of $150-$240 (£100-£160) per image.

2. iStockphoto

iStockphoto is one of the leading stock photography agencies on the internet, with an extensive list of clients who license images for all kinds of commercial and advertising applications.The company was founded by Bruce Livingstone in May, 2000, and was originally a free stock imagery website. It later transitioned into it’s current micropayment model, and was acquired by Getty Images for $50 million, in February 2006. iStockphoto only accept the highest quality images, and you will have to fill out an application form and include examples of your best work in order to be taken on. This is probably only suitable for the more ambitious photographers. This company will pay royalty rates of between 15%-20% to its non-exclusive contributors, but you can increase your earnings if you join their exclusive images program. Photographers can receive royalty rates up to 45%, if their images are only sold through iStockphoto. To become an exclusive photographer, you must have 250 downloads and a minimum 50% approval rating, or 500 downloads.

  • They will accept – RGB JPG files only. TIFs, PNGs and PSDs will be declined.
  • CMYK images will also be declined.
  • Files mist be 1600 x 1200 pixels or larger.

“Canister Levels”
Each time one of your files is downloaded, your “Canister Icon” will move closer to the next level. The number of files you can upload to iStockphoto each week increases as your Canister Level moves up.

  • Base: 1 – 249 downloads
  • Bronze: 250 – 2,499 downloads
  • Silver: 2,500 – 9,999 downloads
  • Gold: 10,000 – 24,999 downloads
  • Diamond: 25,000 – 199,999 downloads
  • Black Diamond: 200,000+ downloads

However, in 2012, Canister values will be reset at the beginning of each year, so royalties are now based on the value of the images sold in the previous year, not on the total number of images sold. This has angered many contributors to istockphoto, as they have seen a decrease in earnings, especially for their non-exclusive members.

“Vetta Account”
The Vetta collection was created for creative professionals who wanted the finest quality images with a more sophisticated take on stock. These images have been editor-selected for exquisite quality, art direction, creativity, originality and style, and acceptance criteria remains extremely strict. Nonetheless Vetta files are in high demand and customers are prepared to pay several tens of dollars for a really unique image. Additional bonuses include; priority of displaying images in each file search, additional promotional actions and advertisements, and enhanced legal protection. This means, istockphoto has become a significant seller of both macrostock and microstock images.

3. Dreamstime

Dreamstime is one of the most searched stock photo websites around, and regarded as a highly reputable and respectful company. They are members of the Picture Archive Council of America and Centre of the Picture Industry. Dreamstime provides images to clients in the creative market including; independent customers in the private sector, advertising agencies, national and international magazines, film and television production companies. They are also extremely selective in the number of photographs they chose. Statistics from January 2012: Almost 4,500,000 registered members. More than 130,000 contributing photographers. Over 13,000,000 images online. Unique visitors to the site has exceeded 11,000,000 per month. There are 3 ways to sell your images through Dreamstime:

  • Non-Exclusive Contributors: Contributors may upload images which are available for sale with other stock agencies. Non-exclusive contributors receive 25-50% of the net sale price received by Dreamstime for the images they have contributed to the site, which are subsequently sold by Dreamstime.
  • Exclusive Images: Contributors may upload images that are exclusively sold on Dreamstime, while continuing to work with other agencies. They receive 27.5%-55% of the net sale price received by Dreamstime for the exclusive images they have contributed to the site, which are subsequently sold by Dreamstime.
  • Exclusive Contributors: Contributors are solely represented by Dreamstime. They may, however, sell their other images on a photographer-to-client basis, under a work for hire contract, outside of this Agreement. Exclusive contributors receive 60% percent of the net sale price received by Dreamstime, as well as a commission of $0.20 for each submission uploaded and accepted by Dreamstime.

Referral program:
This allows members to promote the community and win a significant percentage from the sales they bring.

This is an unlimited, multi-tiered, in-depth search engine that extends improved navigation and accessibility within the web pages. It enables more refined and advanced search options in relation to keywords or excluded keywords, price, content, photographer-specific, resolution, photos/illustrations, colour/monochrome and orientation.

Extended Licenses:
Dreamstime offers a range of extended licenses that gives the client additional rights beyond the normal royalty free license. For instance, under the standard royalty free license, the amount of print items (t-shirts, mousepads, calendars, etc…) is limited or excluded depending on the agency. With an extended license, certain additional rights may be granted for an additional fee. claims that Dreamstime has the highest payout of all stock photography websites

Other Companies to Consider:

Also important to remember……

Legal Issues: Copyright:
You must only upload work which you own the rights to publish and sell.
Logos & Trademarks: 
Logos, trademarks, and company names featured in an image may not be accepted in some circumstances.
Model Releases:
Images containing recognizable people may require a model release.
Property Releases:
You may need a signed and witnessed property release indicating you have obtained permission to photograph a particular location, building, or object.
Company Rules: Read the rules carefully, as each site will have different submission requirements.

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