Visual content is on fire! People love seeing images. They share memes rapidly, eagerly Pin blog posts with great graphics, and drool over Instagram worthy shots.
People respond to photographs. And all those photographs must come from somewhere. That means if you can take great ones, you can sell your photos online for cash.
You can sell photos to:
- Marketing agencies
- Stock photo sites
- Consumers (with things like wall art, calendars, and postcards)
- And anyone else who is looking for high-quality, unique photography
When you combine your eye for a great shot with a decent camera, you can discover plenty of ways to create passive income.
Invest in the Right Equipment
Without the proper equipment, you won’t be able to take sellable photographs. You need to invest in this aspect of your business.
While you can take okay quality photographs with your iPhone, you aren’t going to be able to sell those as frequently. You don’t have nearly as much control over the aperture, shutter speed, or ISO.
The zoom feature also isn’t as high of quality. When you zoom on an iPhone, it’s digital zoom. A DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera has optical zoom. You don’t get as much noise with the optical zoom.
If you plan on making money with your photographs, you need to invest in a solid DSLR camera. Nikon, Sony, and Canon are popular manufacturers. These cameras range a lot in price. If you are just getting started and don’t know that you want to really dive into photography, I recommend going with an entry-level camera. Otherwise, spend the money and get a professional-grade one.
You will need a lens before you can take pictures with your camera body. Sometimes your purchase will include a lens, and other times you will need to purchase one separately. Always do your research beforehand to see exactly what is included. You want to ensure you are getting the best lens for the type of photography you want to do.
Also, you can buy photography kits that are a solid starter package. Here is an example of a photography kit on Amazon.
You can spend a ton of money on lenses. A kit lens may come with your camera. This is often a general, all-purpose lens. You may find one with a range of 24-150mm. That measurement refers to the focal length.
A nifty fifty lens is a 50mm prime lens that is very popular for flat-lay images. It also is a good introductory lens that works well for event photography.
If you’re interested in taking headshots (like for clients to use on their LinkedIn profile), you need to invest in a portrait lens. An 85mm is a good starter for a camera with a crop sensor. If your camera has a full sensor, a 120mm is good.
No matter how steady you think your hands are, your camera will pick up the slightest motion. Do yourself a favor and purchase a tripod.
Make sure the connection will fit your camera. Otherwise, you will need to purchase an adapter.
Think through the height of the tripod you want before making a purchase. Read the specs and verify that it goes high enough for your needs.
You do not want to be editing images from a recent photoshoot only to accidentally corrupt your card and lose them all. Or have your computer crash and wipe out years’ worth of your images.
A way to back up your images is not optional in this business. You must have data backup.
You can purchase an external hard drive and automatically back up to that. Or you can invest in a service like Carbonite. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can use Amazon Photos to store unlimited photographs online.
A Light Tent
If you want to create styled stock photographs or photograph objects, a light tent can help. It diffuses the light and disperses it more evenly. These also help eliminate glare, helping you to produce a high-quality image. Tabletop style light tents are fairly inexpensive and can help you increase the number of photos you can sell.
What are you going to take pictures on? If you photograph flat-lay images of your computer for a feminine pic, where are you going to put your computer?
You need a backdrop that looks great and doesn’t create weird shadows. I highly recommend the vinyl backdrops from Swanky Prints. There’s such a great variety you will be able to find what you are looking for. I love that so many of them are reversible. It’s like getting two amazing backdrops for the price of one!
While natural light is beautiful to use in photography, you can’t always shoot with the perfect light conditions. A good starter set of lights will help you remove glare, get rid of shadows, and add just the right amount of brightness.
You can purchase lights that automatically turn on when you take a picture, which helps reduce energy usage and keeps people from having to stare into bright lights for long. Alternatively, you can purchase lights that are on all the time. This style is typically cheaper.
The Photography Super Bundle would make a great investment! It contains TONS of resources to help you take better photos, edit your photos, and bring them to market.
If you haven’t picked up your copy of the Photography Super Bundle, I wanted to give you a bit more info…
The Photography Super Bundle is your comprehensive collection of photography resources for:
- the beginning photographer who isn’t sure what the exposure triangle is
- the experienced photographer who has a great understanding of manual mode, but
- wants to learn to use light better or practice in a different specialty, or
- the advanced photographer who is earning a living from photography, but is looking for ways to increase income and streamline their processes.
If you’ve been meaning to grab this bundle, don’t miss this curated collection of resources to help you:
- master manual mode,
- take better pictures,
- edit and organize your photos, and
- earn more money from your photos.
Don’t miss it! Get yours here.
P.S. Still feeling unsure? I love their 30-day happiness guarantee. Their customer service is stellar, and it means there’s really no risk in trying it out.
What Kinds of Pictures Should You Take?
Bloggers and website owners are currently some of the biggest consumers of online photography. They want attractive images to include in every piece they create.
In the past few months, I’ve personally heard bloggers lament about the lack of quality photos that they can use in a commercial setting that feature:
- Horses or equestrian topics
- Special needs parenting
- Medical supplies and the medical industry
- Toys and play
- Automotive repair
I know there are other groups of bloggers desperate for great photos. That means, whatever topics bloggers are writing about, you have the potential to sell images in that space.
What do you enjoy photographing? Where are you at? Look around you and find unique things to photograph.
Additionally, you can sell photos that feature:
- People (pictures framed without faces are very popular on Pinterest)
- Work situations (in the office, on the worksite, etc.)
- Things (screws, medication, saddles, lunch boxes, glass jars, toy cars, etc.)
- Cars or car parts
Do some experimenting and see what you enjoy taking photographs of. Then do some research to see what is currently available in this space. Is there a need for more? Can you find a gap to provide photos for a niche where very few are available?
Edit Your Images
Take time to edit your photos before you try to sell them. You want to sell the highest quality possible, and you need to make sure the white balance, contrast, and sharpness are all correct.
I personally use Adobe Lightroom for almost all of my photo edits. But, if I ever have a photo that needs more in-depth editing, I always turn to Photoshop. You can buy a subscription to both programs for about $10/month.
Sell Your Photos Online
Once your photographs are done with the editing stage, it's time to sell them. There are many different websites to sell stock photography to. With these sites, the terms typically allow for multiple people to purchase the photo. You typically get paid a small amount for each person who purchases your photo. This makes it a great way to get residual income.
If you want to sell stock photography, check out:
- Adobe Stock
- Can Stock Photo
- Getty Images
- GL Stock Images
- Image Vortex
- SmugMug Pro
These websites each offer many different perks and payments for contributors. Always take time to read the terms and conditions so you know what you are getting into.
Don’t take anyone else’s’ word for this or try to read a condensed version. You are entering into a legal contract with your photographs, and you need to understand what rights you are giving other people to use with your images.
- Take time to learn:
- If your images can be altered
- How your images can be used
- Who owns the rights to the images
- If you can upload the same photograph to multiple sites or if it is an exclusive agreement
- What the minimum thresholds are for receiving payment
- How payment occur
Once you finish your research, you can decide on the best place to sell your photos. But, be aware of the pros and cons of doing this. One downside of selling photographs to stock photography sites is that there are so many photos on there. You really need to have unique, high-quality photos to make any traction. Since you don’t make a ton of money from each photo, you will need to sell a lot.
The good news is that there are tons of buyers. So, you have your images in front of more people who may decide they need to purchase your photo.
Alternatively, you can sell your photos yourself. This requires more technical know-how on your part, but you will be able to keep all of the money. There are themes and software specifically for photographers that allow you to easily set up a store. If you decide to go this route, make sure you have a secure site that people can safely make a payment to.
Sell Your Photos on Physical Items
Customized t-shirts, mugs, and canvases are all the rage right now. People love ordering things with unique photographs on them.
You can work with websites that allow customers to print your photos on a variety of tangible goods. Check out:
- CafePress offers several options for selling. You upload your images and designs, and people can order them on a variety of objects.
- Redbubble is similar to CafePress in the items they sell. Customers can purchase your photographs on vinyl stickers, phone cases, and more.
- Shutterfly can turn your images into calendars, photo gifts, and other popular products.
- eBay and Etsy are also options for selling your photos online. Etsy even allows minors on the site provided they have a parent or legal guardian managing their account.
Again, always read the fine print. Make sure you are profitable with the pricing of your products.
Market your Business and Get More Sales
Tags and keywords to help buyers better find your available photos. Keywords are words about your photographs that someone looking for images would use. It could be “pictures of horses for a blog” or “Images of computers.” Think about what your ideal client is looking for, and use their language.
Tell your network about your new photography side hustle. You never know who is looking for something.
You can use Facebook Groups as another way to connect with your potential buyers. Hang out where your clients are and add value to the conversation. Then when they need photos, they’ll already be familiar with your name.
Consider having a small set of free stock photos available as a freebie for your website. This can be a good way to collect email address and put you in touch with people who love your work. You can use your email marketing system, like ConvertKit, to send the images out.
How Much Can You Earn Online?
You probably aren't going to get rich selling photos online, but you can earn some extra cash from your efforts. That’s always a good thing!
Many studies estimate that sellers earn on average $0.25-0.45 per month for every image listed. That means if you have 100 images available for sale, you may be earning around $25-45 per month. More images = more money.
You also make more when you sell the photos directly to consumers yourself, as you eliminate the middleman. You can even partner up with people who want you to take unique, branded photography that’s exclusive for their business. These situations pay well but aren’t passive.
Selling photography can be a small side hustle you do for passive income. Or it can morph into your full-time gig. It really depends on your goals, and the type of photographs that you work with.