How to Make Money as a Professional Photographer

How to Make Money as a Professional Photographer

By on Nov 30, 2014 | 0 comments

If you have experience as a professional photographer, you can always sell your photos online for extra income. People are always looking for shots involving nature, structures, people, and most anything unusual to put in presentations or on their website, making this option a great money resource for someone that enjoys “capturing the moment.”

How to Do It

To get the most from your images, here is how to do it:

  • Step #1: Take high quality pictures. In order to have something to sell, you’re going to have to start by taking some high quality pictures. It helps to have your camera on you at all times, allowing you to capture life’s little impromptu moments that often happen with no notice at all.

Unique images are always great to sell because when you can get the viewer to look at something a different way or create an imDigital photo camera in studio with softbox and flashes.age that isn’t likely to be found anywhere else, you stand to make a good bit of money being an online professional photographer.

Also, simple photos sell better than complex ones. The reason for this is that they are easier to Photoshop, allowing the buyer to craft them so they meet their specific needs.

Remember that part of this step requires that your images be high quality. This means that you need to be familiar with things such as lighting, colour, shadows, and countless other photography-related concerns, and aren’t just using any old camera to point and shoot.

If your image has a person in it, you’re going to want to get their permission to sell it in writing. If you don’t, you could find yourself in some legal trouble, which isn’t going to help your bottom line at all.

Additionally, any image that is copyrighted by someone else cannot be sold by you. So, if you went and got your picture professionally taken, for instance, you have no right to sell that image yourself and make a profit on it unless the photographer agrees, which you’ll want that in writing as well.

  • Step #2: Decide which platform(s) you want to sell it on. There are many different online platforms to sell your photos on. A few of them include Dreamstime (you earn 25-60 percent commission),  (you get up to 70 percent of the income), iStock (which ranges from 15 to 45 percent commission) and Shutterstock (which pays anywhere from $0.25 to $120 per photo).

It may benefit you to register with more than one online agency in the event that your photos are not accepted by the one you chose first. Just make sure you use different pictures as some require that their website be the only place the photo is for sale.

If you have more experience taking professional photos, you might even want to try Getty Images, SmugMug, Zenfolio, or Corbis Images. These sites are higher caliber, which means that you’re more likely to get accepted than someone without professional photography experience.

You can even sell your own images on your own website if you wish. This allows you to keep 100 percent of the income, but it also means that you’re responsible to making sure your clients get what they pay for.

If it is only digital prints that you’re selling strictly for downloading purposes, that’s one thing. But if you are selling them on canvas or in frames, it will be up to you to make sure they get the finished product.

However, if you don’t mind creating a finished product, Etsy may be a good site for you to sell your photos on. They even have a blog that can help you better sell your goods when using their site.

  • Step #3: Create an account. When using an online platform other than your own website, you’re going to need to create an account. Read the fine print no matter which one you choose as the more you know up front, the shorter your learning curve and the quicker you can begin to earn some real cash.
  • Step #4: Upload your images. Each online site has their own requirements regarding picture uploads (for things such as picture size and megapixels), so it is important to review them first. This can save you a lot of time by decreasing your chance of rejection and having to repost images that actually meet their standards.

Also, each photo has a place where you can tag it with the appropriate keywords, making it easier for your buyer to find. Consider what words you would use to find that particular photo and use tags that include both the words themselves and variations of the words (like moon and nighttime sky).

  • Step #5: Wait for feedback. This is probably the hardest part, but most sites get back with you within just a day or two. If yours are accepted, congratulations! You can move on to step #6. If not, pay attention to the feedback they provide you and return to step number four.
  • Step #6: Market your images. Upon receiving notification that your images have been approved for sale, you’ll want to market them yourself to draw more traffic to them. Share the links on your social media page and include them on your website (if you’re not selling them there yourself).

Join forums and offer advice to people looking to take better photos. Get your name and your images out there and you have a better chance of increasing your sales.Depositphotos_13196758_original

  • Step #7: Optional: Create a local photography business and market it online. In addition to taking random photos and selling them online, you can also create a local photography business by taking wedding, family, and real estate photos, for instance, and market it online.

If this is an avenue that interests you, then you would likely want a website and social media pages for that business too. The great thing about social media is that people like to share pictures of themselves online, so you can build a subscriber base fairly easily. You may want to put a watermark on your photos though to ensure that no one steals them and violates your copyright.


Selling photos online is a great way to make extra cash if you enjoy professional photography and want maximum exposure of your images. Plus, you can earn endless money on the same photo over and over again, drawing in residual income long after your shutter has closed.


A huge con is that taking professional quality photos isn’t as easy as it looks, which can be extremely frustrating when you’re getting rejection after rejection. Even if you and all of your friends think your images are great to look at, that doesn’t mean that they are going to be accepted by photo-based sites. They look for things that most amateurs don’t see, making it difficult to tell whether or not yours will make the cut.

Earning Potential

Unless you have professional photography experience, you’re not likely to make much if any money selling your images online. However, if aperture, DSLR, and ISO are familiar terms to you and you know how to use them, then you can earn a decent income online selling your photos to people and businesses who want them.

Get the right shot and you can easily earn tens of thousands of dollars on it, but most of your images will likely come in well less than that amount. So, you may not want to quit your day job just yet.


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