Sell Your Photography Online – Is it Easy Or a Pipe Dream?

I’m constantly getting questions on how to sell your photography. Particularly trying to sell your photography online through stock photography agencies.

Many of you take gorgeous landscape, flower and insect photos and when you see a lot of the photos that are “out there”, you start to think, “My photos are better than that! I should sell them online!”

I enjoy shooting close-ups, flowers and etc. too! In fact, the very first accessory I bought for my first camera was a set of close-up lenses. I understand how intriguing it can be.

It IS possible to sell your photography online and through various stock agencies. The problem is, in order to make any decent amount of money, you have to have MASSIVE amounts of photos available for purchase.

Before the internet came along, the rule of thumb in dealing with stock photography was that you would average about $1 per year, per photo. So to make $30,000 dollars a year, you would have to have 30,000 photos being promoted through the stock agencies.

All well and good if you have 30,000 high quality photographs lying around.

(Don’t forget, each one has to be of high enough quality to be accepted by the agency, AND high enough quality to actually be something a buyer would want to purchase.)

Those were the dream days…now with the internet, virtually every photographer in the world, pro and amateur alike, is listing photos in the various stock sales outlets.

I haven’t heard a recent rule of thumb, but the prices have dropped so much, that I doubt you could average more than a few cents per year, per image.

Check out the various online stock photo agencies to see what I mean. There are literally millions of stock photos that can be bought for about $1.50. (Or less.)

What are the odds that any one person’s photo would be picked? And then if it is, they only make about a buck! (Don’t forget that the agency gets a cut of the proceeds.)

I just went on one of the more popular stock websites and entered the search term “lady bug”. I got 4066 results. And that is only one of literally thousands of stock agencies a photo buyer could go.

PLUS…When a buyer is looking to buy a lady bug photo, they aren’t going to look at EVERY lady bug shot. They will look at the first page or two, pick one and move on. Even if you have the best lady bug photo the world has ever seen, what are the odds of it being found by your particular buyer?

Slim to none.

When I recommend NOT selling online, it has NOTHING to do with quality or your photo abilities. It is simply a numbers game.

Imagine how much competition there is for a more popular subject than lady bugs!

There’s just plain too much competition to make a living.

I recommend that you put all of your photos in stock agencies as a lifelong project, but not as any sort of income strategy. If you put thousands of photos online every year, for your entire career…you might make enough to make a house payment in your retirement years.


So, what to do?

If you can do amazing pictures of flowers, landscapes and insects, you can do amazing pictures of someone’s pet! I’ve made literally hundreds of thousands of dollars with pet portraits.

Start a little part time pet photo business and you will very quickly get a customer base of happy people throwing money at you. Plus, then get a signed release from each client and you can post the pictures to the stock companies too!

As artists, we tend to be introspective and shy. we hesitate putting ourselves out there…

You wouldn’t know it now, but I was once painfully shy! Heck, just being in the same room with a pretty girl would give me the jitters and within minutes I would be literally drenched in sweat.

My pet photo business brought me out of it.

Now I have no problem with working with perfect strangers…even world class beauties. Having moved past my horrible shyness is probably the single best thing that has ever happened.

It is probably worth starting a Part Time Photography business just for that!

I don’t want to dash anyone’s dreams…I just want to be realistic.

If you want to shoot bugs, and flowers – DO IT! But, think of your photography as a hobby where you might pick up one or two bucks every once in a while.

If you want to make a living (it’s not difficult), then you have to shoot in areas where people are willing to spend money.