When you’re trying to earn a living as a blogger or freelance entrepreneur, you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Instead, you need to look at multiple passive income streams to leverage your assets and skills. This means diversifying within your niche. One way of achieving this is to license your photographs to stock photography sites.
Bloggers no longer work in a text-only world. Images and videos have become an ever-more-important aspect of websites and blog posts—and the Internet overall. That means there’s a continual demand for images.
If you take photos for your blog or social media posts, consider offering them to stock photos sites. As a result, your photographs could end up being used for other bloggers’ posts, promotional materials, or in magazines, business documents, and books. Online and off, the potential is limitless, and you’ll create a new passive income stream.
Top Two Stock Photography Sites
You can choose to sell your images on multiple stock photography sites. However, many force you into an exclusive agreement, which means you can’t sell your images anywhere else. Therefore, it behooves you to choose a site that gives you the flexibility of making your image available across multiple sites. In this way, you increase your content’s reach. Of all the stock photo sites out there, the two reported to have the highest payouts are Adobe Stock (aka Fotolia) and Shutterstock.
Adobe software is the professional standard for photographers and illustrators. And Adobe Stock integrates seamlessly with programs like Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator to make it easy for freelance creatives to search and insert stock photos into their creative projects.
- Formerly known as Fotolia, it was the first site to offer stock photos.
- Adobe offers the highest royalty share, and you can earn up to a 33% royalty rate for each photograph.
- More information: contributor.stock.adobe.com/
Shutterstock has a broad reach and advertises on many of the free image sites. They’re probably the most recognizable of all the stock photography sites.
- Shutterstock has been around for nearly as long as Fotolia.
- Your royalty rate is based on the license and subscription used for each download and the earnings tier to which you belong. You can earn up to 30% of the sales price of your image.
- More information: submit.shutterstock.com/
Using your Website to Sell Your Images
You have the option of making your images available through your own website to keep 100% of the royalties. But unless you’re getting millions of visitors to your website, it will take a lot of work to promote your images, attract website traffic, and make this a strong passive income stream.
A better option is to use your website as an additional platform to supplement the stock photo sites. Create an online portfolio and give visitors the option of purchasing directly from your website but include links to the stock photo sites with which you’ve partnered.
You might be wondering how you get paid by these stock photo sites. Let me explain.
A person who decides to purchase one of your photos pays a license fee to use the image. The fees vary greatly depending on whether they’ve enrolled in a subscription plan (e.g., X number of images per month for a monthly fee) or a single purchase. Prices also vary based on how the image is used. They pay more for commercial use. For example, if a large well-known company is going to use your image on their product packaging, the license fee will be higher than if a small company wants to use your image in their internal newsletter or to illustrate a blog post.
The licensing fee structure is complicated, but Adobe Stock and Shutterstock have extensive help and online resources to help you navigate the pricing structure. At the end of the day, you need to understand whether you’re giving away exclusive rights, or if your image can also be licensed to others.
How Much Work Does it Take to Sell Your Images?
Selling the usage rights to your photos is a straightforward way to create a passive income stream. And although it’s an easy process, it takes time to upload your images and create the most effective metadata labels to make sure they get discovered.
Taking photographs is the straightforward aspect of stock photography. The repetitive and mundane task of assigning multiple relevant tags to each image deters many photographers from going down the stock photo route.
Assigning Metadata to Your Images
You need robust metadata to ensure your images show up in the search results. So, before you start uploading your images, take some time to search for similar images online in any of the stock photo sites to see what metadata they’ve used to describe their images.
Examples of keywords
You definitely want to apply generic keywords, like lake, woman, house, bucket, etc. Still, it would be best if you supplement them with more specific terms. For example, Lake Eire, old woman, wooden Tudor house, or dark red metal bucket. It’s better to include too much information than not enough.
You also can be specific about geographic location (e.g., country/state/town/village), type of setting (e.g., urban, country, business, social/family gathering), or identifying characteristics (e.g., color, shape, size, season, weather).
The more specific you are when describing your image, the greater the chance of it showing up in search results and getting licensed. Additionally, you can assign conceptual keywords to convey the mood of your image. For example, dramatic, inspirational, eerie, uplifting, etc. This is especially useful for people who are searching for an image to fit the theme of their creative campaign.
Contributors can use the automated keyword generators available through Adobe Stock and Shutterstock to generate lists of keywords. You can then accept or reject the suggestions.
Before you start assigning keywords, have a dig around stock photo sites at the available images related to your subject matter and see what keywords are being used.
Types of Images that Sell
If you’re already writing a blog or blogging book within a specific content niche, it makes sense to leverage that niche to build an inventory of stock photos. When you’re familiar with a niche, you can use that knowledge to identify the image gaps within your marketplace.
Images containing people in authentic settings are good sellers. However, you will have to obtain a model release form to license the sale of your photographs unless the people’s faces are obscured (e.g., facing away from you) or cut off.
Seasonal events and annual celebrations are excellent evergreen stock photography opportunities. Take the photos one year and then offer them for sale well in advance of the next occurrence. But be cognizant of elements within your photograph that date it, like fashions, decor, trends, or fads.
To increase the chances of selling your images, check The Shot List, which is a monthly guide to the most requested Shutterstock content.
Create Passive Income Over Time
Stock photography isn’t a get rich quick scheme. Yet, many photographers are focused on taking images to upload to stock photo sites, and they do so because this is one of their revenue streams. If you’re already taking photographs to illustrate your blog or share on social media, it’s worth the effort to choose your best images and upload them to stock photography sites. By doing so, you might very well generate a steady stream of passive income.
Are you planning on making money from your photographs? Please share your ideas for turning your passion for photography into supplemental income by adding a comment below. And if you enjoyed this post, please share it with a friend.
About the Author
Jay Artale abandoned her corporate career to become a digital nomad and full-time writer. She’s an avid blogger and a nonfiction author helping travel writers and travel bloggers achieve their self-publishing goals. Join her at Birds of a Feather Press where she shares tips, advice, and inspiration to writers with an independent spirit.
Photo courtesy of aurielaki.