How to Make Money Online Selling Your Photographs on Microstock Websites

Updated on February 9, 2017
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Eugene is a keen amateur photographer, primarily interested in nature. He has a portfolio of images on YouPic


What are Royalty-Free Microstock Image Agencies?

A microstock agency is basically an online company which allows you to upload images to their photo gallery database. Images are displayed under a series of categories and can be searched for by users of the site by using keywords. You can then make money every time someone downloads your image. Microstock agencies source their photos predominantly over the Internet and from a wider range of photographers than the classical photographic agencies. The latter usually deal with professional photographers who must submit a portofolio in order to have their photographs considered for sale. Microstock agencies will accept from amateurs and generally pay between 20c and $10 per download.

How Does It Work?

Some of the Microstock agencies require you to study a tutorial on photography, and then take a simple online test, answering questions about material in the tutorial. Once you have done that, you may upload your photographs. On completion of the upload process you must provide details about each photograph. This is actually the most tedious part, as you have to name, categorize and provide keywords for each image. The problem is that if the photo is not accepted, all the work is done in vain. I think it would be better if sites accepted or rejected photographs first and if they are accepted, you would only then have to index them.

When someone downloads a photograph, you get paid a commission. A user can download various resolution versions of your image and the amount you earn varies appropriately. The images are royalty free (RF) which means that once a user pays for a download they can basically do what they like with the image within certain limits. They don't pay a royalty for each use of the image but cannot re-sell it for profit.

Uploading images to microstock agencies is just one more way of making money on the Internet. If you are lucky and can produce photos which the market wants, it could be a good source of pocket money!

Will Microstock Agencies Accept Any Old Image?

There are certain criteria which must be fulfilled when uploading a photograph. Images containing recognizable people must be accompanied by a model release which is a document signed by the person appearing in the photograph giving permission to publish the image.

Photographs should be properly exposed, subjects should be in sharp focus and the image needs to be free from camera shake and any JPG artifacts. These can occur due to the image compression process which occurs every time a JPG image is stored. The image processing package which you use to adjust contrast, color saturation, cropping and other touching up of photographs before uploading should be set to highest quality and lowest compression when saving images. Some of the agencies are somewhat fussy regarding this and will reject a photograph for all sorts of technical reasons such as bad exposure, JPG compression artifacts in the image and fuzziness due to bad focusing and camera shake. Uninteresting subjects and copyright issues due to company logos appearing in images is also a basis for rejection. Other agencies will basically accept any images as long as they are accompanied by model releases and don't contain obscene content.

Remember also that every time you save a JPG, it loses quality, so don't continually save after every edit. Alternatively you can set your camera to save images in uncompressed TIFF format and also edit photos as TIFFs before converting to JPG for upload. The downside is that the filesize of TIFF images can be much greater requiring greater storage space on your camera's flash memory and can take longer to download.

What Type of Images Should You Upload?

Again it depends on the agency and one in particular, accepts nearly everything. Don't bother uploading pretty pictures of flowers or your cat. They have plenty of those on their site and often will not accept these types of images. If you have something striking in this category though, it may be accepted. Photographs which sell well are often those which represent a concept and can be used commercially on websites, cards, news articles etc. Think for instance of the concepts of beauty, power, money, love, work and happiness and the sort of images you often see on birthday cards, magazine articles and websites accompanying the text. These are often sourced by designers as royalty free pictures from stock agencies for use on their website.

Conceptual and Editorial Images Have the Potential to Sell Well


Which are the Best Agencies to Upload To? is the least fussy followed by


Other good sites to upload to are and its sister site


Some websites allow you to upload photographs and then actually pay you for each view of your image, an example is Don't expect to become rich quick. You normally get paid between 50c and $1 per 1000 views but if you upload lots of good quality popular photographs, the pennies will add up. This site also allows you to add links to anything on the Internet and create blogs. Both of these options will earn on a per view basis.

Edit: In the last few months I have discovered and Both these sites appear to accept any photos irrespective of quality. However terms still apply to what you submit.

Did You Find This Article Useful?

Was the info in this article useful and instructive? How can I improve it? Would you like to ask me any questions?

Please provide some feedback below, and also I would appreciate it if you could rate it and pin it on Facebook or Pinterest.


Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Eugene Brennan


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      • TaraSquirrel profile image

        Tarasquirrel 9 months ago from Azores

        I have tried a couple of sites like these and had no luck. I still use a couple of mobile apps that sell photos but hasn't been easy either.

        Thanks for sharing the rest of the sites. There were some i didn't know about.

      • eugbug profile image

        Eugene Brennan 23 months ago from Ireland

        Thank Jill! Most sites won't payout until you reach about $50. However you could be lucky and publish a photo which becomes popular. Public domain image sites such as Pixabay have become popular also in recent years meaning that people can download images without even having to pay anything (apart from an optional PayPal "donation"). So making money on these sites is more difficult. I have uploaded several images to Pixabay, resulting in thousands of downloads (wish I could have been that successful on the microstock sites!). The main reason I did that though was so that I could add a link back to my profile here, and people might visit! (wishful thinking!)

      • The Dirt Farmer profile image

        Jill Spencer 23 months ago from United States

        This is a handy resource, eugbug. Thanks for sharing. I am bookmarking it.

      • eugbug profile image

        Eugene Brennan 2 years ago from Ireland

        I've never come across that scenario Scott. I must look into it. What annoys me about a lot of these microstock sites though is not the time it takes to upload, but the effort required to title, categorise and tag photos.. and then they may not even be accepted.

      • promisem profile image

        Scott Bateman 2 years ago

        Eugbug, I read somewhere that it's possible to host the photos on your own site and allow photo sites to display them using links you provide. That way you save time from uploading the same photo to multiple sites. Have you found that to be true?

      • eugbug profile image

        Eugene Brennan 2 years ago from Ireland

        Thanks Mary! You never know, some of your photos could be highly sought after! Thanks for dropping in!

      • tillsontitan profile image

        Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

        Your hub was listed in my photography hub so I stopped by for a read. Good information and tips! I'm not sure my photos fit the bill but you never know.

        Vot4ed up, useful, and interesting.

      • tehgyb profile image

        Don Colfax 3 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

        Hmm, I'm not a photographer, nor do I dream of being one... but I might have to just keep my camera handy and see what I can make. A few extra bucks here and there never hurt anyone ;P

      • eugbug profile image

        Eugene Brennan 4 years ago from Ireland

        Thanks for the kind comment Rushi!

      • passionate77 profile image

        passionate77 4 years ago

        very informative and helpful post, thanks for sharing, stay blessed!

      • eugbug profile image

        Eugene Brennan 4 years ago from Ireland

        Hi Aman, thanks for the comment! I haven't made much money doing this but if you are lucky, take good quality, commercially desirable photos, there is the potential to make some earnings. There are lots of sites also which accept vector graphics. Another option, if you are good at graphic art design, is creating logos for companies.

      • amanthkr01 profile image

        Aman Thakur 4 years ago from India

        Hello eugbug,

        Thanks for sharing this informative hub. Really this is a good opportunity for those who have a good flair in photography. Sharing and voting up!

      • eugbug profile image

        Eugene Brennan 5 years ago from Ireland

        Hi vimsoo3 and sallybea. Thanks for the comments and for dropping in!

      • sallybea profile image

        Sally Gulbrandsen 5 years ago from Norfolk

        A very interesting and useful article which I am going to bookmark so I can come back to it later. Voted up, shared.

      • vims003 profile image

        Vimesh Ummer.U 5 years ago from india

        Hi eubug...its really interesting and informative hub.thanks for share.

      • eugbug profile image

        Eugene Brennan 5 years ago from Ireland

        Hi Crystal! Thanks for the kind comments!

        Wow! This hub is getting lots of traffic today. Spring is the air and everyone must be getting inspired to sell their photos!

      • Crystal Tatum profile image

        Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

        This is a very informative hub. Thanks for taking the time to explain all the ins and outs of this process. Voted up, useful and sharing!

      • prasadjain profile image

        Dr.S.P.PADMA PRASAD 5 years ago from Tumkur

        Very useful information.Thanks

      • iguidenetwork profile image

        iguidenetwork 5 years ago from Austin, TX

        Thanks for your tip.. I like photography too will take a crack at that! Voted up, useful and bookmarked. :)

      • eugbug profile image

        Eugene Brennan 5 years ago from Ireland

        Hi Suzie and Eiddwen! Thanks a lot for the comments!

        You have persevere with these websites and some of them are very strict and reject practically every photo unless it is technically perfect. I would first try uploading photos to the sites which are least fussy as mentioned above. Also strategic tagging of photos is important. Also many of the sites have a minimum earnings threshold of about $50 so it could take some time to get paid if you only earn a dollar or two per image!

      • Eiddwen profile image

        Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

        Thank you so much for sharing this interesting and useful hub. I shall be trying this out and will let you know how I get on. Have a great day.,.


      • Suzie HQ profile image

        Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

        Hi eubug,

        A very informative article with great first hand info! Really love to explore this avenue as a revenue source even if it is small, it all helps! Definitely keep this for future reference. Many thanks! Voted Up, Useful, Interesting, Shared and Pinned.

      • eugbug profile image

        Eugene Brennan 5 years ago from Ireland

        Thanks for the comments!

        It is important though that the photos you submit are striking or different to improve sales. Also conceptual images are more commercially desirable and likely to sell.

      • viveresperando profile image

        viveresperando 5 years ago from A Place Where Nothing Is Real

        Found this interesting and love the idea of taking pictures that can be sold. :)

      • crookedcreekphoto profile image

        crookedcreekphoto 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

        Thanks for answering some of my questions. I've been wondering how to sell more of my photos. I guess you just have to work your rear end off to make any money. I'll be checking into some of these.

      • EyesStraightAhead profile image

        Shell Vera 6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

        Thank you for sharing this information about selling photos. I don't have photos that would sell but love to take scenic and random pictures. You bring up good points about the types of photos that would do well selling for businesses, websites, etc. That is something to keep in mind when you want to make some extra money with your photography by selling stock photos.

      • eugbug profile image

        Eugene Brennan 6 years ago from Ireland

        Hi sgbrown and thanks for the comment and vote!

        There are probably plenty of other microstock sites but these were the ones I have some experience of. I don't have any experience of but will take a look at the site today!

      • sgbrown profile image

        Sheila Brown 6 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

        Hi eugbug! I found this hub very interesting! I have been selling some photos on the larger sites, but have a few that aren't just right for them. Maybe I will try some of the less pickier sites for some of them. Every little bit helps! Thanks for the information. Voted up and useful!