What are the Best Stock Photo Sites?
Whether you’re new to selling stock photography & creative digital assets, or you’re a seasoned veteran, it’s always good to know what stock photography sites are the best to sell on.
Stock Photography isn’t dying any time soon, which is why Adobe Stock not too long back got into the game themselves and built their stock photo offering for us.
That being said, if you’re looking to start up with selling your own photos on Stock Websites, this is the article for you. It’s not easy, but with enough hard work & hustle, you can be making a nice passive income.
Sit back, grab a coffee, and lets get started with our list of the best sites to sell photos…
Now this is by no means a “Top 10 Best Stock Photos Websites” type of article, more just a general overview of the best sites to sell photos….HOWEVER..
Let’s be honest here, Shutterstock are pretty OG when it comes to Stock Photography, founded in 2003, they go back quite a way before some of the Stock Photography sites on this list. Over the years they’ve also acquired Bigstock, Flashstock and a few others to name a few.
But what makes them a good site to sell your photos?
Well as mentioned, they have a gigantic user base, with tons of individual subscribers as well as professional design studios subscribing to their service. As a seller here is their earnings breakdown:
So as you can see with the image above, there are four different tiers depending on how much you sell. Plans with size restrictions can generate anywhere from $.81 – $1.24 per sale, and those without can generate $1.88 – $2.85 per download.
Enhanced License downloads start at 20%, and Footage Downloads (if you’re a video guy/gal) are 30%
Now we’re talking about the best sites to sell photos, it wouldn’t be a true list if we didn’t include iStockPhoto. These guys are true monsters of the stock photography game, and similar to Adobe Stock, allow you to sell Illustrations and Templates.
But are they a good website to sell stock photos? Lets take a look…
iStock are not exactly known for their amazing commissions, because they are so big now, plus merging with Getty Images, they are technically a “microstock” website, in essence, they became so big they just cant offer the same commissions as other websites. Is this a problem? Not if you can upload the volume of photos you’ll need to be profitable, but otherwise…. you may struggle just a bit.
Either way, here is iStock’s commission structure, with both exclusive and non exclusive percentages.
The good thing though is that they have a significant amount of subscribers, so if you can crack the volume and keep a regular upload schedule, iStock should serve you very well indeed!
Envato Elements is the subscription based offering from Graphic Assets Company Envato. They also own Graphicriver and Photodune which are other sites you can sell on. But Elements is their direct competition if you will to Shutterstock, so lets see how they compare.
They pay out 50% of the net subscription revenue from subscribers who download your items, plus being based on a subscriber share model you’ll get commissions every month.
It’s a bit different to shutterstock, but it just kind of works!
The good thing about Envato compared to other companies is that they are very community focused, and they’ll often scout round people’s portoflios for new items to promote to their Gigantic Email list, a great thing to note, as with some of these stock sites your work can go amiss if not marketed correctly by the marketplace (or indeed yourself!).
Adobe Stock is relatively newer to the industry than some of the competition here in this article. However, we’re talking Adobe here….so the quality is absolutely bang on as you’d expect!
But the question you’re wondering is this, how much will they pay me for my photos? :O
The image below shows their commission/earnings structure, starting at 33% Commission Royalties.
The main thing to consider when selling stock is that the commission/earnings will be different on all platforms, as they all set their own pricing structures. Some choose a percentage based system based on individual downloads, whereas some like Envato have subscriber share models. We’ll sum up which one we prefer at the end of this article! Keep reading 🙂
Fundamentally, find which ones suit you best, and then focus on a consistent upload regime to keep a fresh array of products in front of your potential customers online!
Creativemarket is how I personally started to sell digital assets online, aswell as Envato. So what can I say about Creativemarket? Only good things! Their commission structure is pretty simple compared to the rest on this list.
Basically, once approved as a seller, you can set your own prices (always a good thing!) or indeed settle for auto pricing, which is a cool feature they have. From here, each sale will get you 60% of the final sale. PLUS there is no exclusivity lock-in.
Going back not so long ago the commission used to be 70%. But hey ho…. that’s just how it goes! Simply increase your product prices a little to reflect the change in structure and it’s just like old times!
A good thing to note is that Creativemarket, similar to Envato are very community-focused, and they’re constantly using their email list to promote new products, so that the popular products don’t just dominate the rankings. It’s also good if you need help selling, there is a very friendly forum and all the staff are lovely to speak to also. I can’t recommend Creativemarket enough! 🙂
Founded in 2009, Depositphotos are certainly one of the best sites to sell photos. Why? Because they have a huge array of stock photos and people selling on their platform, as well as many top design agencies using them to source their images. The quality is very high and they’re no slouch to the game, being formed in 2009.
So let’s look at how much they will give you if you sign up to their platform and start your stock photography journey!
Well firstly, DepositPhotos has a tiered plan hierarchy, from Green to Platinum based on how many photos you’ve sold.
Secondly, they have different royalties for download via On Demand or via Subscription, which you can see below:
As you can see, its not too dissimilar to some of the commission structures we’ve seen above.
Dreamstime is one of the older Stock Photography Websites, being set up in 2004, before some of the above sites even existed ^
I remember being a relatively young designer and seeing links to Dreamstime and being amazed by all the top stock photographers and thinking “One day, when i have enough for a Camera!”; so they’re pretty well established.
Ok…but how much can you make selling stock photos on Dreamstime?
Ok, so the table below may be a bit of a “mind-blown” type of thing, but it shows their pricing structure. There are both exclusive and non-exclusive prices,
infact the commission jumps up to a massive 60% if you become an “Exclusive user”
However, this is a big thing to consider, do you sell on 5 platforms as non exclusive, or do you separate your images into exclusive / non-exclusive piles? I think if the commission structure is worth it, then by all means ,separate your work into different stock photo categories.
Either way, Dreamstime remains to this day one of the best sites to sell photos, due to its popularity and age. It’s worth setting up an account and uploading some of your work to test the waters!
Questions & Answers
How much money can you make selling stock photos
This is entirely up to you and the amount of platforms that you sell on. There are many case studies out there of Photographers who only shoot stock as their sole form of income. But is that an easy thing to accomplish?
If you’re just starting out with Photography, it’s probably best not to put all your eggs in one basket and just become a stock photographer, it seems a bit risky to do that in this day and age..
Instead, focus on maybe getting some regular clients, or commissions from big projects like weddings/fashion photoshoots, then maybe get some of your models to sign a stock photo contract whereby you can use a model release to upload these photos to different stock platforms. At least then you can slowly build up your stock photography portfolio.
From here it’s just volume volume & more volume… You need to be constantly uploading high quality stock photos every week or ideally every day for you to build up that type of “passive income” volume that you see in all of the case studies and of course the youtube videos saying how you can “make 6 figures a year from stock photography!!!!”
Why are stock photos so expensive
To the average person they seem expensive, but to the photographer that took 2-3 hours to get that single shot, or for that wildlife photographer that spent 3 days birdwatching in the blistering cold just to get that perfectly timed photo with perfect bokeh in the background; its certainly not expensive enough!
Stock photography is a strange niche of photography, because just like websites such as 99designs, stock photos are a dime a dozen, with hundreds of thousands of them being uploaded across all these platforms every day.
Just like with other areas of design, designer’s need to know their worth; as competition increases, and you simply cannot survive off a small income, especially if you’re a freelancer
How to take good stock photos
This is worth another article entirely, however, as a rough guide, here’s some quick advice on how to take good stock photos:
Be Unique – This one kind of goes without saying, but if your photos are unique and memorable, people will notice your photos before the rest of the competition on these stock sites, and ultimately, click and purchase yours.
Shoot High Res / Quality Images – Once again, the majority of stock photos get rejected based on too high ISO Levels, poor contrast, poor focus & vignetting amongst other things. Make sure your photos are quality, simple.
Follow Trends – Following “trends” is not a bad thing, neither is it “copying” or “selling out”. Following trends is a great way to predict sales, and also to make sales. Is there a FIFA Soccer Tournament a few months away? Well make sure to shoot soccer photos. With the current epidemic in China going on, it’s no surprise that big newspapers and online sources will be looking for images in the areas of health, well being, viruses etc, so take advantage of this!
How to find stock photos for free
Well often more than not, the big stock photo companies will give away some photos for free every month. However, if you’re after CC0, Completely FREE Stock Photos, there are a few places I usually send people:
Unsplash – For me personally, they are the kings of Free Online Stock. The downloads are high quality, unique and have a certain indie appeal based on how unsplash was started all those years ago. Just a very cool place to pick up free stock
Pexels – A super popular free stock photo website, they are almost the same as Unsplash, but as a subjective matter of opinion here, I just prefer Unsplash.
So there we have it, a list of the best sites to sell photos, from iStock to Adobe Stock, we’ve listed the main ones you need to consider selling on.
Are there more? Of course there are, but there is certainly a law of diminishing returns when it comes to uploading Stock, and you should really focus on the main ones that are going to bring in the majority of your new income stream, aka: Stock Photography!