3 Ways to Make Money on Your Photos

The legendary photographer Ansel Adams once remarked that “there are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”

If you’re sitting on a hard drive full of good photographs, why not try to capitalize on them? Selling your photography isn’t an easy path to riches (let’s not oversell it) but the internet has definitely lowered the barriers for entry for aspiring professionals to turn a few bucks on their images. Of course, lowered barriers for you mean lowered barriers for everyone with similar ambitions, but as they say: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Here are three ways you can profit from the images you’ve already taken.

1. Enter Them into Contests

The web is teeming with photography contests. Most are centered around themes (seasons, events, or photographic styles) and photo brands and even websites.

Photography contests won’t make you rich — the cash prize is usually minimal and sometimes you’ll just win photographic gear. But they do provide something else — publicity and a feather in your professional cap.

2. Sell Them to a Stock Agency

The proliferating assortment of blogs and websites has ushered in unprecedented demand for stock images. Most of the stock photo agencies have a fairly easy submissions process, allowing you join, upload your work and hope an interested party downloads it. Stock agencies won’t simply accept your images site unseen, some will have a panel of judges examine a few samples to make sure they’re up to snuff. After you’ve been accepted, you can typically submit images at will.

As with any third party, stock agencies will take a cut of any photograph they sell — a very large cut, in fact. The popular service Alamy says the average photo fetches $90 if it’s sold and Alamy gives sellers a 20 percent cut. Getty’s iStockPhoto, another popular services, gives photographers a 15 percent cut of any image sold although this can be boosted as high as 45 percent for photographers who qualify for their “exclusive” tier.

3. Sell Them Yourself

If you don’t want a stock agency taking their pound of your flesh and think you can generate exposure on your own, you can sell your images directly from your own website.

There are a few ways to go about this. You could buy web hosting, a URL and build a site on your own that will enable visitors to securely purchase/download your photography. WordPress-based e-commerce websites like Photocrati aren’t hard to find and, with a little tinkering, aren’t terribly difficult to set up.

If you’d rather outsource this work, third party services like Zenfolio or SmugMug will host your images in an e-commerce friendly format.  Rather than take a cut of your sales, they’ll charge a monthly fee for usage, so this option only makes financial sense if you’re reasonably confident you’ll do enough volume to recoup your costs. On the plus side, these services often allow you to sell photo merchandise in partnerships with photo labs, so you’ll have additional revenue opportunities beyond just photo downloads to profit from.

Have you tried to sell your photos? Any good (or bad) experiences you want to share about stock services? Sound off in the comments.

(Image: Wiki Commons)

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