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An example of a stock photograph used in a blog post explaining how to make money with your photographs using stock photography
Written: April 2020

Making money online without putting in too much effort, who wouldn’t want that? In this post I will tell you how you can make a passive income with your photographs.

Like me, you probably have folders upon folders upon folders of photographs on your laptop, phone and other digital storage devices. When you took them you thought “wow, this is a great photo!”. Then you stored them and...


These photographs, great as they were, ended up collecting dust. Well, digital dust. And that's sad, because they are probably worth more. What if I told you that you could have a use for them? And maybe, just maybe, you could even make some money from them?

Yeah, I knew that would spark your interest.

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Over the years, I have collected thousands of photographs from my travels. Upon my return I was always super exited about the pictures I took. I would show them to my friends and family, used some in blog posts, maybe put one as my desktop wallpaper, and that was it.

Then one day, I started to search for ways to put these photographs to a good use, preferably one that would help me on my quest to become financially independent. So, I asked Google: How to make money with my photographs?

Google had many answers. However, as I am far from a professional photographer, I didn’t see myself selling single photographs or putting up for an exposition. I also don’t see myself getting paid assignments as a professional photographer. Therefore, I started to look into another option: stock photography.

Making money with stock photography

This post is part of a series of posts on stock photography explaining how to make money with stock photography and how to create the best selling photographs called All you need to know to make money with stock photography. Check it out!

The stock photography business provides images to content creators that don't have the images they need themselves. They either don't have the skills, or materials, or simply just don't have the time to create the images they need. Though stock photography has been around for over a century, the internet has made it easily accessible for everyone, both to find images as well as to contribute their own photographs.

Stock photography is big business. Shutterstock, one of the biggest stock photo websites out there, has already paid out 800 million US dollars to it's contributors 1. Man, that's big money. In this post, I will explain to you how you can tap into this 800 million and get your share of the pie.

Now that we are all in isolation due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and some - like myself - have even lost their jobs, now is the time to put those photos online and make them earn you a little money. I mean, what else are you doing now? Binge watching Dr. Phil?

I have summarized this post in my very first infographic to make it easy to save and share. So, feel free to share it, pin it, tweet it or embed this infographic using the snippet of code below.

An infographic explaining how to make money online with stock photography in five steps.
This infographic on your site? Use the code below.

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What is stock photography?

So, let’s start, shall we? First, I think it's good to dive a little deeper into the question of what stock photography is. For those that already know this, you can skip this and go straight down to the part where I tell you how to start making money with stock photography.

For many people, stock photography is best known for those cheesy pictures of people in a meeting looking like they are having the time of their lives, or those super cute happy couples doing super cute happy couple things (like the one below). Yuck!

An example of a stock photograph used in a blog post explaining how to make money with your photographs using stock photography
A super cute happy couple doing super cute happy couple things.
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay.

However, this is not what all stock photos are like. You can also find amazing landscapes, flowers, people looking more natural and even rather artistic photographs. Here is an example of something much better that I found on Pixabay.

An example of a stock photograph used in a blog post explaining how to make money with your photographs using stock photography
Something much better found on Pixabay.
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay.

Stock photography websites are a great resource for those looking for visual content for their websites or publications. Sometimes, you just don’t have the photograph to fit your content, but you do need an image to to cover your post or to break up a long stretch of text. That’s where stock photographs come in.

Imagine I was writing about dogs and how great and cute they are, but all dog pictures I have are of my one-eyed battle scarred pitbull called Fifi. Though imaginary Fifi is the sweetest dog ever, she looks like she would eat your kids. So, what would I do? I can’t publish my post with a picture of Fifi.

My solution would be to go to a stock photo site, type in something like “cute dog” and browse the result. In this case, the first image that popped up was this pug in a blanket looking like Baby Yoda. Awwhh, cute! Sorry imaginary Fifi, but this guy will better capture my audience than your scarred face.

An example of a stock photograph used in a blog post explaining how to make money with your photographs using stock photography
Awwhh, cute! Baby Yoda...
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay.

Now then, what exactly are stock photographs? Stock photographs are free to use images that - depending on the website - are either freely available to all, free to subscribers or pay-per-download.

Shutterstock, for instance, allows people to purchase a subscription - either monthly or yearly - allowing them to download 750 images per month. Or, for the smaller publisher, they allow you to pay for a finite number of images (5 photos, for instance).

So, now that we know what stock photography is, it’s time to figure out how it can help us to make a little money. That’s what you are here for right?

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How does stock photography work?

There are two sides to stock photography: the searching side, like I explained above, and the providing side. The images on these websites are not all provided by the website themselves. Instead, they are provided by their contributors: professional photographers and normal people that just like photography.

As a contributor, you can upload your pictures to these websites and earn royalties per download. These aren’t huge amounts, often around 0,25 to 0,50 cents for a download, but every image can be downloaded multiple times, which - if you provide the right photographs - can add up to more significant amounts.

Some of these websites also offer extra services such as on-demand images or images for merchandisers, which are rewarded with higher royalties but require more work. In this post, however, I focus on the “normal” stock photo market, as that is what I use most and which is the most passive form of making money.

Sounds good huh? Let’s see how it works then.

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How to earn money with stock photography?

So, here we go. In five simple steps I will explain to you how you can start making money with your photographs. Watch and learn!

Step 1: Pick the website that fits you best

There are many stockphoto platforms out there, each with it’s own rules and regulations. Some pay their contributors, others don’t. 500px, Shutterstock, Adobe Stock and are just a hand full of them. Just type “stockphoto” in Google search and see what pops up. Take a minute to read through their guidelines and rules and see which one fits you best.

One tip: be realistic! Don't try to get into the highest paying and most professional website while your photographs are just your average vacation photographs shot with your smartphone.

Free stock photographs

There are also websites that offer free images, such as Pixabay. I have often used Pixabay as a free source of images for All around the Earth and - though their stock is not as extended as that of the paid sites - they do offer great quality images.

If you use an image from a free stock photos such as those from Pixabay, be sure to add the link to the creator’s page (see the photographs used in this post). You are not forced to, but be nice. See it as a thank you to the person that put effort in making this photo available for you. And, if an image has helped you generate an income, just make sure you buy the photographer a coffee using the donation button on Pixabay.

Step 2: Create your account

Go to the website of your choosing. Sign up and - when you are accepted - make sure you add a profile image, description, link to your website (if you have one) and add links to your social media accounts. Make your profile as complete as possible to help people find you and make possible customers see who is behind the image.

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Step 3: Select your best photographs

This is where the fun begins: selecting your best photographs. Maybe you already have had to upload some to get accepted, depending on the site of your choosing, or maybe you are still in a trial fase where your first photos will be assessed to see whether you are the type of photographer they are looking for, but that doesn’t really matter for this step.

Browse through your photographs and select your best. One website will be more strict with what kinds of photographs they accept than the other. So before uploading, browse around the site a bit to see what types of photographs they have accepted in the past and adapt your selection to fit in with that.

Make sure that the first images you upload will be some of your best, some you are comfortable will be accepted, as it might all depend on these first photographs.

Step 4: Upload your photographs

Now you have selected the right images, head over to your selected stock photo website and hit the “submit” button. Now upload the image or images you want to submit and add the requested details.

Give your image an accurate title, description and category. Make sure that these capture the subject of the image to the best of your ability. No more, no less. Don’t make them just one word, a list of keywords or a repetition of a word or it’s synonyms.

Make sure to pick as many keywords as possible, but again, keep it real. I can't stress this too much. People tend to go crazy when it comes to keywords - not just in stock photography but all over the web - stuffing in keywords that are not related to the subject at all. Don’t add “wolf” to a picture of a “chihuahua”, for instance. Not only is a chihuahua nothing near a wolf, you can also be sure that someone looking for a picture of a wolf will never download your chihuahua anyway.

An example of a stock photograph used in a blog post explaining how to make money with your photographs using stock photography
Hey! You're no wolf...
Image by Kevin Phillips from Pixabay.

When picking keywords, consider keywords in the following categories:
  • The subject,
  • synonyms (a peak can also be a summit or a top),
  • broader subject (travel, food, animals, etc.),
  • location (city, region, country, continent, etc.),
  • color,
  • separate multi-word keywords (green butterfly, green, butterfly),
  • emotions (happy, sad, melancholic, etc.),
  • background (your subject can be in a city, a forest, the mountains, etc.).

Be smart when it comes to using keywords and remember that without the title, description, category and keywords, your picture will probably never be found.

In most cases, your images will be reviewed within a few days after which they are either accepted and go online, or declined. Use this feedback in order to provide better pictures in the future rather than being grumpy when your photograph is declined. Stock photography is a great way to learn and improve your photography skills as it gets you free feedback from professionals.

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Step 5: Sit back and see the money come in

After your photographs have been uploaded and accepted, now comes the best part: sitting back and relax. While you are going about your life, your images are online and can be downloaded and the royalties will slowly trickle in.

I just can't stress this enough: don’t expect to get rich. Of course, if your content is amazing you can, but for most it will be more of a small passive side income to complement your monthly income. Be patient and keep adding pictures every once in a while.

Though - like always - quality always wins over quantity, when it comes to stock photography, quantity is important too. With more photographs online, there is more chance of your photograph being downloaded. At a price of 0.25 cents per download, one download per month won’t even buy you an icecream...

Now, there is one last tip I want to give you, which is my super secret step 6 to making money with stock photography:

Super secret step 6: Promote your content

Alright, not that secret. But hey, it caught your attention didn’t it?

Sadly, many seem to forget this step, costing them exposure and possible downloads of their content. They think the downloads will come automatically. And though they do, you can help increasing the reach of your photograph by sharing it via social media or Pinterest.

Do you have a big following on your facebook account? Throw in a link every once in a while. A big traffic blog? Add a hint here and there that some of your pictures are available. Myself, I seem to have most success adding vertical images of my uploaded photographs to Pinterest.

I believe visual and slow moving platforms work best for this. Fast moving platforms such as Twitter don't seem to work that well, as they only show your photo to a few of you followers for a short period of time. Chances are you won't reach the right person within that period of time. But hey, do try it out for yourself, maybe I am wrong here.

All right, that's all. Now you know how stock photography works, it's time to go photographing!

An example of a stock photograph used in a blog post explaining how to make money with your photographs using stock photography
Go photographing!
Image by Günther Schneider from Pixabay.

But wait one second, let me stress this one last time: this is no get rich quick tactic. This is a way to earn a small passive side income to complement your other income stream and which may, over time, add up to a substantial amount.

I wish you the best of luck and many successful stock photographs! Let me know in the comments section below when you have made your first sale, and what picture it was. And don't forget to share or save this post for future reading.

Go on now, make some productive use of your current self-isolation by uploading your best pictures and make them make you money online!

Further reading

* Posts and pages on All around the Earth may contain affiliate advertising links. This means that when you click these links and buy something, we will receive a little percentage for referring a customer. No worries, it is them who pay this percentage, not you as their customer. For more information, check out the All around the Earth privacy policy


  1. Dyck, Jordan (2019, February 28). Why you should start shooting stock footage right now. Retrieved from

Cover image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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