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Making Money with Stock Photos (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
I believe the sites that sell stock photos will give you a commission each time someone picks one of your photos but that's all I know about it.

Anyone ever tried listing photos with one of them (Shutterstock, iStock, Adobe, etc.)?


Senior Member
I have a few on Shutterstock for giggles. To make any money you have to get thousands accepted and they need to be illustrative. One photographer photographed her bare feet and submitted it. That photo has sold numerous copies and made money. Look at the photos people use in presentations, videos and in print to get an idea of what sells. I may reexamine going this route, since I have some ideas on combining my portrait style with stock. The problem is that to make it work, I need life to get back to normal.


Staff member
Media Manager
At the urging of my wife, I joined Shutterstock about a month ago as a contributor to sell some of my large catalog of photos taken over the years. She's my biggest fan and thinks I could make some extra money with some of these images. Personally, I didn't think the Return On Investment would be all that much, and so far I think I'm right.

On Shutterstock, there are two types of downloads: Subscription (SUBS) and On Demand Downloads (ODD). The amount you make depends on the subscription level of the buyer SUBS, or the number of download rights purchased by the ODD.

SUBS rates

The starting rate for contributors is 15% of the cost of a single download, so if the SUBSCRIBER is on a 10 image/month plan for $49, the cost of each photo is $4.90 for that subscription period. As the contributor, you make 15% of $4.90 which is $.74.

Okay. Not great, but not nothing.

The trouble is that most subscribers are in higher brackets, and the higher subscription volume they purchase, the less you make with each download.

Here is the breakdown (the last number is your take):

10 images/month: $49 | Cost: $4.90 each photo divided by 15% = $.74
50 images/month: $125 | Cost: $2.50 each photo divided by 15% = $.37
350 images/month: $199 | Cost: $.57 each photo divided by 15% = $.09
750 images/month: $249 | Cost: $.33 each photo divided by 15% = $.05

ODD rates
The rates for On Demand Download provides a better return for contributors. This is not a subscription. The buyer pays for 2, 5 or 25 images with a one-time fee of $29, $49, or $229 respectively.

Here is the breakdown:

2 images for $29 | Cost: $14.50 each photo divided by 15% = $2.18
5 images for $49 | Cost: $9.80 each photo divided by 15% = $1.47
25 images for $229 | Cost: $9.16 each photo divided by 15% = $1.37

So what you want are downloads from On Demand buyers. Unfortunately, most users of stock are ad agencies which, if they are smart, use the subscription model.

This was discouraging to me, since I would need to spend around 30 minutes prepping any image for upload to Shutterstock, to say nothing about the time spent taking the shot originally. Also, I have a substantial archive of 35mm slides, which would need to be scanned. Purchasing a slide scanner adds to the investment cost as well. The time adds up, and unless the images are stunning or in high demand, I probably won't see any ROI until my catalog is substantial, say 250 - 500 images. That's a lot of work before I start seeing a payoff.

As a result, I'm putting more of my efforts into Print On Demand organizations like Zazzle and FineArtAmerica where I can set a larger payoff per order. Those types of businesses also allow me to sell my artwork, so I'm not just flogging my photography.

All this is not to dissuade anyone from pursuing stock photography. But it's good to approach it with realistic expectations.

That said, my wife also encouraged her cousin to join Shutterstock, and she loaded some of her cool New Zealand photos and sold one immediately to an On Demand buyer, netting her a cool $1.47.

So it can happen.
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