A number of years ago I looked into signing up to royalty free stock sites. I can’t remember what got me looking into making money by selling images in this manner but I’m glad I persevered through all the required registration steps.
Before getting into any specifics, I should warn you that you will need to start looking at your photos completely differently. The review processes imposed by the various sites will involve looking at your photos at 100% and looking out for the slightest imperfections.
I would also recommend registering on more than a single site. That way you stand a better chance of making more money. On average, it is thought that a contributor earns about $1 per image, per site. Naturally some images will sell in greater volumes than others (some may not even sell). Some sites with which I have dealt with include:
I have not remained a contributor with all of the sites above – some have not generated enough income to make the time required to upload and edit info worthwhile.
The registration process for most stock sites can be time consuming as there are often requirements that a sample of images be submitted as part of the process. If some of the images don’t satisfy the strict requirements of the stock sites alternatives will need to be submitted and accepted before registration can be completed. Once you find a selection that one site accepts, you will probably find the images will be accepted across multiple sites.
Once registered you will be able to start uploading images. There are often restrictions placed on the number of images which can be uploaded in a given time period. If you have a large collection of photos, this can be quite frustrating.
Uploaded images are also subject to strict quality control so it is important that you select photos of a very high quality. Such photos should be in focus, be well composed, be lit well and display no chromatic aberration (often referred to as CA or purple fringing). Stock sites also dislike submissions of duplicate subjects (even if taken from different perspectives). The quality control process will involve “pixel peeping” where your images will be viewed at 100%. This can be very frustrating.
Stock sites such iStockPhoto keep a record of your acceptance rate. This may be taken into consideration should you ever enter an exclusivity agreement with them. Your acceptance rate may also limit the number of submissions your are able to make in a specific amount of time. As such, it is important to be wary of what you submit.
There are two main ways in which you can earn money from image downloads; on-demand downloads and subscription downloads. On-demand downloads will earn you more per-download than subscriptions (the amount will depend on the size downloaded). Subscription downloads may earn somewhere between $0.25 and $0.35 per download whereas on-demand downloads can earn between $0.25 (for extra small) to $4.00. If you enable extended licenses, you can earn even more ($28.00, for example).
There are some people who claim to earn very large amounts of money from selling stock photos. Personally I find that it simply earns me a little extra.