Earnings on photo stocks: instructions for beginners


If you like photography and want to monetize your hobby, then one of the options is passive income on photo stocks. How to choose a photo stock and get the most out of it? Consider in the article.

Currently, many projects and Internet resources need photo content. Designing websites, blogging, creating advertising – all this requires material, for the use of which they are willing to pay. And since there is a demand, why not start making money on photo stocks?

What is a “photostock”

Photostock is an online platform where a huge amount of photos, 3D graphics, illustrations, vector images, videos are placed for legal use. That is, anyone can purchase visual content for personal use. And you, as the author, will receive money for each download.

How is the process going? For example, a designer needs an image for a banner. He comes to a photo stock, selects a suitable picture, buys it for a nominal fee, and uses it in his work. And the author of the picture receives royalties for downloading.

Pros and cons of making money on photo stocks

passive incomeminimum financial investmentno income capno need to look for customershuge audience, worldwide salesconvenient schedule without reference to the place of work;  need to take an exam at registrationlow income at the beginning of a career, lack of motivationlong wait for the first moneyrequires careful study of consumer demandconstant search for ideas, daily uploading photos to the portfolio

The main difficulty of working in this direction: in order to earn decent amounts, you will need to photograph a lot, constantly replenish your portfolio and work in “waiting” conditions for a long time. The income for your work does not come immediately – often you have to wait for sales, and you cannot influence this.

So before you get involved in the business of photo stocks, evaluate your strengths and willingness to work regularly in this area.

Conditions for making money on photo stocks: we analyze the types of cooperation

There are several types of cooperation with photo stocks:

  • Exclusive author – you place your work on one platform with which you cooperate;
  • Exclusive works – you publish your work, which can only be purchased once. Such content costs more;
  • Non-exclusive works – you place your works on various photo stocks and similar resources; The image can be downloaded multiple times. Such photos cost less, but have a greater potential for profitability – the main thing is to create relevant content on a popular topic.

Overview of photo stocks

Today, there are a huge number of photostocks and photobanks. All of them offer different conditions of cooperation and features of work. Consider the most popular of them:

  • Shutterstock is the world leader in photo stocks. From it, content creators receive 50-60% profit due to the wide coverage of the audience. The working conditions are as follows: a scan of a passport is required, passing an exam. At the start, you get 25 cents for each download, but when you reach $500 in earnings, the rate increases to 33 cents per download.
  • Depositphotos is a Russian photo stock that requires you to pass an exam and have an identity document. A rather capricious photo stock, where the level of income depends on the status of the author: the transition to the next level occurs after uploading a certain number of images.
  • Adobe Stock is a loyal service for emerging creators and artists. The conditions and requirements here are simpler than on the same Shutterstock. You don’t even have to take an exam: photos can be uploaded immediately after registration.
  • Dreamstime is a foreign photo stock with simplified registration: it does not require any documents or an exam. Another plus is that the service is quite loyal to the quality of the material, it accepts vector and RAW images – such formats are more expensive than high-quality JPG.
  • Lori is a domestic service where you can post not only photos, but also videos. To start earning, you have to pass an exam of 20 images. The weekly sales limit depends on how many of them are approved. If 90-100% of the photos are accepted, then you can upload 100 photos to your portfolio. Those who have passed the minimum threshold of 60% are allowed to post 3 images. Earn on this resource in different ways. For one photo, you can get from 50 to 3500 rubles, and for a video – from 180 to 4500 rubles. The price depends on the purpose for which the content is downloaded. For example, for use on the Internet, the amount will be one, and for outdoor advertising – several times more.

You can also use the services of BigStockPhoto, CanStockPhoto, Crestock, Istockphoto, Photogenica, etc.

In the technical part, these services are practically the same. The fundamental difference in working conditions: the nuances of registration, the need to pass an exam, the cost per download, restrictions on the amount of downloaded content and other parameters.

Before registering on any photo stock, carefully study all the conditions and requirements. Compare several options to find the best and most convenient option for you.

Photo Requirements

Let’s analyze the key requirements for images that are relevant for any photo stock:

  • allowed format;
  • high-quality lighting in the photo;
  • lack of glare and blur (allowed if required by the composition);
  • maintaining the quality of the photo when increasing the size;
  • lack of inscriptions and logos on the material (copyright);
  • the presence of Model Release – the consent of models for pictures with people (the document is attached to the image).

There are different sizes for each image: the cost of downloading it will depend on the size of the image.

There are also certain requirements for uploading photos. For example, you need to specify the category of the photo, its description and keywords. The main parameter is the keywords for which the search engine will issue your photo; usually 30-50 keywords are indicated for each photo.


Passing exams before uploading a photo is a feature of large photo stocks: Shutterstock (10 works), Depositphotos (5) and Lori (20). Photos must be in good quality, on a variety of topics and subjects. With vector illustrations, passing the exam is easier.

Each service has its own threshold for passing the exam: Shutterstock needs 7 out of 10 papers to be accepted; Depositphotos has 5 out of 5, and Lori has 12 out of 20. If the exam is passed successfully, the uploaded works are put up for sale; if not, the application for registration is rejected. Notification and comments are sent to the specified e-mail. You can re-register after one month.

Let’s figure out the reasons for failing the exam:

  • Not enough commercial value image
  • Poor frame quality
  • Wrong keywords. For the examination paper, it is enough to indicate 7 keywords and a description, but they must be accurate
  • The permission of the people whose face was in the frame is not attached.

Don’t give up if you didn’t manage to pass the exam right away on one photo stock. Different services have different evaluation criteria and a list of popular topics. Therefore, try to work with several photo stocks.

What to shoot to earn

You need to start by studying consumer demand, search keywords, stock reports, reviews of the authors themselves, which can guide you in the question of what sells best on different photo stocks.

First of all, you need to focus on the demand and commercial significance of the material. As a rule, pictures from photo stocks are purchased for commercial use, so you should study the target audience and its needs. Usually these are: marketers, content managers, designers, SMM specialists, printers, photo wallpaper developers, textile manufacturers, media editors, advertising agents, bloggers.

Each photo stock has its own set of popular topics, so be sure to research this topic before uploading your work. But in general, current trends can be distinguished:

  • Ecology is a popular theme that can be used in a blog, website, and advertising.
  • Vintage and retro style – used for blogs and websites, stylized banners, etc.
  • Prints and textures of the 80s – useful for the design of promotional materials, websites, commercial products.
  • The home office is especially relevant now, when many have switched to remote work. Such photos are useful for blogs, magazines.
  • Futurism – such images are used for posters, advertisements, calendars, video previews, etc.
  • Photos taken from a drone. Relevant for companies related to tourism and travel, for blogs and websites.
  • Objects on a plain background or with contrast – recently, minimalism in design is very relevant.
  • Separate objects on a transparent background – such photos are used in promotional materials.
  • 3D design with an unusual combination of bright shapes – can be used for the design of printed materials, advertising, websites, etc.
  • Family, relationships, romance are relevant for the design of websites and blogs, especially in demand for promotional materials.
  • Icons in the thematic collection (for example, the theme “Business”, “Finance”, “Children”, “Creativity”, etc.).
  • Sports – pictures on a white background are especially popular. Usually used to design websites and promotional materials.
  • Business – pictures with an office, office equipment and various business paraphernalia are relevant for the design of expert articles and blogs, official websites of companies, in advertising.
  • Travel – architecture, sights are used for websites and blogs, promotional materials, printed materials (from postcards to photo wallpapers).
  • Holidays – photos with holiday paraphernalia are relevant for various purposes: the production of printed and souvenir products, advertising, website design, calendars, and more.
  • Seasonal pictures: in summer they are more often looking for girl, summer, sea; in winter – Santa, Christmas tree, snow. Relevant for calendars, holiday cards, etc.

The main interest in images arises in the first six months after they are posted on the site, but the same picture can bring a stable income for a long time. The most popular ones can download up to 15 thousand times.

For a stable income, you need to have 100-200 works in your portfolio, which you will regularly update.

How much can you earn on photo stocks

A feature of working on photo stocks is passive income. One image can regularly bring money to the author, while there is no need to engage in sales, look for customers, order advertising. It is enough to choose a popular topic, take a high-quality photo and indicate the keywords correctly.

The level of earnings depends on many factors:

  • Content exclusivity;
  • Image size and purpose of use;
  • Sales volume – on some resources, the cost of downloading increases when a certain level of sales is reached;
  • Pricing on a specific photo stock.

It is difficult to indicate any profit targets: everything is individual here and depends on the author of the content. There is also no limit on the amount of earnings. The more images in the portfolio and sales – the more income. You can start with $10 a month and work your way up to $1,000 or more. As a rule, a beginner receives 2-5 thousand rubles a month on photo stocks, but in two years of work you can reach a monthly profit of 35-40 thousand. rubles.

To estimate your likely income, you need to keep in mind that one high-quality photo brings an average of $0.5 (38 ₽ per month. If you have a good portfolio of 1000 photos, then you can count on $500 (38,000 ) per month.

At the same time, a photo can start selling immediately after uploading, or it can lie for a year, two, three – and suddenly appear in the top. It is difficult to predict which photo will go to users. Here a lot depends on simple luck. Therefore, it is recommended to regularly replenish your portfolio and upload a lot of work in order to increase your chances of sales.

Therefore, earnings on photo stocks are real, but individual and depend on many factors, among which we should highlight the size of the portfolio and the number of partnerships with stocks.

How to make money on photo stocks – step by step instructions

So, how to make money on photo stocks and what is the action plan? Provides step by step instructions.

Step 1. Decide on a photo stock to which you will upload images, and familiarize yourself with the terms of work: payment level, photo requirements, popular topics.

Step 2. Sign up for a photo stock. Provide reliable information about yourself: full name, place of residence, phone number and email address. If the photo stock is foreign, all data must be entered in English. If necessary, upload a scan of your passport and international passport. In some cases, only the driver’s license can be uploaded.

Step 3. Select a photo for examination testing (if required). Check the commercial value and image quality. Focus on popular topics. Upload a photo for the exam (their number depends on the site) and wait for the decision.

Step 4. Fill out the tax form W8-BEN – if the photo stock is foreign; or a simple tax form, which is asked to fill in domestic photobanks. It won’t be hard to figure this out.

Step 5. Upload your work in the portfolio, arrange them correctly (make a description, indicate keywords). Post new photos regularly.

Tip: sign up for 2-3 services and keep an eye on the one that will bring more income.

How to get money from photostock

The withdrawal of funds from the account depends on the conditions of the photo stock. For example, most services allow you to withdraw funds from $50, and Shutterstock – from $100. And these conditions are another point that you should consider when choosing a photo stock.

Funds can be withdrawn using many payment systems:

  • PayPal is the most common way to get money from photo stocks. When registering, you link your bank card to your account – and in the future you will be able to withdraw funds to it from the account of the payment system. However, in some CIS countries, PayPal provides a limited account – and all useful features are not available in it.
  • Moneybookers is a large payment system that has become widespread among photo stocks. She cooperates with ShutterStock, Dreamstime, Fotolia and others. The advantage of Moneybookers is that it works in the CIS countries without restrictions.
  • Payoneer is a payment system that allows you to receive payments from photo stocks to your account, and then withdraw this money from the Payoneer Prepaid MasterCard card that they send to their customers. Dreamstime and iStockPhoto work with this payment system.
  • WebMoney is a payment system widespread in the CIS countries. Few photo stocks work with it, one of them is DepositPhotos.

Business registration and taxes

One of the most popular questions: is it necessary to register an individual entrepreneur to work on photo stocks? No. If you sold your work yourself, it would be considered a commercial activity, and registration would be required. But in this case, this function is taken over by the photo stock, and you receive royalties.

But the authors who profit from photo stocks are required to pay income tax. This happens differently in each country, but the procedure itself is approximately the same:

  • Step 1. At the beginning of the year, you pay the tax for the previous year. To do this, you need an extract from the account where the funds were received and where the transactions are reflected.
  • Step 2. We turn to the tax office and fill out the declaration, attach the necessary documents.
  • Step 3. According to the details received, we pay tax on “Income received from the use of copyright or other related rights”.

For the first time, some questions may arise, but in the future there will be no difficulties with paying taxes.

Who can make money on photo stocks?

Many people can make money on photo stocks:

  • photographers who have shooting skills. This will allow them to create commercially successful photos and start earning without additional investments.
  • amateur photographers with a camera or a good smartphone
  • people who actively travel and can shoot interesting places
  • artists and illustrators
  • graphic designers
  • creative people who are able to regularly generate ideas and create content.

To summarize: those who have the necessary skills (in photography, design, illustration), are ready to regularly work on their portfolio and track trends in photo stocks can make money on photo stocks.

Tips for beginners to increase income

  1. At first, it is better to work with photo stocks that do not require passing the exam. Learn how it all works, what level of photography is required, practice.
  2. At the start, choose 1-3 photo stocks for active work. Compare the results, choose the most suitable option for you.
  3. Carefully study the requirements and rules of photo stocks. Russian-language services are easier and more convenient to use, but foreign photo stocks bring more profit.
  4. Always remember that images that are of interest to the customer, not the photographer, are successfully sold. Make a portrait of a potential buyer in advance, follow trends, view reports from photo stocks. They publish the keywords that users most often searched for.
  5. Pay attention to the selection of keywords – it will take time, but it will also bring you sales. You can add up to 50 keywords under each photo. But it is better to choose 10 keywords that best describe the subject of the image.
  6. When creating stock photos, remember to evaluate their commercial use.
  7. Look through the search for images in search engines, how your work is used – and draw conclusions.
  8. Keep in mind that light, bright and positive images attract more buyers and sell better.
  9. As a rule, minimalistic photos are in demand on photo stocks. Enough 2-3 objects.
  10. Analyze the accounts of successful authors: on what topics they publish images, how they describe files and what keywords they use.
  11. Create relevant content, such as seasonal or holiday content. If you prepare it in advance, you can get into the peak of sales and make good money on it.


It is real to make money on photo stocks, but you should not expect quick money. It can take a lot of time to study the specifics of photo stocks, create a portfolio, and select a service. However, with diligence and the right approach, photo stocks can be turned into a stable source of passive income.

The main secret of success is to create high-quality and in-demand content, not to make a mistake with the choice of photostock, regularly update the portfolio and follow trends.


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