In this article, we will look at the 10 best stock photo websites and compare the royalty percentages they offer you as a seller, as well as considering their overall potential.
Stocksy provides the highest royalty rates, offering photographers 50-75% of each sale. However, when considering all aspects including number of users, licensing options, and ease of use, Envato Elements stands out as the best overall platform for selling stock photos in 2023.
The Best Websites to Sell Stock Photos
We will explore the pros and cons of each site to help you determine where to license your images for the highest earnings and visibility.
Shutterstock is one of the most popular and widely-used stock photo platforms. However, despite its huge user base, Shutterstock may not be the best option for those looking to make money selling their images. The site offers photographers fairly low royalty payments compared to other platforms.
Additionally, given Shutterstock's popularity, competition is very high between the millions of images available. As a seller, it can be difficult to stand out and attract buyers unless you have exceptionally unique or high-quality photos.
Alamy provides generous royalty payments to contributing photographers. Their licensing fees tend to be higher than other stock platforms too. This means that while the amount of sales may be lower, each sale earns you significantly more.
So although earnings per sale are high, you may experience fewer frequent sales compared to platforms with cheaper subscription models or licenses.
Ultimately Alamy can be a great option if you have standout content that buyers are willing to pay premium rates for. But for newer or inexperienced stock photographers, other platforms may be a better fit for you.
3. Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock offers a great user experience for contributing photographers. Uploading images and managing your portfolio is straightforward and intuitive through the site's seller tools.
The site provides a respectable 33% royalty on sales, which lands in the mid-range compared to other top platforms.
Adobe has the advantage of integration with Creative Cloud, allowing millions of existing users easy access to Stock's image library. This built-in customer base makes it relatively easy to get your photos seen and potentially sold to Adobe's large number of users.
iStock prioritizes providing a positive buying experience, as shown by their high 4.8/5.0 customer rating. This focus on buyers does mean lower earnings for sellers though, as iStock does not provide a high royalty rate for their contributors.
However, the affordability and massive customer base somewhat make up for the low commissions. There is high sales volume thanks to low license costs attracting many buyers.
Some sellers make over $20k on iStock by regularly uploading a diverse range of high-demand images.
Royalty: Takes 20 cents and 3.5%
Etsy isn't a dedicated stock photography site, but it allows sellers to monetize images in creative ways instead of regular digital stock photo licenses.
Photographers can upload their photos then choose to print them on physical products like wall art, mugs, t-shirts and more. This provides more control over pricing and product types compared to traditional stock sites.
6. Envato Elements
Envato Elements operates on a subscription model, customers pay monthly for unlimited downloads. This means your photos can be quickly downloaded by Elements' 500,000+ users for free if they are subscribed, leading to fast volume and sales.
Envato Elements also has a low barrier to entry for new stock photographers. Uploading your portfolio and getting approved is fast and straightforward.
The 50% royalty rate is great compared to other platforms. And having your work exposed to tons of potential new customers each month provides great opportunities to build your profile and earn steady passive income over time.
Overall, Envato Elements is one of the best platforms to sell your stock photos.
Dreamstime offers a straightforward, user-friendly experience for stock photographers. Their tools for uploading, managing and selling your portfolio are intuitive and easy to navigate.
In terms of features, Dreamstime does not stand out as particularly unique compared to other leading marketplaces.
Royalty rates starting from 25% are decent, but not the highest commissions. Overall, Dreamstime operates as a solid stock agency that gets the job done.
Redbubble provides a creative way for photographers to earn from their images beyond just digital licensing. Sellers can upload their photos to be printed on physical products like apparel, phone cases, art prints and more.
This gives artists a cool way to showcase their work on real world items that customers can purchase. It allows creating your own brand and unique products featuring your photography.
9. Fine Art America
Fine Art America provides an attractive platform for photographers to license their work while retaining copyright ownership. They offer several ways to earn from images, including print sales, merchandising, and licensing.
The site has a 30% commission rate which lands in the middle of industry standards. They provide useful seller tools for managing portfolios and tracking analytics as well.
The downside is that marketing efforts fall heavily on the contributors themselves. Without much branded promotion of your work, it can be difficult to stand out in a crowded marketplace. SEO and social media skills are highly beneficial.
Stocksy provides the best royalty rates for contributing photographers. This allows sellers to earn a high income from their images.
While not as massive in size as platforms like Shutterstock, Stocksy has still built an impressive niche customer base. Their mid-size status means less competition for exposure compared to giant sites.
However, the application process is highly competitive. Stocksy only accepts around 10% of submissions, so you need a standout portfolio just to get your foot in the door.
How much money can you make selling stock photos?
Earnings from stock photography vary widely based on several factors. Many stock contributors make between $500 to $5,000 per month on average. Top sellers on the most popular platforms can earn over $100,000 annually. Essentially, income potential scales up the more content you consistently produce and license across multiple stock sites.
Which stock photo website offers the highest royalty rates?
Currently, Stocksy provides the most generous royalty payments to photographers, between 50-75% commissions on licensing fees. Other platforms with high rates include Envato Elements (50%) and Alamy (50%). Sites like Shutterstock (15-40%) and iStock (15%) sit on the lower end of the commission spectrum.
What type of stock photos are the most profitable?
The most profitable stock photo niches tend to focus on high-demand topics like business, technology, healthcare, food and lifestyle imagery. Trending subjects that align with current news and pop culture also offer money making opportunities. Ultimately, photos that provide solutions for target audiences tend to earn the most in licensing fees over time.
When researching the top stock photography sites, it becomes clear there is no definitive "best" platform. Each marketplace has unique advantages and drawbacks for photographers to consider.
Ultimately, contributing your images across multiple stock websites allows you to maximize visibility and diversify your licensing income. Platforms like Shutterstock provide accessibility to massive audiences, while Stocksy focuses on premium content.