The Ultimate Guide To Sell Photos Online

Table of Contents

  1. Why you need to sell photos online?
  2. Where to sell photos?
  3. How to sell your photos online using marketing?
  4. How to sell a photo: New ideas for selling photos online
  5. How to sell your photography: Conclusion

You love snapping photos, getting creative, and capturing special moments, but lately, you’ve been wondering how you can start to sell your photos online for some extra cash flow. 

If this sounds familiar, our selling guide was created with you in mind. Dedicated to providing our community with all the top tips to help get them sales as photographers, we know firsthand just how difficult it can be to navigate selling as a creative. 

You don’t want to come across as too salesy, you dread spending all of your time on marketing, and you definitely don’t want to take any time away from your creative process. 

Again, does this sound familiar? 
If so, we highly recommend checking out all the free resources Zenfolio has to offer for aspiring photographers like yourself. You can then dive deep into this guide where you’ll find plenty of tips that will help you navigate this world of selling your photography online without having to become a full-time marketer.

Why you need to sell photos online

While you certainly can build a successful photography business without selling your photos online, if you’re struggling or you want to take your business to the next level, online sales are a great opportunity that is relatively easy to implement and doesn’t require much of your time (depending on what sales tactics you implement, which we’ll discuss later). 

Here’s are just some of the reasons why we recommend selling your photos online:

1) Extra income from photography

First and foremost, we can’t talk about selling photos online without talking about the extra income it has the potential to generate. 

Even if you have a service-based photography business if you have extra images that you’ve never used before, why not try selling them?

For some photographers, online sales will be their primary way of making money as a photographer. For others, it will just be supplemental income. Even for photographers who are employed by a company full-time, if you have personal images that you’re willing to sell, online sales could be the perfect opportunity for a raise in income.

2) Brand exposure 

Whether you’re a full-time or part-time self-employed photographer, you need to consider brand exposure. 

Brand exposure will not only help you generate sales and income, but it is also what generates new leads so you can continue to grow. 

Online photo sales can help with this because your storefront not only gives potential clients and customers a glimpse into your “portfolio” but also a look at past work you’ve created that clients/customers can actually buy.

3) Side business opportunities 

As we said, not every photographer is going to use online photo sales as their primary source of revenue, but even still, setting up an online photo store can be a great opportunity as a side business. 

This is particularly true for any part-time photographers who might be working in another industry while they try to build their photography careers. Having photo sales allows you to invest back into your business, making it more likely that you’ll be able to take your career full-time. 

4) Easy to set up 

Depending on how you decide to sell photos online—which we’ll discuss in-depth below—the process of generating sales can be extremely easy. In fact, in some scenarios, you can simply upload your work, sit back, and let the passive income start to flow. We’ll talk about how Zenfolio allows you to do this further down. 

5) Low start-up costs to sell your photos

In that same vein, setting up an online storefront can be extremely cost-effective in comparison to other selling techniques. Trust us, we understand that not every photographer is in a position to shell out large amounts of cash to generate sales, and thankfully, with online sales, the costs to get started are extremely low and affordable for almost all budgets. 

6) Anyone can sell pictures online 

Selling your photos online doesn’t require any special application. Typically you don’t need to be approved and you certainly don’t need to go through a long process to start selling. With Zenfolio and Format selling your photos online is an option that’s baked into your online portfolio website plan

Again, how this works will vary greatly depending on how you decide to sell your photos online, but in general, there are no barriers to entry. 

7) High demand for photography

As more and more businesses go online, there’s more demand than ever for professional photographers. Of course, in many cases, clients will require very specific images and they might hire you for something specific like a shoot for an ad campaign.

In other cases, simply selling a certain style or more “generic” photos could work for getting you more sales. 

Don’t forget that the demand for photography isn’t going anywhere, and by having an online storefront, you’re setting yourself up for success in this growing industry. 

8) New opportunities from photography

And lastly, we always like to remind photographers that the more you put yourself out there, the more doors will open for you. 

This includes putting your work out there and trying to sell it. 

Selling your work could lead to a paid contract, a new lead, a dream client, or a new direction for your business. Don’t miss out on opportunities to expand your career by being too scared to try selling online.

Where to sell photos 

Knowing where to sell photos online or what photography apps you can use can feel overwhelming if you’ve never tried it. We’ll make it easy for you and give you our top recommended spots for selling photos online. 

1) Your own portfolio website

If you want to make as much money as possible from selling your photos online, creating your own website is the best route to go. 

Hosting your own website with a storefront means you set your prices without the worry about fees that are often associated with third-party platforms. 

Selling photos on your own website also means you have total control over the whole purchasing experience, which is often important to those photographers who value branding. 

While it might be harder to build a customer base and establish yourself as a trusted photographer, if you have the time, energy, and resources, this can be a very profitable route.

2) Zenfolio e-Commerce

If you like the idea of having your own website to sell your photos online, but you don’t want to deal with the time, energy, and money that goes into building your own website from scratch then Zenfolio is for you.

Zenfolio’s online portfolio plans include an online selling tool specifically designed for photographers. It provides you with templates and tools so you can build your own photography website simply and efficiently, and list your images to sell pictures online. 

This way, you get to control the prices, the products, and the look and feel of your storefront, but you don’t have to go through the lengthy—oftentimes confusing—process of building all of the back-end components of an eCommerce site. 

Not only that, but Zenfolio also handles fulfillment for you, meaning you don’t have to spend time shipping or printing your products. 

Zenfolio’s trusted professional print labs make it a breeze to sell your images as prints, canvas prints, and wall art all produced in stunning quality. You can even sell your images to be printed on mugs, calendars, home decor items, and even on greeting cards.  

3) Format Prints Marketplace

As one of the biggest online marketplaces for professional photography and artwork sales, Format gives you the ability to sell your work to customers all over the world without you having to lift a finger. You simply upload your files, set your profit margins and you’re done!

Beyond actually taking the images and uploading them to Format, all the marketing/advertising work on Format is done for you. 

Even print fulfillment is handled by Format, meaning you don’t have to spend your valuable time printing and shipping images. When a customer places an order, Format handles the process, you get the money.

You can even sell your work framed, on canvas, on hoodies, and with various print size options. You’ve got plenty of opportunities heading your way when you sell with Format.  

4) Etsy 

Etsy is another online marketplace that is worth entertaining if you want to sell photos online. While you won’t have the convenience of automatic print fulfillment like you will with Zenfolio and Format, Etsy is a well-respected marketplace that gets a lot of traffic and customers who are specifically looking for quality art pieces.  

Keep in mind that there is also a selling and listing fee associated with Etsy, and the platform is not tailored specifically to photographers. Any artist in any field can sell on Etsy, which means the customer base using Etsy isn’t necessarily looking for prints, which could make sales more difficult. 

5) Stock photo websites 

Stock photo websites are also an option if you’re interested in selling your photos online. 

While there will be commissions taken from your sales, there are so many stock photo website opportunities that you shouldn’t struggle to find a platform that works for you and your aesthetic. 

With that in mind, though, this also means that it might be hard to stand out or make significant income if you’re only selling on stock photography websites. 

If you’re wondering about how to sell stock photos you’ve come to the right place. Think about the platform you’re using and what types of clients will be interested in your work. Put together a planto batch shoots of a certain type. For example if you’re planning on renting an office studio space think of a few different applications for the space and photograph them to apply to different industries (ie. Business, education, etc) it’s easy to change the direction of a shoot by changing the look of your models or swapping out a couple of props. 

You can also try to shoot for the types of briefs you would expect from a paying client and shoot that, but without branding. For example, Canon might need photos of children at a photography camp for their Camp Canon program, and opt to use stock photography to promote it.

You can specialize in very specific kinds of photos that you know sell well, or create such a wide variety of images that your work often comes up often in search results. 

Stock photo websites include: 

  • Shutterstock 
  • Getty Images
  • iStock 
  • Stocksy 
  • Alamy 
  • 500px
  • Adobe Stock
  • Unsplash 

6) Freelance job websites 

Freelance job websites also might be worth looking into if you want to sell photos online. Essentially, you’ll go onto a job board and look for projects in the same way that you would look for a job listing. Keep in mind, though, selling photos this way won’t be as passive or as seamless as setting up your online storefront. 

Instead, when you use a creative freelance job board, you’ll have to seek out clients who are looking to have specific projects completed, and then you’ll have to go out and shoot those images for the client. 

Freelance writing job boards to check out include: 

  • Upwork
  • Fiverr
  • Flexjobs
  • The Creative Loft
  • Obeo
  • Oyster
  • People Per Hour 
  • LinkedIn 
  • Shutterstock Custom

How to sell your photos online using marketing 

If you’re wondering how to sell photos online, there’s more work involved than just putting up some pictures and hoping someone notices them. Especially in today’s market there is such a saturation of images that it can be challenging to stand out. But don’t let that get you down!

As mentioned above, there are photo websites like Zenfolio or Format that will do most of the marketing work for you, but if you want to learn how to sell pictures for money, you’ll likely want to invest some of your time into marketing.  

Below you’ll find our top marketing tactics for selling photos online.

1) Social Media

It’s no secret that social media marketing has become one of the most effective marketing strategies out there, and social media for photography is no exception. 

We could write a whole article about a social media strategy for selling photos, but in general, your goal should be to be as social and share as much as possible on your platforms, including past work, resources, a look into your process, and any other information that you think would help connect you with your audience. If there is one thing we hear over and over it’s that consistency is key! Continue to show up, share your work, engage with your community, and the hard work will pay off.

Social media is the perfect opportunity to connect with your clients/customers, show them what you’re about, and continue to build your brand. 

Some social media platforms, such as Instagram, also allow you to list products for sale directly in your feed. This means you can sell physical products, photo packages, and educational resources all in one place.

2) Blogging

While not everyone loves writing, if you feel comfortable enough to do it, we recommend sharing content on your own personal blog. 

You can create content that applies to fellow photographers, share in-depth looks into your process, and even post news and updates about your work. 

Again, anything that helps you connect further with your audience is worth your time when you’re trying to sell photos. 

Blogging is also an excellent way to boost your site SEO and get more organic traffic to your website, and hopefully, to booking more clients.

3) Email

If you can get into people’s inboxes, you’re one step ahead of the game. Email marketing is one of the most effective strategies for selling. Having said that, in order to obtain a person’s email, you’ll usually have to offer something as an incentive in return. Spend some time thinking about this. It could be a free digital download, a resource, a package of stock photos or a discount code.

Once you have their email, you can email about new prints, shop updates, and exclusive discount codes. 

4) Guest Post

Again, writing might not be for you, but as an aspiring photographer, the more you get your name out there, the better for your business. 

Guest posting is essentially when you write a blog article on another website, and you get to put a link to your website at the bottom of the article, leading readers of that article to your shop or website. 

We’re sure you can see how this would be helpful for selling photos online. 

5) Niche Down

When you’re trying to market your photos to everyone, there’s a good chance that you’re reaching nobody. 

You want to be very particular with the type of person you’re marketing to. Everything that you do should appeal to that kind of customer. 

For example, if you shoot whimsical images that have a lot of color and feminine features, you’ll want to consider this in your brand, messaging, and marketing materials. 

While you can certainly experiment with your style, trying your best to stay consistent with your niche will help you with selling. 

6) Sell Services

If you think there is more demand for your photography services than sales, spend your marketing budget there, but don’t forget to show off your for-sale images when you’re selling your services. 

Think of it this way: Your services may be the main event, but the images that you’re selling are just the icing on the cake, so be sure they are visible somewhere on your website for supplemental income. 

7) Provide Free Downloads

As mentioned, free downloads are great for getting people onto your email list. If you don’t want to start an email list, you can also simply provide a free download as an incentive to get people to visit your site again, follow you on social media, or share your work. It’s no secret that people respond well to free stuff. 

8) Offer Sales/ Coupons/ Discounts

And lastly, don’t forget to offer sales, coupons, and discounts. You don’t want to do this too often or it might make your photos look cheap, but running an occasional sale for a big event or offering a coupon code for your email list is a great way to increase sales. 

You can also offer bulk discounts when customers purchase more prints.

How to sell a photo: New ideas for selling photos online  

If you’ve been working as a photographer for an extended period of time, there’s a chance that you’ve tried out most of the typical selling methods. If this sounds like you, we wanted to give you some out-of-the-box selling ideas that should help you expand your selling abilities beyond the conventional methods. 

1) Look for an app where you can sell your pictures 

We mentioned third-party platforms and marketplaces that allow you to sell your photos like Zenfolio and Format, but if you want to get off your desktop and simplify the selling process even further, look for apps that allow you to sell images right from your phone. 

For example, did you know that you can upload your images on Instagram using the app’s shop feature?  This means you don’t even have to put your work up on any platform beyond a social media platform that you likely use every day. 

Keep in mind that Instagram wasn’t designed to be a shopping platform so you might find that sales are low and slow, but if you want somewhere easy to get started, Instagram is a great option. 

2) Think about how to sell wallpapers

Maybe your images aren’t doing well on a particular stock photo website, but you don’t necessarily want to put the time and effort into selling on your own website or a third-party platform. Maybe your images would be better suited for wallpapers. 

Most stock photo websites will have an option to sell wallpaper, but be sure of this prior to choosing which stock photo website you go with. One of the worst things you can do as a stock photo seller is to put images up on a platform that doesn’t have a market for that style of image. Do your research. 

When in doubt, if you can’t get people to pay for your wallpapers, use the wallpapers as a free digital download that you provide in return for an email address. Even if you don’t have the time to put into selling photos right now, down the road you might want to and having a list of emails of people who are interested in your work can be incredibly valuable. 

3) Consider how to make money selling photos of yourself

More often than not photographers prefer to be the ones behind the lens, and we make that abundantly clear. However, there are those of us that don’t mind switching up our roles and getting in front of the camera. Or it may be that you’re feeling a bit burnt out from photographing with models. If you’re tired of working with models, but enjoy portrait-style photography, consider taking images of yourself. 

Can you make money from this, you’re likely wondering?

Yes!

Again, stock photo websites are where you’re going to want to go for this type of work. You can pretty much use any stock photo platform to sell images of your face, but there are some that are specifically designed for selfie-taking. 

You can get paid for images of yourself with these apps: 

  • Smugmug 
  • Scoopshot 
  • Instaprints
  • Stylinity 

You won’t make a lot of money with this method, but it’s a great way to get your foot in the door and start trying new things. 

If you turn the camera on yourself, you can also use this as a way to get into a modeling agency which could open up other creative avenues and new revenue streams. Many photographers are also influencers in the photography space as well, and create their own work, but also shoot content of themselves to promote brands and initiatives, creative education via OnlyFans, Patreon, and other similar sites, and more. There are so many opportunities to be explored in the creative industry.

How to sell your photography: Conclusion 

If you want to sell photos online, you need to determine your time, budget, and goals. 

If you have a lot of time, a fairly large budget, and your goal is to make significant income from your online photo sales, start your own website and focus on your marketing efforts. 

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use platform where you can sell your photos as prints or products, sell your photo services, and sell digital downloads, then Zenfolio is likely the best choice for you. Zenfolio will take care of all of the payment processing, and order fulfillment, and the selling option is included as part of your website plan. Plus the professional labs we’ve partnered with produce truly stunning results. Photographers usually like to control their process from end to end but with Zenfolio you have nothing to worry about when it comes to the quality of the final output. And the fact that you can incorporate your eCommerce platform directly into your Zenfolio portfolio website means that it’s another piece of your professional workflow journey that is in the same ecosystem. Talk about easy!

Similar to Zenfolio, Format’s Prints Marketplace has amazing print partners that offer a wide range of products, sizes, and print quality – and everything is top-notch! It’s quick and easy to set up and is an excellent way to supplement your income by selling your photography prints. And like Zenfolio, all of the payment processing and order fulfillment is handled by Format so you just upload your files and wait for the moolah to start rolling in.  

Which online photo sales tactics appeal to you and your business the most?

*Promotion valid until October 15, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. PST. Promotional discount off the subscription price of a new ProSuite, PortfolioPlus or Portfolio annual plan will be automatically applied at checkout with code FALL50. Discount applies to the first year only. Cannot be combined with any other promotion.