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how to sell photos online

Want to sell photos online? The demand for high-quality stock photography on the web is huge. It’s a good way to generate passive income as a side hustle or small business. Plus, when you use WordPress, it’s also incredibly simple.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to easily sell photographs online with WordPress.

🔎 In this article, we’ll cover:

Where to Sell Photos Online?

If you want to sell photos online, there are a few options.

Stock Websites/Marketplaces

One is to sell stock photos on other people’s websites and marketplaces. Some popular examples of stock photo sites and marketplaces include:

  • iStock Photo (Getty Images)
  • Adobe Stock
  • Shutterstock
  • Dreamstime
  • Alamy
  • Etsy
  • SmugMug
  • Eyeem
  • Foap

Let’s take some look at pros and cons of this approach.

🟢 PROS🔴 CONS
It’s easier to upload and sell your photographs on a stock photo website or marketplaceNo control over anything; the terms of use, the fees and percentages charged, even the owner of the site or name of the brand could change at any moment
You can be up and running faster“Your customers” are not really your customers, they are customers of the stock photo website or marketplaces.
There is less risk, because you spend less time and effort getting set upNo direct communication with customers, it’s hard or impossible to follow up with these customers and build a following or profitable business of your own.
Stock photos websites and marketplaces already get traffic (visitors)You’ll have to pay high fees, both credit card transaction fees and the percentage they take away from every sale you make
Stock photo sites might already rank high on search engines (good SEO)Some sites and marketplaces require you to exclusively sell on their platform only
You don’t have to maintain your own website (technical stuff and upgrades)Some marketplaces and sites don’t let you set your own prices. This restricts how much revenue you can earn.
Cannot control what other photos they see on your website (competitors or cultural sensitivities)
Could take 30, 60, 90 days or more before they pay you. Many platforms have unfavorable payout terms. (Read terms of use carefully)
May not get paid until or unless you reach a threshold, so you could wait weeks, months or years for payment. (Read terms of use carefully)

Your Own Website

The best way to build a profitable business is to sell your photos on your own website. With your own website you keep as much revenue as possible. You also have full control of the brand and customer experience.

🟢 PROS🔴 CONS
Full control of brand, customer experience, pricing, and profitsYou have to build and maintain your own website (WordPress can make this as easy as possible)
You can manage overhead expenses, start with free and low-cost tools and upgrade as you growIt will take more time to get up and running
Direct communication with customers and potential customers.There is more risk because of upfront work you have to put in
You keep all your revenue, except for unavoidable credit card transaction feesGetting visitors to your site will require marketing work (although those selling on marketplaces often find they have to do marketing as well)
Get paid right away, if you use Stripe, PayPal, or other commonly used gateways you get paid on all sales usually within 24 hours (or faster)
You can still experiment with selling on other sites and marketplaces
Option to sell other photographer’s work on your site
Set your own prices to maximize profits
Sell other related services (photo packages, photo shoots, photo editing, Photoshop actions, brushes, templates, etc).

Why Sell Photos Online With WordPress?

The best way to build your own website is WordPress. With WordPress, you can make a website without knowing how to code. You’ll have full control. You can control costs and add the functionality you need as you grow and only as needed.

WordPress is a user-friendly platform that is easy to navigate, even for beginners. You don’t need any technical knowledge to set up a WordPress site. You can customize it to your liking using various themes and plugins.

In addition, WordPress has various eCommerce plugins, such as Easy Digital Downloads and WooCommerce, that allow you to sell your photos online easily. These plugins make it simple to manage your store, process payments, and track sales.

You can also create and customize photo galleries to display and sell photos online using WordPress. You can organize your photos into categories and add descriptions and keywords to improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

WordPress is an SEO-friendly platform, meaning that it has built-in features that can help improve your site’s ranking in search engine results. This can help potential customers find your photos more easily.

It also integrates with various third-party platforms, such as social media networks, email marketing tools, and cloud storage services. This makes it easy to promote your photos and streamline your workflow.

How to Sell Photos Online With WordPress

Step 1: Get WordPress

First, if you don’t have a WordPress site, you need to get one.

A WordPress site is your own digital property. To build a profitable business, smart entrepreneurs know you need to own your digital property. Learn more about the pros/cons of selling on other people’s websites (marketplaces) below.

Step 2: Install Easy Digital Downloads

The best way to sell your photos with WordPress is Easy Digital Downloads. It’s trusted by more than 50,000 websites to sell digital products, like photos, PDFs, graphics, and even software. Next, you need to install the Easy Digital Downloads plugin:

WordPress + Easy Digital Downloads Logos
  1. Go ahead and get the premium version of Easy Digital Downloads by grabbing an EDD Pass
  2. If you have never installed a WordPress plugin before, click here to view a step-by-step guide.

Install EDD by clicking Plugins » Add New » Upload:

Screenshot: Install the EDD Plugin

Once EDD is installed, you’ll have a new menu item called Downloads. This is where you add photos and manage all things for your new amazing online store!

The EDD Downloads menu item.

Step 3: Add a Photo to Sell

It’s simple to add digital photos and start selling them with Easy Digital Downloads.

First, go to Downloads and then click Add New up towards the top:

Screenshot: Selling Photos: Add New

Your download needs 3 key attributes:

  1. A title and description
  2. A preview image (called Download Image in EDD), and
  3. Set a Price
Screenshot: Selling Photos with EDD: Download settings

After that, configure the Download Files. In the case of a photo, simply upload the photo with the chain-link icon or Add New File button. The File Name will be created automatically based on the name of your uploaded file. This is the clickable text the customer will get after purchase.

Screenshot: Selling Photos with EDD: Download Files Settings

That’s it. You’re pretty much done. Hit Publish. Leave this tab open for later.

🏔 Have lots of photos to sell? We have solutions.

Step 4: Select a Payment Method to Sell Photos Online

You need a way to get paid by customers, right? We got you covered. In the past you needed to hire a developer or know how to write code. Not anymore. We have many payment gateways built and ready to go.

We recommend using Stripe. You, along with millions of others, will love it for its advanced features and ease of use.

💳 Get Started with Stripe

If Stripe is not available in your region, we suggest PayPal or one of our other payment processors/gateways.

Step 5: View The Results

Once you have set up your photo for sale and chosen a payment processor option you’re ready to start selling. Let’s look at your photo page as the customer will see it.

Go back to the tab where you created your download. Click the View Download button:

Screenshot: Selling Photos: View download

Now you’re looking at the download page (product page) of your photo as the potential customer will see it. Converting customers click Purchase, then Add To Cart:

An example of a EDD WordPress page you can use to sell photos online.

Next, they’ll land on the shopping cart and checkout page to make a purchase:

A checkout page to sell photos online with WordPress.

After purchase, the customer will be taken to the purchase confirmation page. This page has all the purchase details and a link to the photo:

Selling Photos: Purchase Confirmation Page

The customer will also get a purchase receipt email. There is also a download link there:

Screenshot: Selling Photos: Purchase Receipt Email

Sample Sites

With Easy Digital Downloads you’ll have a full-featured online store for selling your photographs. Here are two photo sites using EDD to get you inspired and visualize the possibilities.

More Tips & Tools to Sell Photos Online

Easy Digital Downloads is purpose-built for selling digital products like photos. We offer some great features you can use to extend your store. Here are great tools for increasing revenue.

  • Recurring Payments – Sell subscriptions or memberships on your photo site. Allow customers self-serve access to all your photos or a select portion of them. Customers are billed monthly, annually, or other intervals automatically.
  • All Access – Create different bundles or access levels to your collections of photos. You can sell by custom categories (nature, business, tech) or product variations (file type, size, RAW/JPG).
  • Amazon S3 – If you have lots of large files Amazon S3 is a great way to store and serve up files to customers. Integrate your S3 buckets with EDD.
  • Dropbox – Similar to Amazon S3, if you use and love Dropbox for photo storage, use that at the file system for delivering product to your customers.

Watermarking

One thing you need to keep in mind when selling digital photos is watermarking. Watermarking is when you stamp your logo and words like ‘copyright or ‘preview’ on your photo to prevent unauthorized use.

Photo: Kangaroo with watermark

When selling your photos (or images) with EDD, you should put watermarks on your preview images, but not your high quality download images. The download images are what your customer purchases.

You can do this with WordPress or with your photo editing software. Here are some links to help you watermark your photos:

Also, check out this article on ways to prevent photo theft on your WordPress website.

Once you have your EDD site set up you may want to read this Doc with additional details on configuring your website to sell images.

Build Your Own Marketplace to Sell Photos Online

EDD has a Frontend submissions extension. This allows you to build your own marketplace. You can develop your own stock photography website. You can allow others sell their high-quality photos alongside your own.

Creating and selling photographs is fun! Whether you’re a growing enthusiast or high-end pro snapping pics full-time, it’s a great way to continually hone your craft.

When you sell photographs you also help others. Tons of people need your photos; bloggers, content creators, web designers, social media coordinators, graphic designers and publishers.

Keep in mind that there may be certain requirements involved in creating your own online marketplace to make money. For instance, model releases. If you have people in your photos, you likely need to consider a Model Release. You’ll need this whether they are beautifully dressed models posing or normally dressed folks enacting daily aspects of life and business.

Any person in a photo, even a passerby on the street, is a “model”. A model release is a form or contract you’ll need to have people in your stock images sign (for free, or for money) giving you permission to reprint their likeness.

To grow your photography business, you might also consider investing in new gear. I’ve never met a professional photographer who thinks they own too many lenses and accessories.


FAQs About Selling Photographs Online

How much money can you make selling photos online?

The amount of money you can make selling photos online can vary widely depending on several factors, such as the quality and uniqueness of your images, the demand for your photos, and the pricing strategy you use. Some photographers are able to earn a significant income selling their photos online, while others may only make a small amount of money.

Many online photography marketplaces, such as Shutterstock, iStock, and Getty Images, pay photographers a percentage of the sale price for each photo license. This percentage typically ranges from 15-50%, depending on the marketplace and the type of license sold. The price of a photo license can range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars, depending on the usage rights, resolution, and other factors.

Alternatively, some photographers choose to sell their photos directly through their own website or online store, which allows them to set their own prices and keep a larger percentage of the sale.

How should you price the photos you sell online?

There are many factors that go into how you price your photos. One is licensing. Do you want your photos to be Restricted License or Royalty-free?

  • Royalty-free means the purchaser of the photo can use it however they want and how much they want.
  • Restricted license means you charge based on usage. The purchaser pays per thousand of prints, or per social media channels used. Enforcing a license has become much harder with the advent of the internet. In the days of print and broadcast, it was easier to organize and enforce licenses.

You may also be able to charge more for your photos if you have them available exclusively on your website or on one marketplace. This has advantages and disadvantages.

  • You may be able to make more money per photo
  • You may shrink the size of your market
  • The exclusivity might drive your potential customers to shop elsewhere, perhaps in search of a lower price

Use EDD to Sell Photos Online

Ok! Grab your camera and a laptop and start selling photos. You’ll love the feeling of helping others with your creative skills. Use EDD to help you start a small business or side hustle.

You can make extra cash or even grow it into a full-time income.

EDD is free to use. But you’ll likely want a Pass to add specialized functionality as grow. Sell subscriptions, add product bundles, or integrate with Amazon S3 or DropBox with an Extended Pass.

eCommerce without limits!

That is our promise. Most eCommerce solutions limit your creativity
…not Easy Digital Downloads!

or try the free version.

We have tons of resources for digital creators like you. What do you want to learn about next?

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