NZ Photo Info - Photography Tips and Techniques - Photography Directory

Sell Your Photos Online - Step 1

How to get your images online...

You've done all your research. You know your target audience and your competition, you have an understanding of what you are trying to achieve by putting your images online. Your portfolio has a sufficiently diverse range of images ready for display. It's now time to start attracting some customers!

Let's explore some of the methods that you can use to get your pictures online ready for the world to see.

Micro-Stock Sites

Micro-stock sites generally sell Royalty Free images at low prices. Images are normally available for immediate download after receipt of payment . These sites are fully equipped ecommerce sites with secure credit card payment facilities.


Royalty Free - In general terms this type of image licencing means that you may use the image multiple times on multiple different projects without incurring any additional costs. You can't claim the work as your own or make the file available for download. Specific terms and conditions will vary between stock agencies.

Some micro-stock sites take a different approach, rather than a per image licencing fee, members can pay a subscription for a set period of time and download as many images as they want.

In my opinion these types of sites de-value the art of photography. As the photographer only gets a very small amount of money per image and you are competing against thousand of other photographers on the sites there is very little chance of actually making any money let alone covering your costs. The only people that make money off these types of sites are the site owners - not the photographers (unless you are extremely lucky).

If you are a professional or serious amateur these sites are best avoided. I'm yet to meet a photographer who makes a living off selling their work on micro-stock sites.

Stock Image Libraries

Image libraries normally offer a similar service to that of a micro-stock site in additional to some extra services. However one of the main points of difference is the pricing model. Stock image libraries go for quality as opposed to quantity (that's not to say that micro-stock sites don't have good quality images). Their clients request particullar images in turn this allows photographers to respond to specific image requests.

As well as the Royalty Free licencing model Stock Image Libraries also have specific images available as Rights Managed. The photographers can specify what type of licencing should apply to an image when it is submitted.


Rights Managed - This type of image licencing means that you have exclusive usage of the image for a particular purpose. The fee will vary depending on the usage and duration of the licence. Specific terms and conditions will vary between stock agencies.

Only the best quality images are sold as rights managed. If you can find your niche the sale of rights managed images can be quite lucrative.

Free Image Hosting

There are lots and lots of sites now offering free image hosting. They are more suited to building image galleries for personal usage. Pictures of the kids, holiday snapshots and the like to show to your friends and family.

These types of sites are not really suited to a professional photographer’s portfolio.

Paid Image Hosting

By paying an annual subscription you can buy your very own preconfigured image gallery website (usually a sub-domain).

Other sites give you an album within their gallery where you can display your portfolio and or sell your photos and prints. These types of sites normally also have a complete list of contributing photographers from the main gallery or a photographers page.

Very convenient, but perhaps not very flexible.

Build Your Own Website

(Or work with a website developer to build one for you)

If you want to have ultimate control over how your portfolio is displayed perhaps you should consider building your own website. There are lots of Image Gallery type scripts around - some open source (free) while others come at a premium. Or, you only have a small number of static images that you wish to display you can hand build your site.

I have done an extensive amount of research on this subject in order to build some of my own sites. As a strong advocate for GNU Licenced software and the help yourself approach I have settled for Gallery as my product of choice. They have a very active development team and an extremely knowledgeable and active support community. Gallery can be run as a stand-alone application or embedded into any number of Content Management Systems such as Drupal to run the rest of your website.

There are plenty of other good scripts around. Take a look at the OpensourceCMS site under the Image Galleries category for list of around 15 of the best open source scripts. They have demo (base installs only with no additional functionality from additional plugins or modules) versions of the scripts running so that you can get an idea of what you can expect from each.

If you haven't figured it out by now my preference for a professional photo portfolio is a custom built website. Every photographer has different interests and different strengths. The site should reflect and display the photographer’s character and photography style.

A mixture of simplistic elegance normally works quite well. Sites are best kept as clutter free as possible. Remember, the focus should be on the images!

Next time we will be discussing in greater detail how to go about building your own image gallery...

Submitted by Bob (not verified) on Wed, 25/10/2006 - 18:56.

You raise some interesting points and a perspective about microstock sites and I just want to share another oposing view.

I actually do some submissions to a couple of micro stock sites, but the reason behind the submissions is not purely as a way to make a few $$. As a serious Amateur, I will often set out to learn how to do something specific in my photography - like a lighting technique. What I do, is to take my time and I will probably take a couple of hundred photos of an object or series of objects. When I am satisfied that I have the technique down and understand all aspects of it, I usually have a handful of good to exceptional images that would never normally see the light of day. The purpose of the photo has already been acheived and serve me no further real purpose.

I do choose the subject matter of these photos so that once I have learnt from them that they may be useful as stock photos.

This is where I use the microstock sites. I will submit the best 1 or 2 shots to the sites, and if the image is accepted, it is an affirmation by a 3rd party that the image is of good quality. I honestly don't care if I ever make any $ from them, as the images served their purpose to me before I even upload them.

I currently post a small number of Images to 2 of these sites, and have been pleasantly surprised that with a "portfolio" of 8 photos on 1 site I have made $8, and on another site, with a portfolio of about 25 I have made $4.

It is not about the money with any photo that is put onto a microstock for me, but the money is a bonus as the image is one that I consider a learning tool and no longer holds any value to me once I have mastered what I set out to acheive.

There is another reason why I think that the microstock agencies have a place and that is, with so many photos out there that people can use for a couple of $, they are less likely to rip off photos from a gallery or personal portfolio and use them without permission.

Submitted by photo-info on Wed, 25/10/2006 - 21:44.

If you are looking for some validation of the quality of your images, this is not a bad approach. As the images are vetted during the submission process poor quality or poorly composed photos will be rejected. So, this may be an acceptable method of getting some recognition for the quality of your pictures.

You could of course submit your images to a critique type of photo site where your photos are reviewed by other photographers.

If you are not concerned about making and cash, but treat it as a learning experience - then I say go for it!

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