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Best Stock Photography Sites

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This is a guide to the best stock photography sites by freelance photographer Polina Raynova. Discover which option is best for you to earn money from your images.

The thought of making some extra cash while putting your photography skills into practice is surely tempting for everyone. Ever since stock sites arrived on the global market, this offer has been on the table.

Although they truly give you the opportunity to earn a passive income, there are quite a few things to consider before diving into the stock world.

One of the most important decisions to make is choosing where exactly to upload your content. This could easily get a little confusing.

There are a number of platforms out there, and they all have different terms and conditions. Which stock site is the best for you and how much can you earn from your images?

Stock Photography Sites | Sell Your Photos in 2019

1. Getty Images

Screenshot of Getty Images

Getty Images is undoubtedly a beast on the contemporary stock photography market, with an astonishing number of assets in its gallery: more than 200 million. It’s also one of the oldest stock sites, operating since 1995.

They offer 125 million high-quality royalty-free images to their clients, covering a wide variety of topics, including editorial imagery.

With their solid reputation, Getty Images attracts a significant amount of traffic to their site, increasing your chance of selling your work.

How much can you earn?

Getty sells images in different sizes: small for $150, medium for $350 and large for $499.

This price list does sound quite tempting, but keep in mind that the agency puts a heavy price on your potential earnings: 80% of each sale goes to Getty and only 20% t0 you.

2. Depositphotos

Depositphotos has been on the stock photography market since 2009 when it was founded by Dmitry Sergeev. For 10 years the company has grown significantly and it’s continuing to expand its collection rapidly.

At the moment Depositphotos is the home of over 100 million high-quality royalty-free images which are divided into the following categories: Photos, Illustrations, Vector Art, Backgrounds, Editorial & News images. It also includes the option of uploading and selling HD videos.

Although this company is based in Florida it has offices literally all over the world and remarkably offers customer support in 20 different languages.

How much can you earn?

If you’re willing to become a contributor for Depositphotos you have to pass a brief examination test first. If you get accepted the most important thing you should be aware of is the level system that they use.

The level is determined by the number of sales the particular contributor has made on their website. There are five levels: green up to 499 downloads; bronze 500 – 4,999 downloads; silver 5,000 – 24,999 downloads; gold 25,000 – 149,999 downloads and platinum 150,000+ downloads.

Depending on the level that you’re at, you can get between 34% and 42% royalties from each file sold.

You’ll definitely need to make a lot of sales in order to reach the top tiers, but still, 34% is already a decent start!

3. iStock

Screenshot of Istock Stock Photography

iStock is another popular name in the stock photography industry. As such, it can provide a good platform for displaying your images (and of course a better chance of selling).

iStock used to be an independent player, but in 2006 it was acquired by Getty for $50 million.

When compared with Getty, there’s one significant difference between these two sites: iStock is categorized as a “microstock” agency, referring to low-cost stock photography.

How much can you earn?

The commission for the contributors varies between 15% and 45%, depending on the options the photographer chooses when submitting new visual content.

In terms of licensing there are two options available: exclusive and non-exclusive.

If the contributor chooses the non-exclusive option, it means that the photographer can upload the images not only to iStock, but to other stock sites as well.

In this case the photographer gets a flat commission of 15%.

If the photographer goes for the first option – submitting exclusive content – the commission can reach 45%, depending on the number of downloads.

The more downloads you have, the bigger the percentage, and it’s in these upper tiers when you can really start to make money from stock photography.

4. Dreamstime

Screenshot of Dreamstime Stock Photography

Dreamstime is definitely a platform that sets high standards of quality for its contributors.

It covers quite a few categories: Abstract, Animals, Holidays, Arts and Architecture, and many others. The company was founded 15 years ago, making it one of the oldest stock agencies out there.

Dreamstime is a microstock provider, and its direct rivals on the market nowadays are iStock and Shutterstock.

It’s considered by many contributors to be one of the best places for photographers to sell their work.

How much can you earn?

The commission you get from each image sold varies from 25% to 50%. How do they determine the rate?

It’s a very similar scheme to the other stock sites: it depends directly on whether the uploaded content is exclusive or non-exclusive. Exclusive images enjoy a higher earning percentage.

It also depends on how many times the photo has been downloaded, or in other words, if the image ranks as popular.

5. Stocksy

Screenshot os Stocksy Stock Photography

Stocksy is a new star on the stock photography scene. It was only founded 6 years ago, but it has already made a big difference with its alternative approach.

Stocksy focuses on authentic, atypical stock imagery, and it really excels in this. Just one look at the curated gallery is enough to see that you’re dealing with top-tier photographers.

The only setback is that it’s really hard to get in. I’ve tried twice in the last three years but was rejected.

I also know at least a dozen good photographers who submitted portfolios and couldn’t become part of the team. I’m planning on one last try soon.

The third time’s a charm, right? ;-)

How much can you earn?

Stocksy is definitely generous when it comes to paying contributors – it pays out 50% commission, which is a really fair deal.

In addition to the financial aspect, you also get to be a part of a community of very talented people. That’s a benefit that can’t be overestimated.

The photos there are divided into 4 categories according to their file size: $15 for a small image, $30 for medium, $75 for large and $125 for extra-large.

There are also options for extended licenses, which hit the sweet spot with prices of $300 and $500 depending on the purpose of use.

6. Westend61

Screenshot of Westend61 Stock Photography

Westend61 is a German stock agency which has been on the European market since 2003. It’s both a stock photo producer and a distributing picture agency.

They sell directly in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and distribute imagery to partner agencies all over the world.

Westend61 focuses on images which are highly relevant to corporate, advertising and editorial customers and it maintains a high-quality photo collection.

How much can you earn?

This agency really values its contributors and it treats them with respect.

With every new submission the photographer decides whether the photos will be used exclusively by Westend61 or if the agency is authorized to distribute them to their international partners.

Depending on which of those options the photographer chooses, commission varies between 40% and 60% of the profits.

Westend61 can also offer a very tempting add-on: they’ll not only sell your stock photos, but they can also mediate commissions from their clients.

In this case, since they’re just connecting two parties, you get 85% of the profits and the fee for them is 15%. Pretty sweet deal!

7. Shutterstock

Screenshot of Shutterstock Stock Photography

Shutterstock is another popular name in the world of stock photography. It offers an impressive 270 million royalty-free images to its clients.

The site is visited by thousands of people daily, which increases the chance of your work getting noticed and purchased.

Ironically, the downside is also connected to the fact that this agency gets a lot of attention – it means that you as a contributor will have significant competition, too.

How much can you earn?

Since this is a microstock site (just like iStock by Getty and Fotolia) the individual image price is quite low.

The most popular plan they offer is a monthly subscription for clients for the price of $169, with the client receiving 350 images.

This brings down the value of a single photograph to $0.48, which can be quite discouraging from a psychological point of view if you’re a professional photographer.

The commission rates for contributors to Shutterstock start at 25% for an image sold.

8. Cavan Images

Screenshot of Cavan Images Stock Photography

Cavan Images is a great new entry on the market and it supports the idea that every good story begins with a strong image.

Cavan focuses on high-quality, authentic photographs that are both bold and vibrant.

They understand the importance of building a creative community of contributors. They currently have 2600 members from more than 80 countries around the globe.

It’s been almost a year since I opened an account with them, and I can really see that Cavan is striving to make its members feel valuable.

However, there are a couple of things that are not so positive. One is the time it takes for the editors to review your submissions. It can easily take more than 2 weeks, which is far too long.

Secondly, they used to have a team that was responsible for keywording, which in my personal opinion is quite time-consuming and annoying.

Now, they have a new submission platform and each user has to keyword his/her photos individually.

How much can you earn?

They offer great pricing – small images start from $50 and large, full-resolution images can go up to $500. The contributors get a respectable 50% from each photograph sold.

The only downside here is that the site is still not very popular, so it doesn’t get a lot of daily traffic. That means it’s not guaranteed that clients will have the chance to stumble upon your work.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that all the imagery you upload to Cavan is exclusive to them – you don’t have the right to distribute the same images to other agencies.

9. Offset

Scrrenshot os Offset Stock Photography

Offset was created by Shutterstock in September 2013, and it prioritizes high-end images from more experienced photographers.

This agency is quite different from Shutterstock itself and from any other microstock site. It targets clients who are all about great imagery and are not very concerned about prices.

Similar to Stocksy, Offset is notorious for being difficult to get in. They’d rather find you and invite you than accept your application as a contributor, though you can submit a portfolio.

How much can you earn?

The images listed on this site have quite attractive pricing. It’s $249 for a small image at 72dpi and $499 for full resolution.

They also offer packages of 5 or 10 images which could be a cost-effective option for some buyers.

10. Pond5

Screenshot of Pond5 Stock PhotographyPond5 is definitely not one of the most famous stock photography hubs but it’s still worth mentioning.

It was founded back in 2006, and it started out as an agency to help video producers license content to third parties.

Pond5 is based in New York and it’s a marketplace for royalty-free media. Aside from photos, they also offer stock footage, music tracks, sound effects, 3D objects and After Effects templates.

How much can you earn?

That’s literally up to you; Pond5 really trusts their community of artists and lets them set their own prices!

As a contributor you get to decide on the price for each file, and every time it sells, you get 50% of the revenue.

There are four file sizes available for clients: Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large. You’ll see prices varying from $15 to $500 for full-resolution images.

11. Fotolia

Screenshot of Fotolia Stock Photography

Fotolia is a first-class agency in the stock photography world nowadays. It used to be an independent player on the market, but this year it was acquired by Adobe Stock.

In Fotolia you can find more than 50 million royalty-free images, videos, 3D assets and templates. It can offer you unparalleled exposure as a contributor.

How much can you earn?

This agency offers a competitive royalty of 33% on photos and 35% on video footage.

By uploading to Fotolia you also get the chance to be featured in their premium collection, which is hand-curated and contains high-quality images that are absolute eye candy.

12. Creative Market

Screenshot of Creative Market Stock Photography

Creative Market is another site you may not have heard of before, but checking it out most definitely won’t be a waste of time.

This platform has a significant number of artists who are part of the community: 29,434 independent creators!

It offers not only stock images, but also graphics, templates, web themes, font add-ons and 3D assets.

How much can you earn?

If you open a shop in Creative Market, there are quite a few perks.

The contributors are allowed to set their own prices and earn 70% of each sale (which is honestly quite a lot, keeping in mind that commissions on most other stock sites vary from 15% to 50%).

Another advantage that is not to be underestimated is that with this platform you can get your photos in front of over 5 million members. That will help you gain a lot of exposure!

Final Words

I hope you’ve enjoyed the list of photography stock sites I’ve put on your radar. Some of the names are undoubtedly popular, but there are also others which are lesser-known.

If you have experience with any of these stock sites, please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Also be sure to check out this insightful article about stock photography agencies  from our friends at Pixsy, examining what rights lie with you and what lie with the agency.

Let’s help each other decide if it’s worth exploring all these fantastic opportunities!

Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand.

12 Comments

  1. S. Cantelle. on November 16, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    Interesting you forget to mention a lot of the stock agencies sell subscriptions to their customers. So a subscription for a couple of hundred Euros / Dollars gets the customer several hundreds of downloads. Getty, for example, takes a high percentage of the sale value (now at under one dollar / euro), leaving the photographer a mere 15c.

    Without providing such clear information in your article, you are making readers think they can earn a living from Stock Photography. 99% of photographers cannot make anything near a living these days.

    • Polina Raynova on November 19, 2019 at 8:15 am

      Hey there,

      Subscription models weren’t intentionally left behind, so I’m glad you brought this up – it’s something that can certainly be added as a piece of information, it’s just really hard to keep up with them as they’re often changing. In my opinion, earning a living with stock photography is still possible in case you’re willing to invest a lot of time and devotion doing it – otherwise it could be a side income.

      Best,
      Polly

  2. Boel on October 23, 2019 at 7:32 pm

    I’m a member of Alamy. You don’t mention them. They are quite big. And also have a quality demand for photographers getting accepted.

    I don’t sell very much but it’s up to me to put more photos in there.
    Still might try some of your advices. Thank you!
    @boel in Sweden.

  3. Tim Keagy on September 20, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Hi Polina,

    New to the stock photography world and have ben researching some of these sites before I read your article. I’m looking forward to trying a few know and not so known sites. Thanks for the read.

  4. Lenja Muster on September 10, 2019 at 4:53 am

    Hey there,

    thank you for this really helpful and interesting article. I am wondering if you have any thoughts on the Website Twenty20?

    Cheers,
    Lenja

    • Polina Raynova on September 12, 2019 at 4:32 pm

      Hey Lenja!

      Unfortunately I’m not familiar with this one and I don’t have any friends who sell photos there – maybe you can search for opinions of other contributors, that’s what I do when I’m looking for honest thoughts :)

  5. Kevin McGowan on August 18, 2019 at 11:06 am

    Appreciate the photographer income info given for most agencies, but would like to know what that is for Offset. You only gave their selling prices, not the photog’s share. It is not available on their website.

    • Polina Raynova on September 12, 2019 at 4:54 pm

      It’s indeed strange that they don’t have it listed on their website, but maybe you can shoot them an email and ask? They’re at least pretty responsive :)

  6. SandyLu on July 18, 2019 at 5:30 am

    Some of the photographers with an online presence say they’ve lost an income stream of nearly $50k a year when Google Images went up. What has changed since then to make stock photography worthwhile?

    • Mark Condon on July 18, 2019 at 6:32 am

      It’s made the industry more competitive, but the quality is also better for it – there’s a big difference in quality between free images and ones shot purposely for stock.

  7. Polina Raynova on July 16, 2019 at 6:11 am

    Hi Orlando,

    Glad to hear the article was useful to you!

    I also have a couple of fellow photographers who got accepted in Stocksy, but that was more than 5-6 years ago. One of them was a travel photographer and the other one was focusing on interior photography. In recent days it’s becoming more and more difficult to get inside and I know many good photographers who have tried but they were rejected.

    I’ve heard about this “quiet approach” that you’re mentioning and I think it’s not just a rumour – not sure if they still have the same approach at the moment.

    Direct outreach is something which I haven’t considered up to now but it definitely makes a lot of sense – thanks for bringing this to the table!

  8. Orlando Sydney on July 13, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    Hi Polina,
    this is one of the better and useful roundup posts on Stock Photography sites. Finding niche stock sites is not always easy.
    Thank you.

    An old mate of mine got into Stocksy a few years ago when it was invite only. From what I heard the Stocksy scouts would look at photographers profiles online and make a quiet approach. All you could do then was get on their radar. Things may/would be different now.
    One stock site I liked was Image Brief, an Aussie start-up in 2014. They had a different approach to most. After raising $3.4m they disappointingly no longer exist that I know of.

    One way photographers can sell photo licences is by doing their own outreach directly to high photo consuming websites…

    Cheers
    Orlando Sydney

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