From $0.26 per image to $20,000: How Much Does Stock Photography Pay?
I’ve been submitting to microstock sites for about four years. The first site that accepted me was Fotolia, and I sold my first stock photo there for about 26 cents. I remember it was about 5 a.m., two days after I got in, when I checked my sale stats and saw the sale.
I was so excited I woke up my wife to say, “See I sold my first stock photo on the Internet!” She asked how much I made. I never thought I could get so excited over 26 cents. My friends and family didn’t seem as excited as I was about such a low payment. But I could envision how the money would add up, and I was determined to show them that I could make it work. When I first started this venture I was out of work.
As a 50-year-old aircraft mechanic living in the Midwest, it was nearly impossible to find a job. That’s when I started setting goals for my photography. My first goal was to get accepted to as many stock sites as I could. So I set out and got accepted to Fotolia, Bigstock, Dreamstime, and 123RF.
Shutterstock took a little longer, but I eventually got accepted there, too… and sold nine photos the very next day. That’s when I began to treat stock photography like a job rather than a hobby. I set out to learn as much as I could about stock in order to continue improving.
Today, I submit the most photos and receive the best pay from Shutterstock. Their pay scale starts at 25 cents per photo, but they have other licenses that allow you to earn anywhere from 25 cents to $120 per photo. After making $500 you get a raise to 33 cents. When you hit $3,000 in total earnings you go to 36 cents.
Then you get your last raise at total earnings of $10,000 to 38 cents. I reached the top scale at Shutterstock of $10,000 in July of last year and have already doubled that. Since I got my full-time job back, I sell photos pretty much for fun now. I make enough money to buy new equipment and put money away for vacations. My plan is to get a big enough portfolio in several agencies to supplement my retirement.
At the rate things are going, I plan on retiring much sooner than I originally thought before I started selling my photos as stock. The best advice I can give is to educate yourself on stock photography, learn from the mistakes and successes of others, and get a lot of hands-on experience with your camera. And most importantly, don’t ever give up on your dream.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]