A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Selling Stock Photos on Content Marketplaces

Statistics show that people take 54+ million photos every second in 2022. 92.5% of them are captured on smartphones and only 7% on cameras. These figures vividly illustrate that everyone can create demanded visuals. This makes content creation a fascinating experience that allows people worldwide to generate additional profits. You can sell images on specialized online platforms. This way of earning money is even available to amateur photographers, as it doesn’t require professional equipment. To sell your content on the internet, you just need to understand the basics of photography, like lighting, composition, and angles. 

Stock content marketplaces allow international creators to sell their artwork online and earn passive income. Keep reading this article to discover the essentials of the stock photography industry, and learn how beginner artists can start selling their photos on online stocks. 

Where can you sell stock photos?

Stock content marketplaces are extensive online libraries that feature photos, vectors, illustrations, icons, clip art, infographics, videos, and music. Any internet user can download licensed files and use them for personal or commercial purposes. Generally, stock content marketplaces are in demand among content managers, designers, website creators, bloggers, marketers, manufacturers, and digital brands. Some platforms are free to use, and contributors don’t get any profit except for work promotion. Nonetheless, most platforms feature paid visuals, allowing you to earn passive sales income. 

You receive commission by selling your pictures on stock content marketplaces. The sale percentage depends on a chosen platform. It’s better to choose one photo stock, upload numerous files, and level up your contributor account to gain the most benefits. 

There are two types of online marketplaces: micro and macro stocks. 

  • Microstocks are platforms that sell pictures to an unlimited number of users. Various people can buy the same file for different purposes. Microstocks introduce simple content selection requirements so that even beginner creators can sell their visuals. 
  • Macrostocks are platforms that provide only premium-quality content to exclusive buyers. Only one person or brand can purchase a particular file, and such visuals usually have a greater price. Besides, macrostocks carefully select their contributors, so beginner and amateur photographers often cannot sell their work there. 

Stock photo licenses and copyright terms

Stock content marketplaces automatically set license and picture usage terms after you upload your files to the system. Often, libraries provide files under a Royalty-Free License of two different types: Standard and Extended. 

  • Standard Royalty-Free License allows customers to use bought content on the internet, printed materials, outdoor advertisements, and for non-commercial purposes. The standard RF license usually imposes restrictions on the number of copies. Usage terms depend on a specific marketplace. 
  • Extended Royalty-Free License allows buyers to use images for the same purposes as the standard one, lifting any limitations or usage restrictions.

Sometimes, you will need extra permissions like Model and Property Releases for selling specific stock photos. 

  • Model Release permission from a photo model to use an image for commerce. Any stock content marketplace will require this document if your photo shows faces, figures, or other signs of people by which they can be identified. 
  • Property Release permission from a landlord or a property owner. You will need it if your photoshoot was held in private areas, and the picture portrays easily recognized places. 

Who can sell stock photos on marketplaces? 

Generally, stock content marketplaces don’t have complicated requirements for contributors. Beginner, amateur, and professional photographers and illustrators can place their images on online platforms. However, most sources require artists to be at least 18 years old. AI-based algorithms automatically assess uploaded files and can either decline or add them to the library. You can usually check the reason why your visual was not accepted. 

Often, photo stocks offer contributors to pass an acceptance exam. To complete it, you have to upload some of your best works. Then, the platform will check the quality of your content, offer collaboration terms, and provide access to uploading your files for sale. 

How much can you earn by selling stock photos online? 

Creators can reach different contributor and profit levels on stock content platforms. First of all, your income depends on your aspirations. To increase profit, add diverse content on specific topics. The more users buy your files, the higher your earnings. Prices for a particular picture may range, so you should try taking authentic, high-quality photos to place higher fees. The rates also depend on the license type. Content sold under the Extended license is more expensive. 

Some stock sites offer higher prices for exclusive visuals. To increase your revenue per image, you can upload unique HD files to an exclusive platform. Usually, these websites prohibit uploading or selling the same images on other sources to comply with the exclusivity terms. 

Top 3 stock content marketplaces

Libraries have specific collaboration terms and technical picture specifications. Before you start working with a particular platform, get acquainted with its conditions. 

#1 Depositphotos

Depositphotos is one of the best sites for selling stock photography, and it collaborates with 100,000+ contributors from 173 countries. The library is accessible at https://depositphotos.com/stock-photography.html. You can upload photos, illustrations, vectors, clip art, icon sets, and infographics for sale on the platform. According to the collaboration terms, you will retain the copyright of the published content, you must be at least 18 years old, and also provide Model and Property Releases on demand. 

To start working with Depositphotos, create a free contributor account. Then, the platform will offer to upload your best images for evaluation. After successfully passing this test, you can start selling your visuals. 

Depositphotos also require your pictures to fit technical specifications. You can upload photos in JPEG, JPG, or PNG formats, in RGB color space, and with at least 3.8 MP of minimum resolution. The weight of a picture shouldn’t exceed 50 MB. You can also upload vector files in AI, SVG, and EPS formats. Before uploading, prepare ZIP archives that include a raster preview of your images. 

#2 Dreamstime 

This large stock photography community unites 890,000+ contributors all over the world. On Dreamstime, you can sell your photos, vectors, and illustrations. The platform has strict requirements for added content. Before uploading your files, ensure your visuals don’t contain distorted pixels, noise, poor lighting, or over-filtered scenes. 

You must create a contributor account to start selling your files on Dreamstime. After registration, upload your visuals to the platform. Later, you will see the accepted files in your account. If Dreamstime declines the pictures, you will get detailed comments on the rejection reasons in your email. 

Working with Dreamstime, you can sell photos and vector files. The platform accepts JPEG formatted pictures in RGB color space weighing up to 1 GB. The minimum image resolution is 3 MP. You can also upload vector graphics in AI, EPS, CDR, and SVG formats. 

#3 Alamy 

Alamy connects 60,000+ international contributors with stock content buyers. Using the platform, you can sell your photos and illustrations. This marketplace doesn’t have strict requirements for contributors; however, your content must meet basic technical specifications. 

You can place raster graphics only in JPEG format weighing over 17 MB. The platform also accepts EPS formatted vectors. Before uploading vector graphics to Alamy, you must prepare their JPG preview. Make sure the provided vector file doesn’t contain locked layers. Also, note that Alamy temporarily doesn’t accept pictures taken on smartphones. 

To sell your files on the platform, you must register as a contributor and pass the Quality Control Test. Upload your best pictures and get feedback from the administration. Alamy also accepts reportage and panoramic photos. 

Beginner tips for selling stock photos 

Sometimes novice contributors make mistakes that prevent them from earning money on stock content marketplaces. Check out four tips to help you get started with selling your files: 

  1. Upload high-quality pictures. Most stock content marketplaces do not have strict image quality requirements. However, users are unlikely to buy photos with incorrect exposure, noise, and distorted pixels. Follow the photography basics to make your visuals eye-catching.
  2. Capture images that are simple to understand. Beginners frequently upload compositions with complex scenes and unclear meaning, while stock content users tend to choose simple and understandable visuals. For example, vegetables lying on a plate are an excellent composition for healthy food delivery companies. 
  3. Explore the demand. Various companies search for content for their projects on stock marketplaces. The demand for different compositions may significantly vary depending on the current market conditions. So, the majority of platforms provide their contributors with advanced analytics tools. Use them to determine which content you can sell best at the moment. 
  4. Don’t upload similar photos. Some creators upload images that are almost similar to each other. Therefore, they create competition for themselves. It’s better to shoot the same scenes, but come up with different variations. For example, you can take your photo in the morning and evening to capture different lighting and shadow placement. 


Stock content marketplaces provide an excellent opportunity to make money by selling images. Amateur and beginner photographers can successfully promote and sell their files without professional equipment. Every platform has different collaboration terms, so get acquainted with them before deciding on a preferred marketplace. Your profit depends on various aspects, including your aspiration, contributor level, and royalty percentage. Choose the platform and upload your visuals for the world to see and purchase.