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How-To Series: How to Sell Your Photos

Just imagine if every time you went on vacation with your camera in tow, you could turn those pictures you snap into $25…$75… $250… or even $500 each… You can.  And if you can write an article to sell with your photos, you might even make more. Freelance photography can be exciting, lucrative and fun. And you don’t even have to leave home to get started. All you really need is a digital camera, a creative spirit, and a drive for adventure and fun.

Where to Sell Your Photos

Editorial — Magazines, Newspapers and Websites

Large publications like The New York Times, Travel + Leisure and National Geographic don’t usually work with amateur photographers.  But small publications, local papers and limited-budget websites do. Whether you’re trying to pitch your photographs with an article or you just want to sell your photos as a photo essay, it’s a good idea to start locally. You’ll break in faster, and you’ll accumulate experience that will make it much easier to move into the big leagues. To get a good idea of what sells, pick up a few publications around town and flip through them. Before you contact the editor, get a sense for the kinds of articles and photos they like to run. While it’s next to impossible to sell your island beach vacation photos to your town’s local restaurant guide, they might appreciate photos of a nearby farmer’s market, food festivals, even close-ups of fresh food or coffee. Fine Art – Galleries, Markets and Cafes The unofficial definition of a fine art photograph is: A photo that someone buys to hang on their wall at home, in their office, or their establishment (if they own a business). If you get back from your vacation with some great shots, you can pick a few to mount and frame for galleries or cafes.  Check around in your town to see which coffee shops showcase artwork and ask them if they would show yours.  Some places will let you showcase your photos for free, whereas others will only let you show your work if they can take a cut in the sale. You can also bring your photos to your local craft market to see how much it costs to get a booth, and whether it’s worth your time and money to set up there. Microstock Sites Online stock photo agencies, in general, are happy to work with amateurs but they do expect near-perfect photographs, so you’ve got to have a good digital camera and an eye for composition. Art directors, ad agencies, businesses small and large, even individuals looking to illustrate their family newsletter or MySpace page are all customers of these online stock sites.  It doesn’t cost you anything to upload your pictures and buyers can download whichever pictures they choose for anywhere between $1 and $20 or more depending on the size of the image they want. You, in exchange, get a royalty for each image. Percentages vary from agency to agency as well as with contributor status at each. iStock contributors earn anywhere from 20% – 40% of the photo sale. The beauty of these sites is that though that may only be 50 cents or so per image, you make up for it in volume. One photo can sell over and over again and you don’t have to do anything but upload and wait. The more photos your stock agency accepts, the more money you’re likely to make. Just make sure, when you take pictures for stock, to try to make a unique shot. Don’t simply copy a photo on the site, setting it up the exact same way the original photographer did. You can follow the same concepts and make similar compositions, but you should try to come up with a photo that is truly your own. Some of the leading sites are:,,,, and, a Corbis Images venture where photographers can set their own pricing. Breaking News Another thing to watch out for when you’re traveling with your camera is breaking news stories, or anything that might be considered “newsworthy.”  If you can be the first person to grab a shot of something that will surely hit the news, you can submit it to online sites that sell to news agencies.  One of these sites is called  Even if you only grab a shot with your cell phone… if it’s newsworthy, and you’re the first one to send it in, you could still make hundreds of dollars for it.

Sell Your Photos: A Few Quick Tips Before You Begin

1.  Read the Photographer’s Guidelines.

As with writing, many publications have Photographer’s Guidelines.  Following them as closely as possible will make it a lot easier to get published and paid for your photos. 2.  Three composition must-haves: Straight horizons.  Make sure the horizon in your photo is good and straight.  Crooked horizons look unprofessional and do not sell. Clear images.  Motion blur and out-of-focus images are unlikely to sell.  If there isn’t much light where you’re shooting, stabilize your camera on something solid so it won’t move when you take the shot. Rule of thirds.  When you’re composing your shot, avoid putting the subject or interest of your photo right in the middle.  To make a more visually pleasing shot, try to move it to the upper, lower, right or left third of the photograph. 4.  Write it up and make more. You can sell your photos alone as fine art, editorial or stock, but you might have more luck selling them – and for more money – if you write up a story to go along with your photographs.  Then, you can pitch the whole package to magazines, websites or newspapers.   [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.]

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