how much can you make selling stock photos

How Much Can You Make Selling Stock Photos in 2023?

how much can you make selling stock photos

Selling stock photos for a living – the ultimate dream of every aspiring photographer who has ever snapped a photo of a sunset and thought, “I could totally make money off this!”

Well, dear dreamer, let’s dive into the colorful world of stock photo profits and see just how much dough you can make in this pixel paradise.


First, let’s consider the marketplace. There are a few big players in the stock photo game, like Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, and iStock by Getty Images. Each platform has its own payment structure and royalty rates, so earnings can vary depending on where you choose to sell your visual masterpieces.

FactorsStock PhotographersProfessionalsRoyalty-Free SalesExtended LicensesStock Photo AgenciesStocksyShutterstock Contributor ProgramConsistent Uploaders
Earnings per image per month$0.02$0.05 – $0.25
Earnings per sale (royalty-free)$0.10 – $99.50$0.32Up to $200 per sale
Earnings per sale (extended license)Up to $500Up to $8,100 per sale
Algorithm favorabilityFavored
Photo requirements for a living~200,000 photos
Monthly upload requirementsSeveral hundred
Highest commissionsYes
Highest payoutsYes

This table summarizes the data provided regarding earnings and factors influencing success in the stock photography market.


Known for its vast library and low prices, Shutterstock is a favorite among budget-conscious designers. Contributors here can expect to earn a 20-30% royalty rate on each download, which translates to about $0.25 to $2.85 per sale. Hit the jackpot with a trendy image that goes viral, and you could earn up to $120 per download with their Enhanced License program. However, fair warning, reaching that level of fame is about as likely as spotting a unicorn frolicking in a field of four-leaf clovers.

Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock, the sophisticated cousin of Shutterstock. With a royalty rate of 33% for standard licenses, you can earn anywhere from $0.66 to $3.30 per download. And if you’re lucky enough to sell an extended license, you could pocket a cool $26.40. But remember, your work will be competing with countless other beautiful images, so breaking through the noise could be like trying to teach a cat to tap dance.

iStock by Getty Images

The crème de la crème of stock photo platforms, iStock offers contributors a 15% royalty rate for non-exclusive images and up to 45% for exclusive ones. In terms of cold, hard cash, that means earnings can range from $0.34 to $12.24 per download for non-exclusive content and up to $49.96 for exclusive images. But to make it big here, you’ll need to produce truly exceptional work – we’re talking photographs that could make even a stone statue shed a tear.

Now, let’s talk numbers

On average, most stock photo contributors make somewhere between $0 and $1,000 per month. That’s right, you could either make enough to buy a cup of coffee or pay your rent, depending on your skill, dedication, and a healthy dose of luck.

But fear not, there are a select few who defy the odds and make it big in the stock photo world. 

For example, Yuri Arcurs, the king of stock photography, reportedly earns over $1 million per year. But don’t get too starry-eyed; becoming the next Arcurs is about as likely as successfully navigating a minefield in roller skates.


Here is the summary of all the (potential) earnings you can expect, assuming your photos are getting approved:

AgencyEarnings/Image/MonthMinimum (Royalty-Free)Maximum (Royalty-Free)Extended License
Stock Photographers$0.02
Professionals$0.05 – $0.25
iStock & Getty Images$0.10$16.20$113.40
Adobe Stock & Fotolia$0.33$3.30$26.40
Stocksy$7.50$200.00$75.00 – $8,100.00

This table combines the provided data regarding earnings and success factors in the stock photography market with specific information about various stock photo agencies.

In conclusion, selling stock photos can be a fun and creative way to make some extra cash, but only a lucky few will earn enough to quit their day jobs. So, keep snapping those sunsets, and who knows?

Maybe one day, you’ll find your masterpiece among the pixels, earning you enough for that dream vacation or a lifetime supply of coffee.

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