The Ultimate Guide to Selling Stock Photos, Videos and Music

While the idea of ​​”passive income” sounds great, the term is usually misleading as creating passive income streams often takes a lot of work. While most passive income schemes involve starting a business or putting some capital into an investment, there are also ways to tap into your creative and artistic impulses: for example, if you are passionate about music, photography , or filming videos, you can turn those passions into income. even if you’re not necessarily a professional, selling your work to stock media sites.

Stock sites have vast collections of media that people pay for a license to use in their podcasts, videos, websites, book covers, video games – just about any product that uses music , sound effects, images, or video is likely to use some stock media files. (see photo above as an example). And every time a photo or piece of music is licensed on a stock site, there’s a creator somewhere who’s getting paid—and that could be you. If you have a library of high quality media that just sits somewhere on your hard drive and does nothing, here’s how you can turn it into real money.

How do you sell stock media?

The first question, of course, is whether it’s worth the effort. How much can you actually earn from a photo or drone video you took while on vacation?

There are many factors that go into the value of media, such as the quality, how unique it is, and the popularity of the category it falls into. Stock media is pretty much a mass business: stock sites expect you to upload a lot of stuff, and the more you upload (and the more often you upload fresh content), the better you will work with their search algorithms and therefore the better . you will do in sales. If you are not actively adding material, your work may fall out of the search results.

Assuming you’re willing to upload a lot of media and keep doing it, how much can you actually earn?

How much can you earn from stock photography?

Photos are the easiest media to sell and don’t pay much for them: on average, you can earn between $0.02 and $0.25 per image per month . Actual revenue per image varies from site to site and ranges from $0.10 to $200. However, sites that pay more have much lower volume, so you won’t necessarily earn more by working with them, and there are other reasons why you might want to forego the highest potential payouts, as we’ll see. You can also earn bonuses of a few dollars per image if your photos are newsworthy – if you capture images of big events and upload them in a timely manner, sites will pay more due to demand.

How much can you earn from stock video?

Selling stock footage can net you anywhere from $11 to $400 depending on how many videos you upload, how many stock sites you upload to, the prices you set, and of course, the popularity of your clip.

How much can you earn from stock music?

If you’re a songwriter, stock sites can fetch you $8 to $15 per track , and tracks can often be sold multiple times because you’re selling a license to use the music, not the rights themselves. But if you’ve registered your work with a performance rights organization (PRO) such as ASCAP or BMI (more on that below), you’ll also get paid every time your music is streamed somewhere – that’s a separate fee from the original one. licensing. And you can get that performance fee every time your work gets aired, so if someone licenses your song for publicity, you can make a significant amount of money— $30,000 to $40,000 a year . Of course, most stock music doesn’t make that much, but if your songs are licensed multiple times a month, you can still make a few hundred dollars.

There are a few things to keep in mind here:

  • There are no guarantees. It should be obvious, but you can’t guarantee that you’ll make money from stock media at all. You can upload 1,000 photos and not sell any of them, so treat these income potential estimates as very potential.
  • upfront costs. Whether you’re renting studios, hiring models, or paying any other upfront fees, your real profit from selling stock will be less than just downloading a batch of 4K video from a drone or old songs you have lying around.
  • Licensing options. You will be paid more if you work exclusively with some stock sites, and you will often have a choice of how your work can be used once you have obtained a license, which can also affect the amount of money you can earn. You will need to read the terms and conditions of a particular site and make some decisions before you can estimate how much you can actually earn.

How to sell shares

So! You have a catalog of media files that you have created and you want to turn those digital files into digital gold. How exactly do you do it? First of all, if you’re going to be licensing music, consider joining a performance rights organization (PRO) . In the US, there are three main ones – ASCAP , BMI and SESAC . Registering your work with PRO can earn you more money if your music is used in broadcasts or performed live as part of a production.

Now that you’re ready to sell your stock media, the first step is to choose which sites you’re going to sell on. There are many sites you can work with:

There are many other places, but these are the main ones that anyone can join to start selling stock media. There are also aggregator sites such as BlackBox , which allow footage to be uploaded to one platform and then processed on other sites. This reduces the number of sites you have to deal with to just one, making the process easier.

There’s no reason not to join as many of these platforms as you want – you’re licensing your work rather than selling it directly to them, so you can post the same clips, songs, or photos on multiple sites. Some sites will offer you higher fees for exclusive content, which might be worth considering, and some sites require a perpetual license, which means that once you download a media file, you won’t be able to delete it later.


To get the most out of selling shares, consider the following:

  • Quality is more important than quantity. While high volume can improve your search results and earn you more money, flooding sites with low-quality junk will get you nowhere. Consider that part of the algorithm used by stock sites keeps track of how often your work actually sells, so having a bunch of crappy photos that no one buys from the site will slowly bury you in the listings, meaning your chances of ever either sell something will decrease. Be picky and remember that higher resolution photos and videos will always be better.
  • Find a niche. If you go to Shutterstock right now and search for “children”, you’ll get over 5 million results , so if you’re trying to sell multiple photos of babies, you’d better have a hook that makes your content stand out. Better yet, try to find a category that isn’t overcrowded – the more specific and niche your work is, the more likely you are to stand out in a crowded field.
  • Make metadata. When you upload a stock, you will need to enter metadata such as keywords and other descriptors. Don’t skimp on this – the more keywords you use, the better you will perform searches, and the more specific you are, the easier it will be for customers to find exactly what they are looking for. At the same time, do not “push” keywords there that have nothing to do with your media, just to show up in search results – this will not work and may harm the site’s algorithm.
  • Be emotionally prepared. If you’re a creative person, selling your stock work can be a surprisingly emotional experience. It’s largely anonymous, and once licensed, people can do whatever they like with your work, pretty much edit it, convert it, and use it in ways you might not expect. Make sure you are ready.

Selling your photos, music, and video stock as stock can turn into a good income if you are prolific, talented, and dedicated. As with any passive income, it can take a lot of work to get going, but it can also be worth it.


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