Let me know if I got this right: You’re a photographer. After years of trading your time for money, you want to build passive income and start living the good life.
You know, the one where you don’t have to be at weddings and bar mitzvahs all the time to pay the bills? Stock photos are a great place to start—after all, all you have to do is shoot and upload, and then you can start earning.
But you don’t just want to make a few dollars of passive income every month. No, as someone who works hard for their money, you want to build as much of it as you can. Which brings us to the question you came here to get an answer for…
Can you sell stock photos on more than one site?
Yes, you can sell the same photo on multiple stock photo sites as long as you don’t do so under an exclusive agreement with either one of those websites.
You’ve probably seen how, when you finish uploading a photo to a stock photo site, it asks you whether you want to mark it as exclusive or not.
Well, this is exactly what I’m talking about.
When you upload a photo to a stock photo site and mark it as non-exclusive, you typically earn less per sale—but you can upload and sell it on other stock photo sites.
When you upload a photo a stock photo site and mark it as exclusive, you typically earn more per sale—but you’re obliged to only sell it though the stock photo agency in question.
The Pros and Cons of Exclusivity
There are obvious pros to keeping your stock photos exclusive.
If you agree to sell your stock photos only on one platform, that platform is usually willing to offer you significant financial incentives for doing so.
Because you forgo the ability to upload and sell the photo on other stock photo sites, you receive a higher percentage for each sale. And since your photos are sold exclusively through this agency, the agency has an incentive to aggressively promote them to their subscribers.
At the same time, as with everything else in business, there are clear cons to working with just one partner.
For starters, there’s the opportunity cost of not being able to upload your stock photo to other websites. If the site you have an exclusive agreement with does not bring you the number of sales you would have otherwise had, that’s lost revenue. (And the higher percentage you get may or may not compensate for it.)
When to Go Exclusive (And When Not To)
Every stock photo website has its audience, and each audience is unique.
If you’ve been working with a few websites for a while and you find that your architectural photos on a particular platform account for the majority of your sales, it’s a clear sign that the demand for architectural photos on that platform is high.
As long as the stock photo site’s prices for exclusive photos are good, you have a clear incentive to work with them for the long term—after all, they are the platform through which you generate most of your revenue!
On the other hand, if you have a collection of stock photos that are sold on a number of stock photo websites, you probably have no reason to go exclusive with either of them.
Should You Go Exclusive, Then?
As someone who has split his portfolio of stock photos among several websites—some exclusive, others not—I’ll give you my best advice here.
Start by keeping your photos non-exclusive. Then identify the photo collections that can be sold across multiple sites and keep them that way. Over time, however, you will find that there are certain collections of photos that sell better on one platform than another.
This is the point where you want to become exclusive for these collections to earn more from each photo in the long run.
If you’re just starting out, upload your photos to multiple stock photo websites and make sure none of them are more exclusive.
As you do, pay attention to your sales and identify the collections that sell better on some sites than others over time. Once you find them, make them exclusive—and create more of them—to benefit from the higher revenue.
Where to sell: The Best Stock Photo Websites