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Photo Sharing Sites That Pay Creators

Person shooting a photo that can be uploaded to online photo sharing sites

To be a photographer, you used to have to really know what you’re doing. You had to understand light. You had to understand composition. And you had to understand what all the little buttons and knobs on the camera were for. But everyone has a pretty sophisticated camera on their phones now. And there are quick and easy tools on these phones to spiff up any photo before posting to the internet. How do creators who’re photographers even make a living anymore? As it turns out, there are online photo sharing sites that will pay photographers for their work.

If you’re an illustrator, this article is for you too. Some of the platforms we profile here are also for illustrators.

A few of the photo sharing sites in this article are for professional photographers. But, most of the platforms we profile are for a mix of pro, semi-pro, and skilled amateurs.

And we won’t be profiling the biggest photo sharing platform: Instagram. That’s because we’ve already done so. Here’s the Instagram article.

Let’s start with the platform all photographers and illustrators should have: your own website.

Table Of Contents
  1. Photographers and Illustrators Might Only Want a Basic Website
  2. Pro-Level Photographers and Illustrators can Earn Money on Stock Photography Websites
  3. 500px Is a Photo Sharing Site That Helps Photographers Grow and Get Better
  4. EyeEm is a Marketplace for Photographers and Illustrators
  5. Behance is a Photo Sharing Site from Adobe
  6. YouPic Lets You Set Up a Shop to Sell Prints
  7. Pexels is a Free Stock Photography Website that Holds Contests with Cash Prizes
  8. You Can Use Pinterest as a Photo Sharing Site
  9. There Are Other Photo Sharing Sites But They Usually Don’t Pay
  10. Photography and Illustrations Aren’t Getting a Lot of Attention Right Now, but We Don’t Think They’ll Ever Go Away

Photographers and Illustrators Might Only Want a Basic Website

We think all creators should have their own website. But, we also think that photographers and illustrators should only have a very minimal website. Or just pay some of these photography platforms to host their site. We have a very specific reason for this recommendation.

When you run your own website, one of the most important things you need to pay attention to is the website’s speed. It has to load fast, or your visitors run out of patience and wander away.

There are a lot of ways you can make your web pages load faster, but one main way is to reduce the file size of the images. Yes, this means that you’re going to have to compress and take out some of the details of your gorgeous hi-res photos. Not good when you’re a photographer or illustrator.

There are two ways to keep the quality of your photos or illustrations: (1) pay a lot of money to maintain a super fast website or (2) keep your photos or illustrations on one of these photo sharing sites and let them take care of load speed. For most photographers and illustrators, the answer is No. 2.

But we do still think you should have your own website. You can pay for some of the photo sharing sites we profile in this article to host your website. This way, you can use your domain name. With other platforms, you can build a simple website, sometimes for free, and link your photographer/illustrator’s page on the photo sharing site to your simple website.

This way, you’ll still have your own home on the internet but won’t have to pay too much to keep the quality of your photos or illustrations intact.

Pro-Level Photographers and Illustrators can Earn Money on Stock Photography Websites

One standard way for photographers and illustrators to make money on the internet is to license their work as stock photos. Businesses typically use the photos for their websites, brochures, and other business-related literature.

There are just a few big players in the stock photo business. They’re pretty selective about the photos they take. If you’re a pro photographer or illustrator, you probably already know about them. But here are a few of the big ones:

Every photo you submit to them is reviewed before they decide to accept or reject them. We’ve linked to the submission pages for you.

But maybe you’re more interested in photography as pure art. Or maybe you’re a semi-pro or an amateur, and you think you need a little practice before you feel confident enough to submit to these bigger sites. If that’s the case, then look below for other ways to showcase your photos and get a little more experience.

500px Is a Photo Sharing Site That Helps Photographers Grow and Get Better

500px is a website for photographers who wish to learn more about the artform. You post your photos, and other members can Like or critique your photos to help you get better.

There are Three Account Tiers at 500px

To post to 500px, you’ll need to set up an account. There are three tiers of accounts: Free, Awesome ($4.99/mo), and Pro ($9.99/mo). This pricing is for a yearly membership. The month-to-month pricing is a little higher. New accounts often get a price break.

The Free account lets you upload 21 photos/week, submit to Quests (contests), and license your work. The paid plans give you unlimited uploads and a lot of other add-ons. The Pro plan gives you a Portfolio—which is your page where you can display your work. The Pro plan also lets you use your own domain name for the Portfolio. Here’s more information on 500px’s account tiers.

500px Can Help You License Your Photos for Commercial Use

You can submit your photos to 500px for commercial licensing. 500px supplies photos to Getty Images and VCG (Visual China Group). This means that, if they accept your photos, your work can potentially be distributed worldwide.

You license the photos exclusively to 500px. So, you can’t submit the same photo to other photo sharing sites for licensing. When needed, you’ll have to submit the appropriate releases before your photos will be approved for licensing.

The photos are licensed “royalty free.” This means it’s a one-time paid-up license. The licensee won’t have to keep paying royalties every time they use your photo. You do get to keep your copyright.

If someone buys your photo through Getty Images or VCG, they’ll pay 500px a percentage of the license fee. Then, 500px shares the revenue with you. If you have a Free account, you get 60% of whatever 500px gets. If you have a paid account, you get 100% of 500px’s share.

Here’s more information on the submission and licensing process.

You Can Participate in Quests

500px holds photo contests from time to time. They call these contests Quests.

There’s often a cash award for winning a Quest. Other times, you win various items or free exposure.

Some Quests are sponsored by advertisers. Winning such a Quest often means the advertiser will hire you for more commissioned work.

You Can Work on Commercial Grants

Commercial Grants start as a Quest. You submit your photos. If you’re picked, you work with the 500px Content Team to develop a photo shoot.

When you complete the shoot, you’ll submit your photos for licensing. If the sponsor of the grant is happy with the result, they pay you.

Payout Information

We couldn’t find any information on 500px’s payout process.

EyeEm is a Marketplace for Photographers and Illustrators

EyeEm is one of a collection of websites owned by a Swedish company called Talenthouse AG. Each of Talenthouse’s websites focuses on some aspect of a creative business. For example, RealityHouse is a site for 3D and AR focused creatives. EyeEm focuses on photography and illustrations. And Talenthouse is the house brand that covers them all.

Start by Creating an EyeEm Account

To sell your photos or illustrations to EyeEm, you’ll have to first create an account. It’s free. To sign up, you can use your email, Facebook account, or Google account.

Once you upload your first photo or illustration, someone from EyeEm will review it. Then, they’ll decide where they will offer the photo for licensing. Illustrations are sold only through the EyeEm Market.

EyeEm Can License Your Photos in Several Places

EyeEm has its own marketplace called EyeEm Market. Businesses can buy photos and illustrations from the Market. But EyeEm also handpicks some of the photos and places them with other stock photo providers. These providers include:

  • Adobe Stock
  • Alamy
  • Amana Images
  • ANP
  • Bytedance (TikTok)
  • Getty Images
  • Mauricious Images
  • Westend61

And others.

The photos picked for these other stock photo providers might be exclusive placements. Any work in the EyeEm Market is a non-exclusive placement. This means that you can sell the same work elsewhere, if you wish.

All photos and illustrations are licensed royalty-free. So, buyers only pay once, and they get a one-time, paid-up license to use the photo or illustration for however long they wish.

EyeEm Pays Its Creators Through a Tiered System

When EyeEm sells a creator’s photo or illustration, they pay the creator a revenue share. The percent of the revenue share depends on how much income the creator has generated.

There are 4 levels of revenue share. If you’re just starting out and made $299 or less in a quarter, then your rev share is 25%. The percentages go up to 35% and 45%. If you’ve made more than $7,000 in a quarter, then your rev share is 55%. Here’s a detailed breakdown of how EyeEm shares the revenue.

EyeEm will look at your revenue every quarter. They’ll bump you up to the next tier if you do well. But if you do not do well, they’ll wait a year before deciding if they take you down to a lower tier.

#UpForCollab is a Place Where Brands Connect with Creators

#UpForCollab is a marketplace for brands to find creatives to work with on specific projects.

To get started, you upload your portfolio to the marketplace. Brands who’re interested in hiring creators can look through the portfolios. If they’re interested in your work, they’ll reach out to you. Then, you can decide if you’d like to work on the project.

You and the brand negotiate the price for the project. EyeEm doesn’t take a cut.

EyeEm Holds Competitions called Missions

From time to time, EyeEm holds competitions for photographers and illustrators. These competitions are called Missions.

Winners can often get cash prizes and exposure.


EyeEm uses PayPal to pay out to its creators. The minimum payout amount is $10. You can initiate a payout any time you have more than $10 in your EyeEm account.

But, even if you haven’t made $10, EyeEm lets you do one annual payout in December of every year. Here’s more information about how to do a payout.

Behance is a Photo Sharing Site from Adobe

Behance is a photo sharing site for photographers and illustrators to show their work, learn from each other, and hopefully make some money through their work.

You can join and use Behance for free. Start with building your profile and uploading some of your photos. You can view others’ work and Follow and Appreciate their works. You can also group your photos into different Projects. Each Project is supposed to have a theme that shows why you’ve grouped the works together.

There are three ways for creators to make money on Behance.

The Hire Me Button is a Way to Contact You Directly

The Hire Me button is just a way to invite prospective clients to contact you. Once you activate this button, it’ll show up on your profile. You can specify if you want full time or freelance/project-based work.

You negotiate your rates with the prospective client or employer. Behance isn’t involved and doesn’t take a cut of your earnings.

Recruiters Can Post Jobs on the Recruiters Section

Recruiters can post jobs on Behance. They can vet candidates on Behance or on their company’s website.

They can post full time jobs, part time jobs, freelance/contract jobs, or internships.

You Can Offer Subscriptions

Behance’s subscription program is in beta, so it’s invite only for now.

Creators in this program can mark any of their content as subscription only. Subscriptions can be anywhere between $1/month to $100/month. Most creators charge $5-$10 per month.

Behance charges creators a platform fee of 20%. You’ll also have to pay a payment processing fee. Behance uses Stripe, and Stripe’s processing fee is 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. If you’re a subscriber of Adobe’s Creative Cloud software, then you don’t have to pay the 20% platform fee.

You Can Link Your Own Website

Creators can link their own website/shop to their Behance project. This way, those who like your work can buy/license your work.

YouPic Lets You Set Up a Shop to Sell Prints

YouPic is a photo sharing site that lets you upload your photos, follow others or be followed, and receive critiques from other members on how to improve. You can also work through interactive courses on how to become a better photographer.

YouPic Offers Three Levels of Membership

To get started on YouPic, you have to sign up for a membership. There are 3 levels of membership: Free, Premium ($9.99/month), and Pro ($29.99/month). The Premium and Pro tiers allow your profile to be prioritized so that potential hiring managers can see your profiles first. For the Pro tier, YouPic will host your own website using your domain name.

You Can Set Up a Shop to Sell Prints of Your Photos

YouPic lets you set up a Shop under any level of membership. You can sell prints of your photos through your Shop. We couldn’t find how much YouPic charges for this service. It seems they will help you print your photos on demand and will take care of the shipping. So, it seems reasonable that they’ll charge something to do all this for you.

Marketers Can Hire You Through Your Profile

When you sign up for a membership, you can set up a profile. Those companies that need photography services can look at your profile and hire you for various services. You decide the price.

YouPic Has Photo Contests

YouPic holds photo contests from time to time. The winner gets free publicity. YouPic doesn’t seem to award cash prizes to the winners.

We couldn’t find any other money or payout related information on the YouPic website.

Pexels is a Free Stock Photography Website that Holds Contests with Cash Prizes

Pexels is a stock photography website. It offers free downloads. We use Pexels a lot for this website.

Pexels reviews all the photos you submit before approving (or rejecting) them for stock photo use. They just want to make sure you own the copyright and have the correct clearances.

Creators can make money on Pexels in several ways. You can set up a Donate button and connect it to your PayPal account. All donations are between you and your donor. Pexels doesn’t take a cut.

Pexels also holds challenges from time to time on specific topics. Some of these challenges award cash prizes.

Here’s more information on how to join Pexels as a photographer.

You Can Use Pinterest as a Photo Sharing Site

Pinterest does have videos, but it’s better known for still photos. As a creator, there are three ways you can make money on Pinterest: paid partnerships, affiliate marketing, and Creator Rewards.

A Brand Can Hire You for a Paid Partnership

To make money through paid partnerships, you first need to create an Idea Pin. You can then add a paid partnership label and then tag your brand sponsor. Once your sponsor approves the Pin, their brand name will show on your Pin. Then they pay you directly. You and the brand negotiate the exact amount. Pinterest doesn’t take a cut and isn’t involved.

You Can Earn Commissions Through Shoppable Pins

You can make your Idea Pins shoppable. This is how you do affiliate marketing on Pinterest.

You tag your Idea Pin with your affiliate link. When someone makes a purchase through your affiliate link, you make a commission. Pinterest isn’t involved and doesn’t take a cut.

Pinterest Can Pay Creators Through Creator Rewards

There’s a new program on Pinterest called Creator Rewards. Pinterest will publish a prompt from time to time and you must create Pins that hit the engagement goals (e.g. get a certain number of saves or reactions to your Pin) set out by the prompt.

Once you hit the goal, Pinterest will pay you. You get the money the following month.

Creator Rewards is in beta. Right now, it’s by invite only. Pinterest plans to add more creators on a rolling basis. Once you qualify, they’ll invite you. Pinterest does not disclose any payout information.

There Are Other Photo Sharing Sites But They Usually Don’t Pay

You’ve probably noticed that a lot of the platforms we’ve profiled in this article sell stock photos. There’s a reason for this: there’s a paying market for commercial photos.

But selling stock photos isn’t the only way photographers and illustrators make money. You can always make money the traditional way all creators make money. You can gain followers and do endorsements or affiliate marketing.

Below are some of the photo sharing sites where you can gather a following. These platforms currently do not pay their creators.

  • We Heart It. We Heart It seems to work like Instagram. You can “heart” a photo or article. You can write text to go with your photos. There’s also a podcast player. Right now, the platform is ad supported.
  • Steller. Steller shows travel-focused videos and photos. Travelers shoot a short video or take photos of places they travel to and tag it to that location. You can follow and Like different travelers. Steller seems to make money through travel booking sites.
  • Vero. Vero is a Facebook and Instagram competitor. They don’t show advertisements, mine user data, or use algorithms. Right now, they make money through affiliate marketing. If you sign up right now, the platform is free to you forever. They have plans to charge a membership fee later, for new sign-ups.

Photography and Illustrations Aren’t Getting a Lot of Attention Right Now, but We Don’t Think They’ll Ever Go Away

The most popular thing on the internet right now seems to be short form videos like the ones on TikTok. Most of the big social media platforms support it. Most importantly for photographers, even the most traditional photo sharing site—Instagram—is favoring short videos over photos.

Whether the short videos are a fad or will become a permanent fixture remains to be seen. But photography and illustrations will always be there. If you’re a photographer or illustrator, maybe right now you’re feeling frustrated because Instagram’s algorithms are showing short videos instead of your photos or illustrations. If that’s the case, maybe now is the time to try out one of the photo sharing sites we present here and see if you can establish a new set of audience for your work.

Interested in starting and running a small business? Here’s the beginning of our step-by-step guide: What to do right after getting that great business idea.

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