Can You Make Money From Pixabay and Freerangestock Photo-Sharing Websites?

Updated on July 19, 2019
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I write about employment issues, ways to earn money and how to get best value when spending it.

Images submitted to Pixabay must be professional quality.
Images submitted to Pixabay must be professional quality. | Source

Ways to Earn From Your Online Photos

  1. You could sell your images to newspapers and magazines. However, there are few buyers and too many sellers in the market, so this a tough option.
  2. Post your photos on your own blog or website and earn from adding referral links or adverts. This is a slow-burn way to make money as it takes time and effort to build the traffic and quality content needed for revenue conversion.
  3. Use a photo-sharing website like Pixabay or Freerangestock. These give you the opportunity to earn from voluntary donations by downloaders or from clicked-on adverts placed adjacent to your pictures.
  4. Alternatively if you do not want any money for your creative work, upload your pictures to Wikimedia Commons and tag them as free to use. Mark the photos as Public Domain and people can download them for free.

Pixabay and Freerangestock Are Free Photo-Sharing Websites

Designers, writers and other creative people use images and photographs in their work. They do not always have the time or ability to create their own photos so they search online for high-quality images they can use. There are many commercial websites that charge for these, but there are also sites offering free downloads. These free photo-sharing websites have the explicit consent of the original photographer for their pictures to be released with a Creative Commons or a Public Domain license.

Some examples of sites with free downloadable photos are Wikimedia Commons,
Pixabay, Pexels, Unsplash, and Freerangestock. The video below shows some of the other popular sites with pictures that you can freely download and use.

Quirky and unusual photographs catch an editor's eye.
Quirky and unusual photographs catch an editor's eye. | Source

Payment for Your Photographs

Image-sharing websites make money by either charging fees for photo downloads or by selling advertising space on their site. A professional photography website pays photographers for the pictures it uses and sets a high bar before you can join. There may be a fee to register or a requirement to produce a portfolio of quality images before your application is accepted.

Amateur photographers may want to make money from their pictures but are not able to meet these requirements. There are plenty of free photo-sharing websites that allow anyone to upload images. But few give the chance to earn from your images. Pixabay and Freerangestock are exceptions. They provide a platform for you to make money from your photographs. They provide stock images that are free for anyone to use.

An example of an image available to download royalty-free from Pixabay. This photographer has uploaded nearly 20,000 photos to the site.
An example of an image available to download royalty-free from Pixabay. This photographer has uploaded nearly 20,000 photos to the site. | Source

Key Differences Between Freerangestock and Pixabay

Method of payment
A "cup of coffee"
Maximuim size of photos
None specified
2 MB
Minimum size of photos
1920 length
2400 x 1600
Total number of uploaded images
1.4 million
Acceptance process
Community vote and then editor
Community Forum
Active and helpful

What is Passive Income?

One definition of passive income is money that continues to accrue even after you have stopped actively working for it. For example, an author writes a book and then continues to receive royalties from its sales for years afterward. The royalties are a form of passive income.

If you have a regular job you are paid for the time worked or for the service provided. This is active income. The amount of money you receive is directly related to the hours and effort you put into your job. When you leave that employer or stop providing a service, then your income stops too.

Good photos can earn you a cup of coffee on Pixabay. (Although this one is from Unsplash.)
Good photos can earn you a cup of coffee on Pixabay. (Although this one is from Unsplash.) | Source

Earn Passive Income From AdSense or “A Cup of Coffee”

Pixabay and Freerangestock use different methods to provide you with an income from your photos. Pixabay with nearly 1.5 million uploads asks visitors to make a voluntary donation of “a cup of coffee” to photographers. Cups of coffee are donated via PayPal and the amounts paid and their frequency are not tracked by Pixabay. However, by checking out the forum discussions, it seems very few downloads generate these voluntary payments. Several forum users quote a ratio of around 10 “coffees” of US $1 per 25,000 downloads. Not enough to give up the day job.

Freerangestock is tiny by comparison having less than 50,000 photos on display. You will receive 100% of the AdSense income generated when someone clicks on an ad with your ID. Adverts with your ID are placed next to your pictures. Your ID is also rotated through the main site in proportion to the number of images on your account. This sounds great until you realize 1,000 clicks are needed to generate US $3 to $5. To get 1,000 ad clicks, you will need upwards of 100,000 views. This is going to be a s-l-o-w process. Occasionally a picture goes viral and then the views notch up quickly. This is a rare event and happens once in a blue moon.

Your Photos Must Meet a Need

Successful (money generating) images are ones that people are searching for. They want pictures that can be used for their own projects. Your photos should capture a mood or colorful scene that could be downloaded “as is” or adapted to suit a particular venture.

Take a look at the “popular downloads” category on photo-sharing websites to get an idea of what is in demand. For example, many e-book covers are created using a free image download. Business people may search for pictures to enliven a PowerPoint presentation. Teachers need photos to illustrate natural science and geography lessons.

The video below gives you some ideas on the type of images people want to share and download.

25 Ways to Make Your Photo or Video Go Viral on Social Media

Quality Submission Guidelines

Before appearing online, your photographs go through a quality approval process. Pixabay’s system is rigorous. They want high-quality images that are not only interesting and unique but are also technically perfect. They have a two-stage process; a picture must score well in a community vote and then it is checked by staff editors. This creates a strong community spirit as well as building a huge library of exceptional images.

Freerangestock’s submission process is less clear. An editor vets the pictures and rejects any that do not meet their standards. However, no reasons for rejection are given and there is no forum to ask for advice from other contributors. Looking at the number of uploads from individual contributors, it seems as though many start off enthusiastically uploading but then stop when they get no feedback.

Before submitting your photos to Pixabay, you should read their image quality guidelines. Freerangestock’s submission guidelines are similar but slightly different.

Is This Income Really Passive?

A truly passive income is one where you need put no more effort into your product once the initial work is done. However, the internet is a competitive place and unless you keep your photographs “fresh” they will slip down the search results. Google appears to favor new, high quality, relevant, material. You can improve your chances of appearing on the first page of results by doing the following.

  • Add new pictures
  • Reply to comments on existing photos
  • Make sure tag-words are relevant so that searchers get the result they want.

Posts on Pixabay’s community forum indicate the majority of active contributors are there because they want to help others. Their motives are altruistic. They enjoy the interaction with other creative people and the public recognition of their work that Pixabay gives them. The small amount of money they receive as “coffee” donations is a nice bonus, but not the prime reason for their participation.

Earning a truly passive regular income will only happen when pigs can fly.
Earning a truly passive regular income will only happen when pigs can fly. | Source

Which Site Offers Better Earning Potential?

Both Pixabay and Freerangestock have examples of clipart on their sites, but they both seem to avoid publishing drawings. As far as earning potential is concerned, it depends how much effort you put into your photos as to whether or not you will earn a decent amount from these websites.

Some contributors to Pixabay have uploaded literally tens of thousands of images. They must have decided it is worth their while to do this. Whether that is in terms of money earned or just the joy of helping others, only they can say. I recommend you take a look at Pixabay's community forum to get a feel for the site and its values before you start submitting images.

Can Contributors Get a Job Assessing Photo Submissions?

Both Pixabay and Freerangestock have editors who vet photographs before they are published. However very few staffers are recruited for the thousands of contributors needed to make this kind of site commercially viable. You could wait years for a vacancy to occur. Your time is probably better spent improving your photography skills. Alternatively you could try looking for offline editorial work.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Submit a Comment
  • Robert P Sullivan profile image

    Robert P Sullivan 

    11 months ago

    I liked your point about Google pushing down older material, but you also have to remember that things which constantly get traffic and more links, tend to rank higher in search engines. Though, keeping up the work is sure to ensure more profits I suppose.

  • Blond Logic profile image

    Mary Wickison 

    12 months ago from Brazil

    I use Pixabay to download photos but I have never uploaded. They are a valuable resource and I often buy coffee for the contributors whose images I use.

    Fascinating video about design, thanks for sharing that.

  • NateB11 profile image

    Nathan Bernardo 

    13 months ago from California, United States of America

    Years ago I'd heard you can make money posting your photography online but I wasn't aware of these details as far as how these sites pay and what to expect. Sounds like it's pretty difficult to make significant money through this avenue, and I know how difficult it is to make money through Adsense unless you get significant traffic. And counting on people's charity sounds like a gamble. Good info here, thanks!

  • quildon profile image

    Angela Joseph 

    18 months ago from Florida

    Very helpful article, Beth, for those into photography. I am not but I love Pixabay and I love taking pictures when I go on vacation. Maybe one of these days I'll try submitting something. Thanks for sharing!


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