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Can You Earn Money From Photo-Sharing Websites?

Beth is interested in ways to earn money, and how to get best value when spending it.

Could your holiday snaps earn you money?

Could your holiday snaps earn you money?

Your Quality Photos Must Meet a Need

Pixabay, Pexels, and Freerangestock provide images that are free for anyone to download. They are examples of websites that enable amateurs to make money from their photographs.

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's 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.

Earn Passive Income From AdSense, a PayPal Donation, or “A Cup of Coffee”

Each of these sites use different methods to generate 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 that 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.

Pexels has a similar system where the downloader is invited to "say thanks" to the photographer by making a donation via PayPal. Pexels hosts "challenges" to encourage creators to add to its library by uploading images on specified subjects. All photos uploaded have to be approved for publication, but this quality control keeps it as one of the most popular websites of this type. It receives more than 11 million visitors per month.

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. However, this does not happen very often.

Quirky and unusual photographs catch an editor's eye.

Quirky and unusual photographs catch an editor's eye.

Quality Submission Guidelines

Before appearing online, your photographs go through a quality approval process. Pixabay and Pexels' systems are rigorous. They want high-quality images that are not only interesting and unique, but are also technically perfect. As a result, these sites have built up a huge library of exceptional images.

Freerangestock’s process is similar, but less clear. An editor vets the pictures and rejects any that does 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.

In order to meet the required standard you need to have a decent camera or smartphone. I use the Google Pixel 4a Smartphone. It's 5G ready, and has lots of great features like night-sight for low light photography, and portrait-mode for zoom close-ups.

Why Use Images in Online Articles?

Many of us now use a smartphone to access the internet. The viewing screen is smaller on a cellphone compared to a computer, and this makes a continuous block of text difficult to read. Articles can be made clearer, and easier to absorb if words are divided up into shorter sections using images. Photographs, and maps can also be used to break up large areas of print. If you’re an amateur photographer, you can use your own pictures to illustrate your online writing. But not all of us have the required creative skills, so we need to source images from the internet.

There are commercial websites that charge for high quality photographs, 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. One of the best known sites to find free-to-use images is Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia specializes in photographs published under a Creative Commons license.

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're 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.

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.

What Is a Creative Commons License? What Is a Public Domain Image?

Any picture you use without making a payment to the creator must be either (1) in the public domain, or (2) the copyright owner has given you permission to use the image through a Creative Commons License. (1) A Creative Commons License enables a photographer to freely share their work without relinquishing ownership. They may grant permission to use images for nothing providing you credit them and quote the CC License. (2) Public Domain images are published works where the copyright has expired. This is usually 70 years after creator's death, but it varies around the world. Be wary: if you’re in any doubt about whether a picture is free-to-use, err on the side of caution and don’t use it.

What Are Creative Commons Licenses?

Where to Find Royalty-Free Images Online

If you're looking for a good picture or photo to illustrate your blog, don't just copy the first one you find on the internet. You could be being billed for thousands of dollars if you reuse a picture without permission. The photographer, artist, or image-maker has a right to demand, and receive payment for their creative work. The solution is to look for sites where permission to reuse the photos for commercial or private use is explicitly given. Royalty-Free or Creative Commons Licence are the phrases to look out for. Most images online are copyright and cannot be freely used. The law protects such photos and illustrations from unauthorized copying. The artist creator has a right to payment of damages if you reproduce their work without permission. Such fines can be thousands of dollars, and I know of cases where this has been enforced by the courts. You have been warned!

Which Site Offers the Best Earning Potential?

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 and Pexels 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 first take a look at a photo website's community forum to see what's required before you start submitting images.

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.

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