How to Get Paid for your Flickr Photos

Photography: Peter Faretra

It’s happening. In fact, it’s been happening for a while. But it’s happening quietly, and outside a few forums on Flickr, people aren’t really talking about.Photo users are browsing Flickr and they’re not just taking Creative Commons-licensed images (or stealing protected photos). They’re contacting photographers and offering to pay usage fees.The amounts might not be huge, which is probably one of the reasons that the sales aren’t making headlines, but they are being handed over at the end of email offers and modest negotiations. Taylor Jones, a relatively new band photographer, mentioned to us in an interview recently that:

“I’ve sold a few images thanks to the site…”

then added:

“…nothing serious though.”

as though having someone hand over cash for images they’ve uploaded to Flickr happens all the time.

Upload to Flickr, Get Published
Photo users are buying images for all sorts of reasons but perhaps the most common is the one that photographers tend to find the most satisfying: they need pictures for books and publications.

Terry McCormick’s image of the world’s largest steam train, for example, was bought by a manufacturer of model railways and appeared on the cover of the company’s catalog; Peter Faretra’s photo of diving gannets (shown above) was bought by the publisher of a wildlife book. Denis Callet’s picture of a lake was used by a media company producing a history book.

The ingredients in all of these sales include:

  • Careful tagging so that buyers can find what they’re looking for;
  • Clear descriptions so that they know what they’ve found;
  • And, of course, a professional quality picture shot at a high enough resolution to be reproduced commercially.

It might help too if the photographer’s photostream includes a few Creative Commons-licensed photos to bring in users looking for free images. The lower-quality shots they can have for nothing; professional quality images they would have to pay for.

Selling Photos as Prints
Of course, it’s not just publishers who are reaching into their wallets on Flickr. The site’s forums occasionally include questions from buyers asking how they can purchase prints from Flickr members.

Again, it’s clear that you’ll need to display the sort of images that people would actually want to own, but it’s a good idea too to indicate that the images in your photostream are available for purchase.

Flickr doesn’t want big “For Sale” signs everywhere, and unlike many photography sites, it doesn’t have its own click-button print-ordering service. So just mention in your profile that your images are available as prints and suggest that anyone interested in buying them should drop you a line.

As long as the photos are good enough, you’ll be in with a chance of making a sale.

Marketing the Flickr Way
But to increase the chances of making a sale, you have to market. Like anywhere, it’s not enough to put your goods on offer — however good your photos might be — and hope that photography-lovers with bucketloads of money spot them. You have to let people know they’re there.

On Flickr, that doesn’t mean spending vast sums on pay-per-click advertising.

It means investing time in networking. As Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir, probably Flickr’s most successful member, put it:

You can’t just put your pictures up and leave them there. You have to drag people back to your photostream.

That happens by leaving comments on other members’ photos, joining groups and participating in forums. It means doing all of the things that Flickr was created for: being part of a community and exchanging information and advice as well as image views.

Become a popular Flickr member, and your name will become known among buyers as well as other photographers.

There is still a tendency among photo users on Flickr to expect photographers to hand over their images for free — and a more worrying tendency for photographers to agree. But shoot good images, upload them to Flickr and let lots of people know that they’re there and available, and your Flickr popularity can translate into sales.

Check out our interview with Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir here and tell us whether you’ve sold a photo on Flickr.

[tags] make money on flickr, sell photos on flickr, selling flickr photos [/tags]

68 comments for this post.

  1. Sean Said:

    Terrific discussion. I got a lot of tips and opinions from this thread. Thanks!

    I read AJ's post about the lavender field photo, I am curious to know what a photographer should do if he/she finds their foto being used by a magazine, advertiser, gallery, or the like without the photographer's permission.


  2. Matt Said:

    I have sold several Photos via Flickr. I believe that in these economical times, agencies are looking at Photo sites such as flickr rather than Getty and others, because they can find excellent photos for less money.

  3. sheila hall Said:

    hi i am looking for a site that will pay me to send in some photo's that i have and want to share. hope to hear from someone soon

  4. Matt Said:

    I have several photos on Flickr that are getting great exposure, some with over 15,000 views, but all I've been getting are requests to use my images for free. The moment I tell them that I will license the photo to them for a fee, they disappear. I guess I haven't had a serious buyer view my photostream yet.

  5. James Said:

    Yeah i'm dealing with the same problem here,it seems to me that no matter how good is my photo,people think it's not worth any money,and they would love to use it for free... go figure...

  6. Adrian Said:

    Great post and comments. I've been contacted a few times, and sold a couple of images. Not going to be paying the mortgage from it any time soon, but I do think Flickr is a useful site to have in the overall mix. I have friends who have made decent money as a rsult of being "found" on Flickr.

  7. Phil Said:

    We have printed images for flickr users for years. Now at you can import your flickr pictures or load directly to QOOP, then set up a store and share those listings back to our flickr set. Flickr grabs the titles, photographer, tags, and description and we include a "shared from QOOP" link so that users can get back to your QOOP listing to buy it. You can sell various stock image rights, prints, framed prints, and more...about 50,000 stores are set up this way already so give it a try.

  8. csaba fikker Said:

    I recently set up my flicker account to send traffic to my own Stock photo site - what is do is that every time I post a set of stock photos on I will take an example of that set and post it on flicker with a comment that this set has been uploaded and that you can buy these images on
    This way I'm hoping for a decent amount of traffic flowing to my stock photo website from my flicker account. I figured I will tell you guys how I'm trying to take advantage of the flicker account.

  9. Mohaine Said:

    To all of you who have no idea what price to charge, here is my single experience:
    I was approached by a book publisher who wanted to use one of my photos on on a book cover. They offered me a one-off fee of $400 AUD, which I accepted. The only terms I changed on their contract was to not grant the publisher exclusive rights to the use of the photo.

  10. Denver Photographer Said:

    I think you make a good point about being a "part of the community". And while it takes time to build up loyal users how frequently view your stream, it can be awfully rewarding to see people comment and enjoy your photography as much as you do.

  11. Sarah Said:

    What program is best to upload to your computer to add a copywrite name acrost your image so it is not stolen for when you do plan on displaying it online?

  12. Aroon Kalandy Said:

    I was approached by a book publisher in Australia who wanted to use one of my photos on on a book cover.They offered me a princely sum of $600 AUD which I accepted .

    I must say flickr is one of the greatest photosites.tagging is very important.As to the question put in by Sarah a softwre called "photoscape' is very useful for adding your copy right name across the image.9though there is still no guarantee that it will not be stolen.

  13. Robin Said:

    I'd actually like to buy the right to use a photo that's on flickr but I can't figure out how to contact the owner. I found the image via google and had to follow quite a few links to track down the owner only to discover there seems to be no way to get in touch! Any ideas anyone? Thanks!

  14. DP Said:

    Here's a question for you all: A fairly high profile nightclub website has copied one of my copyrighted Flickr images and placed it in their collage photo background and also included it in a flash image rotator announcing future acts. They did not seek my permission and, of course, never offered to pay me. Obviously, I intend to bring this to their attention. About what fee should they pay as usage and should I ask for a penalty?

  15. Ferad Said:

    Robin, I suggest you to first directly contact the author of the photo using the flickr's mail service. Usually, people interested in my photos has contacted me. I am sure the author will respond promptly.

  16. dusky Said:

    Someone contacted me saying they were interested in some of my photos. What sort of money/prices is reasonable to charge for Flickr photos?

  17. melbourne wedding photographer Said:

    I recently sold one photograph and that to to national geography. I am so exited it feels really good. I never expected that i would make a sale.

  18. neilarmstrong2 Said:

    I'm on Flickr all the time, my images get over 1,000 views in the first 24 hours and i've nver been offered one cent for an image...maybe they're just not good.

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