Getty Images Contributor Review: Make Money Selling Photos

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If you’re interested in selling your photographs on a stock photo platform, you can’t find a more recognized brand than Getty Images.

Founded in 1995 by Mark Getty and Jonathan Klein, Getty Images has been a game-changer in the photography world for a long time now. Initially started to collect and distribute exceptional photos globally, they were the first to sell image licenses online. This helped to shift the whole industry to the digital space. If you’re a photographer with Getty Images, you get special access to some pretty important events, from music concerts to the Olympics.

With smartphones in hand, almost everyone’s become a mini-photographer, and you might be wondering if you can cash in on this photo-taking habit.

That’s where Getty Images comes in, claiming to pay you for your photos.

In today’s review, I havedone some digging to bring you the pros, cons, and overall scoop on Getty Images. Stick around to see if it’s something worth your time.  As always, I’m 100% honest with my reviews.

What is Getty Images?

Getty Images didn’t just grow big overnight. It expanded quickly by acquiring smaller stock photo companies and then selling their images online.

Today, it’s a top provider of award-winning photos and videos and serves customers in over 100 countries. With a catalog of more than 80 million images from talented photographers around the world, it’s a major player in the industry. Whether you’re reading a magazine, watching a commercial, or surfing a website, there’s a good chance you’re looking at a photo from Getty Images. They license about one image every second.

Although the company is headquartered in Seattle, Washington, it has offices worldwide. In 2006, it also acquired iStock, another stock photo site. Getty offers both creative and editorial images and requires photographers to sign exclusive contracts. They’re also quite strict about unauthorized use of their images, so don’t even think about using them without permission.

How to Become a Contributor

iStock images, if you’re familiar with that platform, as well as Getty Images, both use the same application process.  This is because Getty Images bought out iStock years ago.

You’ll submit your photos, and their editorial team will decide where your work fits best, be it Getty Images or iStock. They will then guide you toward the right contract for you. If your work shines on iStock, it might also be showcased on Getty Images. In most cases, if you’re approved for Getty, they will also suggest you sign an iStock agreement. This way, you can maximize your sales across both platforms.

During the application, you can upload up to 15 photos or illustrations, and up to 3 videos. Your photos should be JPEGs, no larger than 3 gigabytes, and videos should be .MOV files that also don’t exceed 3 gigabytes. After you’ve submitted your application, you can’t go back to add more content.

Application Process

First, you’ll want to download the “Contributor by Getty Images” app from either the App Store or Google Play.

Once it’s installed, you’ll need to upload 3 to 6 of your best images, videos, or illustrations. If you have videos, you can upload them to YouTube and share the links. After you upload, the review team will take a look at your work. This can take up to a month, so try to be patient. Bombarding them with emails won’t improve your chances—in fact, it might even hurt them. You’ll receive notification about their decision through the app and by email. If you haven’t heard back in a while, make sure to check your spam and other email folders.

Before you can start selling, you have to be at least 18 years old and provide tax and payment details. Payments can be received via PayPal or Payoneer. After these steps, you’ll sign a contract giving Getty Images the right to sell your work, and then your contributor account will be set up.

Earning Potential

If you’re wondering how much you could earn by contributing to Getty Images, here’s a bit of insight. They usually offer a 20% royalty on still photos and 25% on videos. Prices start at $50 for a small image and can go up to $500~ for a larger one. They also have something called “Rights Managed licenses,” where the cost depends on how the customer plans to use the image. To estimate how much you could make, you can use their pricing calculator.

You should know is that when you use Getty, you give up control over how much your photos sell for and who buys them.  It might sound a bit unfair at first, but the perk is that Getty is a giant marketplace. Your work gets exposed to a global audience, people who likely wouldn’t stumble upon your photos otherwise. This makes it more likely for you to sell pictures, even if it’s at a fraction of the price. The upshot is, you still end up making more money than if you tried to do it all yourself.

If you’re looking to sell your photos through Getty Images, you should also know that they require an exclusivity agreement. That means once they approve your photos, you can’t sell those particular shots anywhere else. Even though they charge customers more and pay you a higher commission for your work, you’re limited to selling only through them.

On another note, they have introduced a “Premium Access” feature for their high-volume customers. While this gives the clients better rates for images, it’s not as advantageous for photographers like you who contribute those images.

The majority of your images will more than likely be sold as “royalty free.”  This doesn’t mean the images are free; it means that the buyer pays once and can use the photo for whatever purpose they want.

Prices vary based on image size, ranging from $50 for a small image to $600 for a high-res one. Your cut, again, is 20% of that. There’s also another licensing option called Rights Managed, where the price is calculated based on how the buyer plans to use the photo. I prefer this for photos because you want to have control over how they’re used.

In the end, plan on making about $1 to $100~ per photo sold.

Getting Images Approved

It’s important to know that they’re really picky about the photos they accept, and for good reason. People who buy from Getty are usually willing to pay more for unique, high-quality images that they can’t find on cheaper stock photo websites.

When it comes to the kind of photos Getty is interested in, they’re looking for something more than just technically well-executed shots. Sure, you need to know your way around a camera, but Getty also wants to see some creativity and a strong concept behind your images. They’re interested in both editorial photos, which capture current events or news, and commercial photos, which are designed to sell or promote something. Interestingly, Getty might even accept a photo that’s intentionally blurry or out of focus, as long as it’s artistically justified. To get a better idea of what they’re looking for, check out, where you’ll find trends and insights about what’s popular on the platform right now.

Now, when you’re ready to submit your work, don’t forget the legal stuff like model and property releases. If you can’t obtain these releases for some reason, you still have the option to submit your photo under the ‘editorial’ category. Also, if you have any questions or specific things you want reviewers to consider, Getty allows you to add notes to your submissions.

Improving Sales if Accepted

Don’t assume that selling your photos is as easy as just uploading them. You need to consider whether each image is appealing enough to catch a buyer’s eye. And let’s not forget, each photo needs relevant information and up to 50 keywords to be searchable. That can seem overwhelming, especially if you have hundreds of photos from, say, a trip to New Zealand. Keywords like “Copy Space,” “Backgrounds,” and “Tourist Destination” are common go-tos that can make your photos more findable.

When it comes to selling your photos, keep in mind that quality trumps quantity on Getty. Unlike microstock sites where you might benefit from uploading as many photos as possible, on Getty, a smaller collection of stunning images will likely serve you better than a large collection of just okay ones. Of course, you should also pay attention to the basics like choosing descriptive titles and adding up to 50 relevant keywords to make it easier for customers to find your work.

What kinds of photos do well?

Honestly, it’s a mixed bag. Some make sense, like popular tourist destinations, while others are unexpected hits. Your best bet is to stick to high-quality, visually appealing images.

What People Are Saying

Many contributors have mixed experiences with iStock and Getty Images. Some Reddit users say they’ve made decent money—up to $20,000 for 50+ files—but they note that this was mainly during the platform’s early days. Several mentioned that their earnings dropped significantly when they chose to be non-exclusive contributors, while others say their content just didn’t fit well with iStock’s exclusive collection.

On Trust Pilot, opinions vary widely too. Some love Getty for the returns on their illustrations but complain about inconsistent approval processes. Others are quite frustrated with low royalty payments, some even going so far as to accuse the company of fraud for not showing real-time statistics. There are also reports of poor customer service, and the inability to edit or delete uploaded files without going through a complicated process.

Additionally, there are concerns about pilfered images and unresponsive customer support when trying to address these issues. One person found their image used unlawfully and had difficulty getting any help from iStock/Getty Images.

From the Better Business Bureau, complaints involve unpaid royalties and a lack of response to queries, with one user stating they haven’t been paid since 2015. Overall, while some have had positive experiences, many contributors express dissatisfaction with low earnings, lack of transparency, and poor customer service.

Final Thoughts

6/10Let’s be real.  Making money in stock photography is tough these days. You might upload thousands of photos and only make a few dollars a month.  Even if you upload your photos to some of the best platforms such as Getty, you won’t get rich.  There is just too much competition these days.

Is Getty Images sketchy?

Not exactly, but your experience may vary. Some people have gone as far as calling them “legal thieves” for allegedly taking advantage of small business owners who can’t afford legal help. Given the issues that contributors have raised, it’s worth doing your homework before getting involved.

Their Better Business Bureau rating is a failing grade, and there have even been instances where people have successfully sued the company. So, it’s not all roses and sunshine with Getty Images. Ultimately, the choice is yours to make. Personally, I’d be cautious about becoming a contributor based on what I’ve learned.

If you’re still unsure and exploring other ways to make money online, you might consider alternatives when selling your photos.  Just do your research with this one if interested.

So, that’s my two cents on Getty Images.

If you have your own stories or insights about working with stock photography platforms like this, feel free to share in the comments. As always, I’d love to hear what you think.

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Tom Nathaniel

Hi! My name is Tom Nathaniel, and I created LushDollar to help share my honest thoughts on everything money. You won't find gimmicks here. It's the Internet's most honest money site after all. I graduated from Arizona State University, and I have worked in the finance industry since 2006, consulting with multiple Fortune 5000 companies.

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