Selling Photos: 1 Simple Way to Passively Make $2,000+

Are you like one of the many photographers who dreams of making money from selling photos? Even better, selling photos and passively making money?

Whilst making money whilst you sleep is a pretty cool thing, for photographers just knowing that someone wants to part with their hard earned cash in return for an image you poured your heart into is even cooler.

Every year I make a certain amount of money from selling photos by doing nothing and not spending a cent. It’s true.

So what’s the trick?

The 1 Simple Way I Passively Made Over $2,000 Selling Photos

Simple. I watermark my images.

The beauty of the Internet and visual search engines like Pinterest is that you can share your work with anyone in the world. You just never know who is going to end up seeing and liking your work.

A humble watermark is what has connected me with a passive source of income and connections from around the globe.

I am regularly contacted by magazines, online publications and creative agencies all over the world, seeking to licence my images. They simply see my watermark, Google me, find my website and shoot me an email with their proposal.

Almost every time, they have referenced finding me through my watermark and a quick google search.

You don’t know where your images will end up on the internet. Linkbacks from Pinterest and other sites could be going to a website that makes no reference of your work whatsoever. Art directors are very busy people and they will simply move on if they can’t find a source to contact for a license.

A watermark allows for instant recognition.

Sure you can sell photos or license photos through stock agencies, but 100% of the selling fee goes directly into my pocket. No commissions payable. I just see it as a why the heck would I not watermark? This is one of the main reasons I have continued to watermark my images from this and my portfolio blog.

There are occasions when I get requests to use the images for free or where they are requesting use of an image I am contractually unable to license,  (with competing third parties clauses in client agreements). So this figure doesn’t accurately reflect the number of requested I do actually receive for selling photos. If they like your work enough, you have a connection to follow up with and potentially land a new brief in the future.

1 Simple Way To Passive Make $2,000+ by Selling Your Photography | Want to make money by selling your photography by doing nothing? There is just one simple thing I do that sees me passively make over $2,000 a year. Click to get the easiest tip you'll ever read.


But what about your style? Surely people recognise an image as yours? 

Sadly not. I’ve even been approached by agencies hoping the unwatermarked image they wanted to license was mine. Many times the image that has a similar flare to mine, but aren’t photos I’ve taken. I have never once yet been able to cite the photographer for those unknown images.

Whilst it’s not a full time income, that’s a new tilt-shift lens right there that will improve your photography game just by selling photos and doing nothing!

I don’t know about you, but sign me up for that!

So what makes a good watermark?

But watermarks are so tacky I hear you saying!

Well they can be, but I have seen them coming back over the last year and I really think that watermarking if done right is only a good thing.

I think the key is adding to the overall image and not distracting so you can grab the interest of those agencies looking to license you image.

I’d love to what you think makes a good watermark?

Have you ever been approached to license your image because you watermark?



Related: Using a Tilt-shift Lens in Photography. Get ready to spend you passive income on this wicked lens.


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  • Reply Karene' June 23, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    That’s amazing Rachel! I never thought of watermarks in that way. I’ve thought of them as ways to protect your images and as ways to send people to your website, but not that one might sell your images like that. I’ve been in between watermarks, so I’ve left them off recently. Definitely time to bring them back!

    • Reply Rachel June 27, 2016 at 3:29 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Karene. I just thought I would offer a different perspective as I know people have strong opinions about watermarks. I can’t imagine putting my work out there without it. Mostly I want people to instantly know it is mind, so interested to know what people think makes a good watermark. Do you have any thoughts on what makes a good watermark?

    • Reply Nikki June 30, 2016 at 10:42 pm

      This is such a great argument for watermarking! Your watermark is also how I noticed you on Pinterest and started following your site, btw. The funny thing is, my background is design and I’ve created many logos and watermarks but I don’t have one on my own photos! It’s probably time.

      And what makes a good watermark? A simple, recognizable image that complements your style as a photographer. Nothing too ornate. When I design these, I zoom in and out quite a bit to make sure it’s recognizable at any size.

      Thanks for the post!

      • Reply Rachel July 8, 2016 at 5:38 pm

        Nikki! I am pumped to hear you say that. Makes me feel like I know what I am talking about.
        I totally agree, there was a phase of ornate watermarks going around and I think they killed it for everyone. That is a fantastic point. So now we know who to get to to get a watermark done!

      • Reply versicherungen youtube February 6, 2017 at 6:49 am

        After talking to you I had to check out the photos. Simply stunning. The photos are beautiful. Your work just gets better and better. I hope you can talk Jessie into doing one of these sessions.

  • Reply Shibani June 23, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    Hi Rachel, This is an interesting topic and I have always watermarked my images after I found them stolen and published in many sites. How cool it would be to be contacted by Art directors for publishing….. .
    Lovely article.

    • Reply Rachel June 27, 2016 at 3:32 pm

      Hey Shibani! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I just wanted to offer a different perspective and conversation around them. I know that people will steal images if they want, but for me it is like leaving the house without clothes on. I can’t let my work go out there without watermarking. If you have any thoughts on what you think makes a good watermark, I’d love to hear them!

  • Reply Saxon June 25, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Oh no. Now I’m questioning my stance again. I’m a yo-yo on watermarks. Aesthetically I don’t really like them but I used to do them on all of my blog pics. It took ages placing them ‘just so’. I even wrote this post about it >

    Then I got talking to some of my Instagrammer mates with massive followings and some top Aussie photographers who all said – we never bother. And I stopped. Can you detect I’m a little indecisive. Haha I think if you are in a tight niche they can be helpful as promo. Such as you are in Rach. As a ‘defence’ against theft I wouldn’t bother though. They really do take a while to get in the right place and can detract from a photo in the wrong spot. At least in my opinion.

    • Reply Rachel June 27, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      Well I guess that is a good thing Saxon? I am going to take it as one. I know that people have a lot of strong opinions on watermarks, and most people seem to tell me that they think mine works? I do spend time putting them carefully onto each image. It’s like leaving the house without perfume, you feel naked. I don’t want my images to be naked so I watermark them. Maybe I have a problem? Just thought I’d offer a different opinion, but I do get your points and apprehension. Maybe it is the niche I am in? Would be interested to know if this works for any other niches? Thanks for offering your perspective!

  • Reply Jo || The Luminous Kitchen June 30, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    I’ve never been into watermarks because I feel that if someone is going to “steal” my work then they have whats coming to them and I don’t want to have find out their email and ask them not to use my images because thats a pain and a lack minds, but I love this perspective on it! I have always loved your watermark and the way you do it adds to the image. You do it really well babe. xx

    • Reply Rachel July 8, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      Absolutely Jo! I know what where they is a will there is a way, and people are going to steal if they want to steal. I just look at it like ensuring people know who I am and get more eyeballs onto my work for what it is. I do like my watermark. Not sure what it is about it. Clean I guess?

  • Reply Marisa Franca @ All Our Way June 30, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    I usually do add a watermark and kind of let it fade into the background. I do love yours because it doesn’t detract rom the photo. I think i need to rethink the font for mine . Great post!! Thank you.

    • Reply Rachel July 8, 2016 at 5:42 pm

      Yes Marisa, I have this one made for me by a graphic designer. Detract sure is a key point. I personally try to look through a watermark to be encapsulated by the image itself and I think if anyone has good work then they are able to see what a good watermark from a design perspective would be.

  • Reply Stephanie July 1, 2016 at 8:13 am

    Wow, what a great idea! I never would have thought about it in this way. Something I’ll have to think about! Thank you for all your awesome posts!!! xO Steph

    • Reply Rachel July 8, 2016 at 5:43 pm

      That’s perfect! Always good to have a new perspective on something even if we choose not to roll with it!

  • Reply Tash July 1, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    I get why people don’t really like watermarks but I’m starting to feel like it’s a necessity if you can do it the “right” way. I’ve recently started watermarking pretty much all my photos I put on line. I decided to do this mainly because I know a couple of woman on IG that also run styling businesses and have the habit of posting up other peoples photos and not mentioning that they aren’t their images (although they don’t claim them as their own either either hmmmmm – I get a little cross at them both when I see this)

    I like quite simple fonts and have been messing around with different styles to see what works with the majority of my images. I think I’ve just settled on a style which is really really really simple, I fade it out a little and even change it’s colour to suit the image.

    I think as I grow with my photography hobby I might like to read more about how to process/manage the payments/sales side of things. Sounds like in this day and age it’s a good thing to know about and I know that through my IG account I’ve recently been getting asked more about what i’d like to do with my photography and had a few business/earning options for the future thrown out there to think about.

    Thanks for a great article.

    • Reply Rachel July 8, 2016 at 5:47 pm

      Hey Tash! You are very welcome. I don’t think anyone has a soft spot for watermarks, but just like relationships there are good ones and bad ones. I am sorry to hear that someone is taking your work. There needs to be a lot of education for being a good digital citizen these days.
      Yes, changing the colour to suit the image is a good idea. I have a black png file and a white png file and I mix them up depending on the image. You have some nice images in your IG feed – keep creating.

  • Reply Kym August 16, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Thanks so much for this post. Though I haven’t received any passive income from my watermark as yet, I always watermark photos I put on the internet. I have also found photographers that I like from their watermark, so you’re right on the money there!

    • Reply Rachel August 24, 2016 at 9:42 am

      You are welcome Kym! It is an interesting thing to think about right?

  • Reply Siobhan Wolton September 17, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    I love your posts and advice. Thanks so much! I wouldn’t have put watermarks on my pics but now I’m going to create one for the very reason you mentioned. Great tip, thanks again. X @siobhan_wolton

    • Reply Rachel September 19, 2016 at 10:43 am

      Oh great Siobhan! I’d love to know what type of watermark you go with and what you think makes a good one.

  • Reply Pam M - Grand Inspirations Photo December 31, 2016 at 3:34 am

    You’re touting watermarking photos so that others can find you, and even mention in the comments “I can’t imagine putting my work out there without it. Mostly I want people to instantly know it is mine”, yet as I was scrolling through your instagram feed I noticed those photos are not watermarked. What is the reasoning behind that?

    I watermark 95% of what I put out in cyberspace, whether it’s social media or website. I have yet to come up with a business watermark that I love. Maybe it’s the long business name,? Since I tend to post more to social media (especially instagram) on the fly I generally just do a simple text watermark with my name, not the business name. It works for now but I need to really sit down, decide what direction I am going with branding & get that designed.

    • Reply Rachel January 2, 2017 at 8:35 pm

      Hey Pam! The use of emotive language here makes me think this post has potentially upset you? I hope this isn’t the case as this definitely was not my intention. With all of my posts, my intention is to spark conversation and promote individual thinking. You’re right, I do not watermark my IG. Simple reason is that sharing from outside of the platform hasn’t been made easy by the app, but as the app evolves this is definitely something to consider which is why you’re seeing it more and more in individual posts. Interestingly enough, my posts rarely get shared on IG due to the aspect ratio that I post (that is another thing I should consider too). I’d love to see your watermark, can you share a link for the community to get some inspiration?

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