Where to sell photos online?

Sell photos online is probably easier than you think! There are many online sites you can sell your photos and most of them cost you nothing to get started. If you are thinking to make some extra bulks from your hobby to contribute to your next photography trip or new gear, it is worth to check out the sites listed below. However, if you are thinking to make a living from selling photo online, it will require a lot of hard works as well as ability to produce good quality photos. It is achievable but very challenging as it is a very competitive market now in terms of number of contributors selling photos and number of photos already available online.

Stock photo agency sites

These stock photo sites are the agents that host the photos for their contributors, i.e. the photographers or visual artists. They fulfill the needs of their customers such as advertisement companies, designers, publishers and any companies or individual who needs the photos for their creative assignments. Instead of hiring photographer and models to shoot a specific photo, these customers can choose from millions of stock photos that already available and usually at a lower cost. Stock photo sites can be categorized into right-managed stock (traditional stock photo) and royalty-free stock (micro stock)

Differences between Right-Managed and Royalty-Free

Rights-managed offers photo contents to be rented out through discussion of the specific fee for a particular use. It grants clients specific rights and the right to prevent others from using it.

The royalty-free model permits customers unlimited use, in which they only have to pay royalties for the first purchase. This significantly cuts down on the prices and allows much more freedom in using the content licensed.

Royalty free micro stock sites:

  • Shutterstock:
    • US site based in NY city
    • The leading micro stock sites hosting over 100 million stock photos and illustrations. Photographers need to get accepted as contributors through initial review.
    • Offer subscription as well as per image download
  • Istockphoto:
    • Canada stock photo site based in Calgary. Acquired by Getty Image in 2006
    • The first and well established micro stock photo site. It offers exclusive program for photographers to contribute exclusively to them, the return is higher royalty rate.
    • Offer subscription as well as per image download
  • Dreamtime
    • US microstock photo site based in Tennessee
    • Sell photo and get 25%-60% of every sale.
    • No subscription, only offer per image download now.
  • Fotolia
    • A microstock photo agency that is based inNew York
    • Offer both subscription and per image download
  • 123rf
    • A microstock photo site with HQ in Hong Kong
    • Offer both subscription and per image download

Right-managed macro stock sites:

  • Alamy
    • A right-managed stock site based in United Kingdom
      • Also offer royalty free model now
    • Royalty rate for photographer is very attractive at 50%
    • Photo quality requirement is generally higher than royalty free micro stock sites and the royalty per image use is usually much higher. However, sales/downloads are less frequent.
  • Getty Image
    • A right-managed stock site based in Seattle, USA.
    • Acquired Istockphoto in 2006, offer royalty free stock photos as well.

Print On Demand (POD) sites:

These sites allow photographers to sell prints through their printing and finishing. Photographers get paid the mark-up price for their photos whenever customers purchased the photo print, canvas print, and metal print or with other finishing like framing, etc.

  • Fine Art America
    • A leading site on fine art photo printing.
    • Photographer can start with free account which allows them to have 25 photos available for sale. Premium account cost US$30 a year and it allows unlimited number of photos submission plus many other cool features, including a personalized website.
  • Redbubble and Zazzle

Travel Photography – Tibet

In 2011, I had the chance to travel to majestic Tibet, roof of the world, for two weeks. Here I would like to share some of the photos I captured during the trip.

Potala Palace, the world’s highest and most magnificent palace is the most important symbol of Lhasa and Tibet. The palace is mainly composed of the Red Palace and the White palace, the highest in the middle of the Red Palace is an important place for religious ceremonies. The White House is mainly for the Dalai Lama’s daily and political activities. There are a number of annexes as well. Visiting route to the Potala Palace is fixed so you can only go along the travel route guide.

Mount Everest, is the world’s highest mountain. Its peak is 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) above sea level. Mount Everest is located in the Mahalangur mountain range in Nepal. The Everest’s summit point is part of the international border between China and Nepal.

Rongbuk monastery, a Tibetan Nyingma monastery, located at elevation of about 5100 meters, is the world’s highest monastery. Rongbuk Monastery is near the north Mount Everest (the world’s highest mountain) base camp. View from here toward south, you can see Mount Everest like a huge pyramid, towering among the world’s highest peaks, magnificent. Rongbuk Monastery is only about 20 km from Mount Everest, since ancient times, the Tibetan people has regarded Mount Everest as the God. Visitors can stay overnight at the monastery. It is a wonderful place for photographer. The view is absolute breathtaking. You could take photos from dusk to dawn, including star-trail and Milkyway photo if you are lucky enough.

Mount Kailash is the main peak of the Gangdese Mountains in China, the second peak of the Gangdese Mountains in China. It is one of the most beautiful and top ten most famous mountains in China. It is 6656 meters above sea level and it lies near the Sutlej River, the Indus River, the Karnali River and the Brahmaputra River. It is considered a sacred mountain in some of the oldest religions in Asia including Bon, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.


Tibetan Plateau

Average elevation of Tibetan Plateau exceeds 4,500 metres; it is sometimes called the Third Pole (the third pole besides North Pole and South Pole) . It is the world’s highest and largest plateau that contains the headwaters of most of the streams in surrounding regions. It has tens of thousands of glaciers and travelling across the plateau means you are likely to go through some of the most winding roads of the world as you can see from the photos below.


Yamdrok Lake

Yamdrok Lake is called the most beautiful water in the world. The Tibetan means ‘green jade lake on the pasture’. Yamdrok is known as one of the sacred lakes. It is the nearest sacred Lake to Lhasa (only two to three hours drive) and is accessible all year around. The lake is partially freezes during winter. The source of its water comes from the surrounding snow-capped mountains and there is no outlet for the lake water. The water level is maintained by the vaporization.

Useful tips for portrait photography

Useful tips for portrait photography

Portrait Lens

What lenses are best or more suitable for portrait photography?

Usually the mid-tele lens ranges from 70mm – 135mm to 200mm are best for portraits because of its less distortion and more flattering characteristic.

Check out Stephen Eastwood’s web site for the effect of lens distortion. He has nice images of head shots  taken with lenses from 19mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm, 100mm, 135mm, 200mm, 230mm to 350mm. You can clearly see the effect of lens on the model’s face. The wider the lens, the more distortion you will get.


Camera level when shooting portrait

To get normal perspective with mid-tele lens, for half length shot, shoot at the chest level as shown below:


For full length shot, shoot at lower level close to waist level as shown in the picture below:


However, you could try shoot from lower angle to lengthen the legs if you would like to make the person looks taller in the picture.


Catch light

Catch light is the bright spot or reflection in the eyes. It adds energy and liveliness to the portraits.

Here are some examples of portraits with catch light.


The question is how to get or create catch light?

Well, the eyes have to face the bright area. For indoor, the window especially large window will create beautiful catch light when the eyes are facing the bright window. For outdoor, you could look for bright building, patch of light in the part, sky or any reflective surface. If you can find any of those, the last resort is to use fill flash to create one.

Here is an example of portrait with and without catch light, same location, same time.


Best time to take portrait photo?

  • Early morning and later evening
    • Low angled light, softer light that eliminate the hash shallow
    • Warmer, golden light
  • Bright overcast day
    • The overcast sky will be like a giant softbox that soften the harsh sun light
    • Overcast day is good for flower shots too
  • What about bright sunny midday?
    • Sun is a tiny light source in this case that will create harsh shallow.
    • Look for open shade to avoid the harsh shallow or try backlit shot instead.
  • For indoor, as long as there is enough window light which is not direct sun light.

The basic rule is the larger the light source, the softer and better the light, the smaller the light source like the bright sunny day sun (sun is huge but in this case it is like a small dot of light source), the harsher the light. The closer to the large light source like the window, the softer the light.

One useful tip is when photography baby or kids, place them closer to the large window and the light will wrap around their face, creating beautiful light with very smooth transition from highlight to shadow.

Angle of View

Change your angle of view. Do not always shoot at your eye level.

The angle of view we are talking here is not how much area the lens can cover but rather the view difference caused by pointing the angle of the camera and lens.

When taking photo, most people will just hold the camera at their eye level while standing straight, that is why most photos’ angle of view looks similar. What we need to do is from time to time change the angle of view by trying low angle and high angle to get different perspective.

Below are some examples of low angle shot. As you can see, low angle shot can really bring a strong visual impact. Note that the low-angle shots are not purely bottom-up, horizontal angle shots close to the ground from the main subject can also be regarded as a low-angle shot.

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These are shot from camera level very close to the ground and pointing upwards. Combine with using wide angle lens, the images emphasise and exaggerate the distance and the how high the beach volleyball players or the lion dancer jump.

Another useful tip is when photographing kids or pets, try lowering you camera level until same level as them. Shoot at their eye level to see their world instead of very common and boring adults’ view point from high to low.

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A nice bonus for lowering your camera level is you will get nice reflection if the surface of the floor is shining and reflective as shown in the photo below. The trick is moving your camera very close to the shinning surface as if the camera almost touching surface.


See how wonderful the reflection is that add interests to the image.

High angle shots are basically taken by camera level relatively higher than the main subjects and usually pointing downwards.

Below are some examples of high angle shot.




For some sport event like the dragon boat race in the photo above, it is nice to move to higher ground to shoot from top so that the subjects (dragon boats in this case) are separated instead of merging together when shot from same level as the boat.


Photography is art, but it is also like science that requires different experiments and many attempts to find the right angle and composition. Have fun, go out and try shooting from different angles that you never tried before.

Photography Basics – Where to focus?

Today we are going to talk about some simple tips for you to get tack sharp photograph for both portraits and landscape photography.

For serious portrait photography, very often we are going to use large aperture to get shallow depth of field. The purpose is to isolate the main subject to make it stand out from the background (especially in limited space with distractive background). With shallow depth of filed, where do we place the camera’s focus point to focus is becoming important.

Where do we focus for portrait shot?

Full length portrait shot

p16 Focus on the face

As shown in the photo above, the best point to focus to get sharp, in focus image is to focus on the face as the most important part of portrait is the face which has to be in focus.

For half-length portrait shot or head shot

If we move in closer to the subject, focus on the face is no longer sufficient especially if we are using large aperture which has very shallow depth of field. Relatively, eyes are more important than other features in portrait so we need to focus on the eyes. Eyes in sharp focus with out of focus nose or lips are better than out of focus eyes.

If the subject is close to the camera and is not squarely facing the camera (which is nice to have in portrait photography to create more flattering image), the tips is to focus on the eye that is closer to camera. Under this situation, we are not able to keep both eyes in focus if we are using larger aperture and the solution is just keep the closest eye in focus and sharp.

Below are some examples of where to focus for half-length portraits:

p17 Focus on the eye / closest eye

p18 Focus on the closest eye

Many photographers are used to use the center auto-focus point; half press the shutter release to focus and then recompose to get better composition before releasing the shutter to take the shot. This is generally okay for most shots except when extreme shallow depth of field is introduced by lens with every large aperture like F2.8 and below. Slight change of plane of focus can cause the image to be soft due to out of focus. The better solution is to switch the camera’s auto-focus point.


Where should we focus when taking landscape photography?

For landscape photography, generally we would like to keep almost everything in focus, from foreground to the background in distance. To achieve this, we need to dial down the aperture setting by using small aperture, i.e. F11, F16 and F22. Besides the aperture setting to get the maximum depth of field possible, where we focus also play a role to get more range in focus.



The general guideline is to focus on a point that is one-third of the way into the scene to get the maximum depth of field. Focus closer if there is obvious foreground that you think must be sharp. For landscape that has a specific point of interest, you may ignore this general guideline and place your focus point on the main subject instead.

Photography Basics – Composition part II

Pay attention to the background

  • Avoid distractive background like lamp poles, tree branches, etc. that seems to be growing from your subjects’ head or sticking out from you main subjects
  • Avoid busy background and avoid subject merging with background and foreground
    • Look around and move around for a plain/simple background and compose your shot so that it does not create distraction from your main subject
  • For portraits shot, it is always desired to separate subject and background

Example on the left below, the bamboo happens to be right at the top of the Christmas tree. It is a bit distracting and will cause viewers’ attention. A very simple thing to do is just move yourself to either to the left or right slightly and you will capture a much nicer photo as shown in the right. A subtle thing like this can make a big difference in the end result.  p8

Another way to reduce the distraction is to make the distractive background out of focus and blur as shown in the right hand side photo below. How to achieve this? Well, you will have to adjust your aperture to use large aperture (more on this in the upcoming article). Normally it means use the largest possible aperture on your lens (smallest number i.e. F2.8/F3.5)



Another rule of thumb for good composition is simplicity, meaning less is more. Instead of including everything you see in the scene, zoom in closer and fill the frame. Think for a while which elements do not add to the photo and exclude those elements. . On the other hand, sometimes, it is better to include some of the environment to tell a more complete story.  Try to keep the background environment as uncluttered as possible and only include the elements that make your image stronger.

Here are some examples: See how simple these photos are!




Leading lines

Leading lines in photography composition is the technique that uses lines and shapes to draw the viewers’ attention and lead them to the main subject or focus point in the photograph. Leading lines catch the viewers’ attention immediately and help create easy path for your viewers’ eyes to follow through.

Leading lines are everywhere in urban area or in the nature. Road, railway, pathway, fence, bridge and building structure in the city can be used as leading line. River, shoreline, cliff, lines of trees and foot trace in the park or beach are all possible leading line. We just need to look for it and use it to draw attention to the main subject we would like to show and capture.

Here are some examples:



Leading lines in a photograph are the compositional element that carries our eye through the photograph and can be used effective to draw attention to and emphasize the main subject

Photography Basics – Composition


Rule of Thirds

One of the most important skills in photography is composition, and the most well-known and basic guide to compose photograph and painting is the Rule of Thirds.

In fact, the theory of rule of thirds has existed in ancient times. It was invented by the ancient Greeks, the geometric formula’s main purpose is to show harmony. Apply it to photography and the photo taken will more likely to look natural and more pleasing. Da Vinci paintings “Monroe Lisa’s smile,” the main character happens to place at the golden section of rule of thirds!

So what is Rule of Thirds?

Well, the “rule” basically suggests that instead of placing our main subject in the center of the photo frame, it will be more pleasing to place it at any of the intersection of the lines showed in the diagram below:


Below are some examples to illustration the principle and usage of this guide:


In the photograph above, the horizon sits at the horizontal line dividing the upper third of the photo from the lower two-thirds. The house on stilt is placed near the upper right intersection point.

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Here are another two photographs that make use of this useful fundamental composition guide. Again, the horizon is not placed at the center but close to one third of the frame and the main subject is placed near the intersection points.

Beyond rule of thirds

The newer trend in photography is to place the main subjects or focus point outside of the rule of third intersection and closer to the edge of the frame. As shown in the two photos below, the main subject, the boat and the lone tree are placed towards the edge that creates a more artistic feeling.


Break the rules?

Rule of thirds is applicable in most situation. However, for symmetrical scenes or subjects, it is okay and sometime better to place the main subjects in the middle, like the photo below.


Negative Space, Breathing Space and Direction

Another good practice for good composition is to leave some negative space or breathing space in the photo. As shown in the example below, there are plenty of “empty” space on the left side of the frame. By leaving the breathing space in front of the boat also provide a sense of direction.



Beginners should make good use of the Rule of Thirds to take photos. Although not every photo should also use this technique, the rule of thirds is indeed the basic knowledge photographer must master and exercise!