How I Made $1,602.50 With 500px Prime In Just A Few Weeks

This post first appeared on February 4, 2015 on Medium and is written by Evgeny Tchebotarev, founder of 500px, a photo community and marketplace. He is currently consulting companies in Toronto, Taipei, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, on product management and markets in Asia.

I think it’s time for me to come clean. I have an unfair advantage. I know all the ins and outs of 500px Prime, and I know exactly what sells. So, in the two months, I’ve been putting a few photos on 500px that sell, which grossed me (after the 500px commission) $1,602.50 for photos that I already had (I had a few sales on Prime in August, but overwhelming majority of sales occured in last 2 months).

But I wouldn’t be writing this just to make you jealous. I want you to make more than me! In fact, we have tens of thousands of dollars in earmarked by buyers for current requests, so you can start making money right away. I guess that’s our best kept secret… until now.

The Obvious

The obvious truth is that photos with people sell. In fact, most purchases are photos of people doing things. What things, you ask? The same ones as you do every day — people cooking, people walking, people shopping, people going to movies, people having fun, people driving, people working, people drinking coffee, people holding hands… well, you get the idea.

The fact is, you are three times more likely to sell a photo and collect some serious cash if you photo has just two components: 1) it has a person in a photo 2) it has a proper model release attached. It’s that easy.

What to do if you don’t have a fancy studio or models? Just grab your friends. In fact, all the photos with people I’ve sold were photos of my co-workers and friends. How do you approach them to sign the release? Well… read on!

This has been one of the most successful photo shoots — just going around the office and asking people not to pose. The final photo doesn’t have logos, so can be freely licensed for any project. License this photo.

Getting the Release

If you are a people’s person, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, from time to time, you might get a little push back on getting the release signed. What to do?

First, try to get release before the photo shoot. I’m guilty of asking for a release after and that is usually complicated. By asking for the signature upfront, you get to talk about the uses and intentions.

If photography is your hobby, just tell friends that you’ll take them out for a dinner if you sell a photo (and I do both). Or, If you are shooting something fun in a cool location, i.e. in a cafe or a bar, just buy your friends a drink. That usually does the trick.

I took this photo on a roof of a friends home. The final photo has all the logos of the banks removed and has been licensed for $250. License this photo


One thing I’ve learned about licensing by working with my team was about how critical the proper keywords are. If the buyer can’t find your photo, they can’t buy it. Keywords are, thus, key (sic).

A good photo has at least 17 keywords. For me, that’s pretty damn tough. Where would I find 17 keywords to describe one photo? The basic concept, well covered in this article is to describe what you see. If that would be my own portrait, I’d use something like: Man, Male, Adult, Young Adult, 20–29 years old, One Person, Portrait, Studio, Blond hair, Blue eyes, Straight hair, Caucasian, White, Entrepreneur, Front view, Head and shoulders, Looking at the camera, Selfie, Confidence, White background, Professional, Black V-neck, Simple outfit, Office background, Modern office.

See what I did here? I just observed every little detail that I can think of myself right now and of my background. Keywords are essential, so make a good use of them. Don’t try to stuff everything into keywords — spammy keywords on most stock sites will penalize your position in search.

Listening to the Source

Another thing that helped me sell a photo that I took with my old iPhone 5 for a full $250 is active listening. The team does a bunch of things to help artists get paid and for buyers to get a perfect image. Here’s what we do:

  1. Team sends a weekly email with buyer requests. Follow the trends and your photos are selected early.
  2. We also tweet at @500pxPrimePD about requests in real time. If you are fast, you get more sales. There’s a new request every few days.
  3. We run a group with requests, where you can read more details and quickly submit photos via your store.

Does this help? Absolutely. I don’t always have the photos that the buyers want, but when I do — I’ll be damned if I don’t submit a photo!

This photo has been took specially for the request on @500pxPrimePD for “Photos of Hands”. I didn’t have a camera with me, so I used my iPhone 5 to take it. It sold for a full $250. License this photo

A Game of Skill

I think of it as a game of skill. I have almost 100,000 photos “offline” and maybe just 3–4 thousand online. So, 96% of my photos are not accessible to buyers. That’s why listening to what they need and quickly fetching a few photos, without bothering much with post processing, and uploading them to a set (without it being visible on my profile) is important.

Another thing is that you can license your photos exclusively with 500px. That means that if the buyer is looking for an exclusive, the team can negotiate on your behalf — often for prices a magnitude higher than the standard $250. Since most of my photos have never been licensed, it’s a great opportunity for me to be able to hit a jackpot — maybe just once, who knows?

The Challenge

500px is a fast moving environment. In the time it took me to write this article, I sold yet another photo. So now, my revenue stands at a pretty cool $1,627.50 for just a few minutes of work.

Now, I want you to go and make more than me. So here’s my challenge to you: make more money with Prime than I in the next 8 weeks and we’ll fly you to Toronto (or I fly to you) and I’ll treat you to a dinner.