How I Make Money With AI and Stock Photos

Learn how to leverage AI to earn a steady income from the world of stock photography.
Updated Sept. 27, 2023
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Did you know you can use artificial intelligence (AI) to generate images you can sell on platforms like Adobe Stock?

AI models like MidJourney and DALL-E are powerful image generators that can help you create highly detailed pictures that range from abstract to hyperrealistic in minutes.

This form of generative art can be simple to produce, but with the right strategy and research, it could be a great way to make extra money and unleash your inner Bob Ross.

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Choose an AI image generator

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The first step to making money using AI-generated stock photos, and to get ahead financially, is to choose an AI image generator that can create desirable original images from text descriptions.

There are many options available, but two of the most popular and powerful ones are MidJourney and DALL-E.


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MidJourney is an AI tool that can create images from text descriptions known as prompts and runs entirely from a Discord server.

It has diverse capabilities and can create images in various styles, such as photorealistic, cartoon, sketch, or abstract.


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DALL-E is an AI tool that can create images from your prompts. It runs through an online platform operated by OpenAI.

DALL-E can also expand existing images and combine concepts and styles in novel ways consistent with the text prompt.

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Select a stock image platform

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Once you‘ve chosen an AI image generator, you should also select a stock image platform where you can sell your AI-generated art.

Adobe Stock is the only popular platform that accepts generative AI image submissions as of September 25, 2023.

Still, it’s a widely used source for stock images, videos, templates, and 3D assets for creative professionals. Adobe Stock also offers generous royalty rates, allowing you to make a decent return on the generative AI art that you sell.

Learn about legal limitations

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Before you begin generating AI-produced images to sell, you should educate yourself on the legal limitations and risks involved in using generative AI tools.

Generative AI tools may infringe on the intellectual property rights of others and create uncertainty about the ownership of AI-generated works.

Generative AI tools also rely on large amounts of data to learn how to create images, but some of this data may be unlicensed or infringing.

Always use reputable AI tools that respect the rights of the original data sources and avoid using prompts that ask for images that copy the style of a specific artist or photographer.

Research top-performing images

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To see which images do well on stock photo platforms, use the platform’s search features. See if it has a section for top images, and perform searches to learn from the ones that come up.

You should also take note of the keywords used for each image to learn more about the kind of images buyers are looking for.

Keywords are words or phrases that describe your images' content, theme, style, and mood. Adding keywords to your image submissions can give them more visibility and bring them up in relevant searches.

Learn the art of prompting

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Prompting is the skill of writing clear and well-formated text descriptions that the AI model can use to create stock images.

To write effective prompts, be specific, use examples, describe the desired image in detail, specify the style, and use parameters available on your AI tool that help define the outcome.

You should also proofread and test your prompt when you finish writing it. Be patient and explore several iterations of each prompt as well as different prompts.

Keep in mind that prompting is an art as well as a science, and it requires some practice and creativity.

Generate an initial batch

Alliance/Adobe business woman using ai generator

Next, you should generate a small batch of images by choosing a text prompt that describes the image you want to create. 

Use one of the AI image generators we discussed to create an image from your text prompt.

Once you have a few images, compare them to others found online and on stock photo platforms. Take notes of any significant similarities or differences to use your notes for the next step in the process.

Refine and improve the results

C Coetzee/ brand monitoring data

You can now refine your results by comparing them to the images that perform well on stock photo websites.

You can also use feedback from friends or family members and experiment with different styles and themes.

Remember that generative AI tools can create images in themes you may not have thought of before.

By experimenting with different prompts and AI models, you can discover new opportunities and niches in the stock image market.

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Calculate how much you can earn

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To determine what you can earn from your AI-generated images on stock photo platforms, you’ll need to consider several factors, such as your images' quality, relevance, and appeal.

Additional factors, such as the royalty rate and pricing model, as well as the demand and competition in the stock image market, would also shape your earnings.

For example, Adobe Stock enables you to earn a royalty rate of 33% for photos. You can also set your price for your images based on the pricing guidelines of Adobe Stock.

However, the actual earnings may vary depending on various factors, such as the number of downloads, views, and licenses of your images.

Submit your images

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You’re now ready to submit your images to the platform of your choice. Simply sign in to your account and locate the upload section. You can upload your images individually or in batches.

Be sure to add keywords and metadata to help your images show up in search results. Metadata is information such as your images' title, description, category, and license type.

Some platforms, like Adobe Stock, offer automatic keyword features to simplify this process.

Create variations of successful images

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If you notice that some of your images perform better than others, you could produce more variants to maximize your potential sales.

You can use your AI image generator to create images that are similar but not identical to your original ideas, such as different angles, colors, sizes, or styles.

For example, MidJourney lets you add a link to an image in your prompt followed by your text prompt to create variations or apply changes to this image.

Bottom line

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AI and stock photos are a powerful combination that can help you earn passive income and express your creativity.

You can use AI tools like MidJourney or DALL-E to create and sell images on platforms like Adobe Stock. But ensure you stay current on the legal limitations of using AI tools.

You can also explore AI tools that generate videos, melodies, and even entire songs. While these are still in early development, they may offer new side hustle opportunities soon.

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Author Details

Yahia Barakah, CEPF Yahia Barakah, CEPF, is a Senior Editor at FinanceBuzz and has created finance-focused content since 2011. As a Certified Educator of Personal Finance, he has a background in institutional investment and asset management, as well as a deep passion for financial literacy.

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