The first lady reportedly made the money in royalties from Getty Images in 2017 for the use of photos that under a licensing agreement could only be used in "positive coverage”.
According to NBC News, at least 12 news organisations last year used some of the photos, including the Daily Mail, Fox News, Yahoo News, Condé Nast and the Houston Chronicle.
Many of the almost 200 photos show Ms Trump, the president and their now 12-year-old son Barron prior to Mr Trump’s successful bid for the White House.
Others include glamorous images of the former model - who is Mr Trump’s third wife - posing by a pool and playing tennis with Barron and opulent photos of their New York City home.
Several of the news outlets told NBC News they did not realise the photos - which were snapped by Belgian photographer Regine Mahaux - were part of a licensing deal which profited Ms Trump.
A number also said they were oblivious to the deal stipulating the images were to be utilised for positive coverage. Some of the news outlets went so far as to discard the images after being contacted by NBC.
NBC News was among the news organisations that used the images. A spokesperson told NBC that it neither agreed or signed a statement that the image would be used for positive coverage and that it was not aware of the royalties going to the first lady.
One of the portraits taken of the Trumps was used in a White House calendar last year - with the final item reportedly selling for $14 at the White House gift shop.
It is not clear exactly how much the first lady pocketed from the photos. Mr Trump’s financial disclosure forms, released earlier this year, show his wife earned between $100,000 and $1 million in royalties from Getty in 2017.
Although it is commonplace for celebrities to sign such royalty deals for photos, it is highly unusual for a first lady to partake in such an agreement.
It is even rarer for a media outlet to guarantee the type of coverage it will bestow the subject of a story.
Getty Images said further details of the deal and payments to Ms Trump are confidential and refused to say if similar deals exist with other Trump family members.
Mr Mahaux told NBC News that “everything is legal” and did not react to further questions from the outlet.
Some of the pictures were published by outlets before Mr Trump became president but previous income from Getty was not found on older financial disclosure forms.
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