If you’re a photographer looking to brand a scrap more money, you lot’ve probably been tempted, at to the lowest degree at some point, to go into stock photography.
Maybe yous were hoping to be able to
something with the hundreds of unused photos lurking most on various hard drives. Or maybe the idea of
having someone else sell your photos
Or perhaps yous’ve seen a number of stock photos and said to yourself, “I could practice better than that!”
…or maybe you wanted to learn more about how to sell photos online and brand coin.
The first affair I have to tell you is
it’s not quite so like shooting fish in a barrel. Not impossible, the way some blogs and long time stock photographers would make it sound, but not quite a walk in the park either (at least for most people).
The web is full of comments similar “Don’t quit your day job!” sitting side-by-side with “I make $1000s a month in stock photography and you can also!” Which is true? Well, arguments can be made for both.
Tin yous make existent money off of stock photography?
Can yous simply upload all your photos that are just taking up space on your hard drives and make money?
Probably not – unless those photos are over-the-moon fantastic and meet the current needs of today’southward stock photography buyers.
There’southward an fine art to making the stock photography business piece of work for you and the competition is fierce… simply it can be done. Read on to find out how.
Stock Photography | What is Information technology?
Stock photography is simply a term for generic imagery that buyers use for the visual content in everything from news stories, blogs and websites, to design materials for ads or promotional materials.
Information technology’s much cheaper than hiring a lensman and is generally sold through a platform that specializes in keeping a big library full of such images so that buyers accept a number of different options to cull from.
Retrieve of stock photography every bit the reverse of custom-made photographs, which are licensed directly to a customer (depending on copyright condition) and are original works created specifically for that client’due south purpose.
For example, if I needed a loftier-quality image of a happy family eating dinner together, hiring a photographer to find all of the models and put together the food, props, and lighting would exist quite expensive.
Side note: using a service similar Model Mayhem would exist your best bet for finding a ‘talent’.
It would be far easier and cheaper to find one on a stock photography site and pay anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars.
Types of Stock Photography
There are three types of stock photography, but most people focus on macrostock and microstock.
Macrostock photography, as well known as “traditional stock photography” refers to agencies that sell loftier-priced and sectional images. These agencies license the individual images straight to the client and sell the images for betwixt $xxx-$3000 a year. The lensman so gets royalties.
The about well known macrostock agency at the moment is Getty Images, but any company that sells RM or “rights managed” images qualifies.
Microctock, on the other hand, sells images for much less (ordinarily from around twenty¢ to $x) and on a royalty-free basis. The photographers get get no royalties, but become paid per epitome download instead – normally at the end of each month.
Companies such as Shutterstock, iStock, Depositphotos, and Dreamstime are all well-established microstock agencies.
In this commodity nosotros’ll exist talking mostly about microstock, which is the
easiest entry-level stock photography to go into.
Stock Photography | What’s in it for You lot?
At that place are a number of reasons getting into stock photography is quite alluring:
- Anyone with high-quality photos to upload tin can get in
- You don’t need to have a strong portfolio (encounter: how many photos should you have in a Portfolio)
- You can decide how much time you want to devote to it – whether yous desire to make it a part fourth dimension gig or a full-time enterprise
- You have full creative control over what you do
- While y’all tin never ride forever on the images you lot upload, it can provide a largely passive income one time you become to a sure point
- The portfolio you build making stock photography can after be used to secure more than traditional freelance photography jobs
Basically, if you’re creative and really desire to
brand money through photography, stock photography can be a not bad mode to make some additional income.
Can you Make Coin with Stock Photography?
You can, merely it’s definitely not
like shooting fish in a barrel. While there are plenty of stock photographers who make a decent living, there are easily as many more than who do not.
Things have changed dramatically in the xv or more years microstock has been available.
In the early days, it used to be much easier to earn plenty income to alive off. There weren’t as many images out there and the market wasn’t saturated with photographers.
These days, however, the industry’s matured and the supply of images is vastly outpacing demand.
Shutterstock alone now has over 225 million images with over 1 one thousand thousand more added every week. This means that to succeed, contributors have to piece of work harder and smarter than they did say, 15 years agone when microstock was only starting.
The skilful news is that, while you might not make a full time living off it, it’due south generally not as well hard to get upward to a place of
earning a few hundred dollars a month.
It’ll take a while (unless you’re incredibly lucky) and y’all’ll need to upload
of images, but with a bit of perseverance and dedication, $200-$500 a month is definitely doable.
How Much can you Earn as a Stock Photographer?
Want the numbers? On his blog mystockphoto.com lensman Alexandre Rotenberg writes that to earn a $500/month passive income, you’ll need to take uploaded at to the lowest degree 6,000 images.
(This assumes that you’re uploading high-quality commercial images of a diverseness of subjects within your niche and that everything’s been keyworded correctly.)
How long does it accept to upload six,000 high-quality not-similar images? Well, if y’all piece of work full time and have a family, 200 images a month will probably be a fleck much.
With focus, yous could probably manage 100 images a month. Fifty is certainly quite doable. (Less than that and this probably isn’t the line of work for you.)
At 100 images a month information technology would take you lot five years to reach Rotenberg’s 6000 images marker (which he goes on to state is a minimum). If you increase the value of your images past including models with model releases and/or actually push your niche, y’all could probably exercise information technology in but under three years. I know photographers who’ve managed to become $200-$300 passive income in just 2 years.
Either mode, it’s
not a get rich quickly scheme. Most photographers will need at least iii years to get to that level and if you’re a decorated bee, you’ll need the full five.
Of course, there are some photographers who get lucky in that their niche happens to exist in wide demand or they’re traveling all the time and can take amazing images of places that haven’t still been blown out of the market.
In general though, expect a long booty before y’all tin can go upwardly to a substantial income.
Challenges of being a Stock Photographer
The truth is, many would-exist contributors quit within the first six months. The reasons are many, but usually come downwards to the fact that they didn’t see enough of a return during those first few months.
Oft this is due to image quality, simply not always. There’due south also the issue that you lot’re competing against thousands of other contributors and 15 years of stock already on the tabular array. Add to the fact that it really takes dedication to upload 100 images per month, all correctly keyworded – particularly if y’all practise it by hand as I did when I first started.
Too, creating unique content in any overly saturated market place takes a lot of creativity. Plus,
your content needs to be marketable
(something that someone would currently
to buy – ideally a business), and that’due south non quite as easy equally it seems.
…or at least, not equally piece of cake as many “Make Money past Selling You Images as Stock Photography” posts would have it seem.
Suffice it to say that if you’re just looking to offload your unused photos to a site and hope they’ll sell, you probably won’t brand any money.
Like anything else, stock photography is a concern, and in this business organisation you need to produce original content that buyers are looking for, not merely your typical stock photo platitude shots.
If yous take a knack for that or are willing to study the trends and learn to create it, then y’all have a skilful adventure at succeeding (with a lot of hard work, of grade).
Not deterred still? Then read on!
How to Make Stock Photography Work for Yous
The get-go and foremost thing to keep in mind to exist successful in the stock photography world is that you need to be
willing to shoot stock photography.
I know that sounds redundant, but you’d exist surprised at how many people don’t really know what that means.
“Stock” photography doesn’t mean simply uploading all your unused photos to a microstock site and hoping they’ll sell. Far from it, in fact.
Certain, shots in the dark can once in a while hitting their mark, only that’s pretty rare. To truly exist successful in this business, you need to know your target, accept aim, and fire.
In other words,
you need to operate every bit a business organisation.
Producing marketable stock images ways
researching the markets and current trends. It means taking the time to run across what’south currently selling or what holidays are coming up and making/capturing images accordingly.
The highest earning microstock photographers plan their shoots advisedly, often using models and props or traveling specifically to places or events that they know volition be in high demand.
They pay attention to the forums and the sites requests for new photos. They spend fourth dimension looking through stock libraries to encounter what’s missing and create photos accordingly.
3 Applied Tips for Stock Photography
As important as research and planning are, they’re just a piece of the microstock success pie. Hither are the other slices you’ll need to keep in listen:
Keywords are the primary way prospective buyers
detect your images, and as such they’re extremely important. That means it’s of import to go it right.
Here are a few tips on keywording for stock photography for beginners:
Make your keywords every bit
descriptive as possible. Depending on the microstock agency y’all’re working with, it may be of import to list them in gild of importance.
For example, you’ll desire to place the more specific keyword “cat” in front of the more than generic “animal.” Basically, the more specific, the amend.
You’ll likewise need to signal whether there are one or more of the subjects in the shot (i.e. “cat” vs. “cats”), include whatever objects that are in the image, and listing actions such as “running” or “jumping.” If your paradigm illustrates a concept such as “teamwork” or “hope,” be certain to include those as well.
Some platforms like Adobe Stock offer an auto keyword tool that works pretty well, but don’t rely on it. It’s best to practise due diligence and make sure you’re not missing any key words and to arrange them in order of relevance.
Thankfully there are some great keywording tools out there that make this process easier. I’ll go to those at the end of this post.
2. Always Keep the End user in Mind
To sell your photos you need to have something cease users want. Bloggers, marketing agencies, businesses, or magazines, the cease users determine what sells – literally.
What are they looking for? Image content that helps illustrate concepts and/or complements the content they’re creating. This can be simply about everything and anything, only some things are in higher demand than others.
For example, businesses are often needing images that illustrate concepts like “family,” “teamwork,” and “trust.” The more images y’all tin can put together bring these kinds of concepts to life, the more sales you can make.
People creating websites or advertisements often need images with a lot of negative (empty) space where they can put text… and so on.
This translates into three key questions:
- Who is going to desire to buy this?
- What will they use it for?
- How are they going to utilize it?
If you lot etch your images with these in mind, you’ll have a far amend hazard of selling.
3. Upload Regularly
Uploading regularly is important for a number of reasons. First of all, the more photos y’all have out there, the
better your chances
of making a sale.
2d, it keeps your images up front and middle in the search results of almost platforms.
Third, trends change and many images that will be popular 1 year won’t be so “in” a few years afterward.
Then what nearly this promise of
passive income? Well, it does exist. For example, once you lot reach $500 per month, chances are you’ll stay there… for a trivial while at to the lowest degree.
If you don’t keep uploading new content nevertheless, you’ll find that amount dropping as the months get on.
If you lot go a full yr without new uploads, you’ll probably get downwards to around $300/month, which for some is yet a great passive income. For others, non so much.
So in general, if you desire to avoid time decay, you’ll need to
go along uploading
new high-quality content. This volition proceed you lot’re images more than findable in current searches and also help keep them relevant to changing trends.
This doesn’t mean your old photos won’t sell – there are many buyers looking for photos that were popular years ago – but you lot’ll sell amend by keeping your content fresh. If you’re on a stock site that features new photos in a carve up category, all the better.
Stock Photography | What to Shoot?
And then you’ve decided to get for information technology. You’ve registered with i or more stock agencies and you’re ready to begin shooting stock photography. What should you get-go with?
If you bank check with the various sites that written report on stock photos sales, you lot’ll notice that at that place’s not merely one kind of photo that sells – luckily for us!
That being said, there still are a number of things they take in mutual, and these tend to go in trends.
Fortunately, figuring out the current and time to come trends is a big business organization on the net, and just well-nigh any of the large image sites embrace them in their blog.
For instance, co-ordinate to Canva, the trends of 2022 include minimalist composition, pastel colours, powerful women, and cultural multifariousness.
Stock Photograph Secrets predicts that 2022 trends will include vibrant colour, personal technology, social causes, and hyper yet-life… and then on.
In addition, each site will usually tell you what’southward trending. Alamy, Shutterstock, and most others give monthly updates of the photos end users are looking for.
For example, Shutterstock’s Shotlist for March is currently requesting images illustrating mom appreciation, global celebrations, and mutual work practices. Adobe Stock’due south current needs (which they publish quarterly) has a huge listing of everything from forests to employee promotions.
Does this mean you need to shoot these topics?
Not at all.
aware of the trends
and choosing ones that either perk your interest and/or fit your niche will
help your sales
Speaking of niches…
Find Your Niche
If you’re just starting out, you lot’re probably shooting a broad multifariousness of subjects and if you lot’re like many people, y’all probably accept a hard drive full of flowers, beaches, sunset, pets, and maybe even flags.
Unfortunately, these very common subjects are, well,
common. You lot’ll find thousands of these types of images on but nigh every stock photograph site imaginable.
While it might exist more fun to throw a wide internet, about people making money in stock photography focus on
developing sure niches – ideally those that are in demand and that aren’t particularly flooded. The more than private and specific you can exist, the easier information technology is to actually hone your craft.
That’s not to say that yous can’t be a generalist. Information technology merely tends to be easier to sell well if you narrow downwards your focus and actually work at excelling there.
Popular Micro Stock Categories
As noted before, if you look at what’s trending in any particular year, it’s often a wide variety of subjects and styles. That being said, there are some areas that sell ameliorate than others.
Here’southward a breakdown:
Well-done lifestyle images are e’er in demand. Whether it’s a family sitting down to dinner, someone signing a charter, a child taking a canis familiaris on a walk, parents playing with children or a couple enjoying a stroll on a boardwalk, these types of images sell really well.
Recollect Shutterstock’due south request for mom appreciation? This falls correct into the lifestyle category.
The challenging part is that you’ll need to detect models and become model releases for these kinds of images. That tin be a scrap of a hassle, merely the
payoff can exist well worth it.
2. Nature and Landscapes
This genre is oh-then-popular with photographers but oh-and then-challenging to make any money with.
Why? Because everyone likes to shoot this category and there’s a serious overabundance of strong images already out in that location. You basically have to be absolutely fantastic to brand it in this niche.
3. Business and Industry
The business organisation and manufacture (including engineering) niche tends to sell well beyond the board. People in meetings, using their computers, employees working together, all of these are
continually in demand.
This is also an easy topic to notice a niche in. Merely about all of us do some kind of work and/or have admission to those doing information technology.
I read a story about one stock photographer having a top selling photo that she snapped while technicians were installing solar panels on her roof. The right place + the correct time + popular tech = good payoff.
4. Travel Photography
The one area where I’ve known people to get lucky most often in is travel photography. (Past “become lucky”, I mean sell photos sooner than would be expected.)
If you already travel a lot and y’all take high-quality photos of places that aren’t overly captured already, odds are
you’ll make a sale.
I know a few dissimilar people who’ve been able to get their stock photo income upwards to $200-$300 a year without besides much of a headache. Information technology’s non a lot, but since they travel year effectually on a shoestring, it makes a significant departure.
If you lot’re dedicated to traveling, why not accept a look at the request list on the different stock sites and
I have friends who plan their trips based on stock photography requests – they travel to a variety of unusual places… and make coin doing so.
Alternately you tin travel in your home town or bioregion and cover it from unlike angles. Many stock photographers accept made not bad sales from this strategy.
The only caveat is that you demand to get property releases for any private property you lot capture, unless yous’re planning to sell it purely as an editorial epitome.
v. Current News
“If you lot want sales, only shoot what is in the news!” – Alexandre Rotenberg of mystockphoto.com
Electric current news stories can be exceptionally lucrative. In fact, Alamy has a stiff enough demand for it that they’ve created a whole separate section for for live news coverage with a much less stringent acceptance process.
You don’t take to travel to the big things -simply encompass what’south local to you and your region. If something similar the Women’s March is within travel distance for yous (or you’re already going), then make a point of capturing some excellent images.
half dozen. Holidays
I expanse that nearly always sells well is holiday photos. The fob hither is to
think well ahead
– ofttimes 6 months ahead – and then begin uploading a couple of months before the holiday.
Stock photographers who focus on this niche will generally shoot Thanksgiving-themed images early in the year and then accept them for sale past summer.
Also, with Christmas they’ll start in the early summertime and have them available by August.
have a lot of photos during the shoot and then upload 10-20 each week, then y’all tin can easily stay in the Newest category up until the vacation.
Which Microstock Photography Site is the Best?
These days in that location are literally dozens of microstock agencies, but only a few will really exist worth your fourth dimension.
[Related: Best Stock Photography Sites]
Near photographers who’ve been around for a while tend to focus first on Shutterstock, Fotolia (at present Adobe Stock), iStock (Getty Paradigm’s microstock section), and Alamy. Other ones to consider are Depositphotos and Dreamstime.
Here’s a brief run downwardly:
Shutterstock is past far the near popular microstock bureau. It serves small and large clients alike, from individual bloggers to large companies.
I even worked for a photography software visitor who regularly used Shutterstock for its imagery needs.
Part of Shutterstock’s depict for end users is that they accept a
huge paradigm library
of both images and videos, serve over 150 countries, and are some of the most affordable for-purchase sources of stock imagery out there.
But being one of the more than low-toll options has its drawbacks to photographers. The payout is rarely more than than $0.25 per photograph.
Still, with so many users it’due south not particularly hard to make a auction. In fact, many long-fourth dimension stock photographers claim that Shutterstock is nonetheless their all-time seller.
iStock, now owned by Getty Images, also doesn’t pay out much (simply 15% of an image’south download price), but it’s slightly better than Shutterstock at twenty¢ – l¢ per sale.
Still, the fact that they’re now part of Getty’due south immense system means that your photos are potentially bachelor to license
on both libraries.
I’ve heard that earnings from iStock tend to fluctuate a lot, but it does well for many contributors I know.
Alamy, is 1 of my favorite stock photo sites. Sure, information technology’southward not equally massive as Shutterstock or iStock, but they pay a full 50% on each sale.
Sometimes you can make
over $l per image. (I haven’t fabricated quite that much – mine tend to go for $v-$10.)
They also have a much better submission platform than iStock. And while they have pretty stringent image submission standards, I appreciate this. (Maybe because my images e’er pass?!)
If yous’re a live news photographer, Alamy’s probably
one of the all-time platforms
out there. They’re also great for selling editorial photos – ones that have people and/or individual property in them only you haven’t acquired a release.
Also, because it’s a British stock photo site in that location are side by side to no hoops to jump through to join. That and the loftier committee charge per unit were the things that brought me to them originally.
A lot of photographers swear past Dreamstime, though it’s not ane of my favorites. It tends to pay out somewhere between $0.34 and $2.38 per image sold.
I unusual aspect of Dreamstime is that it’s one of the few platforms that will permit you to submit photos taken with your phone.
1 thing I really don’t like nearly Dreamstime, yet, is their submission tool – information technology’s way besides irksome for me. If yous’re not using an automatic submission tool, it tin can be agonizing.
Fotolia has been effectually for years and once they were bought out by Adobe, near stock photographers I know institute their sales get up.
The pay rates are similar to Shutterstock’s, only slightly higher. Michael Godek on PetaPixel describes it as:
“while yous might earn pennies on Shutterstock, you lot can earn dimes on Adobe.”
I thing that’s noteworthy almost Adobe Stock is that y’all can easily
submit your photos through Lightroom.
That’s a big plus for all of us who do conscientious keywording and metadata in Lightroom.
Not simply that, Adobe software users can buy photos
directly through any Adobe platform
Some other affair they have going for them is the
ease of submission
– they make all the other stock companies expect similar they’re from theFlintstones.
One con to working with Adobe Stock is that they don’t permit any editorial photos. Boo, hiss! If you lot don’t have a model/belongings release you’re out of luck. (It’south one reason I prefer Alamy when shooting news stories and protests!)
Luckily you don’t really have to decide between these if you lot use a submission tool that submits to all the different main sites at once (assuming you didn’t sign up for any exclusive contracts).
If you lot’ve looked into stock photography at all, you lot’ve probably seen Depositphotos out there. They take an aggressive marketing team and seem to be just near everywhere. The folks I know who contribute to them seem to exercise moderately well.
One matter that can be frustrating about how they operate, though, is their royalty tier structure. You have to sella lot
of photos to move upward to the college levels. And of course, the higher your level, the more than you’re getting paid.
For example, their entry level is “green” at less than 500 uploads. To get to the highest level – platinum – you’ll need to increase that to a whopping 150,000+ uploads!
The pay difference between the two? You’ll get 34% of what the buyer paid for an on-demand photo. At platinum you’ll get 42%. It goes downwards for images sold via subscriptions at .xxx for green and .35 for platinum.
And then why bother? Well, the base of operations royalty of 34% or 30 cents per subscription download is somewhat ameliorate than say Shutterstock or iStock. Then while you may be stuck on the bottom tiers for quite a while, at least y’all’re not selling at rock bottom.
Special Tools for Stock Photography
Stock photography’s been effectually long enough for a couple of pretty cool tools to have been fabricated for us. Here are a few of my favorites:
If you programme to submit to a number of non-exclusive microstock sites, then you’ll really desire to automate the process. (Trust me, this is a
StockSubmitter automates all tagging, keywording, and metadata of your photos, and so allows you to upload and submit them to dozens of platforms pretty much simultaneously. Information technology likewise allows you to track your sales, and approved files. Honestly, it’s a
serious fourth dimension saver!
It works on both Mac and PC, and y’all tin can shop things online. It allows yous to submit upwardly to 33 files a month, which really isn’t enough. So if yous’re submitting more (which y’all should be), you’ll probably find it well worth your while to buy a subscription. (The next level upward is about $four.30 for 100 uploads a month.)
If you’re looking for a free, open source keywording and uploading tool, Xpiks shows a lot of promise.
Information technology works across all platforms (Linux included). I haven’t used it all the same as I’d already started with StockSubmitter but I hear good things about it.
Keywording used to be one of the nigh laborious aspects to submitting stock photos. These days there are a lot of aids out at that place, but i of my new favorites is Qhero.
Qhero uses AI to generate keywords and then far for me it’s been pretty accurate. It’due south also costless to use.
Believe it or not, Google Trends is nevertheless incredibly useful for checking to run across what people are searching for in the paradigm globe.
This can in plough, inform what subjects you’d similar to shoot adjacent. You tin can likewise check trending topics by country, which can aid with your targeting.
PikWizard holds a library of over 1 million stock images and videos which you lot can edit on the built-in graphic design software, Design Wizard.
All of the images are royalty-costless and safety for commercial employ, with no attribution required.
Making Money with Stock Photography | Terminal Words
Overall, microstock is a
if you’re a serious amateur looking to make some actress money.
Like anything, y’all’ll demand a lot of patience, hard piece of work, and perseverance to make information technology pay off, but in one case information technology does, the passive income is quite nice.
The fact that y’all can choose whether to be part or full time is also quite helpful, specially for folks who have a lot of other projects going on.
Take great photos, do your research, and upload frequently and you should be able to somewhen reach the $500/month marker.
What do y’all call back? Is it worth your while? Leave a comment below!
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user feel, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may comprise affiliate links.
Posted by: Fusiontr.com