Last updated on December 6th, 2023
Photographers love getting into stock photography. It is not very difficult to getting started with stock photography. Many photographers do stock photoshoots for fun; however, most will do stock photography for profit. The wonder about doing a stock photoshoot is the ability to capture anything your heart desires, mundane items, and settings to elaborate photoshoots. Shooting whatever your heart desires can be the ultimate goal, right? Right.
You may be a digital nomad or travel blogger in need of another method of revenue. As you travel the world, you probably have an assortment of photos. Sure, there are great memories behind every picture. Did you know you can make money doing this, though? Commercial businesses and agencies are always on the prowl for high-quality photographs. They rely on it to produce valuable content. It’s your advantage to getting started with stock photography, allowing you to take more photos and make extra money. Win-win.
You may not make your total income by taking stock photography; just remember that. Often, it’s a revenue stream in the number of revenue streams photographers have. Entrepreneur photographers can use even a small revenue stream that comes from stock photoshoots, so try to do it more passively.
Hobbyists, new business owners, and veteran professionals will agree that having a supplemental income is helpful. This is especially true if you are working during a slow time and need some passive income. As you think about making stock photography a part of your passive income or if you are just looking to have fun with it, let’s go over getting started with stock photography.
First, What is Stock Photography?
Stock photography is commercially licensed photography. That is simply put, but do know that licenses for photos can be a few dollars, and some can be for hundreds and thousands of dollars, it depends. It also depends on how famous the photographer doing stock photoshoots is. A well-known photographer could be running a campaign for a large company, and that’s where the big bucks are for their stock photos. There’s also a lesser-known version of a stock photographer. Next, you’re going to learn about microstock photography.
What is Microstock Photography?
If you are reading this post, you most likely are not a bog-known photographer and have not licensed a stock photo yet. Microstock photography might be your best bet if you are new. Microstock photography is photography that is permitted at a lower price point of $1-$5. Stock photos are in high demand across the internet and digital platforms.
Many bloggers, authors, and online publications may be starting up and do not have the budget for such commercial stock photography. This is where microstock photography comes in, and it is a great place to start.
Fun fact: microphotography go hand-in-hand. When we think of stock photography, we’re referring to microphotography.
The Basics of Stock Photos
The fundamentals of getting started with stock photography begin with the basics. We know that stock photography is the current form of microstock photography. You have the middle man providing thousands, if not millions of photos in their library, for customers to pay for and use. You get the keep the rights to your photos. You are free to then use them for yourself.
iStock, Shutterstock, and Getty Images are just a few of the many companies that offer stock photo libraries. They permit us to use the photos and how they can be used by paying different rates for licenses. They usually work by dividing purchases under a subscription or per photo rate as a one-off. Do know that the subscriptions from places like Shutterstock typically pay a minimum. For example, it might be something like $0.25.
There are some steps to go through when getting started with stock photography. First, you must submit photos so they can evaluate your photos to see if they meet quality standards. You will want to send your best photos to have a better chance of reaching their criteria.
After the approval process, you can submit as many images as you wish at any time to be uploaded. If one provider does not approve of you, try others because all the stock photo providers have different qualifications and may support you.
Do remember to include: titles, descriptions, and keywords when submitting your stock photos. Keywords are essential because the people searching for photos are going to use keywords to find you. Be creative and deliberate about your choices in keywords, yet not misleading.
What Does Licensing a Photo Mean?
Licensing a photo is different from selling over your rights to the stock photo provider. Licensing a stock photo means that you can continually produce or create secondary works off of your photos even after you license them. In most cases, the buyer will be getting a royalty-free license. This means that the buyer does not have the right to resell the photo or claim that they own the picture, they can only use the photo at their discretion.
The buyer will have to pay more for what is called a rights-managed license. This makes sure that they must pay for every time they use the photo. As a photographer, this means that you can restrict usage of their images as you wish.
Always read the fine print when selling your images. There are stock photography websites that only let you be exclusive, which would mean that you can’t sell your photos anywhere else, including your own business or personal use. Decide first if that is something you would be okay signing over.
The Types of Images to Upload to Stock Photography Websites
Do your homework on the guidelines or restrictions that these stock photography websites will accept. Always avoid logos, avoid intellectual property, and get model and property releases for people or buildings that may be recognized. For instance, it is illegal to sell if the Eiffel Tower is lit up at night in the photos. It’s protected by copyright and is someone else’s work (technically). Always do your homework with guidelines before submitting your work.
How Do I Make a Good Stock Photo?
A successful stock photo stands out. It’s more than just a tree with autumn leaves, go beyond that. What stands out amongst the trees? Think as if you are the buyer and what aspects you would look for. You want people to buy a license, right? Think of everything they might be looking for.
Plan out the background and the foreground of the image you are going to take. It doesn’t matter whether it is an animal, a bowl of fruit, or nature. Everyday photos don’t get bought. Look at some of the most successful stock images on the websites beforehand.
Be inspired by what you see. Think about what you could be doing and what the others don’t have. Think about the elements of photography while getting started taking stock photos and try out angles and variations. Be different and tell a story with your stock photography.
What’s the Best Way to Make Money with Stock Photography?
It makes many curious: are stock photos better in quality or quantity? Could one breathtaking stock photo take precedence over multiple mediocre images? Maybe it is a little bit of both. If you get many high-quality photos at differing angles, different seasons, you are eventually going to hit people who are looking for what you have. They may not need summer, but you have springtime so that they will take that. See how that works?
You don’t have to be a top photographer, but if you have what people are searching for, then you will make money with stock photography.
If you are a travel photographer, then you have an advantage at all the beautiful places and objects you can photograph on the day-to-day. You will not have much competition if you are shooting beautiful places and things. Stand out from the crown by taking pictures of less-photographed places.
While I can’t tell you what to photograph and what does well precisely, it’s going to take more time and learning by experience for you once you get started with stock photography. Once getting started with stock photography, see what has more movement than the other photos you are uploading and go from there.
You may be more successful on one stock photo website provider than another. Don’t get discouraged. You want to use your most significant strengths on each of the providers to make the most out of them.
Where Should I Sell My Stock Photos?
There are dozens of stock photography websites you can choose from when getting started with stock photography selling. Do your best research on what kinds of images they accept and how much they give their photographers (it may be anywhere from 20 percent to 60 percent). Also, what types of licenses are offered. It’s best to make a running list and choose the one or ones that suit your needs best.
Many photographers who use Adobe products may look into Adobe Stock. They allow you to upload your photos from Lightroom straight to Adobe Stock if that is your editing tool of choice. They also offer 33 percent and provide an advantage by posting your images in the very front for Creative Cloud subscribers.
Another popular stock photography website is iStock. They will reward you if you exclusively license your image with them on their website. And give you 45 percent as opposed to the 15 percent should you put your images elsewhere.
Stock Photography Tips to Help You Be Better
Getting started with stock photography will not only earn you a passive income, but it can shape you into a better photographer. You will be more motivated to take photos and break outside your ordinary when it comes to stock photoshoots.
Stock photography may even inspire you to venture into other avenues like wedding photography, animal photography, nature photography, and travel photography.
To start, start small with a goal of how many photos to take in a month. Write down your plan with places or objects you would like to photograph to inspire you and stick to your project. When you break outside your comfort zone, your skills in photography will sharpen.
The extra effort you put into stock photography will be extra rewarding in the end. Aside from making money, you will see your photography skills get better as you take the photos, which will be more satisfying than anything else.
Remember These Golden Rules to Stock Photography:
- Only submit photos that are of high quality and size.
- Offer variety when uploading stock photos. Take pictures of anything you can at a variety of angles and shots.
- Don’t use crazy filters on your photos – over-filtered photos are often rejected.
Deciding Editorial Vs. Commercial
It’s not up to you to choose how you want your photos to be used. Let the stock services deal with the grunt work for you. You decide whether the focus on your photo is for commercial use or editorial use. However, do be aware that it will depend on the stock photo provider as some do not accept editorial content.
What is the Difference Between Editorial and Commercial Stock Photos?
The difference between editorial and commercial all boils down to your photos being used for advertising or promotions. Commercial allows for advertising or promotional use. Editorial images are not for commercial use.
Your photo may include people, trademarked property, or places. The use of such things is not for commercial use. So, if there is a logo, a trademark from a business, or a license plate, you will not be able to use the photo for commercial use.
What About People in Shots?
People in stock photoshoots are tricky waters to navigate. Many of these stock providers will need proof of a signed model release form to feature them in a shot. People in the distance, unrecognizable, are often not a problem, however.
Though, it is up to the website’s discretion on whether or not to approve the photo. Many times recognizable people in shots may be okay for editorial images without the release. Please check with the stock provider before submitting your photos.
What to Do If You Are Rejected
You will, at some time or another, face rejection, especially if new and getting started with stock photography. There could be several reasons why. Many times there are places and landmarks in photos that are restricted.
Be sure to double-check any restriction lists on each of the stock websites you are submitting to. These rejections should teach you what not to do with your shots and let you fix the problem on your own and submit later on. Don’t give up; only learn from rejection.
Getting Started with Stock Photography
Nows the time to get started on your journey of stock photoshoots and submissions. Remember to do all your homework regarding stock photography sites. Cross-reference every restriction and rules list and find gaps in what other photographers are submitted. You are well on your way towards being a stock photographer.