ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to make money with stock photography in 2014

Updated on January 12, 2014
Chicago, Illinois Millennium Park
Chicago, Illinois Millennium Park | Source

Getting into stock photography

Stock Photography is actually more important than most photographers think. Photographers make their money on images. As we get older, shooting a 10 hour wedding or lugging a couple of bags of equipment starts to lose its luster. Stock photography is a great passive income source for photographers and if you like it, it could be your main source. If photography is something you take seriously it is important to understand that the images you take today will become a major part of your income in the later years.


Stock Photography is a perfect addition income to what whatever you are shooting currently. It can be done in between clients, at your own pace and in some cases at the same time as a client shoot.


To start in stock image photography, Here are some helpful tips.

  1. Don't shoot something just because it is popular. You will burn out quickly if you do that.
  2. It takes time to build up a library of images so you might as well like the subject! Be true to yourself when deciding what you want to photograph. Doing it this way you will enjoy the work much more.
  3. It is better to “specialize “ in one photographic topic. You want to become “known” for shooting one thing more than anyone else. Is it horses, machine parts,farms, people in office settings, wines, adventure sports? whatever you like to photograph there is a stock image company that specializes in that type of image and that is who you want to get in contact with once you build up your library. 

  4. This is a long term process. To get a great body of work you need to shoot many photos. The good news is you control how much you want to shoot. example: only adding 5 quality images a week in 5 years will give you 1300 photos that are bringing in income.

Chicago Skyline
Chicago Skyline | Source

Jack of all trades, A king of none.

I can guess what you are thinking, you love to shoot many different subjects! I understand that. But I still suggest that you specialize in one subject matter. You cannot become known for 2 or 3 different subjects, if you try to do that, then you are just a photographer. Your goal is to be know as “ The photographer who shoots XYZ…”. When people think of a subject ( whales, cars, landscapes…) you want your name to be associated with it.

Once you have a Library of images you will earn some income off of each image.From my past experience I am a believer in the 80/20 rule, that says 20% of your images bring you 80% of your money. The numbers might seem daunting right now but if you start at your own pace and keep adding photos each month and year imagine having 1,000 or 5,000 or even 8,0000 images and 20% of them are earning you anywhere from $10 to $200 monthly is very possible. And here is the best part, this can all be in addition to what you are earning currently.

Photography buyers all in one book

Chicago, Illinois  Lincoln Park with skyline view
Chicago, Illinois Lincoln Park with skyline view | Source

A retirement account you can control

I referred to stock photography as the Photographer’s 401K, or retirement account. We all might be your and spry right now but at one point lifting these heavy DSLR’s and lugging equipment might not be as much fun when you are 60, so selling stock images is how all photographers make money long after you can’t pick up a camera. In our old age income will come from licensing our images. It is never to early to start building your stock image library. Here is the good part, Unlike a 401K or retirement account, you can put as much into stock photography as you like as fast as you want to! The more you build it up the more you will have to draw upon later in your career.

How do I find them? 
The greatest website for stock agencies I have found is called stockindexonline.com(stock index usa) don’t let the name fool you, they list agencies from all over the world that sell stock photography. Even better is their book that has 1,000’ s of agencies listed by subject and with contact information. It is a great resource to use to find your stock niche.

Lillypad pond, Chicago, Illinois
Lillypad pond, Chicago, Illinois | Source

Micro stock sites

The initial reaction is that they do not pay photographers much at all. But that might all depend on where you are at with a photography career. These sites have easy acceptance qualifications for photographers. It is a very good place to learn the ropes if you are completely new to stock photography. They actually provide free tutorials and paper forms you can use for photo permissions and usage. They also have internal forums where people share their findings again which are perfect for someone starting out with stock.



These sites are also useful if you have a lot of photography sitting on your hard drives NOT earning you income. Their payouts may seem low but I think it is worse to be sitting on a few terabits of photos not earning you any income at all! Something is better than nothing if the photo is just sitting there.

 I have used a few of these websites for my own work. I started loading images in the early 2000s it is nice to receive a check every month or so for sales that I did not have to process
A few of the larger sites to look into

  • istock.com
  • Dreamstime
  • Bigstock.com
  • alamy.com

    There are many others and most have a long enough business record that you can get a feel if you want to work with them or not. I suggest that you start with only one until you get a feel for the whole process.


Think of the stock photography industry in two groups. micro and regular. Stock used to be very lucrative for photographers. Before digital, a single stock image could get you $500 -$3,000 in one sale. Of course to be accepted as a photographer on those sites you needed to present 300-400 images in a portfolio to their main office in the form of slides. Things have changed and some feel not for the better. Either way, in 2014 a photographer needs to consider multiple streams of income for the long term. One of those streams that works for you, might just be stock photography.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

      ChicagoPhotos - Very interesting - really must look into this. Do you shoot in JPEG for stock photography submissions, or are you using RAW and converting your images to JPEG. How much manipulation is allowed?

      I would love to read more about this. I do wonder if it is easier to earn an income from Stock Photography, as opposed to writing about it on HubPages?

      Thanks for sharing this.

    • ChicagoPhotos profile image
      Author

      Patrick John Warneka 3 years ago from Chicago, Illinois U.S.A.

      Sallybea,

      Good questions Years ago it was a very mixed bag but now a days RGB Jpegs seems to be the norm for accepting photos. I still see a few will take Tifs. No PNG, PDS and you never give out our Raws. also, no CMYK files. Other than Jpegs, most agencies will only take 1600 x 1200 or larger. My camera produces 24 inch x 36 inch files, so I try to crop as little as possible for delivery.

      As for the money, IF you love to write doing both ( writing about and doing stock) can be lucrative. I still get checks from work I put out in 2004, so I would say if you can do both go for it. passive income is a great thing.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

      ChicagoPhotos - thanks for that info. It constantly amazes me that people are willing to pay money for images, when a digital camera can be purchased so reasonably. We are all capable of taking our own images for our Hubs. This really is something I am going to look into.

    • ChicagoPhotos profile image
      Author

      Patrick John Warneka 3 years ago from Chicago, Illinois U.S.A.

      SallyBea,

      I bought 2 pens for $1.98 Now I am an excellent writer! :)

      I can understand the confusion about cameras. the industry did not do a very good job pointing out what makes the High end DSLRs different from the Point and shoot digitals out there. Like my pen joke above. Owning a pen does not make me a good writer, Owning a camera does not make anyone a consistently good photographer. I'm not saying it is rocket science, but there is a lot more to it then camera choices.

      Now, Photos for your Hub? Heck yeah! Take you own. there is NO reason why people should not do that. I have a ton of photos on my food blog taken by my cell phone. It works for the web. But not anything else.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

      ChicagoPhotos - of course you are right! I did not mean to minimize the art of Photography. I guess it is just something I love to do and I have worked hard to improve my own photography. I should not assume then everyone else has the same interest. Nice point. It makes the idea of exploring Stock Photography even more interesting to me.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      Amazing photos of Chicago. Great information. Welcome to Hub Pages

    • ChicagoPhotos profile image
      Author

      Patrick John Warneka 3 years ago from Chicago, Illinois U.S.A.

      Tireless traveler,

      Thank you! they say a photo is worth 1,000 words, I wish my captures counted towards my grammar and word count!

    • profile image

      Byron Miller 3 years ago

      A very good post, but I still read very bad info on stock photography, like it take's so long before you can see any money come your way, and you haft to load up 1,000 + images on different stock websites. Can you tell me this really will pay off ? so many sites are giving free images !!!!

    • ChicagoPhotos profile image
      Author

      Patrick John Warneka 3 years ago from Chicago, Illinois U.S.A.

      Byron Miller,

      When you read any information about stock photography ( really any photography) you must factor in 4 personalities types that my be posting that article. the first type, People from the Hay day or stock photography, who use to make $2,000 per image are not going to say good things about the current industry. the second type are the ones who half-tried, gave up and want to blame it one the industry and the third type is the one who shoots crappy photos.

      That is 3 where is the 4th? Well the 4th type are the ones consistently shooting stock, posting it consistently and are making a decent amount from it. It is hard to read from the last group because they are not going to tell you because your work can take from their sales.

      Like Yoda says " try you must"

      As for the "free" sites. 3 points about that. they usually are free if you use the photo for personal use, Commercial use costs you something.

      The photos are usually crappy.

      If you find "great" work for free, it is equivalent to not having locks on your front door, the shooter is being ripped off.

      The photographers who give their work away, get what they deserve.

      If your work is good, don't give it away for free. People will pay.

    • Danext profile image

      Dan Lema 2 years ago from Tanzania

      Useful article, it is very important to build your portfolio as you mentioned; so people can see how good you are and refer you to other people.....well written....

    • abacoian profile image

      Ian 2 years ago from Florida

      Good comment. I want to put my images on stock sites hopefully to make an income. But my only worry is someone stealing my images? Is that something I should worry about or no?

    • ChicagoPhotos profile image
      Author

      Patrick John Warneka 2 years ago from Chicago, Illinois U.S.A.

      No worry. If you use any of the stock image websites, they have their own protection built into their website. IF YOU FEEL that they do not, move on! There are 1,000's of sites trying to take advantage of photographers, It is about time that WE TAKE ADVANTAGE of them!

      Enjoy shooting,

    • abacoian profile image

      Ian 2 years ago from Florida

      off hand are there a list of sites that you would recommend avoiding? And would there be one stock photo site that you would rate the best? I looked at the siteindex you posted, you think their all trustworthy sites on their site?

    • ChicagoPhotos profile image
      Author

      Patrick John Warneka 2 years ago from Chicago, Illinois U.S.A.

      Abacoian,

      A rule of thumb when starting out is the bigger the site, the more trustworthy it is. In other words, If a lot of photographers are constantly posting to a site, they find it to be trustworthy. You should never have to pay a monthly or yearly fee to post your work. If a site keeps changing its rules about fees and commission to me, that is a sign that the owners of that site are ill prepared or trying to squeeze more money out of the photographers.

      I would suggest starting with sites that originate from your country, so there are no transaction problems with the company paying you online.

      I hope this helps.

    • profile image

      Ken K 2 years ago

      Stock photography is a brutal business. Realistically ispts only residual income for those who either attempt a dream or just love photography. Too much competition. Don't paint a rainbow or a mirage. In reality it is only "pennies from Heaven" for doing what you love.

    • Dexter Tyson profile image

      Dexter Tyson 2 years ago

      So here I am. I am an IT tech for one of the country's top 5 employers. I live in NY City and since I am responsible for 14 of their centers from Midtown (52nd st) up to Harlem, all west of Lexington Ave and as far west as upper Broadway, I see a lot along my way. I am no super pro in photography, but I know the basics to get a nice, clean shot from time to time using a Canon T2i, so much so, one of my photos ended up in some magazine.

      As a person with an "eye," I end up getting some shots that sometimes has me asking myself, "did I really take that picture?" My job allows me free movement around the city, beyond the usual "tourist locations." So no, you won't find me taking pics of Times Square, the Empire State Building or Grand Central. What you will see from me are photos of the subway lines, churches and synagogues (interiors and exteriors), tree lined lanes, odd angles, "secret" places, etc. So, some of these photos have caught the eyes of people at my job and on my FB page, not to mention my 35,000 fan Facebook fan page (not of me, but of my beloved Virgin Islands). So here and there I hear/read, "I would buy that photo from you" or "how much would you sell that or that picture for?" When I tell folks I only take the pics for hobby and do nothing more with them other than upload them to Flickr, they are, like, "you should sell them and make money" and I am always asking them, "well, that's nice of you to say that, but where do I sell 'em and where do I start? I don't know anyone who makes money from selling photos and which big name gallery knows I even exist?" So I defeat any chance to sell my photos with that kind of thinking, but this week, after uploading a new batch of photos, I've heard folks pushing me again which led me to Google to do a search and led me here.

      You said something VERY important and that is, why not make some money from something I have sitting around taking up space. It is better than nothing. I only have around 300 pictures uploaded, but I would say only25, so far, are quality and the reason for that is my uploaded photos show an evolution. I always had the eye but not the equipment. So, what you will find are photos from 10 years ago with a point and shoot to a Canon Zoom camera to a Canon Rebel to m current T2i, so of course pixelation is an issue. If I could "see" the money from one or two pics, this might motivate me even more just beyond doing it for kicks. As a single father raising 4 very expensive teenagers (3 being girls), I am not in a position with capital so I am in a great position to NEED money yesterday. If I could just get some advice and direction, I might just throw my desperation in the ring. You gave some here already.

    • ChicagoPhotos profile image
      Author

      Patrick John Warneka 2 years ago from Chicago, Illinois U.S.A.

      dexter,

      NYC offers some of the most iconic images for both stock and wall art in the world. I suggest loading your work on Fine Art America website. it will give you a link that automatically loads your work for sale on to twitter and FB. If you have 35k followers, giving them the one click option to buy your work may help you get some cash.

      I understand money is tight. Invest in your future and pay for 1 year on FAA. if you sell 1 print, it should cover the cost of the site for the next year. Even with a job, you should be shooting about 1500-3,000 photos a week. Imagine your collection you will have in 6 months time. All working for YOU online.

    • Dexter Tyson profile image

      Dexter Tyson 2 years ago

      Thanks so much for the direction, man. I really appreciate it. I am going to head off to them right now. I have really been taking lots of pictures recently. The summer has been rather mild and I want to get as much in before the cold starts setting in.

      *Off to Fine Art America.*

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 2 years ago

      I learned that getting known is important, so I should specialize. Fortunately, I have many images of one particular, picturesque city, so I may start there. I would think one might have a second specialty if one used a second stock photography site. Would you think that could increase revenue? Then, there are the one of a kind images that really fit nothing. I would like to have them out there.

    Click to Rate This Article