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The Reality of Selling Stock Photography

Updated on November 14, 2014

Wasp On Goldenrod

Your First Awesome Shot

You have probably heard a story about someone starting an endeavor that becomes a hobby or career based on an incidental event. For a photography enthusiast like myself it was my first awesome shot. Well I thought it was awesome.

That photograph was a macro shot of a yellow jacket on a goldenrod flower. After transferring the image to a computer, the larger canvas revealed the image in such detail that I was looking for more subjects to be captured on film, so to speak.

I had always been intrigued by photography but not the development process, then came digital photography. This is a technological approach, with instant review, that makes it fun for me to create engaging images.

After some practice and study I accumulated a large number of images that I did not want to just collect digital dust. I researched and found various avenues to share my creations and hopefully make some extra income in the process.

Stock Photography

Stock photographs are used in whole or part for graphics, advertising or personal reasons. The first step to selling your images as stock, through one of these sites, is to submit a sample set that is reviewed for technical accuracy, copyright infringement and consent if the photo contains property or people.

If your sample is approved, you are allowed to upload images and supply keywords that will lead buyers to your photo. Prices are established by the site using downloadable size and end use license type. The sites advertise that a contributor can make, in some cases, $10 and higher for a single download.

Each stock site has a philosophy that guides what images they accept. I have had images declined by one site that were accepted and sold on another site. I have also had images declined because the site determined they already had enough similar images.

I have also had images accepted at more than one site but only sell on one. It would be beneficial for you to use more than one site.

How the Cards are Stacked

In reality each site offers buyers the option to buy credits. The more credits purchased reduces the amount paid for each credit and thus reduces how much each credit is worth. The buyers use their credits to buy each photo and depending on how much they paid per credit will determine how much they spend on a photo and in turn how much commission is received by the contributor. Some sites even offer monthly subscriptions that allow a set number of downloads per month which reduces the amount paid for each photo.

The companies that run the sites will also start or purchase another site that becomes their discount store. Your images can be purchased from this other site using the same credit process but usually at lower cost per credit.

In my experience, across four stock photography sites, I have been paid 35 cents to 25 cents for the majority of my downloads. I have sold the same images, and others, at the same site for higher amounts. These purchases are from buyers who do not purchase frequently so their purchase is an ‘on demand’ purchase netting the contributor a larger commission.

Another factor that reduces commissions is theft. There are a large number of small companies that have websites that use nice graphics. Some of those graphics are using images that were copied from the internet, using any number of techniques, and then photoshopped for presentation. I am not saying that all graphics are stolen or that all graphic artists steal, I am merely pointing out that this happens and I have seen it done.

Enjoy First Sell Second

If you enjoy photography and want to share the images, and possibly make some extra cash, then stock photography may work for you. It can be enticing to try images that others are selling in order to get in on the action. However, you may find yourself frustrated when your images are not selling.

In order maintain your enthusiasm for photography you may want to follow the advice of an accomplished photographer that was shared with me. It went something like this: If you photograph what you like to photograph then you will take the time to do it, you will learn from it, you will get better at it and it will show through in the images. These images will be accepted and possibly make you some cash.

For an expert look on stock photography I would suggest:

Taking Stock: Make money in microstock creating photos that sell

© 2014 Merely Musings

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    • jennabee25 profile image

      Jenn Dixon 

      3 years ago from PA

      This is part of the reason I stopped selling my photos as stock. Thank you for your honest hub about this subject!

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