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Get Paid To Take Photo's with Bigstock Photo Agency

Updated on March 19, 2011

Freelance Photography with Bigstock Photo

Most freelance photographers don't start out to be professional photographers, it is normal to practice photography as a hobby first. When your photographic skill and confidence increases the natural progression is to want to earn money as a photographer, you are then a freelance photographer.

Freelance photography actually means working as a photographer on a self employed basis, you may take pictures on spec and submit them for sale or you may be commissioned to take photo's on behalf of a client.

In this article we will explore the easiest way to break in to the freelance photography world, submitting photos to microstock photo agencies who are always on the look out for striking images and a review of my favorite stock agency Bigstock.

What is Stock Photography?

Freelance photographers have been placing images in stock libraries for many years, picture buyers would then come along and buy a picture for use in their business. New photographers often found it difficult getting accepted as they were competing with established professional photographers.

The Internet has made it much easier for freelance photographers as the concept of microstock agencies has opened of the door to Royalty Free images mainly for personal and small business use.

Microstock agencies allow you to submit your photos of all kinds of subjects, these photos are then held on stock waiting for a buyer to come along. There are many free picture hosting sites out there but they should not be confused with a microstock agency, microstock companies are in business to sell images not give them away for free.

Skills you need to be a Stock Photographer.

Many guides and forums will suggest you need little skill to be a stock photographer, that's like saying the only thing you need to be a Surgeon is a knife. Too many photographic databases are now suggesting that anyone with a digital camera can make money with it, have you heard the saying "if it was that easy everybody would be doing it"; I rest my case.

I do not wish to dissuade people; I want to encourage people but you must be realistic. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, stock photography is no different. You do not have to be a professional photographer to sell micro stock, you do however need to be technically efficient and have a photographers eye.

In order to get paid to take photographs you need to take photographs of subjects that sell, you need to know how and where to sell them, you need to know about computers, keywords, marketing and book-keeping.

As you can see the skills you need to be a microstock photographer go further than simple point and shoot photography, yes you need to be a reasonable photographer with an eye for a saleable image, you then need to learn how to be an entrepreneur. 


Nikon DSLR

Nikon D90 DSLR
Nikon D90 DSLR

Photographic equipment you need for Stock Photography.

The equipment you need will be dictated by the type of photographs you want to take and your budget. Photography is one of the most expensive hobbies/business in the world with single items of equipment costing in excess of $5000.

The good news is you can start your home based photography business for much less; you may even have all of the equipment you need already. To take saleable images for a micro stock agency you will need:

Digital Photography

If you are going to shoot on a digital camera then 8-14 million pixels should be plenty to get you started in microstock photography. It is irrelevant to me whether that's on a DSLR or a compact camera, it's irrelevant because I firmly believe a good photographer with a talent for taking saleable images will produce images on any camera. A DSLR will give you more flexibility and control over your images but a camera is only as good as its user, an expensive DSLR in the wrong hands won't earn any money and end up in the bottom drawer or on EBay. Buy a DSLR when you are ready to use it and not before.

Photographic accessories that will be useful in your business are an off camera flash, tripod, 8MB memory card and filters. I am not going in to brands here as there are many good articles on Hubpages that will explain the best cameras and equipment.

You will obviously need a computer and an Internet connection to upload your photographs, I am unable to talk about photo manipulation software as I do not use any at present preferring instead to make my images before I press the shutter button. I understand Photoshop is preferred by many photographers and would recommend doing your homework before purchasing a copy.

Canon 35mm SLR

Canon 35mm Film Camera
Canon 35mm Film Camera

Film Photography

In all honesty I am one of the old stalwarts determined to hang on to film photography, maybe it's because I learned my trade on an old Praktica or maybe because I still believe there is nothing like a crisp 35mm slide.

Most will tell you that microstock photography is made for digital photography, I do not disagree but if you have a film camera, a scanner and a computer then you are a digital photographer. The point I am making is; don't rush out and spend $600 on a DSLR if you don't have to. I earned good money from a film camera and an understanding processor so there is no reason why you can't do the same.

Photo's That Sell

Cute Puppy Photo
Cute Puppy Photo

Pictures you need to take to sell Stock Photo's.

There is no simple answer to this question but there are guidelines.

Bigstock photo agency has published a list of pictures they don't want, they do however state that high quality stock shots should be submitted, in general they have plenty of:

  • Cute Pets
  • Landscapes
  • Sunsets
  • Sunrises
  • Flowers

Most photographers start of by taking and selling these kind of images so yours will need to be really special to get accepted.

Take a look around the Bigstock site, specifically look at the top selling images and top contributors, you should conclude the following:

Pictures of business people, commerce, property, technology, industry, stunning product shots and unique concept images sell, obviously you will need model releases if recognisable people are in your shot.

Where to sell Stock Photography.

There are many websites on the Internet to sell your images, one of my favorites is Bigstock Photo; it is the most professional site I use.

Bigstock has been around since 2004 and offers for sale some 4 million images, they are proactive in promoting images which is always good for a photographer. In 2009 they were bought by Shutterstock, collectively these two stock photo agencies are everything you will need to start your photography business.

The main selling point of Bigstock is that they do not accept crap, every photograph submitted in the early stages is manually edited which ensures the site doesn't become over run with inferior images and scare buyers off.

The first thing you need to do is sign up with Bigstock photo, visit the box on the right to join.

Submitting images to Bigstock Photo.

During the sign up process you are obliged to read and understand the contributor guidelines, everything you need too know about submitting images to Bigstock is here and includes:

  • opening an account
  • images
  • copyright
  • quality
  • payments
  • promotion

The good news is that you cannot bypass this section as there is a multiple choice quiz at the end, it may feel like you have to jump through hoops to get accepted but it is worth the effort.

Promoting Your Bigstock Photo Images.

Once your images have been accepted in the Bigstock agency there are a number of things you can do to increase your sales.

Use good keywords, every image needs to be accompanied by relevant keywords, this enables buyers to find them. Think outside the box, make sure you cover the whole subject, most photographers fall down at this point. Creative types love taking photographs but hate the business end, don't skip this important part of selling your photographs.

Promote your portfolio on you own website or blog, join the Bigstock affiliate program and earn commission of the people you refer.

Bigstock is a premiere photo agency, study it and success will follow. Do not attempt to make a quick buck as it is unlikely too happen, instead treat it as a business and invest time in it; it is worth it.

Bigstock Summary

Photography is a wonderful hobby, it's a great part time business; it is even worth doing just for fun. If you intend to build your photography business into something more sustainable and earn a living from it then you need to take it serious. Invest time in learning the ropes, study images and figure out why they sell, emulate successful stock photographers, find out why they are successful.

Once you have a great portfolio of images and the entrepreneur spirit to sell it Bigstock is the perfect partner, together you can reach markets you would never find on your own and take your photography business too the next level.

Your comments are welcome

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    • Patti Riggs Hale profile image

      Patti Riggs Hale 

      7 years ago from Burdette, Arkansas

      Good article! I worked at a camera store part time in order to learn photography--can't say I made any money 'cause I spent all I made and more on equipment, lol!

    • Aiden Roberts profile imageAUTHOR

      Aiden Roberts 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you both for your comments.

      Making money with your camera is a great but for me it is another way of earning to buy more camera equipment that I do not need!

    • CJamesIII profile image


      7 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      What an awesome idea!

    • LeisureLife profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      Great Info. Thanks


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