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Stock Photography - Make Extra Money Selling Stock Photographs

Updated on July 3, 2016

Most people will at some point take a few photographs, whether for a family occasion or a holiday abroad. Few however, realise that even photographs taken for personal pleasure may have a commercial value, without the need for much further effort. Stock photography is one way in which an individual can gain an income from old photographs or grow a business taking new ones.

What is Stock Photography? How do I sell Stock Photographs

When one takes a photograph, the taker automatically becomes the owner of the copyright of that picture. As such all photographs have a commercial value in some form or other. Stock photography is essentially a way of extracting the value from that copyright. The mechanism works by uploading one's photographs to an agent such as Fotolia, who then makes the photographs available to paying customers. In selling one's photographs in this way the taker maintains the ownership of the copyright, and the client is essentially buying the right to use the photograph for a given purpose. Photographs are used for a variety of purposes from publication in a magazine to use on a corporate website.

From a financial perspective, the stock photographer will receive a payment for each sale which is made, and the amount of money to be received will depend on a number of factors. Factors including the agent used, the size and quality of image purchased, and in addition there may also be other considerations such as reputation and sales history. Many agents give a higher revenue per sale to photographers, who have been with the agent for a long time or who have a proven sales record.

Selection of an appropriate agent is a key decision, with agencies having very different styles of operation, terms and conditions. Some agents will accept a sign up from any photographer and then review each photograph uploaded for suitability. Other agents may require an applicant to submit a portfolio of suitable photographs before the application is accepted.

The Costs and Benefits of Stock Photography

The major advantage of stock photography is that it is a residual form of passive income. This means that once the initial effort has been made a photograph will continue to be earning its owner money whether out in the field taking more photographs or sitting on a sunny beach taking a vacation. Over time if enough photographs are marketed, then such residual income may become quite substantial.

Although revenues can be low, one should of course consider a number of additional factors. In the first instance, in many cases the photographs may have been taken anyway, thus one is generating a revenue from what is essentially a hobby. Secondly there is essentially no risk attached to the enterprise, except for the time investment.

A large drawback is that from the financial perspective stock photography will generate only a small income for many, especially during the early stages. In order to achieve larger revenues, like any venture more time and more effort will be required to make the business a success.

Overall stock photography represents an interesting way of making an additional income. However, in order to avoid disappointment it is important for the individual to decide how they will approach the subject. For the armature, happy to make a few extra pounds stock photography may be seen as a rewarding pastime. On the other hand a much more professional approach will need to be taken if a serious revenue stream is to be achieved, in short stock photography is not a get rich quick scheme.


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    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 11 months ago from Northern California, USA

      I never thought about submitting my photographs to be used as stock photos, but it makes sense because the photo has already been taken. If it is good enough, I might just make some money with it. Thank you for the idea.