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Getting Into Stock Photography

Updated on April 23, 2014
Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. | Source

Photographers have been taking photos since the invention of the camera. Some have even made it a successful business venture often earning a very good living.

There are many genres within the medium like weddings, wildlife, still life and so on. However, one of the most lucrative styles of photography is stock photograph and there are many large and smaller photographic stock houses that are always looking for quality and technically sound images.

"Stock photography is the supply of photographs licensed for specific uses. It is used to fulfill the needs of creative assignments instead of hiring a photographer.

Today, stock images can be presented in searchable online databases. They can be purchased and delivered online. Often, they are produced in studios using a wide variety ofmodels posing as professionals, stereotypes, expressing stereotypical emotions and gesticulations or involving pets." Wikipedia

Whenever you involve yourself with stock photography you must think as commercial buyers do. Think of a particular business, then think of images that portrait it in a favorable light, something that makes people associate the image with the business or a marketing campaign that the business would use in their advertising.

Before you enter the lucrative and highly competitive world of stock photography, you should decide on the topics or subjects that will compromise the bulk of your work.

You can photograph many subjects, and this is perfectly fine, but the best stock photographers rarely focus on more than just a few topics, often becoming specialists and becoming recognized for such.

Off course becoming a specialist is just part of the process. Your images have to be exceptionally perfect without a single smudge or flaw, otherwise more than likely they will rejected by the stock houses.

One way to organize yourself is to make a list of the main subjects that will garnish the bulk of your efforts and further break them down into smaller subsets. For example, animals will be the main category with the following being subcategories; wildlife, pets, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, sea life and so on.

This will help you not only to categorize the images but to submit them to the right stock house categories.

But before doing this you will have to have obtained a list of wants from these stock houses as they will only accept images that are in demand and they are very picky with what they accept.

Keep in mind that stock houses act as a "middle guy" and they will keep a surcharge for every image that is sold through them. They will often have you sign a exclusivity agreement, therefore only they can show and sell your images. However, this mostly happens once you acquire a reputation as a good photographer with great images.

"Images are filed at an agency that negotiates licensing fees on the photographer's behalf in exchange for a percentage, or in some cases owns the images outright. Pricing is determined by size of audience or readership, how long the image is to be used, country or region where the images will be used and whether royalties are due to the image creator or owner.

Often, an image can be licensed for less than $200, or in the case of the microstock photography websites as little as $1 for a low resolution license." Wikipedia

There are also many specialized stock house which cater to many commercial buyers. Do not submit photos of wildlife to an adult oriented stock house.

As far as what subjects to photograph, once you have decided on your main focus group then look for images that can be used by the buyers.

For example images of people that appear to be happily working in an office setting are great for a large group of companies, People at meetings or working at their desks are the same; they fit a wide range of companies and are always in demand.

Images of children, teenagers, toddlers are also heavily sought after as well as images of very attractive women and men.

Photos of wildlife, pets and landscapes are also very popular. Some houses cater primarily to one single industry like the adult industry and they will often have restrictive agreements with their photographers making them specialist in adult oriented themes and nothing else.

Also the majority of the larger stock houses require that their associates submit a constant supply of images, often hundreds of images per month, so most photographers who deal exclusively with them have very little time other than constantly searching for worthwhile images, processing, categorizing and submitting.

Another popular stock theme
Another popular stock theme | Source
CC BY 3.0
CC BY 3.0 | Source

Unlike photo submissions to magazines and other publications in which images should be accompanied by an article in order to better your odds of making a sale, photographic stock houses will rarely require anything in writing.

Their main focus is only to get quality images which carry a broader appeal to a larger market.

One thing that rarely changes from stock house to stock house is their demand that the images be perfect and of high quality.

The major stock houses like Corbis and Getty Images are excruciatingly demanding in their submission guidelines and will often only accept submissions once they have browsed a large sampling of your work often consisting of several hundred images if not thousands.

Therefore it is worth considering going with a micro stock house first before venturing with any of the major players.

Note; research current values for images that are similar to yours before considering submissions. Although your leverage with most stock houses is limited as you gain a name for yourself you will be allowed more leeway in the prices charged for your images.

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      randomcreative: Just something else to do with the art and it is one of the easiest ways to make some money. Anyway thanks for posting, at least you brought a smile to my face since I heard about earnesthub's passing it's been sort of depressing.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Thanks for all of the great information about this topic! I have thought about doing this and although it's not a current pursuit, I may come back to it at some point. It's certainly a great way for any photographer to make a little extra money on the side.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      fordie: thank you

    • fordie profile image

      fordie 5 years ago from China

      Voted up and useful. A topic I was thinking about recently. Thanks Luis

    • profile image

      Lynn S. Murphy 5 years ago

      It was drawn that way. sortof a neener neener by a friend that has a warped sense of humor. Kinda makes you smile.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Thanks Lynn. BTW what prompted you to put your avatar upside down?

    • profile image

      Lynn S. Murphy 5 years ago

      Interesting as always and the photos are gorgeous!