How to Succeed as a Stock Photographer: 7 Tips | TechBuzz

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A decade ago, stock photography was all the rage—it was an excellent way to earn a few hundred dollars a month. But with smartphone photography becoming commonplace, the stock photo market is oversaturated with billions of images. That doesn’t mean you can’t succeed as a stock photographer though. Read on to find out how.

How Stock Photography Is Changing

Hear the word stock photo, and you imagine the run-of-the-mill, studio-shot, clichéd images with perfect models on a white background. But, things are evolving in the stock photography world. There is a huge demand for authentic, everyday images that tell a story.

Diversity and inclusion have also become an integral part of the stock photography culture. Gone are the days of only seeing sleek, tall, and fair models. Today, open any stock website, and you see people from different geographical regions, skin tones, and body types represented.

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This transition is good news for newbie photographers because you don’t have to shell out money to find professional models or set up a high-end studio. Your friends and family members can be your models, and the world can be your studio. You can get started with your mobile phone and then move on to complex gear later.

How Much Can You Earn as a Stock Photographer?

You can earn anything from a few cents to hundreds of dollars when you sell your stock photos. But, the exact amount depends on many factors—the image size, the type of license, and the stock agency that sold it, to name a few.

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Stock websites pay the photographers a percentage of the sales each time their photos sell. It can be anywhere from 15% to 50%. Many premium agencies will usually ask for exclusivity, where you agree not to sell the same photos anywhere else. You can expect to get paid more when you’re exclusive with an agency.

Another thing to note is the type of license under which you sell your photo. There are two types of licenses in stock photography:


In a royalty-free model, users can buy your images once and use them multiple times. Royalty-free photos sell for a lower cost and are primarily non-exclusive, and you can sell the same images on different websites. Shutterstock, iStock, Alamy, and Adobe Stock are some popular stock photo sites selling royalty-free photos.

Rights Managed

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When opting for a rights managed license, the customers pay a one-time fee to use your image for a single purpose. The royalties for rights managed images are usually higher. Getty Images and Image Professionals are some sites that sell rights managed pictures. Your photos must be unique and of excellent quality for rights managed licensing.

How to Master the Art of Stock Photography

Are you ready to dive in and start churning out stock photos? Here are some tips to help you ace your stock photography business.

1. Stand Out From the Crowd

Standard stock websites generally pay meager royalty rates. So, instead of opting for them, focus on exclusive sites like Getty Images, Image Professionals, and Shutterstock Offset. But remember, it’s not easy to get accepted by these reputed agencies—your images must be of top-notch quality and have an edge to get into these sites.

Remember the keywords: lifestyle images and storytelling. Premium stock websites look for realistic photos of real people with all their flaws and blemishes. So, always go for unposed shots, and use natural light as much as possible.

2. Pay Attention to Customer Requests

Rather than taking random pictures, uploading them on the stock websites, and waiting for someone to buy them, you can check out the content requests from customers. Almost all the stock websites give a list of their customer requests.

You can utilize this feature and shoot content that has a better chance of selling. It’s also an opportunity to try new techniques and include different photography styles in your repertoire.

3. Find a Niche

Stock websites are full of random landscape pictures and cheeky conceptual images. So, your best bet to succeed in the stock photography game is to find a specialty. Research the type of content that sells on the stock websites. You can even try targeting particular websites like StockFood, Science Photo Library, and so on.

Think of your hobbies and interests, and try to incorporate them into your photography. For example, are you an astronomy enthusiast? Get a camera adapter for your telescope, and you can shoot images of stars and galaxies and sell them.

4. Upload Regularly

Quality matters over quantity, but it’s a good idea to upload pictures in stock photography regularly. Aim for at least a hundred images every couple of months.

While it’s crucial to regularly contribute and keep your portfolio active, pay attention to the quality of your images. Following shortcuts like adding the same image from different angles only to boost your numbers will not help you in the long run.

5. Consistency Is Key

If you consider stock photography your hobby, you won’t go very far. It’s important that you accept stock photography as your full-time work and put in considerable hours every week to make money regularly.

Plan and decide the type of content you want to shoot well in advance. Make arrangements for the necessary backgrounds and props. Also, photos of holidays, festivals, and celebrations tend to sell well, so mark your calendar and spend some extra time capturing seasonal images.

Keep track of the happenings in the stock photo industry and learn the current market trends. You should also actively get involved in stock photography forums and get inspiration from other photographers’ works.

7. Enjoy the Process

When you decide to sell your photos on stock websites, you regularly take pictures and hone your photography skills. You will train your eyes to find better compositions, and adjusting your camera settings will become second nature.

You also get to engage with a vibrant community of stock photographers and learn the ropes of the business from them.

Become a Better Stock Photographer

Although stock photography is highly competitive and not very lucrative for photographers, you can still make decent money if you’re hardworking and persistent. Like any other work, you will succeed if you take it seriously and put in genuine effort.

photo of a person's pictures printed out on a desk
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