16 June 2024
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How to Start a Stock Photography Business: Make Money Selling Stock Photos Online

Are you searching for information on stock photography business? Then, read on….


Many people have started to earn money selling pictures, as many companies are interested in using stock photos on websites taken by freelance photographers.


The stock photography business is increasing in popularity due to an increasing number of ebooks, blogs and so on, that need stock photographs.



Due to this demand, there are several free stock photos or free stock images available on the Internet.


In addition, there are a number of microstock sites that now offer images to companies, bloggers, designers and others with options of licenses for the buyers.


These sites purchase images from artists and offer them a commission on the sale. Though conventional photography licenses can be pretty expensive, the microstock ones are cheaper and sell for around $1 to around $5 an image.


Learning Points


  • How to start a stock photography business
  • How to make money selling photos online
  • Stock photography business trends


How to Start a Stock Photography Business -Make Money Selling Stock Photos Online


How Does Stock Photography Business Work?


  • Photographers interested in freelance photography take pictures and send them to agencies.
  • Agencies like Getty Images select and buy images and then host the pictures in their collection after protecting it with a watermark.
  • Individuals and companies needing these photographs who wish to purchase pictures for business can download these photographs but they come at a price.
  • The stock photography agency sells the images to buyers.
  • They keep a percentage of the sales and pay a commission to the photographers.
  • Some agencies also buyout images by paying a lump sum to the photographer and get the copyright for the images, so that they don’t have to pay a royalty to the photographer. Once the payment is made, they get access to free to use images.
  • Some companies prefer to make use of free images for commercial use. They go to free stock photography sites and access free stock images for commercial use.


Stock Photography: Types of Photography Business


If you have a passion for photography, you can try your hand at stock photography photo business and start selling photos or stock of landmarks; events; people etc. on a royalty free basis through your stock photos site.


  • The first option is to set up your own studio or microstock website and start locating buyers for your stock photographs. This is more rewarding financially, but could be more time consuming as well.
  • Another option is to join websites selling stock photographs. However traditional microstock sites might take up about 70% of the sale and give you a commission of only 30%. Instead, you could set your own prices and sell your photographs online to sites where they allow you to keep 100% of your profits.


tips for starting a stock photography business online


Your Target Customers


Many businesses, blogs and websites, marketers, graphic designers, teachers, programmers, web designers and so on use stock photos for marketing and design aspects.


Some, of course, take their own photos, but this is more a rarity than a norm, as it is more time consuming.


Content creators use appropriate stock photos that express the message they wish to convey through the content they are publishing.



Selecting Your Niche: A Style or a Subject


It is important to select a niche. There are more chances of your photos being accepted by sites if you submit top quality images of one specific subject rather than mediocre images of several subjects.


Remember your picture is supposed to promote a business, so it should clearly represent or communicate a message to viewers.


  • The subject could be anything under the sun. You can virtually take a picture of anything and market it, so long as there is a demand for it. It could be faces, sports, such as biking; hiking; business related like banking or e-commerce; emotions like loneliness, joy, stress; food; health; relationships like a happy couple; technology; a specific profession, like doctors or engineers and so on.


best stock photo sites

(Image: dreamstime.com)


  • The microstock market is a challenging one, but there are several themes that are successful. Images connected with the economy; landscapes; and social behavior are much sought after.
  • Look out for a niche that is not too well represented or rare. This could be somewhere in your local area or a great view that you have easy access to.
  • Take original, seasonal images. For instance, Christmas images. Be sure to upload them a month in advance.
  • Niches are more personal and the content gets better exposure without getting lost in a sea of free photos or free pictures.
  • Check out the most popular or most downloaded images from regular stock sites to know which kind of images are in demand.


How to Get Started With Stock Photography


  • Create a website to showcase your stock photographs. You must know about web designing, creating an online gallery and about shopping carts.


Tip: You can also hire a web designer through freelancer.com and other sites.


  • Get a mode for accepting payments. PayPal is the number one option.
  • Build a stock photograph portfolio. Start uploading photos to your microsostock website. You can also specialize in two or more genres.


Tip: Do some research regarding what are the latest stock photography trends, such as breathtaking landscapes or filtered photographs, so that you can synchronize with the market demand.


  • Keep photographs organized in different categories. You could categorize them in different ways. For instance, by size or by types, like Flowers; Emotions; Professions; and so on.
  • Fix your pricing model for the copyright free images and other categories. You can offer stock photos at different prices for different resolutions as well.
  • If you’re planning on joining a stock photography agency, join a free stock photography site and start uploading your stock. You don’t have to bother about advertising and website maintenance. Some sites allow you to set the price whereas some set the price and you get a percentage of the sale.



Understanding Royalties and License


As a stock photography agency, you can sell different types of licenses to your buyers.


  • Royalty Free Images or Copyright Free Images. Royalty free pictures is most popular among buyers, as it is flexible and cheap. Buyers of your stock photographs make an initial one time license fee payment. They can then use the image multiple times without paying the agency any royalty. However, these are non exclusive pictures, so your agency can sell them to any number of buyers.
  • Rights Managed. Here, your agency gives the buyer exclusive rights for using the purchased stock image. These are priced higher and depend on the rights that you include, ranging from $50 to more than a thousand dollars an image.
  • This gives you enhanced privileges to use the image and are priced higher than the RM licenses.


Stock Photography Business Marketing Ideas


You have to be ready to invest a bit in marketing your business.


  • Identify your target market. This will depend on your niche. For instance, target customers for food or gourmet foods will be different from those for landscape nature pictures.
  • Check out local companies to identify potential buyers.
  • Post ads online. For instance, you could start an affiliate program or post on Craigslist.
  • Start a blog and write about your photography shoots; tips and tricks on photography; your travel experiences and throw in some good tutorials to promote yourself. Also, showcase your photographs in your blog, so that you are able to attract potential buyers.
  • Start building contacts with magazines; media outlets; professional image buyers. There are many people who are tired of the free stock photography images and looking for a fresh perspective.
  • You can also bundle images into a theme and sell them in groups.


Stock Photography Business Marketing Ideas

(Image: graphicex.com)


  • Another idea to increase traffic to your site is to offer some images for free on some free stock photography sites and use a backlink to your site.
  • You can also sell photo prints or physical prints from your site. Of course, digital licenses are more in demand as compared to a physical print, but you could add this as a sideline for your business.


Protect your Work


Once your photographs are displayed on your website, you need to protect them from theft. There are many sites offering free high resolution images, for which there is no need to give any attribution. However, when starting a stock photography business, you need to sell your pictures for a price.


  • Copyright is your first line of defense. Make a copyright claim on the work.
  • Disable a right click on your photographs.
  • Use a Watermark.


Tip: Check out sites for helping you add a Watermark for your photographs.


  • Upload images in low resolutions, as thieves will not be able to resell them.


Last Word


A stock photography business could prove to be really lucrative, especially if many photographers join together to form an agency. However, there are also many sites that sell free images as part of stock photos. You have to compete with these as well as the best stock photo sites to get a foothold in this business.


Almost anyone can be a photographer these days. But it is difficult to get into the hallowed gates of Getty Images, because there are billions of people following the same path.


Instead, you could try creating your own niche stock photography site, which is part of the latest stock photography business trends


For instance, if you live in Paris, you know that there are millions of pictures of the Eiffel Tower on stock photography sites. But you could take a more refreshing visual and market it through your website. You can take your own pictures or get people to upload their pictures on your stock photography site.


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Stock Photography Business: How to Make Money Selling Photos

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Gaurav Jain
Article by Gaurav Jain
Hey There! My name is Gaurav Jain, a full time affiliate marketer since 2007. The reason for starting eMoneyIndeed.Com blog is to help you Save & Make Money Online. I write about Blogging, Online Marketing, Webhosting, SEO, Affiliate Marketing, Startups, Social Media, Email Marketing and more. Hope you enjoy the posts on eMoneyIndeed.com

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