How to earn money with stock photography
Starting your career in photography is no easy task. You have to take pictures, look for clients, advertise, as well as run your photography business. Tons of work for small results, especially at the very start. Sad reality is, it can be a long while before you start earning a decent wage from it. You may want to look at other options that go along with your initial plan.
If you are like most professional photographers, you have probably stockpiled hard drives full of pictures that you have taken either for yourself or for your clients. What if I said that those pictures don’t have to just sit in the storage boxes and “gather dust” - they could make you money instead! You could try to sell them through any one of the stock photography websites.
Although stock photography is no longer a lucrative business, many photographers can still add a substantial amount of income to their monthly wage. Spending a few hours per week editing and uploading your pictures could have you seeing a few hundred dollars extra in your account at the end of the month. Not much, but every little counts!
What kind of pictures are good for stock photography?
Don’t try to sell random pictures online - only use your best shots. Ten images of the same subject would already be considered too much by many who have successfully been selling their work on stock photography websites, yet two may be too little.
When you upload a few different pictures of the same subject, you appeal to a wider audience. But once there are too many similar shots, that is just giving the same audience more choice, and more choice is not always a good thing.
Also, a lot of pictures equal a lot of time. You want to optimize your time well on this, since we are trying to make easy side money. Spend too much time editing and it becomes a full time job.
Average income from stock photography
Going into stock photography with hopes that in a month or two you will be raking in money will only lead you to inevitable disappointment and set you up for failure. With such an insane amount of high quality pictures floating around, it is extremely hard to earn the big buck with stocks. Try to set your expectations lower, and keep in mind that this is not going to be the main source of your income. It is just something to add a little extra to the pot.
If you would averagely upload sixty images each month, by the end of the year you would be looking at about $100-$200 extra. Although at first glance this might not seem like a lot, don’t forget that this would be on top of your main income from other sources. The money made from stock photography could go on that extra lens, or some other upgrade in your kit list.
Best place to sell stock photos
With so many different websites that offer to sell your pictures it is important to find which ones actually work. There is no reason that you should spend time and effort on website that will end up accumulating $10 in a month. Especially when spending that same time shooting and uploading to a different stock photography website might turn that $10 into a $50.
At the beginning I would suggest you try out five or ten different sites. Within a couple months you will see which ones work for you and which ones don’t. Then quit the low ranking pages and start to spend more energy with the ones website that generated 70% of your stock photography income.
Some good pages to start are:
Microstock or premium sites?
The biggest difference between microstock websites and macrostock websites (otherwise known as premium websites) is the amount you earn per sale. With microstocks you earn anything between $0.10 to $0.50 cents per sale. Meanwhile with macrostock websites profits can be $10 or higher per photograph. Quite a difference, huh?
Now, at first glance it seems like an obvious choice. Who in their right mind would go for the option that sells your work for a cheaper price? But when you look at them more closely, you realize that sales from microstock are much higher in numbers, and can often profit you more. On top of that, with macrostock you will have to do much more advertising independently to maximize your sales.
I personally suggest a good combination of both. Pick three most profitable microstock websites, and one really good macrostock website. From each set of pictures, upload two of your best shots to the macrostock, and five or six to microstock. Now, you are building up portfolio on both sides of stock photography industry, a smart way of planting your flag on both lands! If all goes well, you should start seeing your sale numbers growing to a substantial amount by the end of the year.
Competition is tough in stock photography
If you thought that competition is high for your normal day to day photography business, you will be blown away when it comes to stock photography. Websites like Alamy now have an app you can use to shoot and upload mobile pictures straight to their database. This has revolutionized the way that we buy and sell stock images. Now, everyone can be a stock photographer. That is why the amount of contributors has grown ridiculously high in the last few years.
There are millions of uploads made each week to the stock photography websites, and buyers have ample of choice. But don’t let this put you off. There is still some money to be made in stock photography. And although I would never suggest this as a career option, I think it is worth spending few hours a week to build up a side income.