Tag Archives: stock photography

7 Tips to Help You Make Money With Stock Photography

Have you wondered if you can make money selling your photos online though stock outlets?

For most people – even good amateur photographers with good quality digital SLRs – making money by selling pictures to a stock photo service is a dream rather than a reality. Beginners often have their photos rejected simply because they don’t know the rules. Just as you would do in any other area of product development, research your market before rushing in. Know what sorts of pictures are in demand and then take those sorts of pictures. If you have talent, good equipment, and the willingness to research and learn, stock photography can become another revenue stream in your online business.


Here are 7 Tips to Help You Get Started:

  1. Think like the user, not the photographer. Many speakers turn to iStock Photos when they are putting together a new PowerPoint presentation. Often, they want a simple photographic metaphor for an idea. For instance, if you are searching for a picture to illustrate a talk about the power of social media, you don’t want the same old tired handshake or spider web. But you might be interested in a picture of a distressed, brick wall spray painted with a relevant slogan.
  2. Learn to use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. Not only will they improve your photos, they can be used to add text to photos, create montages or panoramas, or clean up backgrounds by removing things like overhead wires.
  3. Get model releases. When you submit a photo with people in it to a stock house, you will need a model release from every individual in the photo. “Every individual” really means every individual. Your picture of happy strangers frolicing in the surf in Hawaii will not be accepted unless you have the happy strangers’ permission to plaster their faces all over the world (with no compensation to them).
  4. Take commercial, rather than art, photos. Designers frequently need good, clean pictures of every day household and office items. You may not feel particularly inspired by a shot of a tape dispenser – until the payments start rolling in! Shoot from several different angles and submit the whole series to your stock house.
  5. Hide brand names and logos. Stock photos are royalty free – so there should be no ancillary rights to anything in the picture. If you take a picture of a pair of Nike sneakers – use Photoshop to hide the Swoosh. A Coke can can say “Cola,” but it cannot say “Coca Cola.”
  6. Create all white backgrounds. Designers want to be able to drop the picture into a layout without tweaking. If your background isn’t invisible, your photos won’t be purchased.
  7. Submit your work to many different stock photo resellers. Different companies have different audiences and specialties. You’ll often have a photo that is turned down by one company bought by a different company. Diversity will work in your favor.

Photo by Capt Kodak Released under Creative Commons License

Stock Photography

If you create commercial presentations, video, pamphlets, brochures, business cards, or just about anything else that requires graphics, you will eventually need to find stock images. A lot of content producers are tempted to just go out on the web and grab a picture and pop it into a post or presentation. After all, if it is on the internet, it’s free! Right?

Well, no.

Photos and drawings and in some cases even clip art are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without the permission of (and payment to) the creator. No one is going to chase down a one time personal use copyright violation (for instance, grabbing a Dr Seuss illustration and dropping it into a custom birthday card for your 3 year old). But when you start publishing your work – and publishing includes posting it online – or using it in your business, it is time to follow the rules.

Small businesses simply cannot afford to pay royalties every time a photo is reproduced. In fact, most small businesses can’t track how often a photo is reproduced! And yet, that is what is required by law. So how can you use the images you need and not go bankrupt?

Stock photos.

Stock photography has been around almost as long as photography itself. When you purchase a stock photo, you are purchasing a special license (terms vary) that allows you to use that photo without paying for every impression. The cost is usually quite reasonable and the quality can be very high.

The internet has made it easier than ever to find stock photos – as well as royalty free music, art, and video clips. iStockphoto is a great place to start your search. Their prices begin around $1.00 for lower resolution, web-ready photos and increase depending on intended use, required resolution, etc.

iStockphoto also offers free images every month. And they’ve just added audio to their catalog. It’s a resource all product developers should get become familiar with.

In future posts, I’ll show you how to find photos distributed under Creative Commons Share Alike licenses that are not only royalty free but absolutely free. And I’ll show you a treasure trove of historical photos, songs, and interviews that can be used by anyone.