Your Complete Guide to Start with Stock Photography in 2023
If you're looking for a great way to build your portfolio and earn some side income, then stock photography may interest you! Stock photography is a fantastic way to begin building an online business.
It's also one of the easiest ways to get started, after all — no training or special skills are required!
So in this article, we will see what stock photography is, how photo licensing works, how you can start with stock photography, and how much money you can earn by clicking and selling pictures on the Internet.
Stock Photography: What is it?
Stock photography is a form of microstock that allows professional photographers and image creators to license the photos they've taken to companies, individuals and organizations.
Stock photos are often used for commercial work, such as advertising or social media marketing.
Stock photography has been around for decades and is not unique to the digital age. However, with the advent of microstock, stock photography is more accessible than ever. Today, more than ever before, stock photos are a great way to share your work and make some money while you're at it.
Types of Stock Photography
There are several types of stock photography, and they are based on usage. This can be quite confusing at first, but once you understand the difference, it becomes second nature.
Royalty-Free: The most common type of stock photography is royalty-free. As the name implies, it covers all the uses of a photo without incurring further royalties. This is often paid upfront in a one-time payment. The license generally lasts forever and has no expiration date.
Rights-Managed: Rights-managed stock photos are exclusive to a particular usage for a specified amount of time. It is used for more exclusive images that are not widely distributed. The photographer will usually retain the rights to the photo after the license expires.
What Does it Mean to License a Photo?
When you take a picture and sell it, or license it for use, you are transferring the copyright of that image to someone else. After that transfer, that person or company owns the rights to that photo and can do what they wish with it.
When you are selling your photos on stock photography sites, the licensing terms vary from site to site. Some will allow you to transfer all rights to the photo — in essence, you are giving up ownership of the photo. Others will only transfer some of the rights, such as non-exclusive distribution rights or limited print run rights.
Another type of license is the Creative Commons license. These licenses give users some rights to use your work without buying them outright but will require attribution.
How to Start with Stock Photography?
So getting your start in stock photography can be a bit intimidating. But don't worry, we'll take you through the process step-by-step. Let's get into it!
1. Finding Your Niche
Stock photography is an extremely competitive business. It takes more than just snapping a picture and uploading it online to make a living off of stock photography. It requires research, dedication, persistence, and patience. And even having all of these things doesn’t always guarantee success.
So the first thing you should do is find your niche. The most successful stock photographers have very specialized areas of expertise that they photograph consistently.
Perhaps you could go around your neighborhood taking pictures of people doing everyday activities like going to the gym, eating lunch, or working in their garden. The possibilities are endless!
Don’t limit yourself to just one niche either – the more you diversify, the better chance you have at selling your photos.
2. Camera Equipment Checklist
First, let's bust a myth: you don't need an expensive camera to take good stock photos. Many freelance photographers got their start with DSLRs that cost less than $500 when they were new.
But if you're serious about selling your pictures, don't skimp on lenses. A $200 kit lens isn't going to give you the same quality and versatility as a $1,000 lens.
Other than the camera, you will also need a tripod, good photo editing software (like Photoshop or Lightroom), and a memory card reader.
3. Styling and Composition Tips
When you're composing your images, keep in mind that the goal is to make them useful to as many people as possible.
For example, if you have a travel photo with a recognizable landmark in the background, it may limit its usefulness — because only people who are interested in that particular destination will use it.
On the other hand, if you have a travel shot with no specific landmarks in view, then it could be useful for a variety of topics.
The same applies to any type of photograph. If you want to take stock photographs with wide appeal, keep your styling and composition as neutral as possible.
4. Choosing a Stock Photography Website
The good news is that there are tons of websites out there where you can sell your photos for cash.
The bad news is that not all websites are created equally.
There are plenty of stories about photographers who have had bad experiences with certain stock photo websites. They may have had their accounts closed without warning and lost access to the money they earned while they were selling their photos on these sites.
And while it may seem like there's an endless number of websites where you can sell your photos right now, there's no guarantee these sites will be around in the future.
So make sure you read all the terms and conditions of the stock photography site before you start selling on it. A few good sites to sell images on are Freepik, Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Getty Images, and iStock.
5. Build your portfolio
Your portfolio is your online gallery of work, and it's the first impression many buyers will have of you. So it's important that you choose the right images to include in your portfolio.
The first thing to consider is what kinds of images you want to sell. Try to focus on one or more specific themes, such as cars, landscapes, or sports.
Within a theme, think about what kind of photos you would like to sell: close-ups of objects or wide views? Black-and-white or color? Daytime shots or night shots?
Then start building your portfolio. Your portfolio should contain only your best work. Choose images that are interesting, unique, and well-composed. Don't upload blurry or poorly exposed photos just because they're related to your chosen theme.
6. Join a Stock Photography Community
The stock photography community is a great resource for learning about the business, uploading images, and making sales.
Be sure to check out sites like Photographers Direct, which connects photographers with buyers across the globe, Reddit where millions of photographers have conversations, and iStockphoto, the biggest agency around.
There you'll have access to helpful forums where you can talk with other photographers who have already made it in the industry, find out how they did it, and learn from their mistakes, too.
Can you Make Money with Stock Photography?
The answer is yes. It can be a great way to earn an extra income or sometimes even a full-time income.
You can even make money with your smartphone in passive income streams by publishing photos on stock photography sites.
If you’re passionate about photography, have been taking photos for a long time, and have the drive to succeed in this industry, it is possible to make money with stock photography.
If you are looking at getting into stock photography as a side gig or a full-time career, the best advice we can give you is to get experience. You will learn how to produce better shots and how to be faster at getting them done.
Also, you need to understand what the stock photo companies want and expect. The more you do this, the faster you will be able to work and produce what they want.
Shooting for stock photos can certainly be a great side job, even if it also becomes your main profession.
What is a stock image in photography?
A stock image is a photograph that is licensed for specific uses. It isn’t created specifically for an individual or business, as in a commissioned photoshoot. Instead, someone takes the photo and sells it for reuse to multiple people at once.
Stock photos are incredibly useful resources for creatives both in terms of saving time and staying within budget. They allow you to quickly find the right images for your project without having to worry about copyright infringement.
How do I start stock photography?
If you're looking to make some money or just trying to get started with stock photography, here are a few tips you can use...
Research the market
Make sure you have a decent camera and lens
Find your niche
Get the correct equipment for your style of photography
Develop your photography skills and style so that it is consistent with your chosen niche and agency's standards
Create a professional profile on the agencies' sites
Can you still make money with stock photography?
Well, the answer is a definitive YES! There are countless stock photography sites that allow you to upload your images and sell them to interested buyers.
How much money can you make from stock photography?
As with everything on the internet — how much you earn depends on how much time and effort you put into it. Most stock photo sites pay either per download or per view (a very small amount).
If you have a large portfolio of high-quality photos on multiple sites, then you could easily start earning $100s per month! So the more effort you put into it, the more money you can make.
How can a beginner start photography?
First things first, take lots of photographs. The more photos you take the faster you’ll improve. This might seem obvious, but it can’t be overstated.
The second thing is to practice specific skills. For example, if you want to get better at photographing people, practice photographing people. If you want to get better at portraits, practice portraits.