In some blogs and forums I often read, how easy and cool it is, to sell your own photos to earn some extra cash and generate passive income. Furthermore, some people write, they quitted their jobs and became full-time stock image sellers. The idea sounds great and if you like to photograph, why shouldn’t you earn some money with it? But if you ask me, all of these postings sound too good to be true. The fact is, that to sell stock photos is a hard work and you will succeed, if you are willing to invest a lot of time. In this article I would like to share my experience to show you, what you need to do to sell stock photos successfully.
First steps to sell stock photos
First of all, you need to know a lot about photography techniques. In my learning section I give you the first brief information about photography basics. But it is only the peak of the iceberg. To deepen you knowledge, you should read some books for beginners, like BetterPhoto Basics* from Jim Miotke and also watch some photography tutorials on YouTube and so on.
If you are not a beginner anymore, you need to inform yourself about advanced techniques in photography, like flash photography. Again, you can read some books for advanced photography, like Creative Flash Photography* or . Or maybe you will find some free tutorials on Youtube.
To become successful in selling stock photos, it’s also important to have the proper equipment. In your stock photography portfolio is no place for photos made with a smartphone. Hence, you need to invest in a good-quality digital camera (e.g. Fullframe Canon EOS 6D*), which is able to shoot sharp images.
When you achieved the stage of an advanced photographer and you have got some good equipment, you also need to retouch the pictures in Lightroom* and Photoshop* (or similar Software). Nowadays it is quite unlikely, you would sell unretouched pictures.
Build Your Portfolio
Before you get tangible results, you need to build a stock image portfolio, which requires a structured working. I recommend setting a goal of how many photos you are able to upload on a weekly, monthly or annual basis. So it depends on you how much time do you have and how much can you invest. If you have a 9/45 job, it would be difficult to upload 200 high-quality pictures a month. In this case you could set a goal to upload 20 pictures a month. It doesn’t sound like much, but uploading 20 stock photos each month is better than no uploading stock images at all.
Where to sell stock photos
There are some good microstock agencies in the market you can offer your work to. But it does not make sense to describe all of them in this article. So I would like to present just two of those microstock agencies to give you an introductory information.
The microstock site Dreamstime* is one of the most searched stock photo websites around. They are members of the Picture Archive Council of America and Centre of the Picture Industry. Someone might say, this is the reason they are extremely selective in the number of photographs they chose. Nevertheless, the acceptance rate is quite high, provided that your photos according to their quality standards. There is a generous selling process that operates on three levels: non-exclusive image, exclusive image and exclusive photographer. Payouts are listed on their comprehensive chart.
Shutterstock* is (like Dreamstime) a global marketplace for buying and selling high quality photos and videos as well. This microstock agency was started in 2003, and their headquarters is located in New York. Their vision and strategy is to help digital contributors and buyers as well to connect with each other to make successful transactions. The company licenses not only images but video, music and editorial assets. In general it offers the same like Dreamstime.
Which microstock agency should you choose?
Frankly, there is no objective answer I can give to you because it depends on you and you preferences. Every single microstock agency has its advantages and disadvantages, especially regarding to the usability and site navigation. Thus, to choose the right agency for you, you need to try it out. It’s just that simple. For that reason, sign in at one microstock agency and test it. If you don’t like it, choose another one. For my way, I tested about 4 different agencies and stuck at Dreamstime* and Shutterstock*.
How much can you yearn when you sell stock photos?
The most important question comes at the end: how much can you earn monthly with stock photos and is it possible to become rich from selling stock photos? Unfortunately, I have to disappoint you, dear friend. You can earn money by selling stock photos but it’s not the golden way and you wouldn’t necessarily get rich with it. Rather, it depends on what you make of it. Here you need to behold two factors: the number of uploads and the time.
Number of uploads
Don’t expect any miracles with a portfolio of 100 pictures. Neither with 200 or 300 photos. Nowadays you need a couple of thousands of uploads to achieve real good revenues. Just an example: to earn approximately 500,- dollar a month, you would probably need a portfolio with 1000 to 1500 photos. So expect in your first year no revenues at all or in the best case, probably a couple of hundreds of dollars of annual revenue. And this leads us to the second factor: long breathing
Patience is needed
The most difficult and challenging thing for the beginners is the patience. Selling stock photos is not a quick method to improve your income. In fact, you can achieve a good “pocket money” through selling of stock photos. But to get at least to that point, you will pass a learning process which does not come over night. With the time passing by, you will learn how to increase the quality of your photos and get a feeling about which pictures sell better than the others. The better you become, the less pictures will be refused by the microstock agency. And the more you sell, the better your pictures will rank in the search results.
Conclusion for selling stock photos
To sell stock photos can be an interesting way of earning money. But if you have a 9/45 job and do photography as a hobby or a second job, it would be difficult to earn so much it would be enough for living. And even as a full-time photographer it would be a quite challenge to bring you to the desired level of sales. Unless you are ready to invest a lot of time and work really hard to extend your portfolio to a number of photos which contains several thousands of pictures.
So remember: upload as much good pictures as you can and consider this topic as a long term project. At the end, when you keep up about 2 – 3 years, you will be rewarded with a good extra cash. So try it out and see what happens.
If you have read until the end and if you are still willing to sell stock photos, I can also refer to the book “Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography”* by Alexandre Rothenberg. I wish you success and good luck for your project.
*Affiliate link: According to my full disclosure I refer that I have a partnership with Amazon, Dreamstime and Shutterstock. If you click on the link or the banner, no costs will arise for you. If you decide to make a purchase, I will receive a small benefit which I would reinvest to keep this blog alive. This is also according to other products, like books and software mentioned in this blog post.