This website was created to help users figure out the ins and outs of stock photography. I get asked all the time what is stock photography and how do I do it. After a working in the industry for several years now I have learned tips and tricks to help newbie’s or advanced users alike. If you have anything else you would like to contribute feel free to contact me, otherwise enjoy.
What is Stock Photography?
Stock photography is the producing of images that can be licensed for public or commercial based use. These are not your family vacation images or pictures of your kid’s birthday party. Stock photography images are used for marking, advertising, design, etc. Several companies will use a stock image instead of hiring a photographer to shoot an object they need. The best way to get an idea of these images is to flip through several magazine ads or ads on websites.
Stock photography was started several years ago, but today only two large traditional companies survive (Getty Images and Corbis). Traditional stock photography sites normally have a database of professional photographers and sell their images for easily over $100 under what is called Rights Managed. The internet and lower pricing of high end cameras has brought about a newer breed of stock photography called microstock. This breed of photography sells images at a much lower price, greater volumes and under rights known as Royalty-free. For a list of popular microstock sites click on the tab above called “stock sites”.
Rights Managed (RM) – is the selling of an image with a license that is negotiated so the purchaser receives maximum value while maintaining a level of exclusivity of the image. Not all rights managed images are exclusive however, all depending on what client’s specific needs are and if the image is bound for branding. Most RM images are used on billboards and for large corporate needs.
Royalty-free (RF) – is the use of an image free of royalties as you pay per use of an image. This does not mean the image is free or not copyrighted to the photographer. Both types of images are always own by the photographer unless the photographer sell the rights to the image (not recommended). There are several levels of a RF image in the microstock world, see “Image Terms” tab for a more detailed breakdown. Depending on the type of RF license the client buys, will change the price and the ways the use the image.
Can I make a living out of it?
Not really, but some people have. For example I use it as a hobby. I love photography and microstock helps buy me new camera toys. The average image sells for about $1.00 and you bring home anywhere from $0.30 to a few bucks. To make a living you have to be making around 30k profit after taxes, which would mean you would have to sell around 60k worth of images or around 100,000 images a year. Another element that makes it hard to live off of is the market is highly saturated and you may get several rejections for a good image simply because they have too many. The best way to succeed is to find a niche market that you are good at and be creative.
Now that you have a good background let’s walk through the sets of what you will need to do before you can upload your images. First off you need a DSLR camera of at lest 8mp. Even know some point and shoot cameras have this number or higher, typically their lens does not product a good enough quality to be accepted. Quality of the images is the most important element of stock photography. It’s not wise to scale your images and they should have very little noise in them when you view the image at full size. There are several programs that remove noise, but a lot of times they produce an image that is too soft. Shooting with a tripod at the speed of 100 or 200 ISO, anything above 200 typically gets to much noise. You should always check your images at full size before submitting them to a site. Always clone out flaws or weird spots.
DSLR Camera with 8MP or Higher
Tripod to stabilize camera
Shoot only at 100 or 200 ISO
A remote trigger
Shoot in RAW mode for editing
Some photo editing software
Things to avoid:
Blurry images or camera shake
Logos or elements that are copyrighted in an image
People unless you have a model release
Getting Your Images Ready:
Once you have your images its best to set up a filing system you are comfortable. I go from unedited, to processed, to complete. The complete folder is after the images have been submitted and is further broken down by image type (architecture, animals, landscape, etc.) Shooting in RAW lets you preserve the most information for editing afterwords. You don’t have to edit your images, but it’s almost unavoidable in most cases. The best software I have found is Photoshop as it does everything you need, a lot of people use Lightroom too. Once you open your image and have done what ever editing you choose (removing logos, cleaning weird elements up, color, contrast, etc.) you can provide what is called the metadata (in Photoshop go to “file” then “info”). The metadata should have a title of your image, description of your image, your name as the photographer, and finally key wording or tagging. Providing keywords to describe your image is the single most important element when it comes to post processing. Keywords are how the users find your image over others when doing a search. Some tips I have discovered over the years are to have a total of 15 to 30 keywords. Never go over 30 as a lot of sites won’t accept that many. I recommend using a few website (Site 1 and Site 2) to help come up with words to describe your image, but a thesauruses always works too. Do not use keywords that don’t describe your image as it will get you band from the site and clutters up image search results. Save your work as a jpeg at quality of 12. It’s wise to always keep an original and edited image.
So now your images are set and ready for uploading. Every site has an internal uploading system that you can use. However a lot of the stock sites offer FTP support to upload larger batches of images. Once you have chosen your upload method log into your stock site and head over to your pending image section. This is in a different location depending on the interface of the stock site. At this point some sites have you select categories for your images or other info needs to be selected. Once again each site is different. When you have filled in any extra info if required hit the submit button and you have entered the queue. Typically most sites review your images in 48 to 72 hours depending on how many images they have to go threw.
Overall that is a rough outline of the process. Feel free again to contact me with any questions and good luck. Remember to always have fun with it.