Anyone who has an interest in photography will probably also have a ton of photos sitting on their hard-drives from their travels. Selling these as stock photos can be a great way to earn a few extra dollars from photos which would otherwise just sit on your computer. But make no mistakes about it, stock photography is not easy and won’t make you rich. So here are some things to think about and be aware of before you decide to sell your stock photos.
It might take years
Unless you have a huge collection of photos from a wide variety of subjects and destinations, you may not see many sales from your photos. Stock photography is about numbers and the more images you have on sale the more chance you have of earning money from them. Think of it like this. If you have a few photos from one destination, then you have to wait until someone wants a photo from that place. But if you have photos from 100 places, then your chances increase greatly.
The most important thing is to ensure you are not relying on stock sales as your only source of income as it can fluctuate and vary hugely. Think of it as an additional income rather than your main source.
Your “bucket list” won’t sell
Most people’s travel bucket list includes exotic faraway places. But those places won’t necessarily sell as stock photos. For example, one place that was always on my bucket list was Bhutan. It’s somewhere that I always wanted to go to. But to date (a year after submitting photos for stock sales) I have yet to make a sale from those photos. I’m sure over time I will sell some photos but they will never be as popular as say, the USA, France or Italy photos. It’s purely to do with tourism and the countries with the most number of tourist (during COVID free period) are always going to sell more photos as there will be more written and featured about them.
This doesn’t mean you should never go anywhere on your bucket list. But separate the two and think of your bucket list as a holiday and places you expect to sell stock photos from as work.
Shoot your location
The key to a successful stock photography business is to keep your costs as low as possible. Unfortunately, the whole photography industry has taken a huge beating over the last 10 years. This has been even more destructive to the stock photo industry where prices have dropped and competition has increased. By shooting in and around your location you can keep costs low which means you ROI increases when you make sales. Obviously, if you are lucky enough to live in or near a tourist destination like New York, London or Paris that can be even more advantageous. But even if you don’t, you will still find that taking photos of your local area will probably have a better ROI over the years than splashing out on trips to places.
The other advantage of shooting where you live is that you have a far better opportunity to plan your shoots when the weather will be right. This gives you a huge advantage over someone who has to book flights and accommodation in advance.
Learn what sells from your sales
You should treat stock photography like any other business. This includes analysing trends, looking at magazines and newspapers and studying your sales. By knowing which types of photos are appearing in publications you will be more likely to be able to capture the type of photo that is going to sell. keep a spreadsheet of your sales and over time look at the type of photos you have taken that are selling the best. Is there a common trend? Is there a reason that those are selling more than others? You’ll be amazed at what you will discover when you delve a little deeper into your sales.
Take photos of everything
As mentioned earlier, stock photography is a numbers game. The more sellable photos you have the better your chances are of making a sale. But that also includes covering as many different locations, scenarios and types of shots. So try to get into the habit of photographing as many things as possible from every location you are in. For example, if you are in a local park, take photos of the statues, flowers, people sitting or playing sport as well as the big beautiful wide-angle shots. This also includes covering off different crops and both horizontal and verticle versions. This is why a shot list is so valuable for stock photography. The reason for all of these different shots is because you never know when someone might be looking for a photo of a specific statue. If you have that photo, you have the potential of a sale.
Revisit old collections
I have lost count at the number of times that I have looked through a collection of photos I took a few years ago and found a whole host of photos that I missed off sending to stock sites the first time around. The reason is that when you have spent time working on a collection you can become a bit tired of looking at the same photos over and over again. By giving it some time you will be able to look at things with fresh eyes. This often allows you to find some more images that you can supply for stock sales. As long as they are not duplicates of previously submitted work you can put them on sale and increase your chances of making sales from a location.
Choose your stock site carefully
This is a really important aspect of stock photography and one that you shouldn’t take lightly. There are lots of different stock sites out there. So don’t just choose the first one you come across. Instead, spend a bit of time learning about them and where they sell to. Is it to the publications that you want to see your photos in? But also what are their rates? There are many microstock sites out there that will pay you a few cents for each photo sold. So that means you have to sell thousands of photos to earn any sort of meaningful amount. That might be ok for you, but it’s worth knowing before you sign up.
Stock photography is a good way to supplement your income. But to make it work takes more than just heading off to places you want to visit and supplying a few shots to stock sites. Use the tips above to set yourself a clear plan and work toward specific goals and targets and over time you’ll find that you are making a reasonable amount from stock photo sales.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission.