Many photographers are turning to stock photography as a way of making some extra money.

Stock photos are different from artistic photos however, it’s important to keep this in mind when starting out with stock photography. Instead of the ‘wow factor’ that artistic photos have, stock photos need to have a meaning or illustrate a concept.

Make sure your stock photos stand out! Art directors are only after high quality images, and with the flood of stock imagery available today, anything less than superb will likely be lost in a sea of other photos.

This article covers the basics of shooting, selling, and marketing stock photography –and most importantly: how professional photographers can help their photos stand out.

Shooting Stock Imagery

Shoot What You Know

You have an advantage when you shoot what you know and photograph subjects that you understand. When you are an expert in your field, you know how to get the best shots.

Think like a Marketing Director

Yes, I know you are a photographer; photographers are artistically inclined and carefree. However, if you’re going to be successful in selling stock imagery, it’s important to think like your buyers.

The main buyers of stock imagery are art or marketing directors, and designers. They usually need photos for websites they are designing, or promotional materials they are creating. When shooting stock photos; ask yourself what kinds of photos designers need.

See What’s Selling

Browsing the popular photos on stock imagery sites and checking the photos needed sections lets you know what there is a demand for.

Keep it Simple

Simple backgrounds and uncluttered photos usually sell better. Make sure there is a clear concept, message, or feeling that your photo conveys.

Natural Lighting

Natural lighting, or proper use of artificial lighting, is essential. Stock photography is usually light and upbeat.


While this may seem like a small detail, how your photo appears as a thumbnail can impact it’s popularity. Viewers on stock imagery sites browse through photos as thumbnails, so make sure your photos look good small too.


Know what concepts you want the images to convey. Be clear about it. Make sure your concepts are well executed and easy to understand.

You don’t want people to be lost by your execution of the concept!

Selling Stock Photos

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Stock imagery sites are the first places most designers check when they need photography. While stock imagery sites take a percentage from your photos that sell, once you build your portfolio up and your photos start selling, you have potential to make some decent money.

  • Dreamstime –Photo prices are based on the number of downloaded they receive
  • iStockphoto –One of the most well-known stock imagery sites, a bit of a challenge to join though
  • Shutterstock – Free to sign up and contribute, rates start at $0.25 per download
  • Photorankr –A stock imagery site that lets you network with other photographers
  • Flickr –Users can easily license photos to Getty Images
  • Stocksy –A newer stock imagery site, but a great place to start selling


Understanding licensing lets you know what buyers are permitted to use your images for. The two most common licenses used in stock photography are royalty free and rights managed.

Royalty free allows buyers to use the photo for multiple applications, without many restrictions. Rights managed licensing allows time-limited, and application specific use.


Stock imagery sites make it easy for you. Once you upload, and tag your photos you are done. The stock imagery site does all the marketing for you.

The best way for you to promote your stock imagery is to title and tag your photos effectively.

Title Your Photo

Try to choose interesting and descriptive titles; make sure they are relevant to the photos.

Use Tags Effectively

Use tags, and lots of them. The more tags, the better the chances of people finding your photos. Tags should be accurate though; few things are more irritating than incorrectly tagged photos! Tag location, region, time of day, angle of the sun, lighting -everything featured in the photo. Tag concepts the image conveys, such as: bright, clear, inspiration, or freedom.

Stock photography can take time to get into. Doing research into what sells lets you know what to focus on, and can help your stock photos to be a success.

What About You?

Do you sell stock photography? Which stock imagery sites do you use?