How to make money with your camera: earn cash with your photography

How to make money from stock photography

When papers, magazines and websites need an image, they often don’t have the time or budget to commission a pro photographer. In these instances, editors often turn to stock websites, where there’s always a wide selection of images for specific subjects. 

For example, if a story calls for an image of a specific flower, stock sites such as Alamy and Getty will have a strong supply of such subjects. Most stock sites allow instant sign-ups, while others review your work before publishing images on their sites. 

1. Percentages

Be aware that stock sites take a percentage of any sale, which cuts down on profits. It can certainly pay to do some research on different stock sties and work out which gives the best deal for the photographer. Percentages range from 60/40 in the photographer’s favour, to 80/20 in the stock site’s favour. In recent years newer stock sites have offered better rates.

2. High quality

Top tip

Keep your images in a folder system so you can find them quickly. Use chronology or location to define the order. Make back-ups in case a hard drive fails.

Stock sites all have strict quality control procedures , which may force you to change how you work. Requirements for minimum image size mean you can’t simply crop in on an image, as it could well fall below the acceptable file size quota; so if you’re the sort of snapper who shoots fast and loose and fixes the composition in editing software, you may have to change to a more disciplined workflow.

3. Excessive retouching

Like restrictions over file size, many stock sites have guidelines over how much retouching can be done to an image. In the main, colour, contrast and sharpener enhancements are tolerated, but effects like dropping in a new sky are simply not allowed.

4. Caption information

When it comes to stock photography, a great image is not enough. To accompany the photo, you must also add key information about the subject, where it was taken and other details that will make it easy for a buyer to source exactly the sort of image they need.

This ‘captioning’, as it is known, can take a long of time, so it must be factored into your workflow. One useful technique is to set up a number of keywords in Lightroom, which can be added to each image as you import it. Once added, they become part of the images’ metadata – info about the camera, lens, exposure settings and so on.

Stock images need captions, so photographers looking to make money from this genre of photography need to be aware of the extras stock websites demand from you.

Read more: How to take images magazines and companies actually want to use

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Digital Camera

The sister print publication to this website, Digital Camera Magazine is Britain's best-selling photography publication – and it can also be purchased outside the United Kingdom as Digital Camera World. 

Digital Camera Magazine is packed with more expert advice and more inspirational images than any other title, with the sole aim of helping you become a better photographer. Every issue we also bring you a selection of great gifts which are designed to help you get more from your photography – everything from tips cards and cheat sheets to free software and bookazines. 

In addition to inspirational images, interviews, projects, mini tests and tutorials, each issue is packed with news, reviews and comparisons, as well as photographer vs photographer shootouts and head-to-head challenges using the best photo editing software.

The magazine is captained by Editor Niall Hampton, with Technique Editor Alistair Campbell adding his own expertise.