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Monetising From Stock Photography

Photography is considered to be more of a hobby than a means of earning money. However, the rise of digital marketing has now made it possible for you to turn the art of taking photographs into a well-paying profession or a side hustle at least that earns you some extra cash.

Depending on the nature and quality of the photographs you take, it is possible to earn money, simply by taking photos. Monetising from images is usually facilitated by selling your photos to stock photography websites.

However, not every picture can be sold to generate income. Rather, you are required to make sure that the pictures you take meet the demands of current stock photography purchasers.

If you wish to educate yourself on what is stock photography, the following guide is for you. The following discusses everything you need to know about generating an income by selling original pictures.

What is Stock Photography?

Stock photography is referred to as the common photographs that are sold to buyers, which are to be used as supportive visual content. Stock images are typically added to written content in blogs, news, websites and articles to improve the reader’s experience and add a visual element. However, these images are also enhanced or manipulated to create advertisements or banners directed to promote a product or service.

Essentially, the primary need for stock photography is to assist advertising and marketing agencies to help run their content campaigns. This approach is significantly more affordable than hiring a photographer to capture visually-appealing images.

However, stock photography is not sold directly to marketing firms. Instead, these images are purchased by a platform that holds a vast library of a similar and diverse range of images. When someone needs stock photos, they visit these websites and purchase the image individually.

With that said, several firms pay a monthly subscription fee to access unlimited images from stock photography websites. This provides businesses such as digital marketing agencies easy access to stock images that can be used in their content.

Stock photography falls on the opposite end of the spectrum of customised photographs. Customised images are taken specifically for an individual or a client/business to promote their product or service. On the other hand, a stock image is a generalised image that can be used by anyone. It can be edited to create a promotional or advertising campaign.

For instance, if a client wants to run an ad campaign that includes a picture of children playing together, it would be very costly to hire models, get props, book a location, arrange the lighting and hire a photographer to take the picture.

On the other hand, if the client wishes to run a promotional advertisement campaign to promote their own brand of clothing, stock photography services would not be required. In this case, custom images will be required to provide a better result.

While both forms of photography have their own pros and cons, stock photography has been gaining popularity with the increase of digital marketing. This form of advertising is not only cheaper but it is far more convenient for businesses.

This type of photography is also quite beneficial for photographers who take striking images as a hobby or a passion. Stock photography does not require a lot of effort, instead, the only requirement for photographers is to take visually-appealing, high-quality pictures that align with the demands of the market.

In addition to just taking the pictures, it is further essential for photographers to learn the art of selling their work. There are numerous platforms available online that empower photographers to earn good money for their work.

If you are starting off with this venture, visit all the stock photography platforms to see the type of images that are required. Additionally, carrying out research to assess the type of photos that are sold at the highest prices can also be advantageous. With a little bit of preparation, you can dive into the world of stock photography and earn a profit with your hobby.

What types of Stock Photography are there?

Before diving into this venture, it is essential to learn about the industry. There are three main types of stock photography, which include, macro stock, microstock, and mid stock. However, most individuals prefer the former two approaches.

Macro Stock Photography

Macro stock photography includes exclusive high-quality images that are sold for high-prices. This form of image is also referred to as traditional stock photography. Websites or platforms that feature macro stock images typically sell the photograph with exclusive rights. This means that the party that invested in the image has the full authority to use the pictures, as it now belongs to them.

Essentially, due to the exclusivity of the image, macro stock images are sold at a higher cost to the buyer.

For some businesses, there is a vast need for macro stock photography. For example, a marketing firm that aims to reach out to a nationwide audience would require an image that is exclusive to them. If such firms use an image that is used repeatedly in various marketing campaigns, the brand’s image would suffer.

Although there are several macro stock photography platforms, Getty Images is currently the most popular website. With that said, any website that sells Rights Managed (RM) images can be considered a macro stock agency.

Micro Stock Photography

Microstock photography refers to selling images for a small profit. These images can be sold on a royalty-free basis. Oftentimes, the photographers are not paid the royalties, rather they earn a small amount for every image that is downloaded. The payment is transferred towards the end of the month, or when the website specifies it.

Microstock images agency allows users to sell images, without providing exclusive rights to the pictures. This means the image can be downloaded and used by multiple users. These users are provided with a royalty-free license or a rights managed license.

Microstock photography is used by various digital marketing agencies. For instance, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) companies or blogging websites require images for their blog posts. In this case, the same image used on another website would not make much of a difference.

Microstock photography websites provide users with the facility of selling affordably priced images, which makes it the most preferred option for marketing and advertising companies.

Some of the most popular Microstock agencies include Shutterstock, Dreamstime, iStock, and more.

If you are just stepping into the industry of selling stock photography, starting with microstock photos would be the more feasible option.

Mid Stock Photography

Apparent by the name, mid-stock photography falls between microstock and macro stock photos. These images are also used by digital marketing images and provide both exclusive and non-exclusive rights for their use. Mid-stock photography websites tend to sell their products in a price range that is in between microstock and macro stock photography.

With the aforementioned considered, it can be said that microstock is an ideal option for photographers who are starting out. The following point discusses some of the most prominent platforms for microstock photography.

Top Micro Stock Websites

If you wish to monetize from stock photography, check out the following micro-stock websites.


Shutterstock is one of the most prevalent names in the microstock industry. The platform provides photographers with the opportunity to submit their work to earn from it. In order to collaborate with Shutterstock, you are required to register to the website and upload a few of your photographs.

It is expedient to carry out research beforehand to learn about the in-demand pictures, so you can improve the chances of approval.

With Shutterstock, your images would be reviewed. This process can take around 7 to 10 working days.

The acceptance criterion is also quite simple. However, in the unfortunate case that all the images fail to gain approval, a waiting period would be imposed before you can submit new images to undergo the review process.

It is essential to remain positive and continue repeating the process until you have acquired approval. If the photos are rejected, check to see if the result is not under or overexposed. You can improve the quality of the images before uploading the next batch.


Another popular platform for microstock images is Fotolia, which falls under the father company Adobe. This website is ideal for stock photographers, as it benefits from exceptional advertising. As a result, if you submit images to Fotolia, you can benefit from its vast pool of users.

Another benefit of using this platform is the high commission rates that it presents to its contributors. With this website, you can acquire around 20% to 46% commission on all your non-exclusive images.

However, if you are providing exclusive photography, a commission range of 35% to 63% is presented.

Fotolia, due to its advertising, can ensure a good return on your submitted images.

Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock is another popular platform for selling stock photos. Adobe managed to acquire more popularity by enforcing a merger with an established microstock website, which was Fotolia. As Adobe is known to provide a photo editing application suite, the combination made this an ideal platform to use.

However, this platform does offer a relatively low commission rate, which is around 33% to 35%.

With that said, Adobe Stock is immersed within the Creative Cloud platform, which makes it easier for buyers to search for, view, edit and download photos, without having to open a web browser. Additionally, photographers can easily and quickly upload their photos via the Lightroom CC and Bridge CC integrations. This increases the number of buyers, which is beneficial for the photographer.

Additionally, with Adobe Stock, you have the freedom of submitting JPEG images with 4 to 100 megapixels. The images can be taken from any type of camera. However, the photographs must be of high-quality, and users must abide by the regulations and guidelines imposed by the platform.


Although Pond5 is popularly known to be a seller of video footage, you can still use it to monetize from microstock photography. The platform is more attractive to photographers and contributors, as it allows you to set your own price. Additionally, once the image is sold, the price is always distributed at a 50:50 ratio.

However, Pond5 does have some basic requirements that must be followed. All the images must be submitted with enhanced resolution. There should be an accurate focus, adequate lighting, a clean camera lens, and ideal camera settings should be maintained. All the images must be of proper quality.

In the unfortunate case that your photograph lacks sharpness, you can downsize the image. This would assist in eliminating technical problems.

If you are confident with your photography skills, Pond5 can be the ideal platform to earn a good income.

How much can you make?

As stated earlier, stock photography is more of a long-term profession than a short-term goal. In order to monetize your images, you need to accept that it will take a lot of time.

Additionally, some photographers fail to monetize from their images, as their images are technically not up to the mark, or they feature weak compositions, inadequate exposure, absence of details, and ineffective processing.

Considering this, if you wish to earn a profit from stock photography, it is essential to create a long-term plan.

There is a constant need for stock photos, especially with the rise of digital marketing. Therefore, it is essential to keep that in mind and focus on the positives.

If you spend some time building your portfolio, you can benefit from better returns. The only way to experience improved and successful results in this field is to gradually create your portfolio and be persistent in your venture.

In order to make money from stock photography, you have to keep in mind that the larger the number of images in your portfolio, the more opportunities you have to earn overtime.

Essentially, the amount of money you make can vary, depending on a few factors. For instance, the use of keywords also plays a vital role in how much you earn. Keywords are added to describe a particular image. When a buyer searches the database of the website, they type in particular terms to get specific results. Therefore, it is essential to define your images using a precise and relatable keyword to ensure that you rank higher and that your image is visible to the buyer.

As stated earlier, another factor that is crucial in earning money with stock photography is taking researched photographs. The more research you conduct to understand the need of the market, the better chances you have of selling the photo.

Additionally, the niche of the photography is also important in determining the rate. For instance, travel photos tend to sell at a higher rate and are in more demand, in contrast to traditional stock photos. Travel photography is not only rare, but it also encourages photographers to take serene and original images that can be featured in advertising campaigns and travel blogs.

Lastly, the money you earn also depends upon your commitment to the overall process. If you are serious and persistent about your venture, you can end up earning more in the long run, as there would be more focus and more research done to improve the sales.

Considering the aforementioned, it is recommended to start earning from stock photography while considering it as a side hustle. As the money is not always promised, you need to have a stable financial plan to fund this venture. Once your income is stabilised, you may pursue it full-time, however, having a backup option to generate steady monthly income is necessary.

Top-selling Images

The type of photos you take has a direct influence on your sales. Therefore, as a photographer, it is crucial to stay well-versed in the trends of the market. In the past couple of years, there has been a trend of stock photos, which includes pictures that experienced the most downloads.

There are several niches that you can take pictures in to make sure that you experience a positive return.

Recently, a rise has been observed in images that fall in the category of showing sustainable, environmentally-conscious lifestyles. Additionally, images that include a representation of all genders, races, abilities, sexual orientations, and religions are preferred more than a simplified non-diverse image.

Politics and activism are other trends that have changed the game in stock photography. In fact, a majority of photographers now aim to create images that reveal the powerful impact of activism and the breaking of stereotypical views and barriers.

According to research, the following searches have been made more frequently in the past year.

  • Non-binary
  • Self-care
  • Candid portraits
  • Authentic people
  • Fluid art
  • Alcohol ink
  • Liquid marble
  • Pastel tie-dye
  • Pastel swirl
  • Face line art
  • Contemporary portrait
  • Face art
  • Dunes
  • Mountain aerials
  • Cliff aerials
  • Stormy beach
  • Whimsical animation
  • Liquid abstract.

You can visit each stock photography website to learn more about the most-searched images before building your portfolio. A little research can go a long way to fund your stock photography venture.

Tips for Selling Photos

Before getting started with stock photography, take the following tips into consideration.

Avoid using ISO higher than 640

When you are capturing images, make sure to avoid using ISO that is higher than 640. This is because when your photos are reviewed, there is a strong chance that they will be rejected as a result of noise exposure. Instead, the ideal ISO to capture images is between 100-200.

Make sure the image is sharp

Sharpness is essential in the business of stock photography. Ensure that the image is sharp before you submit it. To capture sharp pictures, make sure to use a tripod, monopod, enhanced lenses, and stabilization features. You may also employ the breath-holding technique to acquire sharper images. With that said, editing your pictures to make them sharp would not be sufficient. So, make sure that the image is sharp as it is captured.

Get a legal release signed if you are using models

If you are using real-life models for stock photography, make sure to get a legal release signed after the pictures have been taken. Even if the mage is not published on the website, it is crucial to take this step.

Focus on quality

The focus on quality could not be stressed enough. Make sure to take clear, high-grade pictures. To ensure quality, it is recommended to capture the same image with different variations, so you can select and submit the best one.

Write keywords before saving the image

As stated earlier, writing keywords to describe the images is a crucial aspect of making sure that your image is sold. However, it is recommended to write keywords before saving the image, as it can not only save time, but it can also make the process easier.

Find the right niche

Niches are integral in stock photography. So, make sure that you take pictures of a genre that is in-demand. Stray away from the ordinary, instead, take pictures of objects that stand out. If your portfolio is built with simplified and generic photos, there is very little chance that you will make a sale.

Be persistent

Patience is the key to successful monetization from stock photography. So, make sure to create a long-term plan for the project. Create monthly goals and conduct consistent research to improve your skills.

Start with a few websites

When you are starting out, make sure to select a few websites to work with. You can make use of the aforementioned list. Starting out small can facilitate learning, therefore, when your portfolio is large enough, you can expand to other platforms to increase sales.

Avoid using many filters

To keep the authenticity of your photograph, avoid using a ton of filters. Instead, keep the photo as natural as you can.


Stock photography is a good way to make money. However, as it is a long-term approach, make sure to stay persistent, create a plan, set goals, and start out small.

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