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Tips on selling stock images on-line

Your pictures can earn money for you.


Your photograph may be exactly what buyers are looking for.
Your photograph may be exactly what buyers are looking for.

The emergence of stock photography

Once considered a hobby for the rich, photography is now highly accessible and has spawned a wave of massive interest. In this digital age, almost everyone has a digital camera and internet access.

The dynamics for selling photographs have been drastically altered. Stock photography has emerged from this phenomenon and the concept of selling photos online has been highly received.

What is stock photography?

Stock photographs are images that are not photographed for a specific client or use, but are catalogued for review and selection by someone who may have a use for the image.

Stock photography is the taking of such images with the intent to sell them to photography marketplaces, commonly on the internet, where you earn for every image sold and where the stock agency also gets a percentage.

These stock agencies are repositories for buyers to find images that fit their needs without having to actually hire a photographer. Prices vary and competition is very tight since images are being submitted by the thousands per day.


Tips on how to get your lens in the door that opens into the world of stock photography:

1. Stock and microstock sales - two different concepts

First determine what type of stock website you wish to work with. They are essentially distinguished by their pricing methods.

Stock (also known as macrostock) websites accept images where the photographs can be sold for various amounts, depending on the perceived value dictated by the photographer. Prices can range from a few dollars to hundreds.

Microstock sites, on the other hand, sell images at a very cheap price (usually set by the stock agency), using the concept of volume buying to generate sales. An individual image can be sold over and over again and, although the price might be in cents, income can accumulate to hundreds of dollars over time.

You don't have to confine all of your images to just one website. You may find that some of your photographs (perhaps those that are unique or exceptionally stunning) are best suited for one type of stock photography website where they may command a high price, and others (those that are more generic and perhaps suited to a wide range of users) will do better on another where quantity sales may be favorable to you.

Stock images can be of a variety of subjects. But, no matter what subject is photographed, the pictures must be of high quality if they are going to sell as stock photographs.
Stock images can be of a variety of subjects. But, no matter what subject is photographed, the pictures must be of high quality if they are going to sell as stock photographs.

Some stock pictures may have broad appeal to many buyers, and could be sold over and over again.
Some stock pictures may have broad appeal to many buyers, and could be sold over and over again.

2. Submit high resolution photos

Stock websites are often strict with the image size. Each stock agency may suggest a slightly different minimum size. A good rule of thumb is to submit the highest resolution possible.

Buyers look for images with very high resolution. Use your camera’s highest resolution setting and try to get the shot right in-camera instead of relying on post processing.

Do not shrink your image size by saving for web or by cropping too much of the shot. Don't scale up your image to make it appear bigger, either. Blowing up an image from its original size will most likely show pixelation (obvious tiny squares in the image) and will be rejected by the stock agency.

3. Keep the potential customer in mind

When you are just starting out with stock photography, you might be tempted to submit whatever you have in your photo album, without really thinking of who will want to buy them. Pretty images do not necessarily mean they will sell like hotcakes. A more effective approach would be to first understand what the buyers or stock sites are looking for, then do your best to meet their needs.


4. Research the kinds of images that buyers want

The top selling photos on a stock photography website can give you shooting ideas as to what buyers are looking for.

Stock websites in their blog or news section sometimes recommend certain kinds of images for their contributing photographers to shoot.

Check out their forum or community pages where members often discuss ideas and tips, and may have educated opinions on many topics pertaining to stock photography. It is generally not necessary to sign up to be a member to enter these forums, although if you want to ask a question or contribute to the discussion, you may need to first become a member. (Note that you may even find some information gems in our own PhotographyTips.com Forums, where a variety of topics are discussed by some very knowledgeable photographers. If you don't see what you are looking for, then post a question and sit back to wait for responses that will likely come from experienced members.)

5. Offer variety

Try not to submit photos of the same subject in a hundred different angles or positions. Buyers can easily become bored looking at shots that are similar in all but a few minor aspects, and may move on from your sales page. Instead, choose two or three of the best ones from a group of similar photos. For variety, be sure to also submit pictures of subjects which are totally different from one another.

Buyers all have different tastes and the more people your images can connect with, the higher the chances of a sale. However, be careful not to go to the extreme by submitting a large quantity of photos of anything and everything.

6. Find your niche

A niche market is comprised of a group of potential customers with a very specific need. Your objective should be to make your name known in a particular field or for a specific theme so that buyers will know to look for you since you will have become an ackowledged expert in that area.

It can be highly advantageous to specialize in a particular kind of subject matter, be it shots that are great for backgrounds, animal images or food photos. It's likely that this will greatly improve your chances for repeat customers. Remember that there are thousands upon thousands of photographs available as stock images. The competition is stiff. If you want to be noticed, it's very important that you develop and promote your specialty.

7. Be objective of your own work

We often feel a strong connection with our own images and as such, might be overly subjective when it comes to assessing them and their appeal to others. Be brutally honest when deciding which photos to submit for selling. If you have a picture of a great looking baby but the image is underexposed, then do not submit it. This is the time to scrutinize every inch of your image for imperfections, since the buyers certainly will.

8. Notice the little imperfections

Buyers want clear, well-lit images that brim with vitality. Oversharpening, image noise, blur, lens flare, oversaturation, underexposure - any of these and other flaws could be a reason why your image is being rejected by customers. No matter how good your composition, no matter how fascinating your subject, the slightest photographic imperfection can be enough to deter a potential buyer.

Specializing in a particular photography niche can gain you recognition from buyers, particularly if all of your stock images are of high quality.
Specializing in a particular photography niche can gain you recognition from buyers, particularly if all of your stock images are of high quality.

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Sell your photos online with Photostockplus. Click on their banner above to visit their website and get started.
Sell your photos online with Photostockplus. Click on their banner above to visit their website and get started.
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