I’m sure you are thinking – easy…. Get up, take some photos, upload them and sit back to reap the financial rewards of a job well done!
Challenges that any stock photographer is facing
Well, perhaps it used to be like that 20 years ago, but now it is a very competitive business with constant pressure on earnings. Many stock agencies compete for the business of the image buyers by regularly reducing the cost of licensing, or, if they need to cover their own expenses and operations – they reduce the commission percentage paid to the artists. Just visit an online forum for stock photographers and you will hear endless doom and gloom. Having said all that, I still think it is a reasonable way to earn at least part of your income, especially if you focus on images that don’t have a direct cost – ie no professional models in my portfolio!
Earning reasonably as a stock photographer?
So, how can you make some reasonable money as a stock photographer? In my view, take as broad a view of potential subjects as you can. Travel, people, landscapes, cities, macro, food – both for commercial and editorial licensing – are in demand, and as the technology improves, the need for high quality, up to date imagery increases as well. New capabilities like HDR and focus stacking can create images that were just not possible even a couple of years ago, and so many stock photos can often be drastically improved if they are taken with today’s technology. As an example, here is a multi-HDR panorama stitched from five different shots. The final shot is over 14,000 pixels wide, which you can see a thumbnail below (click on the image to see it on my website).
Then, you need to take as broad a view of the potential marketplace as you can. I submit to about 20 different stock agencies. Many of them sell a few images a month, but if they are easy to upload to, then those $20 – $30 monthly commissions add up over the year.
Symbiostock – A new Kid on the Block
More recently, a group of stock photographers and illustrators created their own fair trade agency – Symbiostock – that isn't an agency in the true sense of the word – more an integrated collection of individual stock sites maintained by each artist, but in a standard format and with a common central search engine. Each artist sets their own price and downloads are automatic when you see the image you want. My own site is at BackyardStockPhotos.com, but check out the central search engine to compare with the results from commercial agencies. With over 200,000 images and illustrations available from 150+ artists, there is a good chance you will get what you need at a reasonable price with a fair payment to the artist. What is not to like!
Steve Heap is a veteran stock photographer contributing to many well know stock photography sites. Most recently he has been showcasing his work at his own BackyardStockPhotos.com which we encourage you to visit.