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How to Sell Stock Photography Successfully

Some top tips on how to sell stock photos

Anyone can submit images to microstock sites - but how to sell stock photography successfully?

Well, it's not rocket science but there's more to it than might first appear! Below are some top tips on producing images that will both get accepted for stock websites, and go on to sell well.

With tens of thousands of eager buyers surfing the web for cheap photos on a daily basis, knowing how to sell stock photos is well worthwhile!


Secrets of Stock Photography!

What do the most successful stock photographers do that separates them from the pack?

how to sell photos


  1. Read the submission guidelines provided by websites before submitting. You will save a lot of time.

    Microstock agencies do not require massive file sizes, so there's no need for a gazillion MP camera or special enlargement software! But all pictures must be sharp and perfectly exposed.


  1. Do not be discouraged when your pictures are rejected. Everyone has photos that they are proud of turned down by the quality control of stock photo websites. Stock photography is not art.


  1. Use a tripod where possible. Images on microstock agencies must be downloadable in a range of dimensions and retain their quality at large sizes.

    Your photos will be assessed at full size, where the slightest camera shake can have a very destructive effect. Using a tripod will go a long way to eliminating this problem. It's a good bit of kit to own if you'd like to sell stock photography


  1. Large depth of field. I have had a far higher acceptance rate for images taken with a large depth of field - high f.stop. It ensures that everything is in clear focus and there are no blurry areas.

    This of course places greater demand on using a tripod, since a slower shutter speed is needed to compensate.


  1. Do not submit 'arty' shots. I know that is meaningless, but I simply mean those shots that prioritise self-expression over technical 'quality'.

    We need to submit accurately exposed, sharp, pleasingly composed pictures in order to sell stock photography successfully.


  1. Take it easy in Photoshop. Do make adjustments in Photoshop to give a strong finish to your work, but tread lightly.

    (If you're not familiar with Photoshop these online video tutorials are a great way to pick up the basics fast.)

    The whole idea of micro stock photography is that you provide 'starting' images for people to incorporate into their own projects.

    Sometimes a photo may be complete and sufficient in itself, but often it will be enhanced and edited by the buyer. So err on the side of 'plain' rather than the 'wow factor'.

    Make adjustments whilst zoomed in to 100 percent to ensure you do not create noise and artifacts. Too much post-processing makes it very difficult to sell stock photography.


Secrets of Stock Photography!

Why has this stock photographer sold so many more images than most?

how to sell photos


  1. ISO 100. Using the lowest ISO setting is a general rule of thumb in any case, but is especially worth sticking to for stock photography submissions.


  1. Shoot people. Simple photos of people that represent a fundamental concept like happiness, success, loneliness, anger and so on, sell fantastically well. These need to be shot in a well lit, uncluttered environment.

    Business related people pictures sell very well indeed too. Get hold of some model release forms (often provided by the respective stock photo websites and required to be completed by anyone whose face is featured in a picture) and ask some mates to help you out and pull a few faces!

  2. Lifestyle themed photos are another high selling category. For instance healthy living - jogging on the beach, eating fruit - or family life - sitting around the kitchen table, walking in the park.

  1. Set up some still life shots. When the weather's miserable, take the opportunity to create some interesting still life images. Think about their potential use and value for buyers.

    Food images do really well. Perhaps you could arrange some cheeses on a big wooden board with a broken French baguette and glass of wine behind. This sort of thing could be valuable for the tourism and food industries. Fine tune the lighting to suit the feel of the shot.

    Money related still life images are great sellers. Be creative; you could ask someone to drop a handful of coins against a plain white background and capture them as they fall. Get the Monopoly houses involved and create a photo relating to property prices!


  1. Get the keywords right. This is crucial. When you upload photos you have to assign them each a list of keywords. It's no use having a wonderful portfolio sitting there that no-one can find.

    Imagine what you would write in the search box when looking for an image like the one you've just uploaded.
    Include as many keywords as you can think of that are relevant to your picture.

    Span several categories, for example, a picture of someone at the top of a hill could apply to both exercise and success.


  1. Look out for current trends. Various themes become popular on stock photo websites at different times. I have a friend who somehow pulls in almost £2000 a month from microstock sites by keeping an eye out for the current fashions!

    Think about what's going on in the news or the world of sport. Recession? World Cup? Olympics? Economic boom? Property price crash? It's easy to take shots that relate to these kind of themes in some way.

    So keep it topical, keep things fresh, and you will sell pictures online successfully.

  3. It's all about the numbers. Don't be disappointed when none of your 10 or 20 pictures have been bought after a few weeks. You need to keep uploading more pictures, and submitting your portfolio to more websites.

    A handful of shots will provide no worthwhile income - remember, your customers are just looking for cheap digital photos. But think about those enormous files of pictures on your computer. All digital photographers know how easy it is to accumulate pictures.

    Before you know it you'll have wacking great collections on 5 or 10 stock photo websites. Then you find yourself looking at some interesting credit figures!


Quotable Quote:

The picture is good or not from the moment it was caught in the camera.

- Henri Cartier-Bresson


So there are my top tips on how to sell stock photography. I hope you found them useful!

Stock photo websites are a great resource for amateur photographers looking to create some extra income. But it does take time to build up a decent sized portfolio. So be patient! It'll start slowly and gain momentum.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about how to sell stock photography! What have been your experiences? How long has it taken you to generate lots of sales? Where do you sell stock photography most successfully? Please get in touch here...


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