Photography Q&A: Being A Stock Photographer

In a previous Photography Q&A, I answered a group of questions related to being a photographer’s assistant. Today we are going to talk about stock photography.

Is stock photography worth the time and effort?

My view on it might not be the best one, but I feel as though it’s either do it full-time or do it here and there, and that there is no middle ground.

I have friends that do stock photography full-time and actually do make a living from it. The trick is that you are shoot specifically for stock, because of the requirements for accepted photographs. In addition, the money you make from microstock (i.e., iStockPhoto) is so small that in order to make $1,000 you have to sell between 800 and 1,000 photographs. With microstock, photographs sell anywhere from $2 – $70.

In my case, I never shoot specifically for stock sales. Once every few months I will go through recent photographs and pick out what I feel could be sold through stock. I will then use Deepmeta to keyword, category and write descriptions for the newly picked photographs. Deepmeta allows that functionality, the ability to upload and view statistics – and it’s free.


What is the best stock photography platform to sell your photographs?

Unfortunately this isn’t an answer I can give an in-depth answer to. The reason is because I have only used iStockPhoto, since I’m not shooting specifically for stock. So instead of attempting to answer the question, I’d like to redirect you to articles comparing the top stock photography sites.

How do you make money with stock photography?

From my experience and from talking with full-time stock photographers and watching videos on the niche, I have learned one thing that answers that question easily. In order to make money with stock photography, you have to make that your full-time job, and love it every day. So instead of splitting your time between weddings, other events and stock work, spend that time setting up sessions for stock work. To try to make a living with stock work, here is some planning advice.

  1. Get into an exclusive level so your commissions are at their highest.
  2. Follow the most popular photographs sold and/or the trending searches within your stock community.
  3. Plan a session to create your own photographs for the trends.
  4. Get model and property releases for everything you photograph.
  5. Find your stock photography post-processing workflow. If you can do most of your post processing in software like Lightroom, then it will save you a lot of time.
  6. Use keywording tools, write detailed titles and descriptions.
  7. Upload thousands of photographs, even if from the same session.

Bonus: hire a photography assistant or studio intern to handle the keywords, titles and descriptions so you can keep shooting.

What books should a microstock photographer read?

In my article on business books for photographers, there is one that discusses stock photography. However, because that article wasn’t specific to stock work, that was the only that really went over the niche. So now I’ll share a few other books well worth checking out if you are really considering stock photography as your career.

Q&A Bonus

At the end of the Photography Q&A articles, I like to give a little bonus of some sort. In the first article, I shared a link to a free handbook for assistants. This time, I will be offering a free copy of Nicole’s eBook on microstock photography. To win, comment below to add to the answers I have shared above. I will then pick a comment at random and send a copy of the eBook.

Extra bonus: Nicole was recently interviewed on the jpeg2RAW podcast. You can view the video here below.

Thanks for reading and happy shooting,


This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. I have thought of doing stock photography but most of my research indicated it wasn’t very profitable. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider — and set my expectations accordingly — given some of what I’ve read here. Great post Scott.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I would love at some point to do stock photography and this post answered some of my questions. I will be checking out your book recommendations as well.

  3. I recently started stock photography. My observation is though the quantity is important, you must focus on sellable image ( create a concept and taking the pic in different angle is OK). but if you focus only the number of images then you may fail. BTW I am active follower of Nicole S. Young and learning lot from her on food photography. I would be really happy if i get her ebooK.


  4. I thought about getting into stock photography several years ago, but at that time it seemed very confusing about which platform to go with and which would be the most profitable. I know there have been some changes since then, so maybe its time to revisit it.

  5. I am interested to see how Stocksley will change the equation and the industry. I think they went live yesterday.

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