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Stock Photography Income for Beginners

Stock photography for beginners
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Many beginners looking for an online income stream use the stock photography platform as a starting point for their online business.

This is because it is fairly easy and cost-free to start experiencing what online business is all about.

From here on it is easy to branch out to other income streams because of the skills gained from the experience.

Article: Stock photography business totally for free

What is stock photography?

Stock photography happens when photographers build a collection of photos online and then offer it for third party use. A third party can be anyone who creates content on or offline and find a use for your images.

It does not matter if you are an amateur or professional photographer and placing photos online for sale will put you in the stock photo market. Stock photography is not specific to any person or topic and that is what makes it a good business.

How do stock photos make money?

At some stage of your journey as a Blogger, you will be thinking of monetizing. One of the easiest ways to start is with a stock photography portfolio. Making money with stock photos can be a long process as everything depends on the quality and quantity of your portfolio. Building up a large inventory of stock photos will increase your chances of getting sales.

There are three ways you can make money with stock photos

  • Random niches
  • Targeted Niche
  • Consignment stock

Random niches

The amateur photographer and beginners tend to take random photos to capture personal experiences during their daily life. This random inventory can attract any content creator that might be looking for a once-off picture to use in their project.

The only way you will make money in this way is with a large stock inventory. It is a bit like hit and miss similar to t-shirt designs where you are not sure if a potential buyer will be attracted to your photo.

Targeted niche

More experienced photographers will aim for specific niches such as travel, health, electronics, food, etc. In this way, they can focus on becoming an authority in a specific stock photo market. Creators working in these niches prefer to deal with specific styles and will become repeat customers.

Consignment stock

Once you have “claimed” your niche and gained the confidence to produce quality photos or styles you will be able to also take on projects from creators. For example, a creator wants a series of images for a food blog about pastries and you the photographer go out and get it.

You will provide a series of photos based on customer specifications which will give them exclusive rights. In this way, you can also start charging higher prices as the stock photos cannot be resold.

What do stock photographers do?

Stock photographers use their skills to identify the demand for specific photos used by content creators. They then go out and scout the environment taking as many photos as possible. They will then select the best and where necessary does the necessary touch-ups with imaging software.

These photos are used to build up inventory over several niches and placed online for resale to 3rd party users online. In this way, a stock photographer fulfils an important function in the visual appearance of the web.

How do I become a stock photographer?

These days it has become easier for anyone with some interest in photography to become a stock photographer. With the quality of cameras built into mobile devices, it is very easy for any novice to take high-quality photos.

To develop stock photography into an online income stream that can become a work from home business in the long term you have to plan your market entrance well.

5 Steps of becoming a stock photographer

  • Find a niche
  • Take photos
  • Create collections
  • Upload images
  • Market yourself

Find a niche

Although not that important in the beginning it does help if you are aware of what the demand is like in the photography market. It is also important to know what your capabilities are in order to start a serious collection of photos potential customers want.

The way to do this is to find a few niches that are available to you in reality. For example, it is no use to select a niche in world travel if you never get out of the house. Find the niches that are scarce on stock photo platforms and you are a winner.

Take photos

As a beginner, it is my advice to walk your town or neighbourhood and snap at everything that you observe. Afterwards, you can sort through your collection for the best and start processing it if necessary.

Having a large collection will help to categorize and identify niches that you might never have considered. You will be surprised by what content creators are looking for.

Create collections

Building your inventory is part of the fun and being able to have a variety of collections will help you to be noticed quickly on stock photography platforms. The larger your collections the better the chance for sales.

It is also possible that you can get offers for a complete collection with exclusive rights which will boost your income. Buyers like this will always come back for more of the same niche if they are satisfied with your work.

Upload images

It can take some time to upload your images but doing it right from the start can save a lot of time later. Titles, tags and descriptions are a very important part of the uploading process as this is what identifies your image to buyers and search engines.

Spending more time on the uploading process will bring first sales quicker.

Market yourself

Having set up your inventory of stock photos leaves you with only the task of marketing yourself and your portfolio. In this business, you just have to make sure that out there they know about you and your portfolio.

Fortunately, people love looking at pictures which makes them easier to share on social media. With your business logo as a watermark, it should be easy to build a visual presence on all social media platforms.

Just remember not to have any logos on images you are putting up for selling. Logos are purely for marketing and becoming recognizable.

How do I sell my stock photos?

Although there is a large market out there the competition is just as big. Finding the best manner in which to sell your stock photos will depend on the time and effort you are prepared to put in.

Total beginners will approach stock photography different than photographers with experience. Becoming an authoritative figure in your niche is the key to your stock photography income stream.

Most beginners will start with the purpose of generating a side income during their free time while experienced photographers will invest all their time into it or see it as a by-product.

Either way, professional photographers have been at it for a long time, have a large inventory and have more time to invest.

There are 3 ways in which you can sell your stock photos

  • Digital sales platforms
  • Stock photography listing
  • Portfolio website

Digital sales platforms

The easiest way for a beginner is to include the photos on digital sales platforms with other products. This is because a beginner is limited on time and at that stage, it is difficult to start setting up multiple streams of income and managing them at the same time.

The best platforms for this that are beginner-friendly are Creative Fabrica and Gumroad.

Stock photography listing

Another manner in which you can start selling your photos is by listing them on some of the more popular stock photography websites. Of these, there are three that stand out above the rest

  • Foap
  • Shutterstock
  • Dreamstime

It is important to note that most stock photo platforms although free will have some sort of application that includes a quality check you have to make. This is to protect them against the content of poor quality but if your quality is consistent it should not be a problem.

Portfolio website

If you want to be in total control of your images then setting up a portfolio with stock photo galleries is the way to go. In this way, you can extract maximum profit from your efforts.

It might take a while for you to gain recognition online as you have to do all of the work yourself which will include protecting your images and marketing the product.

Making use of stock photography platforms makes it much easier for beginners as the platform will take care of all that. You will have to weigh your time saved against the drop in profit margin.

What kind of stock photos sells the best?

You don’t really have a “magical” bestselling photo because of the vast size of the web and the variety of subjects that content creators are looking for. From time to time you might get a specific photo that will stand out and sell well for a while.

Researching the niche you selected will be a better indicator of what is on the market and what people are looking for. It is also possible to have something in your inventory that starts selling well because of a current trend or event.

All of these are not long term and will be difficult to duplicate successfully with new images. The best advice is to pay attention to the characteristics that make a good stock photo and live by them.

5 Characteristics of a good stock photo

  • Technical specs
  • Quality
  • Explanatory
  • Niche-specific
  • Unique

Technical specs

Size and format play a major role in stock photography. Not only do certain platforms allow only certain formats to be uploaded but they also require specific size standards to maintain.

The best is to read all the terms and conditions of each platform before starting as it will save you time later. This is not too serious because there is a lot of free and paid software that will take care of batch conversions should you need it.

Buyers on the other hand can be very specific about size ratios and formats as they need to fit in with their projects. File sizes are of utmost importance as SEO is moving more and more to faster loading times.

The good thing about stock photography platforms is that they have set standards and it is up to the buyer to convert or reformat images purchased.

If you are running a portfolio site and working on an assignment it is another story but then you are also starting to pass over from stock photography to a photography service. This is also an opportunity to charge and earn more.

The final word here is that you must deliver the best product according to platform specifications that you can.


Obviously, the most important is the quality of the image otherwise it has no chance of selling. Make sure that the photo has the correct sharpness, clarity and lighting that will make it stand out.

This is why sometimes it will be necessary to use an image editor to fine-tune your images before uploading them for sale.

The 3 favourite online image editors you can try are

Most paid software will have limited free versions that will do most of the tasks required for a beginner to start uploading their stock photos as quality products.


For an image to grab the attention of the potential buyer they have to identify their own story within the photo. The reason they are looking for specific images on stock photo platforms is to find something that will blend in perfectly with their theme.

If they are writing articles on Keto bread they want images that can be identified as Keto bread and not just a random image of home-baked bread.

Always remember that your image will become an extension of their content and its purpose are to grab visitor attention. A good image is an image that tells the story without needing any written description.


Content writers will always have specific niches that they create content for so they will want photos related to their niche. As we said before the photo must be explanatory and when looking at it there must be no confusion about the niche it represents.

For beginners stock photography income comes from having several photos for a specific niche so that their style gets identified easily by just looking at it.

Although niche specific you must ensure variety in order to present the potential buyer with several options. Quantity, quality and consistency will make you as a beginner stand out from those around you.

You don’t need thousands of images all over the platform as a beginner to make sales but rather focus on a hundred in one niche. Your chance of getting your first sale will be better.


Stand out from the rest is your secret weapon in stock photography. Having stock photos that are different from others in your niche will make them unique and more attractive to potential buyers.

When a photo is not unique the buyer will select the image they feel is better but if it is unique they only have one choice.

It is standard practice that big-time content creators will only look for unique images as they too want their content to be different. With their experience over time, they already know what is a very generic and overused image that must be avoided.

What are the negatives of stock photography?

As a beginner stock photography is a perfect way to start an online business. As you develop your skills and expand your inventory you will want more out of it. This is when you start seeing the negatives and limitations of stock photography. For me, it is not a huge problem as it is only one of many income streams and it does not take up a lot of my time.

If it is your only stream of income it might be a problem because of the following.

  • Erratic income
  • Small profit margins
  • Limited expansion

Erratic income

With stock photography, your income can be fluctuating day by day to the extent of no income for periods of time. The only way to overcome this is to have a huge portfolio that can maintain sales throughout the month. This is when you start asking the question of whether the profit is worth the effort.

Small profit margins

That brings us to the point of the profit margins you can expect from stock photography platforms. There are basically two types of listings and each has a different base profit margin.

Royalty-free images have the lowest profit margins of between 2 and 5%. This is the most common type of stock image for beginners and can be resold as many times as you want. You can earn as little as 25 to 50 cents per photo and that is why a large inventory will be required.

Royalty managed rights images are sold with exclusive usage rights and therefore a higher price can be charged. This image cannot be resold once sold with exclusive rights. Here your profit will depend on the photo itself and the price paid.

At least the minimum you can expect is between 10 and 15% payout.

Limited expansion

Although not common stock photography is controlling what you do and how you do it. This places a restriction on you and you cannot be innovative in your marketing strategies. Some platforms will also limit you in the size of inventory you keep.

As I have mentioned before it can be a valuable and fairly passive income while you focus on other more important income streams. You have to take it for what it is.

Stock photography income – Conclusion

Making a living from your stock photography income is not impossible but it will be rough going. As you will see the most successful stock photography sellers only have this income stream as a by-product of other income streams. This can either be part of a strategy to sell digital products online or a blog on photography that does affiliate marketing as well.

Either way for a beginner looking for a side income or just wanting to learn online business skills it is the perfect starting point.

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