I will admit it took some warming up to the idea of selling stock photos. I am a very private person. For years and years I didn’t even put photos of my children on my personal Facebook account. I used to be public with everything. I used to scrapbook and get published, I had a blog and shared my personal life, and then it became very vulnerable. I withdrew. But I missed it. I missed connecting with other photographers, other moms, other friends.
So after I started up again and was sharing regularly, I discovered there was a new trend growing in stock. Lifestyle photography. Hmm. I could do this. I had stopped shooting client work and I had thousands of photos sitting on my hard drive. I was already operating a business through teaching and mentoring, why not.
Some good reasons to check out selling stock photos:
- additional income
- putting photos on your hard drive to use
- another option besides client work (or use a model release and sell client images)
- it’s fun, and another way to get more involved with photography or the photography community
A lot of my friends were with Offset and I went over and loved their feed of work! And I have always had a crush on Stocksy.
I applied with both. Offset, with lightening quick cat like reflexes, told me they were not interested a few minutes after I pressed submit. Stocksy took nearly 4 months to respond with an acceptance (after an interview). I knew Stocksy only opened their application process for short periods, but I didn’t know how many submissions they receive and how long it took to get through them. They had thousands of applications to review.
I’ve been selling stock images with Stocksy for about three months now and I am really really happy with my decision. I am ridiculously humbled that I was accepted. Their feed is intimidating and inspiring all in one. They also have a private forum for contributors and I love being so connected to all these photographers around the globe. Seeing food photography from Pakistan. Family lifestyle sessions in China. Backyard garden parties in Canada. Drone photos over Ireland. And the people involved have been so friendly and incredible.
Some things to consider about selling stock images, especially personal photos:
- You have no idea what they will be used for. If you have an image of a child crying it could be used in an article about bullying, or abuse. If you have a chubby cheeked child, it could be used for raising awareness to healthy eating or childhood obesity. Some may be humorous, a sexy photo of your husband ending up on an article about “10 ways you know you’re good in bed”. Really, anything is game.
- You may never know how it is used. Stock companies don’t release the information on the clients. You can do a reverse image search, or maybe you’ll get lucky and a friend, family member, or fellow stock contributor might find some, but often they go off to never never land.
- Stock companies can be different. Some have different pricing or payout structures. You’ll have to decide what you think is “worth it” for your images.
- Some stock companies have extra requirements. Stocksy requires image exclusivity. If the stock image is for sale on stocksy, it cannot be sold elsewhere. Other companies may allow you to sell the same image in multiple places.
- Some images will sell, and some won’t. Some won’t even be accepted by the stock company. It’s a form of rejection you have to prepare for.
- Some months will have better sales than others.
- It can be a time investment to prep your images and upload them to the stock sites. Stock companies require model releases, and some images will require cloning– no trademarks are allowed. Think brands, logos, or super heroes.
- It can take awhile to get a good body of images in your portfolio.
- The less images you have in your portfolio, the less images you have in front of buyers.
- It can also be slightly addicting. I will admit it was a rush to see photos selling. It encouraged me to upload more images, and also check my account regularly to see if there were new sales.
- And lastly, it can be so random. My best selling image is a dirty sink full of dishes. Not my best portraits. Not anything emotional. Not my beautiful macro images. It’s an image I almost didn’t upload, I was actually slightly embarrassed I put it in my feed to begin with.
So, my immediate thoughts on selling stock. Not all agencies will take you. Find a good fit for you, keep at it if it is what you desire, be prepared for some busy work, and know that it will test your patience a little bit. But it can be a fun endeavor, and it can earn you a bit of pocket change or just downright income depending on how much you put into it.