Does stock photography pay?

Hi all! Dave Williams here on #TravelTuesday with a little insight for you, as usual. This week, I’ll take a little dive into stock photography.

There have been lots of reports lately, which is of no exception as these reports frequently come up, stating that photographers make very little from stock photography. Headlines quoting earnings as low as $0.01 are usually what hooks the readers in. But, is there actually money in it for us?

The simple answer is: yes. But, obviously, if we shoot and sell through an agency, such as Adobe Stock, Getty Images, Shutterstock etc., we give them their share. Or rather, they take their share!

A wreckage of a DC3 Dakota Skytrain of the US Navy, crashed on 24th November 1973 at Solheimasandur black sand beach in Iceland when it ran out of fuel, lying peacefully on the ice

The key to selling is to be found. I explain fully how to keyword an image in one of my KelbyOne classes, but doing this right and writing an appropriate caption will boost your sales and get you off to a good start.

When thinking about how much money we’ll make in stock photography, it’s important also to consider that once a photo is out there, it’s earning. It could be earning one $1,000 sale or 100 $10 sales, but in either case, it’s putting cash in our wallets.

What about all the negative press surrounding stock photography? The L.A. Times, for instance, reported this week that one photographer has sued Getty Images to the tune of $1,000,000,000.00 having been charged for use of her own photo, to which she, of course, retains copyright. The headline isn’t entirely accurate, as always, but the story remains similar. This is an extreme case, but not one that should perturb someone wishing to make some cash from their photography.

Let’s put it this way: –

If you’ve taken a photo and it has no exclusive usage rights attached, from a commissioned shoot for example, then why not get it on stock earning some money? Whatever amount it makes is more money than you had before you put it up there.

To make a living from stock photography, there’s a different approach. A library of thousands of relevant images needs to be available, which means scouring trending topics and working out what the market is missing, then going out and shooting to fill that gap. Daily! But, should all these bad press examples that float around the internet be putting us off? Really? No, I don’t think they should.

What are your thoughts? Do you shoot stock? Would you like to, but there’s maybe something holding you back?

Whatever the reason, it’s worth a dive into the deep end to see the reality for yourself. Go sign up with an agency and see what residual income your photos can generate for you!

Much love


Leave a Reply
Previous Post

It’s “Back Up Your Photos” Monday

Next Post

Guest Blog: Educator and Family Photographer Sandra Coan