If you like to shoot photos and videos using your camera or smartphone, then you can make money by selling those photos and videos online. Such photos and videos when sold are called as stock photos and videos. There are many people who are already making a lot of money by selling stock photos and videos.
What are stock photos and videos?
Stock photos and videos are the photos and videos, which are already shot or taken before they are actually required. They can later be used by anyone who buys a license to use them. Stock photos and videos are collected and stocked together before the time they are actually required instead of shooting them when required that is why they are called as stock photos and videos.
People and businesses buy stock photos and videos instead of shooting themselves or hiring a photographer to shoot them because it saves their time and money as they get professional looking photos and videos quickly and at less cost. They can search the database of photos and videos, find the photo or video, which they want and download it after making payment. The same stock photo or video can be bought or licensed by multiple people and businesses for multiple uses.
Stock photos are also called as stock images or stock pictures and stock videos are also called as stock footage.
Who buys stock photos and videos?
Various categories of people and businesses buy stock photos and videos and use them for various purposes. Following are some of them:-
Bloggers and website owners for using in their blog articles and sites.
Web developers for using in their client’s websites and blogs.
Book authors for using in their books and eBooks and on book and eBook covers.
Newspapers and magazines for using in their news and magazine articles.
Companies and advertising agencies for using in their product or service ads.
YouTubers i.e. YouTube video creators for using in their videos.
Why stock photos and videos?
You should consider selling stock photos and videos for following reasons:-
(1) You get passive income. Once you shoot and upload the photos and videos, you do not have to do anything else other than promoting your portfolio of photos and videos.
(2) Shooting photos and videos is very easy. Anyone can do it. You must be doing it regularly if you have a smartphone or camera.
(3) Very interesting and enjoyable work. Most people love to shoot photos and videos especially after the introduction of high quality smartphone cameras.
(4) You may get to see your photo or video being used in newspapers, magazines, book covers, websites, YouTube videos, ads and many other places.
How you can earn money with stock photos and videos:-
You earn money called royalty every time someone buys license to one of your stock photos or videos. The amount of money you would earn by selling stock photos and videos would depend mainly on the quantity, quality and the type of images and videos, which you shoot. You would see later what types of stock photos sell well so that you can focus more on them to increase your earnings.
No need to be a professional photographer:-
If you are thinking that you need to be a professional or expert photographer and only professional or expert photographers and videographers can make money by selling stock photos and videos, then you are wrong. You do not need to be a professional photographer and videographer or be expert in photography and videography to earn money by selling stock photos and videos. Even if you know how to operate the camera and the basics of photography and videography that is enough.
What do you need for selling stock photos and videos:-
You just need two things:-
(1) Obviously a camera preferably, a DSLR camera or a point and shoot camera or even a smartphone with good quality camera (at least 8 megapixels). If you are going to use smartphone camera for shooting stock photos and videos then I recommend it to be 12 megapixels and above. You just need a good quality camera. You may already have shot some great photos and videos, which are lying on your computer’s hard disk or on your mobile. You can start selling them right away if you think they are good enough.
(2) Photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop and video editing software such as Adobe premiere pro as you may need to edit your photos and videos sometimes before selling them for fixing some issues. If you do not know how to use Adobe Photoshop or Adobe premiere, you can use any other photo and video editing software, which you know. There are plenty of free and paid options available. You need to use photo and video editing software only if the image or video needs editing and not for all the images and videos.
What stock photos sell best:-
Certain types of images sell well than others. You should focus on shooting following types of photos:-
Photos related to business and finance for e.g. meeting, handshake, teamwork, office, money, businessman, businesswoman, etc. You can see example images below.
Photos showing society, people and lifestyle for e.g. family, couple, kids, person showing emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, smile, laugh, person doing some activity, etc. You can see example images below.
Photos of things and objects for e.g. pen and diary, calculator, clock, table and chair, ball, etc. You can see example images below.
Photos of different types of foods and drinks, fruits and vegetables for e.g. cake, tea and coffee, apples, carrot, etc. You can see example images below.
Photos of texture and pattern backgrounds. You can see example images below.
Photos of festivals of different cultures and days for e.g. Diwali, Holi, new year, mother’s day, father’s day, etc. You can see example images below.
Photos related to various industries and professions for e.g. construction, lawyer, doctor, electrician, etc. You can see example images below.
Photos related to health and fitness for e.g. person doing exercise, yoga, gym equipments, person running or jogging, etc. You can see example images below.
Photos related to technology for e.g. computer, mobile, drone, 3d printer, virtual reality, etc. You can see example images below.
Clipart or vector images related to all the above types. You can see example images below. You can create vector images in software such as Adobe illustrator.
Photos that are difficult to shoot and have commercial value are always in demand. Commercial value is the likelihood of image to be licensed for various purposes.
What stock photos do NOT sell best:-
Animals (especially pets) and birds photos for e.g. dog, cat, elephant, parrot, etc. You can see example images below.
Nature photos for e.g. sunrise, sunset, beach, flowers, trees, etc. You can see example images below.
You can shoot and submit these kinds of images only if there is something unique about them or they are quite different from other similar images.
There are tons of photos related to animals and nature because it is easier to shoot them. They have less commercial value than others.
Where to sell stock photos and videos:-
You have two options for selling stock photos and videos:-
(1) Stock agency sites:-
Selling stock photos and videos on the stock agency sites. Stock agency sites have huge database of stock images and videos, which are submitted by various photographers and videographers from all over the world. Whenever someone buys license to one of the stock photos or videos submitted by a photographer, he gets paid a small amount for that which is the royalty. The amount per image or video depends on the stock agency and the type of license bought by the client. Videos earn more royalty than images. People submitting images and videos to stock agency sites are called as contributors.
Contributors are paid their earned royalties when it reaches the minimum payout amount, which is different for each stock agency site. With stock agency sites, you do not need to do any promotion of your photos and videos. They already get big amount of traffic and have many clients who regularly buy images and videos on their sites. Stock agency sites are also called as microstock sites. You need to submit some images to the stock agency sites before you can work with them as a contributor. The number depends on the particular stock agency. If they like certain number of images out of the total images submitted, they approve you as a contributor. It is like an image test. Most stock agency sites allow you to try again after few days if you fail the image test.
Following are some of the popular stock agency sites where you can submit your photos and videos:-
Adobe stock (earlier fotolia)
Pond5 (good for stock videos)
There are many more stock agency sites but I have only listed the popular ones. You can submit the same photo or video to multiple stock agency sites unless you have signed an exclusivity agreement with some stock agency site.
(2) Own website:-
You can create your own website for selling stock photos and videos. You can set your own prices for licensing the photos and videos. Choose this option if you have a big collection of photos and videos and can keep updating the collection with new images and videos regularly. You need a way to accept payments on your site and do things such as maintaining the site, SEO and promotion, handling customer issues, etc.
Some things which you should know before you start selling stock photos and videos:-
Some stock agencies have exclusivity agreement, which means if you sign an exclusivity agreement with them, then you cannot submit your photos and videos to other stock agencies. You can only submit the photos and videos to that stock agency with whom you signed the exclusivity agreement. In exchange for doing this, you will get higher percentage of royalty. Exclusivity agreement is optional. You can sign it if you want to. However, in my opinion, it is better to submit the photos to all the major stock agencies. Your photos would get more exposure and you would earn more money that way.
Model release and property release:-
If your photos have recognizable people, you need to submit a model release. If your photo has some model, he/she needs to sign the model release form agreeing to be in your photo. You also need a witness to sign the form. If the model is minor, then one of the parent or the minor’s guardian needs to sign the form. So the from should contain the signature of the photographer, the model and the witness along with some additional information of the model. Every photo needs to have a model release form even if it has the same model in it. Even if your photo has some unknown stranger people in it, you need a model release or you need to remove them from the photo before submitting. Model release also applies to stock videos containing recognizable people.
If your photos have some property or building, you need to submit a property release. For e.g. Disney land, zoo animals, museum, company building or private house of someone. The property owner needs to sign the property release form authorizing to use the photo. Again, you need a witness to sign the form. So the form should contain the signature of the photographer, the property owner and the witness along with some additional information of the property. Property release also applies to stock videos containing property or building.
Commercial use and editorial use:-
Photos that can be used commercially in promoting a product or service in advertisements or any other method of promotion or in any other legal way are stock photos with commercial use. They can be used for business purpose. The stock photos, which I have been talking about, are commercial use stock photos. However, there are some photos, which cannot be used commercially and are not appropriate for commercial use. For e.g. images of celebrities which cannot be used in advertisements or in any other method of promotion without their permission. They cannot be used for business purpose. Such photos are photos with editorial use. Editorial photos can only be used for news, documentary and educational purpose. Some examples of editorial images would be images of some events such as concerts, sports matches, political rallies and speeches, etc.
If you have photos with recognizable people or property and you do not have model release or property release, you can submit them as editorial images. Similarly, if your photos have some logo, trademark, copyright or brand name, you can still submit them as editorial photos. However, the photos you submit must be newsworthy. Commercial use photos can be used for editorial use but editorial use photos cannot be used for commercial use. Obviously, editorial use photos sell much less than commercial use photos as they cannot be used commercially so have less usage.
Things to do before submitting stock photos:-
You should do the following things before you submit photos to stock agency sites or sell them on your own site:-
Crop unnecessary portions from the photo. For e.g. some unknown person or something which is distracting. Remove everything, which is not related to the subject in the photo.
See how the photo looks at 100% zoom. The photo may look great at lower resolution but may not look that great in higher resolution. So check if there is any significant decrease in quality when zoomed at 100%. Make sure the image does not look blurry at 100% zoom. See if the image is sharp and the subject in the image is in focus.
Make sure that the photos are straight. If they look little crooked or tilted then straighten them unless the photo is specifically shot from that angle. You can use tripod while shooting the images whenever possible.
If there is some company’s or someone’s copyright, trademark, logo, brand name that is visible in the image, then remove it.
Remove any noise in the images. Noise is usually caused by over-sharpening, high ISO, shooting in dark or poor quality camera. Always use good quality camera with the lowest ISO setting and shoot in sufficient light.
Make sure that the photos are not too dark or too bright. The photos should have proper lighting.
If you do the above things, it will reduce your chances of rejection when submitting to stock agency sites. Do not over edit the photos. They should look natural. Editing should be done only if required.
Title, description, keywords, and category:-
You have to specify the title, write description, provide keywords and select the category at the time of submitting images to the stock agency sites.
Give an appropriate title to the photo i.e. name, which describes the photo accurately. Do not give a vague title. Have at least four words in the title but do not make the title too long and confusing.
Write a good description of the photo. Explain in brief what is in photo, what is happening in the photo and what the photo is about. Try to include main keywords in the description. Have at least eight words in the description.
Add relevant and accurate keywords and as many keywords as possible that are allowed by the stock agency site. It is because of the keywords that the clients find your images on the stock agency sites. Buyers search for photos using the keywords and the stock agency search engines match the buyers search terms i.e. keywords with the keywords entered by you to show the relevant images. If you do not enter many relevant keywords, your photos may get lost in the crowd of other photos and would not be seen by the clients. Do not put irrelevant keywords just to get more views. Your photo may get rejected. Take some time to think and add relevant accurate keywords. Do not make spelling mistakes. Keywords are very important. You may have the best photos but they would not sell if the buyers cannot find them. You can also make use of suggested keywords tool provided by some stock agency sites. Put conceptual keywords also and not just the literal keywords of actual things in the photo. For e.g. if you are submitting photo of someone climbing a mountain, you can add some conceptual keywords such as adventure, thrill, etc. in addition to keywords such as mountain, climbing, trekking, etc.
Choose the correct category for the photo, which you are submitting. Generally, you are allowed to select more than one category for the same photo. Choose as many categories as allowed by the stock agency site.
Some tips for stock photos and videos:-
Finally some useful tips if you decide to get into the field of selling stock photos and videos:-
Not all the photos and videos submitted by you would be accepted or approved. Many of your photos and videos would be rejected. Stock agency sites have reviewers who review every photo and video submitted before they are added to their site. They may reject your photos and videos for various reasons. They generally provide reasons for rejection. Read them carefully. Make the necessary changes and re-submit them if you want. Do not get discouraged by rejections and do not take it personally. Even photos and videos of experienced photographers get rejected.
Videos are getting popular and in future, videos would be more in demand than photos. So focus on videos especially 4k videos, drone shots, etc. Videos are priced much more than photos so you would earn more from sale of videos. There is still less competition for videos as compared to photos. So submit as many videos as possible before the competition increases in videos.
Generally, the stock videos do not have sound. So remove any sounds from the videos before submitting. Some stock agency sites do accept videos with audio but only if they have background noise. Videos with music or speech are not accepted.
The most common duration of stock videos is between 10 seconds and 60 seconds long. So keep the duration of your stock videos between this. They should be small clips and not big videos. On Shutterstock maximum duration of stock videos is 600 seconds.
Take photos of people and especially objects with a white background. So they can be made transparent by removing the background easily and be used anywhere. Isolated photos are preferred by the buyers.
Keep submitting photos and videos on regular basis even a few ones on the stock agency sites to keep your profile active. Even if you sell photos on your own site, keep adding new photos regularly to keep the site updated with fresh content. More photos and videos you have, more the chances to sell and more money ultimately. Both quantity and quality matters when it comes to stock photography.
Submit or upload photos and videos related to the upcoming festivals and special days in advance For e.g. Diwali, Holi, Mother’s day, etc. as the demand for them increase from few days before the festivals and decrease when the festivals are over.
Leave enough space in the photo so that the clients can add text if they want to. Do not fill the entire photo with the subject of the photo.
The clients actually do not buy your photos and videos. They license them to use in their projects. You still own the rights to the photos and videos and can license them to other clients. License just gives the clients permission or right to use your photos and videos.
Always keep your camera or smartphone with you when you go outside so that you can capture anything interesting that you see.
You can shoot the same subject in the photo from different angles and submit all the angles. People may like one angle better than the other. You can also shoot the same image in landscape as well as portrait mode.
Do not watermark your images and videos when submitting them to the stock agency sites. They put their own watermark on them. You should put your own watermark if you are selling images and videos on your own site.
Stock agency sites generally accept photos in JPG/JPEG format and vector images in EPS format.
Always submit the photos and videos taken by you. Do not submit the photos and videos taken by your friends, relatives and the people whom you know unless of course you take their permission. Also, do not submit the photos and videos in public domain as yours.
You can submit some of your images and videos to free i.e. public domain stock image sites to gain some exposure. These free stock image sites would not pay you when people download your images or videos as they are free but people would notice you and your work. If they like your images and videos, they may purchase your other stock images and videos from paid stock agency sites. Some of the free stock image sites have a donation button. People can pay you donation if they like your images. In this way, you can earn some money too on these sites. You can do one thing. You can submit the images, which are rejected by the stock agency sites to these free stock image sites, if you feel they are good enough.