20 Tips to Succeed at Stock Photography

Almost two years ago and quite by accident, I ventured into stock photography turning my passion for selfies into a profitable second job a.k.a side-hustle. This blog post is a list of tips to anyone who would like to…make quick money online (I’m joking), anyone who is interested in stock photography.

  1. Love Photography
    This business takes time and energy or perhaps I am just lazy? Finding inspiration, getting a model, setting up the studio, cleaning up, editing in Lightroom and Photoshop, uploading to stock agencies, keywording, the list of tasks is endless. To build your portfolio from scratch, only true love and grit will keep you in this game.
  2. Submit Quality Images
    By this I mean you need a proper camera. Most stock sites won’t even let you upload an image that doesn’t meet the file size and type. I strongly recommend you check the technical requirements for the agency you would like to sell on before investing in a camera.
  3. Tell A Story
    It’s as simple as that but it takes a while and a lot of practice to understand this. An image that tells a story is by default beautiful and will sell. To grasp what a story-telling image looks like, spend time as a customer on stock photography sites, looking at images in areas you might be interested in. You’ll slowly start to see stories everywhere;  a child laughing, a man driving, breakfast set, couples in love. There are so many stories, tell them through your lenses.
  4. Shoot Every Story
    Stock photography is tough. The barrier to entry is low and there is an excess supply of images. You are competing against 246,511,165 royalty-free stock images and 1,663,336 new stock images added this week on Shutterstock alone! Now, most stock photographers will say “find your niche” and I recommend that too, but that takes time. Till you do, shoot everything. If it tells a great story, even if people have told the same story a thousand times, yours will eventually sell.
    My epiphany was with my moringa shoot. Moringa trees had been blossoming; lush green leaves, white leaves and dry pods all over the backyard. I saw it and thought “Gosh there are so many moringa pictures already. No one will buy mine”. A few months later the thought came to me again. I searched Moringa Images on stock websites and decided I could tell a better story than they have. Today, that portfolio is my highest grossing ever. My point, don’t let your niche hold you back. Just tell stories and let things be “turnioniown!” To see my moringa images click here
  5. Watch the News
    Trending topics mean people are writing articles or making ads with related images. Be intuitive. Valentine, Independence day, Elections in Nigeria, Brexit in the UK, the US Shutdown was a hashtag, Bird flu, swine flu. Think of concept images that communicate these situations and you can cash in.
  6. Innovate, Don’t Copy
    If you see an image you like, think of ways you could do it better. Copying or blatantly stealing people’s images and uploading as yours is a crime. If you are caught your account will be blocked, you will forfeit any earnings therein and you will not make heaven, Jannah or Valhalla.
  7. Forget Perfection
    I can’t count how many times I’ve reluctantly uploaded and keyworded an image because it wasn’t perfect and I felt it will never sell and then “BOOM!”, sold! If you shot it and it is good quality, upload it… and pray.
  8. Know Your Camera
    You’ll start off using “Auto mode” but don’t be afraid to play with the manual mode too. Understanding the three camera settings (aperture, shutter speed and ISO) and how it affects exposure is important. Basically, know what your camera can and cannot do and why. Understand your lens too, their range and limitations.
  9. Carry Your Camera
    …almost everywhere. There are so many times I have regretted not taking this advice but let’s face it, there are some places where it’s just not possible, practical or appropriate. My advice, if it is not a funeral, take your camera with you and leave it in your bag. I reluctantly took my camera to a workshop. The pictures of small chops and jollof rice are gold.
  10. Be Patient
    In the beginning, there will be days you don’t sell a single image. I still have those days. With a little patience and a lot of hard work, sales will start to come in, little drops at first and then a steady flow. There is no getting rich here. It’s not MMM! A good image may take as long as a year to finally sell at $0.25! In my experience, you need about 3000 good images in your portfolio to earn an average of $200 monthly.

Related: 5 Photography Resources I Learn From


 If would like to start stock photography, sign up here: Shutterstock!
Let me know what you think!
Got any tips? Share them in comments!

Liked this post? Do share it on your social media wall, timeline or feed
Want blog updates and promotions in your inbox
Sign Up Now

2 Comments Add yours

  1. ourcrossings says:

    Great post and brilliant tips 😀

    Liked by 1 person

Say something...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.