20 Tips to Succeed at Stock Photography

  1. Be Consistent
    The ranking algorithm uses the consistency of uploads to rank images. So the less often you upload, the lower your image will appear in a customers search. My advice, have a realistic monthly target and stick with it.
  2. Use Keywords
    This is the most important part of this job and the toughest. Keywords help the search algorithm find your image when a customer is searching. Wrong keywords mean your image will not show for the right buyer or show up for someone who doesn’t want it. My advice, describe the story your image tells and use synonyms and related words. E.g Bread: Bakery, fresh, baker, pastry, wheat, homemade, wholewheat, toast, calories, get the point.
  3. Maximise a Shoot
    Take a lot of images from as many different angles as you can, change the composition and shoot it again. What is perfect for one buyer may not be for another so the more variety of the same image you have, the more money you can make.
  4. Keep Your Costs Low
    I’m talking bare minimum. Breaking even in this business is a challenge because the revenue per image is rubbish. It is a volume driven market. Consequently, don’t spend any money on a shoot if you don’t need to. Beg your friends and family to model for you, and remember them when you “blow”. Use things that are freely available. I picked up an abandoned Starbucks cup on my way home and used it for a shoot two months ago. It sold twice today; $0.66 and it cost nothing but my time.
  5. Improve Your Skills
    Take classes online, watch videos on YouTube. Get better at using your camera, shoot in RAW format and improve your editing skills. Proper editing helps you fine-tune your story and can make the difference between a sale or not.
  6. Use Many Agencies
    Sell on as many platforms as you can. Remember you aren’t selling the image, you are selling the right to use the image so put your work on as many stock agencies as you can. It’s hard work and I’m only on 3 agencies at the moment. Regardless, the more agencies, the merrier!
  7. Beware Payout Limits
    Different Microstock Agencies have their pay out limits. Shutterstock allows you to choose your payout limit ant the minimum is $35. That’s a minimum of 140 downloads before you get paid and this can feel like a really long way to go. Dreamstime is $100 and I think that’s the same for Getty and iStock. My advice; start with Shutterstock. As you grow and become more comfortable, expand your distribution.
  8. Challenge Rejections
    As certain as taxes, rejections will come, for editorial reasons, quality reasons, or property or model release concerns. Take it with your chest and learn from it. At first, these rejections would hurt my feelings but now, I take so many images, a rejection is a challenge. As they reject, I read the reason for the rejection, edit the image and send it right back. It is a battle and I make it a point to win.
  9. Avoid Forums
    These Stock photography forums in my experience are crowded with angry professional photographers and stock photography old-timers who don’t make as much money as they used too and are mad that the “amateurs” are ruining the stock photography space with subpar images. My advice, go into forums search and read the solution to your problems and leave them alone. You aren’t a pro but you have what it takes to earn your place.
  10. Manage Your Expectations
    No one is buying a new Bentley or a new house from stock photography. The market is far too competitive for those kinds of earnings. The best you can hope for here is a few hundred dollars a month as an individual. It really depends on the size of your portfolio and the quality of your work. So, don’t quit your day job just yet.

Related: 5 Photography Resources I Learn From


Summarily, shoot, edit, upload, keyword, learn, shoot, edit…. and repeat. That’s it! If you love photography and would like extra income from it, or considering a side-job during this ASUU strike, I’m certain these tips will be helpful to you. If would like to start stock photography, sign up here: Shutterstock!

Are you into Stock Photography already? Let me know what you think!
Got any tips? Share them in comments!

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