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Stock photography is a great way to generate passive income especially if you’re like me and you leave your home office for the day, take hundreds of pictures of everything beautiful that you see, get home, edit said hundreds of photos… But for what? So you can share them on Facebook and maybe get a like or two?
I love sharing the beauty of the world too, don’t get me wrong. But, why not capitalize on your hobby? You get to enjoy taking photos and get paid for something you’ll do anyways. And there’s no obligations, you don’t have to set a schedule, and you can stop at anytime. It’s a win-win, right?
I know what you’re thinking… Too good to be true. I get that! But honestly it’s not. I’ve found so many people in various communities online that talk about their earnings and most of them make decent money. I mean you upload a photo once and it can potentially earn you thousands of dollars for life. You have nothing to lose.
How much money can you make with stock photography?
Keep in mind this income won’t be instant, it’s not a race, it’s a marathon. If you take high quality photos that are visually stunning and people want to buy them you could easily make a few hundred dollars extra a month or even thousands.
During my research, I’ve seen the good and the bad. I see people complaining that it’s so much time for so little income. But I think that if you love what you’re doing and you can make a bit of money from uploading photos you wouldn’t otherwise use, why not do it?
Income will vary between people, skills, niches, and other variables, but let’s take a look at a few income reports from two stock photographers I follow on the interwebz.
Hunter Bliss Photography
Hunter is on YouTube and I highly recommend his videos if you’re interested in trying your hand at stock photography. Not only for motivation from his income reports but he provides valuable information for those of us who want to get started. He has just over 3000 images in his portfolio and adds more photo randomly throughout the year.
In November 2017, he only uploaded 100 photos and made:
- ShutterStock $268
- iStock $40 average
- Dreamstime $19
- Fotolia $21
- Depositphotos $1
- 123RF $5
- BigStock $12
- Pond5 $7
- Total = $373
In January 2018 he didn’t uploaded any new images for two months and still made:
- ShutterStock $259
- iStock $30 average
- Dreamstime $57
- Fotolia $13
- Depositphotos $2
- 123RF $8
- BigStock $2
- Pond5 $6.98
- Alamy $75
- Total = $452.98
As you can see, passive income is awesome. You upload once and you’re paid over and over again without doing anything. Those photos just sit there in your portfolio and people purchase them even if you don’t upload more. How cool is that?
Another great website to check out is Backyard Silver by Steve. He’s been doing stock photography for eight years and he has increased his stock photography income to over $30,000 a year.
The best part about his website is that he shares regular stock photo income reports to give others an idea of how much they can potentially earn, and in these reports he provides valuable information that will help you increase your income doing stock photography.
His earnings vary month-to-month, which is normal, and are as follows:
What does it take to build a stock photography income?
Of course it takes more than just uploading a pretty picture. You’ll need to research the industry. Ask questions like, what’s a popular niche that’s not already tapped into, what makes my photo stand out in a list of 100s of other photos with the same subject, what kind of photos are in demand, etc.
Shutter Stock shared an informative video that lists key points of what they want from their stock photographers. This information is transferable between stock companies, and even if you decide to sell on your own website or setup an Etsy shop. You can watch it now or bookmark this page for later.
Recommended equipment & software
You’ll need a camera, obviously, I know you probably have a smartphone with a camera but I recommend a DSLR (full-frame if possible) and a prime lens.
If you have no idea what I just said you may also want to take a course on photography or at least read up on the basics. I started learning over at Digital Photography School in 2007 and they offer a variety of courses and e-books to help you get started with your photography journey.
I purchased my Canon camera body online, second-hand on a fourm, but I know some people don’t like buying second hand gear so if you want you can buy it new here:
If you’re looking for a budget DSLR to start learning the basics of photography and take decent photos for stock I recommend:
Stock websites want pixel perfect photos so you’ll also need editing software.
I personally use Photoshop and Lightroom, but there are alternatives; If you need some help editing photos you can find some great tutorials and courses on Udemy and SkillShare.
That’s pretty much all the equipment and software you need. Yes you could invest is some gear like backdrops, light boxes, or flashes, but it’s not necessary to get started. A photographer’s greatest tool is the camera they have with them.
Tips For Selling Stock Photos
1. Take clear and crisp photos. Stock photography is competitive and some companies even screen your photos to make sure they’re clear and of high quality. Always have good lighting, or know how to use your camera in low-light situations to reduce the chances of your photos being rejected.
2. Take photos for marketers. Sure that abstract photo of a rose you took last year is beautiful but that marketer looking to buy stock photos isn’t looking for a pretty picture to hang on their wall. Research your market and niche and deliver content that people want.
3. Slow and Steady wins the ra… marathon. Don’t expect to make $1000s of dollars after uploading a hundred photos. Continue to build your portfolio, cater to your market, master your craft, and you’ll make it worth while.
Stock Photography Websites that Pay:
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