If you’re a photographer looking to make a little more money, you’re probably tempted, at least at some point, to go into stock photography.
Maybe you were planning to do something about the hundreds of unused images lurking around on various hard drives. Or maybe it was an appealing idea to make someone else sell your photos.
“Or maybe you saw a number of stock photos and said to yourself, “I could do better than that! ”
…or maybe it just seemed like a fairly easy way to make money.
The first thing I have to say to you is that it’s not so easy. It is not difficult to make it sound like some blogs and long-time stock photographers, but not exactly a walk in the park either.
“The web is full of remarks such as Don’t leave your day job! Sitting side-by-side with “I make $1000s a month in stock photography and you can too!” “Which is true? Well, arguments can be made for both.
Is it possible to make real money from stock photography? Possibly.
Can you just upload and make money for all your images that just take up space on your hard drives? Possibly not, unless those images are fantastic over-the-moon and fulfill the current needs of today’s stock photography buyers.
There’s an art to making the stock photography business work for you and the competition is fierce… but it can be done.
What is Stock Photography?
Stock photography is simply a term for common imagery used by buyers visual content in everything from news stories, blogs, and websites, to design materials for ads or promotional material.
It is much cheaper than hiring a photographer and is generally sold through a platform that specializes in storing such images in a large library so that buyers can choose from a variety of different options.
Think of stock photography as the opposite of custom-made images, which are directly licensed to a client and are original works specifically created for that client’s purpose.
For example, if I needed a high-quality picture of a happy family eating dinner together, it would be very costly to hire a photographer to find all of the models and put together the food, props, and lighting.
It would be far easier and cheaper to find one on a stock photography site and pay anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars.
Can you make money with stock photography?
You can, but that’s definitely not easy. While there are plenty of stock photographers who make a good living, there are easily as many more who do not.
Things have dramatically changed in the 15 or more years microstock has been available.
It used to be much easier to earn enough money to live off in the early days. There weren’t as many images out there and the market wasn’t saturated with photographers.
However, the industry is matured these days and the supply of images is vastly outpacing demand. With over 1 million more added per week, Shutterstock alone now has over 225 million images. This means that contributors have to work harder and smarter to succeed than they said 15 years ago when microstock was just beginning.
The good news is that it’s usually not too hard to get to a place to earn a few hundred dollars a month, while if you may not make a full time living off it.
It will take a while (unless you’re extremely lucky) and you’ll need to upload a lot of photos, but with a bit of perseverance and dedication, $200-$500 a month is certainly doable.
How Much can you Earn as a Stock Photographer?
Do you want numbers? Photographer Alexandre Rotenberg writes on his mystockphoto.com blog that you’ll need to have posted at least 6,000 photos to earn a $500/month passive income.
How long does it take for 6,000 high-quality pictures to be uploaded that are not similar? Well if you work full-time and have a family, 200 photos a month will probably be bit much. With focus, you could probably be able to manage 100 photos a month. Fifty is certainly quite doable.
At 100 images a month it would take you five years to reach 6000 images mark. If you increase the value of your images by including models with model releases and/or really push your niche, you could probably do it in just under three years. I know photographers who have managed to get $200-$300 in passive income in just two years.
Either way, it’s not a quick scheme to get rich. To get to that level, most photographers will need at least three years, and if you’re a busy bee, you’ll need a full five.
There are, of course, some photographers who are lucky that their niche is in large demand or they travel all the time and can take incredible pictures of places that have not been blown out of the market yet.
However, expect a long haul before you can get up to a substantial income.
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