Posted on Guides

Being a stock photographer is a bit like being in a band. Not many make it to rock star status, but they love what they do and enjoy earning some extra cash on the side.

Producing photos to sell through stock photo agencies can bring more purpose to your photography. It can help you focus and build your skills more than if you are doing photography purely as a hobby.

Over the years the digital stock photography industry has gone through many changes. In the past, it was arguably easier to make some decent money, even very good incomes. But the percentage of contributors who made a full time living selling stock photos was proportionately very small.

Approach stock photography with a healthy attitude and without grand expectations. You may be surprised at how much you learn, how much you enjoy it and even how much you can earn.

Here are a few tips for doing stock photography that I’ve put together. They will encourage those of you thinking of dabbling in the stock photography market.

1. Treat it like a business

The more business-like you treat stock photography, the more success you will have with it. A casual approach will bring casual returns. There’s no problem with this if it’s what you want.

If you’re serious about making real money from stock photography set up a business right from the start. Make a plan and stick to it. Keep records of your expenditure and earnings. Dedicate time regularly to focus on the mechanics that will make it work.

Having no plan and a relaxed attitude towards producing stock photos will not get you very far. Maybe you don’t have the time or inclination to make it a full-time occupation. Having some kind of plan in place and a business attitude about what you are doing will still help.

2. Choose your niche

One of the biggest challenges you’ll face is getting your images noticed. The stock photography market is so saturated that it can be difficult to get your photos in front of buyers.

Choosing your niche, a few topics and concepts to concentrate on can help this. Pick some subjects you are passionate about. Purposefully become an expert at photographing them. Build up a portfolio of photographs that will grab attention.

3. Study design trends

Designers buy stock photos. Study the current trends and stay up to date as they change. Look at styles, colors, and image usage to see what buyers need.

Flip through magazines. Browse websites. Watch TV. You’ll begin to see stock photos everywhere. Take note of the ones you like the best and mimic them.

4. See what’s worked before

Spend time on stock photography websites. Look at the best selling images and think about why they are so popular. What makes them work? Why have so many people bought them? How can you improve on them?

Trends and fashions change. Think about how you can rework older stock photos that have been very popular to make them more current.

5. Aim at the market

Know your market. Find out what people are buying. Fill the gap with what’s missing.

Learn about the potential market for your niche. Study it and supply the type of images that will be popular. You may have to try different styles and ideas for a while before you hit on some that work. Experiment until you have a breakthrough.


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