Got a digital camera? Now you can earn money selling your pictures on the Internet! If you have a good eye and if you are a creative person you can generate very nice monthly income by selling your pictures on stock photography web sites. Personally, I am receiving checks and PayPal transfers for few hundreds bucks every month. You can do it too. At least, it pays you back for all that nice and expensive photographic gear you have purchased last year .
I truly love online stock photography Internet phenomenon, since it is the first in the world and probably the only business model which allows amateur photographers like you and me to earn some money from they lovely hobby. In fact, if you are a talented photographer and you shoot hundreds of pictures every month you can earn a very significant part of your living shooting high quality pictures for stock photography agencies.
There are many stock photography sites that will be happy to sell your photos and share with you the received revenues. iStockPhoto, ShutterStock, Fotolia, BigStockPhoto and CanStockPhoto are just few stock sites to name. All stock sites allow you to register for free as their submitting photographer and start upload your work to their banks. However, be aware that many sites will ask you to provide detailed personal information such as a scan of you picture ID / passport and will ask you to sign and fax them a signed copy of their ‘submitter agreement’. I completely understand them in their effort to limit the image fraud on the Internet and to protect both their buyers and their submitters image copyright owners from the fraudulent behavior.
In addition to proper submitters authentication, many stock photo sites will ask you to pass a professional online test, which should verify that you have all the required photographic skills and that you understand rules of the game on stock photography market. Do not be afraid of that test. If you know the difference between shutter speed and the aperture and can explain what is DOF you will pass it for sure. And the basic stock photography rules are quite simple:
1) Do not submit images that include any copyrighted material Avoid company logos, trademarks, third-party images and brands.
2) Provide a model release for any recognizable person in your image Each site has its own standard model release form that you have to fill in and send along with each image containing a recognizable person. I suggest you to download and print model releases for all the sites you have selected to submit your images and always keep these releases handle. When you shoot a person, do not forget signing her on one or more model releases! Note, that most sites will also ask you for the copy of model’s ID and for the witness signature. Some sites will request to send them a copy witness ID too. Keep all this in your mind when you prepare a stock shooting session
3) Editorial content Some stock photo agencies, e.g. ShutterStock has a separate section / category for editorial images. Different rules set apply for editorial content. Editorial content can be used only in news and therefore these images do not require model releases and can include any copyrighted material. So, if you have shoot carnival in Brazil do not throw out all your pictures because you do not have model releases for all these people. You still can submit your images as editorial content at some stock photography sites. However, be aware that there are not too much buyers for this type of content and the submitters’ competition is tight.
4) Use appropriate lighting and composition This is common sense, but I will mention it anyway. Your images compete for the buyers attention with images created by highly qualified talented professional photographers which shoot for years, own nice equipment and definitely know how and when use it. You must think creatively in terms of lighting and composition, otherwise your images will never sell.
For instance, if until now you have relied on your built-in flash as a proper source for indoor lighting it is a time to change your mind. Go to the stock sites and take a look how other photographers use light in their work. You will probably need to switch to some more professional sources of lighting for your indoor photography. Again – be creative and you will win the war for the buyers’ attention!
5) Images format must be JPG, typically from 2 megapixels and with max file size of 8-10 MB
6) Properly prepare your images before uploading them to stock photo sites First of all it means digital editing. There are many software applications that can help you to edit your image, starting from the industry leading Adobe Photoshop tool, the newest and much cheaper than Photoshop Adobe Lightroom and ending up with Google’s Picassa, which is available free of charge. However, making your image look gorgeous is yet not the final destination for a properly prepared stock photograph.
Think about buyers. Buyers still have to find your image among all the similar pictures in the web image database provided by a stock agency. It means you have to user proper descriptive keywords to index your imagery before uploading it to a stock photo site. All the stock photo agencies allow you to upload images and add keywords through their web sites. However, imagine yourself adding the same keyword to each one of your images at every stock site you have decided to work with. It easily multiples the amount of time you are going to spend preparing your images to be sold. Such multiplication of image preparation steps makes all the preparations process completely ineffective.
Fortunately, there is a nice alternative to re-inserting the keywords at each stock photo site – put them directly into your JPG file. Modern JPG implementations support so called IPTC protocol. This protocol is used by multiple applications to insert and edit image metadata, including keywords, captures (titles) and descriptions. Some heavy-duty expensive graphical applications, like Photoshop, support this format, allowing you to add keywords and titles to your images. However, since IPTC editing is not a core business for such graphical editing software, typically its IPTC modifications interface is quite limited and ugly.
Editing of IPTC data and selection of proper descriptive keywords can take significant amount of time, especially if English is not exactly your mother tongue or if you just prefer to shoot images rather than index them. Obviously, it would be nice to automate this process. I looked for some help on the Internet but did not find too much choice here. At the moment I can point out only one dedicated stock photography management tool that provides significant aid for a stock photographer, helping her with semi-automated images keywording, proper image preparation and simultaneous images upload to multiple leading stock photography agencies. The tool is called ProStockMaster and it is available for free download from the product web site: http://www.prostockmaster.com. The free version is limited to 5 image uploads daily which certainly could be enough for many beginning stock photo submitters. I am using this tool for a while and I found it to be a very useful stock photography workflow management application saving me many hours of dirty work on my computer.
7) Prices and payments – what income you can expect Most stock photography agencies implement pay-per-download business model, giving their submitters some payment each time their image is downloaded (purchased) by a buyer. This is a micro-payment model and the prices you get paid start as low as $0.20. However, if you were successful to create a highly demanded image you can easy hit few hundreds downloads a month, so your earning arithmetic can be $0.2 x 300 = $60 monthly, just for a single image.
Of course, the rule of the thumb says the more images you have online in each and every stock photography agency, the more images you sell monthly and the higher income you will get. Typically, stock agencies send you a check or a PayPal transfer at the end of every month. However, this is true only if you have earned more than a certain amount of cash, typically $50 – $100. If your earnings still did not reach this pre-defined amount you will be paid at the end of the month when your income reaches that payment barrier.
Well, that’s all folks! Just take your digital camera and go for a shooting session. Oh, – wait, wait a second. First, open your web browser and look what other people submit to stock photography agencies. Note the most popular images and read related web articles where agencies suggest their submitters on what they would accept and what is highly demanded by their buyers. Let me also give you a few personal tips, my $0.02 for your stock photography success. Please no close-up flowers, no landscapes, no buildings and snapshots. It is hard to get this stuff accepted by a stock photography agency. Shoot for business, trying to materialize business terms, e.g. ‘success’, ‘failure’, ‘funding’ and ‘partnership’ and be always creative in your work.
Good luck and happy shooting!