In my last post, “Stock Photography and Selling Photos Online for Beginners,” I gave an introduction on which stock photography websites I like to use and also named a few others that are out there you can try. Now with this post I want to better prepare yourself, so that you can learn from my own mistakes and get a better understanding on how stock photography works.
Key Word List
Every stock photography website requires you to add relevant keywords to your photos, so that customers can find exactly what they’re looking for. I would recommend that you start to build a separate word document composed of the keywords you have chosen for each photo, so that you don’t create any extra work in the long run. By doing this, you will be able to use the same keywords for each of the websites that you decide to use and help with new photos in the future. Knowing this a head of time would have helped me tremendously in the beginning because I was constantly trying to think of keywords, but couldn’t, because of the mental exhaustion of working with so many photos and different websites at one time. I also recommend if you do run into writer’s block when it comes to keywords, go to some of the stock photography websites and see what keywords other photographer are using for similar photos to yours.
Commercial or Editorial
After uploading your photos, every website gives you the option to upload them for either commercial (Royal Free) or editorial purposes. The commercial or Royal Free option should always be the first route to take, but only if you do not have any recognizable people, logos, brand names, recognizable private property, or anything else that might be questionable as “private,” unless you obtain a release form. Now if your photo can not be submitted for commercial purposes, this is where the Editorial option comes in and should be used when release forms can’t be obtained.
Model and Property Releases
Every stock photography website requires a release form for any recognizable person or private property that is composed in your shoot. Make sure if you plan on using a person (model) in your shot, that you ask them to sign a release form at the end of the photo session, otherwise you may not be able to use the photo for commercial purposes. Every website offers a release form that you can easily download and print. They are usually really simple, just follow the instructions and submit them with your photos when you are ready to upload them. If it is a picture of yourself, you will still have to submit a release form, but again it’s really simple and you should have no problems. Now if you’re taking a photo of private property, like a famous monument or somebody’s house, you may be required to submit a release form, but I have noticed that every website has different standards and you may just have to use the trial and error method to see what they do and do not accept when selling the photos commercial. When in doubt you can always submit every photo that you can’t obtain a release form, as editorial use only. Most of the time, your photo shouldn’t come back as rejected, but again, every website is different.
You may also notice that the websites offer an “exclusive option” for your photo. If you choose to go this route with your photos, you will make more money, but you are not allowed to upload those photos to any other stock photography websites or offer them for sale on your own website. Exclusive means your photo can only be available for sale on the stock photography website that you choose to go exclusive on. Of course you can always opt out of this option whenever you choose, but as long as that photo is marked as exclusive you must follow their policy or face possibly account termination. I personally do not like this option because I like to sell my photos on as many different websites as I can to better my chances. But the choice is yours and I only wanted to mention it because the option is out there.
After submitting your photos to a stock website and they are approved, you will start to see that different sizes and qualities are available for the customers to purchase. The bigger and higher quality of photo, the more money you make when they are purchased. So because of this I recommend that you shoot your photos in the highest quality possible and also when you are editing them, save them in the highest quality. The best option if possible, is shooting your photos is RAW format because it gives you the highest quality and you have full control over the photo when editing them in an external software. However, by doing this, the file size of each photo will be much larger and you will need plenty of available space on your SD card during your photo shoots. Of course it’s not required to shoot your photos in RAW, as you can still have much success shooting them in any format that you see fit.
Tax Forms and ID’s
Every website does require you to fill out tax forms in order to get paid because federal law requires any income earned, must be claimed on your yearly tax submission, but only if it’s over a certain amount. It’s not something to stress about, the process is simple and every website assists you with this. Also, keep in mind some of the websites also require you to submit an ID, such a driver’s license, to verify your identity.
You as the photographer retain all copyrights to your artwork whenever submitting your photos to stock photography websites. You are only selling royalties to use the photo and never actually selling the copyrights. However, some of the websites such as Dreamstime, do offer the option to actually sell the copyright at a price you set.
If you have a lot of photos from previous years that you want to submit online, have patience because it will take time and a lot of work in the beginning to get your portfolio how you want it. I myself had over 6,000 photos in the beginning that I had to sort through and clean up before getting them ready for submission. It took me a few months before I was completely finished uploading all of them, but now I don’t have to do anything else and they’re out there in the cyber abyss working for me. Don’t give up and if you have a lot of photos in the beginning like me, just do a few each day, so you won’t get burned out.
Keep in Mind
After submitting photos to a stock website, every photo has to be approved by a representative on their end. The turnaround time varies with each company and I have noticed that there isn’t really a time frame set in stone for any of them. I have seen photos being approved/rejected within hours of submission or as long as several weeks. So don’t worry about this and just keep uploading more photos in the meantime.
Don’t get Discouraged
Sooner or later as you continue to upload your photos online, you will have some that come back as rejected for any reason that the website provider decides. But don’t worry because if one website rejects a photo, another one might not, so just continue to throw it out there and see what sticks. This has happened to me a lot and if the same photo gets rejected from multiple websites, I archive it and take the opportunity to learn how to better my photo shoot in the future. Some of our biggest successes come from our biggest failures.
The amount of money you could be making every month is limitless and your success depends completely on you. The money is small in the beginning, but over time it starts to add up. One of the biggest benefits from using stock is that once your portfolio is established, you do not have to do anything else. You can sit back and watch the money roll in, as all your efforts and hard work is finally paying off. Of course you can always continue to add to your portfolio as new pictures are composed, and I believe that the more pictures you have out there, the better chance and more money you will make in the future. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start making some extra dollars today, because I can tell you first hand, it works!
If you have any questions or would like to share your experiences with stock photography, I encourage you to please leave a comment below.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase from the website, I will receive an affiliate commission