How to Get Started in Stock Photography

My name is Julian Elliott. I’m a
professional landscape and travel photographer. And I also spend a lot of
time doing stock photography. If you’re interested in keeping up with what it is
that I do, and I do quite a lot during a year, make sure you click on subscribe
down there in the bottom right hand corner. What is Stock Photography? So what is stock photography? Stock
photography can be anything from landscape photography to travel
photography. Fashion and portrait all these kind of things. Things that
illustrate different aspects of the world around us. And you also have two
different sides to stock photography. There’s the creative side which I do and
also the other side which I do which is editorial photography. Creative is
basically your own vision of what you think is going to sell as far as you
might have a beautiful landscape in front of you. Or you might have a
beautiful woman and you take a photograph or your kids doing things.
These kind of things. There’s all sorts of different strands to the creative side
and then on the other side, as I said, there’s the editorial side and of course
editorial has many different strands as well. So you have things such as
newsworthy items such as sports and events. There’s also things such as the
weather. All different kind of things. The best idea with editorial photography
is have a look at a newspaper or an online newspaper and you’ll get a pretty
good idea of editorial photography. It’s basically what’s going on now in the
world. The Competition? So what’s the competition
that’s out there already? Now be aware that when it comes to stock photography there’s many
different image libraries out there. Obviously people such as
Getty; Alamy; Robert Harding; Blend and Image Source. There’s so many different people
out there. But be aware that there’s millions of images out there because as
we have this advent of the digital age it’s made photography a lot easier for
people to do and also there’s a lot of people that are doing it that are not
full-time professionals like myself. So competition is massive out there already
but on the other hand it shouldn’t be a game stopper for you. It shouldn’t stop
you taking your steps into the world of stock photography because it might be
that somebody down the road does stock photography that you know and you think “yeah their images are okay but I can do better than them” and that’s always the
key. So just think about it. That there is a lot of competition but how much better
can you do against that competition and then that will lead you in to the next
step. Quality AND Quantity The next step is both quality and
quantity. Now there’s something that you’ll see every so often and a
certain mentality that people have to say I have 100 images in this library.
And this month I’ve sold about $30 worth. So by the law of averages if I have 200
images by the end of next month that means I should be earning $60 in
that month. Now it doesn’t work that way. What it comes down to is basically –
it’s not just the quantity of images that you’re taking it’s also the quality of
the images that you’re taking. If you can have for example a thousand images in
a particular image library but if they don’t look very good. If they’re badly
lit and taken at the wrong time as day or whatever then who on earth is going
to buy them? So it must be quality and quantity together to be able to succeed in this particular game of stock photography. Quality Matters Quality mark two.
I want to underline quality again. It cannot be said often enough. The quality
will trump quantity in this game. Okay you might have 5000 amazing images but
really the quality does have to be there as well you must learn when it is that
you should and shouldn’t take imagery in this particular field of stock
photography. You see so many different things out there when people are saying
why is it that my imagery doesn’t sell? And then you look at their portfolio and
you get a pretty good idea. I remember a conversation with a photographer I
had three or four years ago now and he said “could you just sort of take a look
and what it is that I’m doing and I can’t understand why I’m not getting
regular sales.” And I looked at his work and I said “do you live in the particular
place that you took this photo? Yes. Why did you do it. Why did you take that
photo? I know it was the wrong time of day I shouldn’t have taken
it. There you go this underlines what I’m saying. If you’re knowing places that
you’re going to and even if you’re going to somewhere new climates new we’ve got
so many tools at our disposal like Google Earth and the Photographer’s
Ephemeris that will give you the angle of light certainly for using in travel
and landscape photography. Use the tools that are there to help you get great
imagery and the quality of your imagery because you need that quality to be
there to be making regular sales of stock photography. Rights Managed or Royalty Free? The next question that photographers
deal with is do I sell my work as royalty-free
or do I sell it there’s rights managed? And it’s a question that is forever
enraging photographers because it gets into heavy debate on many forums around
photography and stock photography as to where you should and shouldn’t put your
work. Royalty-free it does have a place. And rights managed it has its place as
well. Royalty free, certainly the libraries such as Shutterstock; Dreamstime; Adobe Stock and Fotolia. They’re dealing with royalty free. And people put
their imagery in there and they’re happy with what they get. I have imagery in
Shutterstock but what I do have in there is actually very old imagery, if I’m
honest, there’s a lot of work that’s in there but it’s actually quite a number of years old now but I’m also putting stuff into places like Robert
Harding world imagery and my main image library which is the Getty Images
library. And Getty Images is world-renowned for its rights
managed stock of images. So each library has its own different intricacies that
you’re going to have to deal with. And you’ll have to decide do you want to go the
royalty-free route or do you want to get the rights managed route. One thing that I
will say for rights managed is if your work happens to be stolen and this does
happen a lot now because of the Google search images; the MSN search all
these type of search engines that are indexing our images. If your work gets
stolen and its rights managed you’ve actually got a better chance of going to
a particular infringer and saying you’ve stolen my work unfortunately you’re
going to have to remove this work and this is what you’re going to have to pay.
If it’s rights managed you’ve got a better chance of actually getting a
better price for the work than if it’s in royalty free and I say that from
experience of actually dealing with a lot of infringements myself. Because I’ve
heard the line so often but why are you charging me this when I can go to
Shutterstock and I can buy it for ten pounds? Fine, try going and find the particular image in
Shutterstock for ten pounds. You’re not going to because that particular image
is rights managed. So it’s a lot easier to justify to a potential infringer a
rights managed price than it is a royalty-free so be very cautious as to
where it is that you’re going to put your imagery if it goes into royalty
free or rights managed. Royalty-free is going to give you a quick buck. Rights
managed isn’t but if something goes wrong it is better if it’s dealt with
under the rights managed model. Rejection! Number six. You must learn to accept and
expect rejection when you’re sending images to the various image libraries.
One of the sole image libraries that I can think of right now off the top of my
head where you’re not going to get rejection if you pass the quality
control is Alamy. Because Alamy will pretty much take anything and everything
as long as it passes their quality control. And that is basically, and it
should be in it’s the same for any library, is making sure that your images
are clean and free of dust spots and things such as chromatic aberration.
However there are some traditional libraries that are still out there that
you will send them a batch of images of say a hundred images and what they will
say is we want these 25 because we think these 25 over here have great sales
potential but the 75 over here we’re not interested and any similars you can’t
send off to another library and all the others are rejected. It may be
disheartening but it’s being done for a reason. The libraries have better data
than us as to what is actually selling out there. So don’t look at rejection as
failure. Look at it as something to spur you on and actually go okay they’ve
taken this. What is it that I need to do to up my game so if I’m sending them
another hundred images instead of them taking 25 they’re actually going to take
a hundred images. So look at rejection and learn how to deal with it and how it
can push your work forward. Variety Number seven is variety. Now I started
out as a dedicated landscape photographer and I learned very quickly
in the world of stock photography that if you try to do just landscape
photography you’re not going to get anywhere. The days of being able
to earn a lot of money from stock photography from landscape as stock
photography they are long long gone and it’s just not going to happen now. Maybe
on some of the micro stock libraries you’ll be earning money but not a lot
from just landscape photography but it is far far better to have a good, wide
variety of imagery in your stock photography portfolio. The wider and the
more subjects the type of subjects that you’re shooting the better chance it is
that you’re actually going to sell your work and keep selling it regular and
also keep adding to it. So learn to get out of just one particular frame of mind
and saying I’m a landscape photographer that’s all I do I don’t want to do
anything else. As far as stock photography goes you can
forget that. You must learn to adapt and you must learn to have a lot of good
variety of good quality images that are of a variety in stock photography Which Library? Number eight is which library to go to?
Now there are many different libraries out there that you can go to. So you have
quite a wide variety of choice. People such as Getty Images or Shutterstock
they have pretty much a wide variety of subjects that they’re dealing with. You
can find pretty much anything in both of those particular libraries. But you also
get other libraries that are dealing with specific areas of
photography so for example another place that I submit my work to is called
Robert Harding world imagery and Robert Harding are pretty much dealing with
travel photography.They want subjects from across the world showing the cities
the landscapes the people and anything and everything else that is travel
photography and the wide breadth of travel photography around the world that
we can that we can drum up as photographers. There are other libraries
I think it’s called SPL science picture library they’re dealing with images on a
scientific level and you also get other libraries that are dealing with things
on a food level. If I remember correctly I found one a
while ago that was dealing with things on a drink level on an alcohol
level. So there’s many different libraries and then in many different
subsections of libraries that you can be dealing with. Who you go to is up to you.
I’m not going to advise you as to who you should go to because you’ll find
that one library will deal with you in a particular way and one library is better
with dealing with you in a particular way than another library. So do your
research see who’s out there and you’ll come across various libraries that will
suit your needs. Try all of them and see how far and how well you do in a
particular library and to know whether you want to dedicate your time to that
particular library or libraries It’s a long term thing Number nine. You must be in this for the
long term. And I know people are going to say to me how long is it going to take
me before I’m earning $10,000 a year from my stock photography? And it’s not
as simple as that. You must build up your portfolio you
must have that quality in there and then also a lot of other factors come into
this such as who is actually looking at the imagery? Is the right client
looking at it? Which then comes down to the library. And how much they’ve got to
spend. How much then the library is actually going to let that image go for?
And there’s just so many different things as to how much it is you’re
actually going to get. What I will say is if you keep looking at everything that I
was saying and adding in everything you will get returns but what you’re going
to get is very much dependent on the library because it will be the library
in the end that dictates how much it is you’ll earn. But you have to be in this for
the long term You will see returns but it’s just there’s so many different
factors that’s in this so if I give you an example from the magazine industry.
Right now a photography magazine has given you guidance on how to take photos
they might be right now working on the issue for autumn because they’re working
that far in advance so if you go out in October this year in October 2018 and
you start taking autumn images you might not see them sold to a particular
magazine until six months later until they’ve gone round a particular cycle.
Things do go in cycles so it might be that your summer imagery actually sales in the
winter that your spring imagery sales in the depths of autumn so be aware of this.
Things will go in cycles and you will get returns but it just depends on what
the customer is looking for at the particular time. Who they are and what
their different deadlines are. So there’s many many different things you have to
be aware of as to when you’re actually going to get your returns and as I said
you must be in it for the long term. What sells? So of course I have left the best question to last. The ultimate question is of course, people will say, so what sells? Well there’s…how
do you approach this? It’s difficult because I am in two minds as to exactly
tell you what does and doesn’t sell. I have my own sales records to see what’s
sold for me so I have a pretty good idea what sells for me. But what sells for me
might not sell for you. So you have to bear that in mind. If you look on
particular forums such as the Alamy forum you will see that there is a thread
each month that says “have you found any images sold by Alamy?” As it helps
people to keep an idea of where their work is being sold because sometimes
things don’t get reported. What I would urge you to do is to one take a look at
the thread and you can get a good idea of what is selling. However don’t look at
the thread and go somebody sold a great picture of the Eiffel Tower today. I know
I’m going to go to France I’m going to Paris and I’m going to take a picture of
the Eiffel Tower. It just does not work that way. It’s what the client is looking
for at the particular time. What contracts and what
library the client is locked into. What price they can get it for. There’s so
many different factors as to what it is that’s going to be selling it at a
particular time. Certainly on the creative side. On the editorial side it’s
different again because there’s obviously newsworthy items that are
going around. If you just look in any newspaper you’ll see current events and
what’s going on so it could be the weather it could be a concert it could
be for example in my hometown at the moment I am from the city of Salisbury
in the South of England and I’m sure if you’re watching the news at the moment
you cannot have missed what is going on in Salisbury right now. That’s editorial.
That’s the editorial side and that particular story is being sold pretty
much every single day as far as editorial because there are…it’s a
continuing and developing event that’s going on all the time. But there’s sports.
There’s just a myriad of things that go into editoriel photography and what is selling as editorial photography. So a tiny bit
of insight maybe as to what it is you can be selling and what actually is
selling but I don’t want to say too much from my own perspective because as I’ve
alluded to in other videos in the past you wouldn’t expect Samsung to walk into
Apple and say well can you tell us what your latest invention is because we’d
love to do something similar and we’d love to sell something similar. What do
you think the answer is going to be? There are ways and means of getting a good
idea of what is selling out there so just have a little thought.
Have a think about it properly.Think logically and you will get a good idea
of what is selling out there. So that’s how I’m going to conclude this
particular episode of this week’s vlog. What’s coming up in the next vlog? Well
in a few days time I’m off to another city and I’m there and I’m dedicating my
time to that particular city. I have five nights there. What I might be doing, and
I’m not sure if it’s going to work yet or not, I might see if I can do a daily
vlog again and see how hard it will be for me to do the imagery and a daily
vlog. I’ve certainly got a few ideas. I’ve got a few things lined up as to what it is
that I’m going to be doing in this particular city so that will be coming
up. Until then thanks again to all my subscribers past present and hopefully
future. Until the next time take care and I’ll see you soon!

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44 thoughts on “How to Get Started in Stock Photography

  1. Hope you all like this week's vlog! Next week, or the week after depending on time, will be a city based vlog. I won't say where as it would spoil it.

    Any questions? Do ask!

  2. My short list for future blog posts includes this topic. Quality, Quantity, and Relevant Keywords (plus being dedicated for the long haul) are definitely what it takes to make stock a big part of your photo income. Thanks for putting your knowledge out there!

  3. Very informative Julian. However I do have a few questions about selling to stock sites. If you have an image of Glencoe for instance that the stock site accepts to use, can you still sell this image as prints for example off your own website. Or will they have total rights to it. Also how do you get around taking images that involve people such as a shot of Princes St in Edinburgh where you cant get a model release for any people or possibly the structure in the shot. Great stuff as always and hope you do manage a vlog from your next trip. Atb

  4. As Scot says, very informative and makes me realise how hard stock is. I'll have to watch this a few more times. Can't be easy for stock photographers with the onset of mobile photography. Cheers.

  5. Great video Julian. I'm into my second year with stock supplying mainly product, landscape and some editorial as well. Been slow and small amounts starting to come in now. I started using it as a learning tool getting images through their QC to further my camera skills.
    Its as you say about rejection just get used to it and move on but you soon learn how to avoid the more obvious rejection reasons which are mostly common sense Dust, Exposure, Noise & Focus. Couldn't crack Harding as I don't travel enough but plenty of others. Its definitely been a steep learning curve but fun and frustrating at the same time!! Again Great video

  6. thanks .please tell us how many images do you have in their library and how much do you make per month?

  7. Game Over! Now all the secrets are out 😉 ! In terms about what sells, I'll throw a "freebie" in for your followers – cats. Cats always work/sell. Enjoy the weekend!

  8. Hi Julian,

    Cool you also submit to Robert Harding. Good explanation RF vs RM.

    All the best


  9. At approximately 13:44 you mention people asking…"How long is it going to take before I'm actually earning $10,000 a year…". Holy cow. If that's considered above average for a stock photographer…I think I'll find other ways of making money from my photography. 10k/year is not going to earn you a living in any part of the USA unless you have zero financial obligations.

    Stock photography is obviously meant to be supplemental income at best and certainly not a career unless you are in the .00001% who are able to pull that off.

  10. hello fellow stock photographer. I also created video like that.. it is nice to hear your point of view on this. It is not like everybody thinks… snap photos, upload it and make money. Yes you have to make some serious decisions and you need to know lots about it to be successful. Great video.

  11. Thanks, Mr. Elliott. You answered many questions I had concerning stock photography. Much appreciated.

  12. Thanks for the video I am new to all this, where is the best place to store my pictures,, if I put my pictures on a memory stick does it loose information data or cloud storage..

  13. Hello! If I took a picture of the famous architectural monument and later I decided to sell this image on one of the stock image websites. Should I be prepared to offer property release document together with the uploaded photo?

  14. Shutterstock is by no means the best microstock agency in the whole world; it gives the best customer service to their clients and also treats their contributors fairly well. Every newbie contributor should do everything they can to get into their program, and those who haven't joined are definitely missing out a great deal. Everyone wants to join Shutterstock, and they on the other hand reject everyone, there are simply too many submissions a day, I hear that there are millions of images uploaded to their website in a single day, no wonder why they are so strict? Other microstock agencies have some requirements too, but are not as strict as Shutterstock is, simply because they are the best. Here is a full article I have composed about my experience with Shutterstock as a contributor. Read…

    Even though I get lots of rejections at Shutterstock every time I submit images, I still continue to do so. When you have done the best you can for your images yet still get rejected by the best microstock agency, you have no choice but simply to comply with their demands. There isn't a better alternative. Is there? There isn't much of a choice anyway.

  15. Great Video this has explained so much compared to other videos on stock photography. I just started and earned my first 4 bucks. I’m definitely gonna have more variety, A large portion of my photos were landscape, I’m gonna mix it up now.

  16. Hello, are you interested in photography products? We have products for free. If interested, you can join our free photography items group: .We have youtbe light, photo box, led video light and so on for free

  17. Thank you for this video, very informative and professionally explained. P. S. What calendar 🗓 do you have there on the wall,, may I ask? Looks like a nice wall calendar.

  18. This is why the world is full of photographers now 😛 youtube videos make it sound so easy.. there are many negatives in this also. imagine you have 2000 photographs only your best ones will make it through, might be 800 photos of hard work, years, and lots of money spend to create them( travels, models, lenses, studio lights etc) after 1 month you might make $50 to $80. because lets be honest even the best photos will take time to grow and the maximum buys could be around 100 to 200 downloads of 19 to 25, cents thats nothing ( the more photographers, the cheaper the price )we are talking about billions of photographs of any subject you can imagine.. most of this guys on youtube don't just do stock photography thats their lowest profit. they do blogs, vlogs, assignments, etc it's not easy to make money from photography

  19. the stock libraries often say what they want, why spend 5 minutes avoiding telling people what sells Julian

  20. I shoot on my mobile phone, I have nearly 600 images on line and I've sold 57 to date. For me this proves it's not what you shoot with but what you shoot and no, I'm no amazing photographer, I'm very much a beginner.

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