How To… Succeed In Selling Stock Photography Online

Pounds and Photography

Gaz wrote a smashing article the other day about Online Photo Libraries and how they have clearly ruined the stock photography market and crushed the soles of small time professional photographers (actually thatâ??s not really what he said I just wanted to spice things up a little. You should go ahead and read it by the way. It was very thought provoking.). For the most part I agree with what Gaz had to say, however I have been a member of a few of these libraries for a while and without putting any real effort into it Iâ??ve managed to make a reasonable amount of money from them. I thought Iâ??d do a quick guide to some of the online stock libraries and share with you some of my tips on how to become successful through them.

Before I get started I really aught to say that if you have an issue with earning very little for each sale you make donâ??t do this. Find another way to sell your photos. I promise you that if you canâ??t accept this one simple fact you will find selling images through these libraries entirely sole destroying.

Getting Started

The very first thing you need to do is go through your collection of photos and pick out the ones you think are best. Generally you need to be looking for images that are high quality, the equivalent of 3 megapixels or larger in size and that have something reasonably unique about them. By reasonably unique I mean things like a fresh viewpoint on a subject or a rare subject (e.g. an owl catching its prey). Reasonable uniqueness isnâ??t essential, but it will greatly improve your chances of making a sale. Most of the heavy users of these libraries are people like web developers, commercial blog writers, and people who need images for newsletters and press releases. With this in mind the images that sell the best are conceptual images – images that can convey a message.

When you have your images sorted itâ??s time to hit the libraries. I have tried about a million of these and the ones I have found to be most successful for me are the following:

I particularly like these libraries because the images I upload donâ??t have to be exclusive to each site and the payouts are some of the fairest out there. Thatâ??s not to say that the payouts are good. They really arenâ??t. For each sale I only get between 20c and $1.50. Depending on the volume of sales I make these royalties can go up, but theyâ??re never going to be impressive.

You need to register with each library and youâ??ll have to pass a submission test before you can start selling. This involves uploading a few of your photos for them to assess. If you fail assessment you will be told why and then you can apply again. If you pass you can start uploading the images you want to sell. Youâ??ll need to give each photo a title, a description, select a number of suitable categories for it to sit in and create a list of keywords that pertain to the image. This helps place the image appropriately when a buyer does a search.

Every image you upload will go through the approval process again and wonâ??t be available for sale until it passes. Providing you follow the sitesâ?? guidelines for submitting photos you should have no problems. Once a photo is approved itâ??s up and available to buy until you decide you want to stop selling it.

Another reason I particularly like the libraries in the list above is that they all offer buyers the ability to buy different licences for your images. Now unless you are pretty lucky, itâ??s not incredibly likely that you will sell any images for full exclusive rights, but it you do you could be looking at a few thousand for your trouble. It hasnâ??t happened to me yet, but I live in hope.

How to Really Succeed

The key to being successful in these libraries is to create large conceptual images and lots of them. The larger the image is the more media it can be used for. If you can produce thousands of images that cover as many categories as possible you will maximise your exposure and therefore your chance to make a sale. Obviously the higher the quality the better and the more you think about your keywords and image titles the better too.

Categories that will always sell well are:

  • Images of people. These are the hardest to produce because firstly you need willing models and secondly youâ??ll need to upload a signed model release with each photo.
  • Images that convey business messages.
  • Business orientated conceptual images.
  • Warm and fuzzy conceptual images.
  • Money conceptual images.
  • Seasonal images when they are in season. You wonâ??t sell Christmas images during Easter.

Images that donâ??t sell very well are:

  • Pet portraits.
  • Landscapes (unless theyâ??re exceptional).
  • Pictures of fruit and other very accessible still life.

Make sure you keep tabs on which images are selling best from other photographers. Donâ??t just flat out copy what they have done though. Take pictures that are similar but with your own unique twist to them. If a buyer is presented with 30 pictures that are all basically the same theyâ??ll just pick the first one. Or even worse theyâ??ll decide that they wanted something more unique and go elsewhere.

If a genre is flooded with thousands of photos, donâ??t bother trying to compete. Find another genre where you could really make an impact.

Lastly, be patient. It may take a while before you see any real results. Keep plugging away, use your head and youâ??ll soon get there. Most of all have fun. You wonâ??t make a living from these libraries any time soon, so if youâ??re not enjoying it why do it?

Online Photo Libraries – Am I Their Cheap Whore?

Online Libraries - Am I Selling Myself

We were discussing online photo libraries and the impact they have had on photography and photographers. Back when I were a lad, stock photography meant supplying thousands of transparencies to a library who would produce and distribute expensive catalogues to design studios and the like, at enormous expense.

The commission for each picture sold was quite respectable though.

The online library makes it all much simpler, of course. Simpler to get accepted into a library, simpler to get your pictures seen, simpler to buy images and simpler to calculate your wedge. However, the online library has also lead to a dilution of the quality of images for sale. Worst of all, it has lead to paltry, pathetic commissions for the photographer and I think it is a great pity that we have allowed this to happen. Unfortunately the same system which has made it possible for anyone to sell their beautiful images to a global audience has also made it possible for anyone to sell their crap images and the standard is continuing to drop!

I realize it is unfair to blame the libraries entirely – they are (kind of) the victims here, too. They have been forced to drive the prices down to compete with other libraries who are forced to drive their prices down and so on. Selling your art for a few pence and relying on thousands of people wanting to use the same image seems a bit lacking in self-respect to me. And yet I too have signed up with a number of online libraries.

What we need is some innovation. Someone needs to think of a way to sell images online at a sensible price with a fair commission. Then they need to find the balls to actually go out there and do it!

Maybe we should do it? Then I can be the Madam of a high class establishment instead of a cheap whore.