Top 8 Tips for Selling Stock Photography

Posted on May 15, 2024 | Updated on June 11, 2024

Imagine a young photographer who took a photo last month everyone raved about. Social media users shared it, a few people wanted rights to use it and it’s some of the best work they’ve done. Such a scenario is possible frequently when you sell your work online. Selling stock photography tips can take you from snapping images to another stream of freelance income.

Stock photography considers advertisers, bloggers and commercial interests and what types of photos they’re looking for. The market may be a bit flooded at the moment, but online discussion forums by professional photographers indicate there is still room for everyone to sell their images. 

If you want to try your hand at selling stock photography, check out our favorite tips to make the most of your efforts.

1. Find Your Niche

Getty Images did a deep dive into what their business partners want going forward. They found 98% of consumers desire authentic images and videos. When you hone in on a specialty area, you’ll better understand what advertisers in that arena want. You can create photographs that are engaging and truthful. 

A good place to start as you choose your specializations is by seeing what people search for most frequently on your favorite stock photo sites. 

2. Study Your Target Audience

Think about the companies using the type of photographs you plan to sell. Study their social media pages, blog and website to get a feel for the types of images they purchase. You might discover they like light, cheerful images or dark, serious ones. 

Once you have a feel for the types of images your target audience prefers, it’s easier to add new ones they might want to purchase. Reach out to them and let them know you have a profile on their favorite stock image site. 

3. Price Your Work

Revenue for photographic services will reach $5.8 million in 2024. Stock photography is in demand, but pricing your work may not be as simple and throwing on an amount. How much you can charge depends on the platform and what other artists sell their photographs for. 

Pay attention to the premium images that demand more money and add a few to your portfolio to up your earnings. You may want to branch into stock video footage, too. Adding videos to your product line can further increase your profits. 

4. Study Your Craft

One thing successful stock photography site sellers have in common is excellent images. The higher quality your work is, the more visuals you’ll sell. Take the time to study best practices. The Rule of Thirds might apply to photography with a single subject but not to product photography, for example. 

5. Invest in Your Business

TechRadar released a 2024 list of the best professional cameras for photography. Most basic cameras start around $1,000. Expect to pay more as you add lenses and other equipment. Although the quality of your equipment makes a difference in the finished photos, you can start your business with a recent iPhone with a high-quality camera and upgrade as you earn revenue. 

6. Learn Basic SEO

Stock photo sites serve as giant search engines pulling up images based on keywords. Knowing what language people use when they look for visuals like yours allows you to describe the item in a way that puts it in front of the right buyers. 

Everything from your descriptions to the tags you use can impact how many people see your photos and if it’s your target audience. 

7. Upload Frequently

The more images you have on a site, the more likely you’ll attract buyers. Successful stock photo freelancers upload new images often. They also list their photos across multiple sites to reach the most people possible. Set a goal to take at least a few photos every day, edit them and upload them to your profile. 

You can sell on multiple stock photo websites, as long as you avoid an exclusive contract with sites such as iStock. Ideally, you’ll sell multiple downloads to different clients on a variety of platforms, reaching as many people as possible with your art. 

8. Perfect Your Editing

Once you’ve learned photography basics, such as lighting and composition, you can take your work to the next level with editing. An attractive image becomes stunning with the right editing. Today’s photographers might tap into the power of AI to add unique elements and create cutting edge work no one else is capable of. Start with a photo you took and add some other worldly elements, for example. 

The better your editing becomes, the more photos you’ll sell on stock sites. You could also tap into markets such as book covers with a few connections. 

List of Stock Photography Sites

Once you’re ready to upload your photos to a stock site, you’ll want to sign up for one or more of the following popular repositories:

  • iStock
  • Deposit Photo
  • Shutterstock 
  • Adobe Stock 
  • Wirestock
  • Dreamstime
  • Alamy 
  • 123RF
  • Storyblocks

The first four sites are typically the best earners but it also depends on your niche. When just starting, try a variety of stock sites and see which one performs best for your photos. 

You could also set up a website and sell directly to clients you’ve worked with in the past. Custom jobs when they need a specific batch of product photos or other material may bring in a bit more freelance income. Be open to different options and network with past clients and fellow photographers to bring in multiple streams of income. 

Pay Attention to Trends

The world of stock photography is ever changing and highly competitive. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a perfect example of a shifting landscape in the industry. Pay close attention to any changes in photography and stock photos in particular. You may be able to get ahead of a trend by paying attention to current events and news pieces. Watch social media to see how brands are advertising and the images they use. With a bit of focus, you can get ahead of any trend and increase stock photo sales. 

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