Shoot for stock

How to sell shots to commercial image libraries?

The purpose of image libraries is to form a link between photographers and the people, companies and organisations that buy photographs. They store vast numbers of images, which are categorised and key-worded so that anyone looking for an image can browse through a collection of suitable shots and select the ones they want.

A good place to start when reviewing your shots is to look at what’s already on stock sites

Because they have so many images available, these libraries are often the first port of call for someone who’s looking for a photograph, and there’s a constant demand for new images of all manner of subjects. The first step in submitting stock images to a library or agency is to identify the one that works best for you. Libraries such as Alamy, iStock and Getty have massive collections of images, but there are also smaller agencies that concentrate on specific topics. If, for example, you shoot lots of macro images of flowers, you might want to look for an agency that mainly deals with botanical images.

Quality control

Take a look at a variety of library websites, and read their submission guidelines and terms and conditions carefully. Libraries sell or license the use of images, with some selling shots “royalty-free”, which means the buyer can use them as many times as they like for any purpose. Others will price images depending on the intended use, or the size at which they’ll be reproduced.

Leave space for copy and your shots will be more useful to designers…

Whichever agency you decide to submit to, your images need to pass their strict quality control criteria before they’ll be accepted. When you upload images to a library they’ll be carefully inspected, and if they pass the library’s quality checks they’ll be made available for key-wording by the photographer. Key-wording is an art form in itself, and it’s a good idea to think laterally about each shot; as well as adding the subject matter, include words that explain any emotions, seasons or events that could be linked to the image.

5 top tips for making money from stock images

stock images

Do not bank on it

Make sure stock photography is just one of the eggs in your basket. With micro stock agencies making prices drop by selling images in bulk, even top pros can struggle to make a good return from stock sales.

Think stock

Take your camera everywhere, and even if you’re shooting for fun consider the stock potential of what you’re shooting. Always take the same shot in portrait and landscape orientation, and with different proportions.

Mix it up

It’s surprising how often images that you might think are a little bland, such as an anonymous landscape or a simple abstract shot, will sell well; but don’t be afraid to try something a bit different too, to catch the eye.

Editing images

It may seem like a tedious job, but it’s vital that you edit your shots before you submit them. Strong, bright colours work well – and get rid of dust spots. Make sure you include metadata, too, and add relevant keywords.

The small print

Read the info for contributors on stock websites, to check how to submit images. Often there’s a minimum number of photos they’ll accept from a new photographer, and there will usually be some forms to fill out.