Monetizing Your Photography Hobby with Stock Photography

I have loved photography for a large portion of my life.  I enjoy the process of making a photograph, the system for organizing my photo archive, and the pleasure of sharing my memories with family and friends.  Combining my love of travel with photography makes my vacations even more enjoyable and memorable.

A few years ago, I became interested in the idea of monetizing my photography hobby.  I researched various stock photography sites, how those sites market your photos, and how the photographer benefits.  The basic premise of stock photo sites is that you, the photographer, upload your photo to the site, the photo then becomes part of a large, trusted database for prospective buyers.  When someone purchases a copy of your photo, the stock site keeps a portion of the money for themselves, and you, the photographer is paid a fee for your photo.  One catch is that most sites have a minimum total proceed amount that you must meet before actually being paid any money.  This is one thing to keep in mind when deciding to monetize your photos.  You may sell many photos, but if you never meet the required minimum for a check to be sent to you, then you will never see any money in your pocket.

After considering the process of selling stock photography, I decided to try iStockphoto with a small selection of my travel photos.  There is a small application process to become an uploaded with iStockphoto, during which the photographer needs to pass a short quiz regarding general photography practices, as well as upload sample photos for quality inspection.  After completing this steps, I was approved as an uploader and free to submit my photos for inclusion in the iStockphoto database.

I began uploading the best of my photos, considering what subject matters may appeal to the public.  Stock photography is not your family Christmas photos and personal wedding images.  Stock photography is general images that would appeal to people searching for general imagery to illustrate a specific idea or theme, such as newspapers, advertisers, or other publications.  Your stock photos need to be general enough to appeal to a large amount of buyers, but unique enough to make your specific image stand out amongst thousands of other choices.

One of my stock photos.
The upload process itself is for the most part simple, but does require some time.  Stock photography sites review each and every photo submission for content and quality, and I can say that a large amount of my uploads were rejected for quality issues, which is frustrating.  During the upload process, you can tag your photo with keywords.  Keywords are how your photos will be found when would-be purchasers search for photos they are interested in.  You may have the most unique, beautiful photo in the world, but if it is not tagged with the proper keywords, nobody will ever find it.

Once your photo is accepted to the stock photo site, it is there for everyone and anyone to purchase.  Some sites also allow users to rate and comment on your images.  It's interesting and exciting to see people rate your photos, purchase them and enjoy something you created.

In the years that followed my initial start with iStockphoto, I have interacted with the site sparingly, mostly because I do not take a great number of photos that lend themselves to stock.  My iStockphoto portfolio includes a few dozen photos, many of which have been bought multiple times.  The payment structure of iStockphoto requires you to amass $100 in sales before being able to collect any money.  I've eclipsed this amount, but barely.

As an individual who considers photography a hobby, and uses stock photography simply as a way to share my photos with the possibility of monetizing them, I've enjoyed the stock photography process.  If I had more time to work with my photos, I would be able to expand my collection on iStockphoto, and therefore have a greater revenue flow from my photos.  Some people who have an extremely large amount of photos available on stock sites, or have a small amount of very unique, high-demand photos are able to make a very consistent, substantial amount of money from their photos.  In this scenario, stock photography is a great income producing asset to have as a passive income stream.

If you're a part-time photographer looking for a way to get your photos out in the world, or monetize them, you should consider stock photo sites.  Be sure to do some research first, however, and know all of the rules, copyright issues, and ways your photos will be used once uploaded on the stock photo site.

Do you use stock photo sites, either to buy or sell photos?  What tips do you have for maximizing the monetary value of your photos?

1 comment:

  1. My cousin has an internet company/website where content creators can also earn money by sharing their stuff. I don't have any half-decent photos, music, videos, an interesting blog or anything to share myself, but the idea seems interesting.

    Basically people give money to the authors by commenting on the content. I think one of the ideas is that since the highest paid comment shows up at the top, advertisers could post an ad in the more popular videos or galleries or whatever.

    If I'm not mistaken, you could also post a link to a blog or just about anything else on the website as well.

    Anyways, I haven't had anything to publish that I feel is worth anything, but thought I'd share this since it's pretty closely related.

    It's found at http://www.favor.fi/