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Creating an additional residual income that requires little effort to maintain is just one of the many benefits of expanding your photography services into stock photography. The market is wide open from publishers of magazines, books and calendars to advertising agencies and greeting-card companies to name just a few.

Micro Stock Vs. Regular Stock

Micro stock images are royalty-free and carry a much lower price point than regular stock. Sites selling micro stock will often charge a monthly subscription and allow volume downloads of anywhere from 100-200 images in return for the fee. As a photographer you may end up receiving only .50 on the dollar per image. 

Regular stock agencies also offer royalty-free images however they will charge premium prices of any where from $75-400 per image. In turn the photographer will receive 50-75% of that fee.(1)

See more: Choosing a Niche: Introduction to Stock Photography

What to Shoot

Choice of Subject

Create a visually stunning concept using models and props to tell a story with your image.


Use your photographic skills to take a well-composed and lit shot to express a mood. Utilize atmospheric lighting and a focal point to add emphasis.

Keywording and Description

Make it easy for buyers to find your images. Try this free keywording tool out to assure your getting the most out of your images.(2)

According to photographer J. Meyers, “Stock photography needs to contain a strong commercial subject and concept, while being useful to designers. It’s unlikely you’ll make much of a success from pictures of your kids, pets or garden flowers because these areas have been comprehensively covered.” Check out top selling micro stock photographer Yuri Arcurs for inspiration. Here’s some of Yuri’s tips for choosing a subject:

  • Lifestyle –  This is one of the hardest areas to stand out in. Yuri recommends staying “more naturalistic” with a “less processed style.” He also predicts the decline of the fascination with Instragram images over the next 2-3 years.
  • Business – Still considered the top seller amongst all stock agencies. Since the financial crisis, showing business people and companies in distress have been trending. 
  • Medical/Health – Stay away from the typical doctor in scrubs with a stethoscope shot. Instead opt for ingredients for healthy eating. Showing low GI foods, Paleo, raw, low carb, gluten free, lactose intolerance, vegan, dietary supplements and other similarly specific food concepts is key.
  • Spa/Wellness – Images depicting sport activities like cycling and cross-fit training are receiving big attention. Also, getting in touch with nature along with tastefully shot sexy and nude portraiture showing body-consciousness are popular.(4)

boudoir woman

How & Where to Submit to Stock Photography Agencies

Here’s the top 15 places to sell your photos with this method. Get familiar with their sites and see what’s selling. Be sure to follow their submission guidelines to a “T”. They want photographers who are professional and easy to work with.


  • They handle the marketing
  • Advice on what’s selling
  • Additional editorial assignments


  • Lower profits
  • Hard to get representation
  • Contracts – You may have to lock yourself into an exclusive with one agency.

model on blue backdrop

Tips for Selling Through Your Site

Outdoor photographer Art Wolfe believes “The large stock houses are increasingly failing both photographers and photo buyers. Their strategies are a disaster for stock shooters.” 

WordPress finally has a free plug-in called Sell Media. With nifty extensions like a watermark maker, zoom tool and customizable commissions, there’s not excuse for not selling through your site.

Hosted solutions, such as LiveBooks, offer custom-built ecommerce solutions however this option can get a bit pricey.


  • Higher Profit – All the profits are 100% yours! What should you charge? Check out these pricing tips or try this free demo from FotoQuote.
  • Niche Markets – Find your specialty and a good client to get repeat work. Read how photographer Randy Santos used this technique to start DCStockImages.com.
  • Personal Responsibility – You’ll feel empowered knowing that you built this money engine yourself.


  • Competition – Everybody wants to get in on the stock photography game. Randy Santos made himself an expert in SEO and credits this knowledge to his success. 
  • Time – You’ll be producing work that you hope will sell, not work you’ve been hired and guaranteed payment on.
  • Costs – Absorbing the cost of all stock shoots can get pricey. You’ll need to factor this into your final pricing structure.

Cheryl Woods

Cheryl Woods is an accomplished photographer, designer and branding consultant with a career spanning 20+ years. Her photographic work includes editorial, fashion, portraiture and product photography for major companies in the consumer products field including QVC and Hanover Direct. She received a B.F.A. in Photography from the University of the Arts and an M.F.A. in Media Design from Full Sail University. Cheryl's work has been exhibited at the Lowes Museum of Art in Coral Gables, FL, The New York Independent Film Festival and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. Check out her website here!


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