So you’ve purchased a quality digital camera, learned how to use it, and are taking brilliant photos. Even if you have no desire to become a professional photographer, you can still earn a little bit of cash from your hobby by selling your picture as stock photos.
The stock photography industry has opened its doors to amateurs and hobbyists with the introduction of so-called microstock companies. These companies offer stock images at extremely low prices. Traditionally, designers had to spend up to several hundred dollars for stock images, but microstock has created another pricing level, in the sub-$50 range. Any photographer can register at a microstock company and submit their photography for review and potential sale.
However, you can’t just sell any old snapshot. There are various requirements for image quality and subject matter. Most microstock agencies have strict approval processes for the photographs they sell. Each agency has its own specific requirements, but most share the key issues of technical quality and subject matter.
Since stock photos are often used in printed marketing materials, images must be large enough to be reproduced in print. Four (4) megapixels is the standard minimum size requirement for stock photo use. In addition to size, the visual quality of the image must be very high. This means no dust, scratches, noise, or other blemishes. Proper composition, lighting, and focus are critical.
Subject matter is another key component of stock photos. Most agencies are looking for creative approaches to capturing an idea, emotion, or concept. Quality images featuring people, groups of people, activities, sporting events, and seasonal themes are in-demand. (Remember you will need a model release for every picture that features an identifiable person). On the other hand, pictures of sunsets, flowers, landscapes, and your pet ferret will not get accepted, unless they are outstanding.
Once you have photos worthy of being stock, you need to know where to sell them and what you can expect to earn. The most popular microstock agencies are iStockphoto, Fotolia, and Shutterstock, but there are many others. Find one that caters to your photographic interests.
In reality, you are not really ‘selling’ your images, you are simply licensing them for particular uses. Microstock agencies sell, or license, images as Royalty Free. This basically means a buyer pays once and can use the image multiple times at no additional charge. As the photographer, the images (and copyright) remain your property.
What can you expect to earn? Selling stock photos is a game of numbers. Photographers earn a commission or flat rate each time an image is licenses. Commissions range from 20% to 60%, or $0.20 to $1.00 per image. How much you make depends on the demand for your images and how many images you have available. The more images you have available to sell, the more you are likely to make. You could make anywhere from a few bucks per month, to several hundred (or even thousand).
While you may not aspire to be a professional photographer, if you take great photos and follow a few guidelines, you can earn money from your hobby by selling your images as stock. You might even earn enough to buy that new lens you’ve had your eye on!
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