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Selling Stock Photography

The business model of stock photography involves shooting images on speculation and then submitting them to various stock agencies. Selling stock photography can be quite profitable as many businesses, advertising and marketing companies are frequently on the look out for good quality stock photographs to use in a variety of print and online uses.

Selling stock photography can be a great way to make a little extra money from your hobby or you may choose to turn professional and launch a full-time career taking stock photos. Either way, there are several elements of stock photography you should be aware of in order to begin making money.

Types of Stock Photograph that Sells

First, do not make the assumption that any type of stock photo will sell well. Some types of stock photography sell well while others are more difficult to sell. The first rule in order to make sure that you are able to sell your stock photo and not run into any legal problems is to make sure that you either have a model release or you do not shoot any faces that can be identified. If you need to obtain a model release, make sure you get it in writing.

Do not rely on a verbal agreement. You should also avoid shooting any company names or logos. Finally, focus on shooting photographs that could be potentially used in different formats or ways.

Types of stock photos that tend to sell well include people (with appropriate model release), landscapes, flowers and plants, business and industry, still life photos, travel, transportation, sports and leisure, house pets and weather.

It should be noted though that while landscapes, flowers, plants and pets tend to sell quite well, it's a huge competition and the market is quite saturated. Some stock agencies do not accept this kind of images any longer.

Pricing and Licensing of Stock Photography

There are two basic types of stock photographs. They are royalty free or rights managed. Royalty free means that royalties do not need to be paid each time the user uses the image. In other words, the user can pay a one-time fee and then use the image under different circumstances.

For example, the user might pay a fee in order to use the image in different purposes or they may pay in order to receive a license that allows them to reproduce the image a specific number of times. Rights managed or licensed images refer to images in which the user must pay each time the image is used. In some cases there may be a time limit that restricts the amount of time that a buyer is able to retain exclusive use of the image. This allows the photographer to sell rights to the image once again after the initial buyer's time has elapsed.

The exact fee rate is often based on a variety of factors including the length of time the image is used, distribution, exclusivity, location of use, etc. This type of option can be beneficial to the buyer because it allows them a larger print run for each image that royalty free licensing typically allows.

Type of Equipment Needed for Stock Photography

Many people getting started in stock photography are often concerned about whether they need specific types of equipment. One thing that should be understood is that high-quality equipment is always good but it can never replace experience and skill. If you are just getting started with stock photography it is a good idea to obtain a good quality entry level DSLR and then upgrade with lighting and lenses. With the right collection of lenses and lighting, even an average camera in the hands of a skilled photographer can produce amazing results.

Once you have begun to make some sales you might then think about growing into a more advanced camera or even expanding your collection of equipment to provide more options.


John Best is a photography enthusiast that has a hard time putting down his camera. John also likes to teach photography business and is currently building up a site with free photography tutorials.

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