Making Money From Stock Photos, Photography and Your Images

First published on: Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Last update (Jun 22, 2009): Five Things Photographers Should Know About Selling Stock by Scott Bourne.

This post is a compilation of annotated links to discussions, tips, techniques and ideas on earning money from photography.

Full attribution is given by linking to the source.

Five Things Photographers Should Know About Selling Stock by Scott Bourne

In short:

  1. Shoot with stock in mind, not as an afterthought.

  2. Think Concepts, not Pretty Pictures.

  3. Improve your keywording skills.

  4. Specialize.

  5. Get that Release.

Sell your talent, not your end-products

Thom Hogan always hits the nail on the head when it comes to revenue generation from a business. In this post, he says:

The very best wedding photographers I know aren’t worried. They sell themselves, not any photo they can to any outlet. While there are certainly stringers and freelancers out there that will sell whatever they can to whomever they can (good luck with that in a recession: freelance budgets are the first to go), you’ll note that the really good ones have figured out how to make money off their talent, not their stories, photos, or videos. It always amazes me how many don’t see that distinction.

Plus, the importance of not aiming to be merely “good enough”:

To any aspiring writer, photographer, videographer, whatever out there reading this, think about this: the best in your business, the person you’d really like to be, is she/he happy and making money? Almost certainly. And did they get there by being “good enough”? No. Think about the company you most admire and whose products you covet. Are they making money? Usually (think Apple and their US$25 billion in cash and no debt). Did they get there by being “good enough”? No.

Never give away your prized work for free

… not even if, say, a high-end regional magazine offers to put up your work in their publication, for no fee, but giving free “Exposure” for your photos. I think the sample email reply given in the post is an appropriate response to those who seek to use your images for no payment. The photographer got a decent fee in the end.

The marketing funnel

This Photoshelter article has a very relevant section (in the middle of the blog piece) on how important marketing your photos is to the success of your photography business. Specifically, it touches on the YouTube model of allowing the embedding of videos on other websites and suggests that your (watermarked) photos that are online should be “given” away via the use of an embedding feature as one marketing method.

Business card samples?

You know how important a business card is to your photography business. To get some design inspiration for your card, have a look at the samples in this thread on

I designed my own back in 2004 using Nikon Coolpix 4500 macro photo and a bit of Photoshop, but I think it’s time for an update:
business card sample

Using Google Checkout vs Paypal

Here’s a thread on with screen captures to illustrate how Google Checkout works. Unfortunately, Google Checkout only supports US and UK-based merchants at the time of writing.

The main complaints with Paypal are the ads you see even after logging in, and the sub-par and unresponsive customer service, although Nikolai likes Paypal enough — read his reasons why.

Using to sell photos

Mark Weston shares how he’s had some sales from a party he photographed. The images he hosted at Smugmug had higher sales success than at Zenfolio. Smugmug also allows for a custom copyright message to appear when a visitor tries to right-click-download your photo.

blog comments powered by Disqus