Making money with stock photography is easier said than done. It takes time and a lot of dedication to make it work, but before you get into this you must decide through which stock agencies you want to sell your photos.
Currently, this is a huge market, and there are dozens of websites to choose from. They all offer different conditions in terms of earning, so you should choose wisely.
To help you select which agencies to use, we should first explain what are the main categories of stock photo agencies:
we’ve compiled a list of our favorites, and we’ll cover their basics in this article.
Microstock agencies adopted low prices in order to drive a higher volume of sales - which is exactly what they did. Although photographers get a lower commission percentage, they get it more frequently than they would on premium stock sites. Additionally, microstock sites usually sell to companies with lower budgets, and are more suitable for web use.
Premium stock agencies target premium customers - well-known magazines, corporations, etc. The photos that are sold on these sites have a much higher production value compared to microstock. The higher quality of images means that the price is higher, and at the same time photographers enjoy a higher commission rate.
Agencies which represent photographers are those that do direct sales with the clients. There aren’t websites where you can purchase these images directly, and it can happen that clients commission photographers to do some stock work specifically for them.
There are three main types of exclusivity:
When you post photos non-exclusively, that means that you can upload them to as many different agencies as you want to. This will give you a higher exposure, as well as a better chance of selling. But be careful when uploading photos to multiple sites, you don’t want the same photos to be selling for microstock and premium prices.
When you’re making your content exclusive to one website, that means that you can’t upload it to other agencies. The benefit you’re getting with exclusive content is a higher commission when those images sell.
Being an exclusive author means that you can’t sell photos anywhere except on that site, however different those images may be. The perk of this type of selling is higher commission - exclusive photographers can earn up to three times more than non-exclusive ones.
To open an account with any stock agency, you’ll need to provide details about yourself as well as examples of your work. Some sites have a high acceptance rate (most microstock agencies), while you’ll need specific images to get into a premium agency. Some premium agencies even work on invitations, and there’s a higher chance you’ll be accepted if they invited you to apply.
Shutterstock is arguably one of the most popular stock sites on the market, but that also means that there is a lot of competition. Currently there are over 300 million photos on the website, but there are more than million of other contributors fighting to sell to buyers from all over the world.
This agency falls into the microstock category, which means that the selling price of the image is quite low. Clients get a monthly subscription which allows them to download a certain number of images per month.
Each time your photo is downloaded, you’ll receive a commision of 25% or more. Usually, the commission rate goes between $0.25 and $0.38, with the possibility of earning more if you have special licences. Considering that clients get 350 images for $169, that means that the price of one image is $0.48. It definitely sounds discouraging, but if you have a lot of content on a few sites you can make a pretty buck.
Depositphotos was founded in 2009, and so far there have been more than 100 million files uploaded to the platform.
Once you pass a brief examination test, you’ll do that you start off onof on the “green level”. Depositphotos has 5 levels, based on the number of sales you’ve made on their website:
The more you sell, the commission percentage gets bigger. So, you’ll start off with 34%, but if you reach the platinum level your commission will be 42%.
iStock has been around since 2000 as an independent agency. However, it was acquired by Getty Images in 2006. When you upload the images, you can choose whether they’re exclusive to iStock or not.
Exclusive deals means that you can’t upload images to any other sites. In this case, you’ll have a larger commision percentage - up to 45% (depending on the number of downloads). While this option might earn you more money on iStock, you might miss out on the sales on some other agencies.
For non-exclusive images, photographers get a flat commission of 15%.
Dreamstime has been around since the early days of stock sites, like iStock and Shutterstock it’s been around for more than 15 years. set high standards when it comes to stock photography, and it’s a huge competitor of iStock and Shutterstock. Like both of these sites, it’s been around for more than 15 years.
On this site, tThe commision depends on the exclusivity, as well as the popularity of the photos. If you’re selling images non-exclusively, your rate will start at 25%. However, if you chose to become exclusive, you can get up to 60% commission! Also, the more downloads your image gets, the higher will your earnings be.
Dreamstime offers various incentive programs for the contributors, which can help you gain more exposure. You can participate in the monthly photo assignment contest, share your tips on their blog, and get prizes when you achieve milestones, among other things.
Founded only six years ago, Stocksy is one of the youngest players on the market. What makes it unique is the fact that they are completely steering away from traditional stock photos, and their contributors are taking a more alternative approach.
This approach has also made it harder to get in and sell your photos through them. They are strict, and you might even have to try a few times before you get in.
Stocksy offers a 50% commission rate, which is really a good deal. When clients are buying, the price depends on the size of the image:
Clients can also get an extended licence, which can cost anywhere between $300 and $500. As a contributor, you’ll get 75% of the price in this case. However, it’s not uncommon that the agency sells the market freeze, in which case the prices are much higher.
Adobe Stock (previously known as Fotolia) is a great agency for those who are used to working with Adobe tools. Once they’ve bought Fotolia, they’ve found a way to reach new contributors, by increasing the commission rate that was already on the website.
What’s good about it is the fact that they have an auto-keywording feature, and you must admit that this is a huge time-saver. Yet, beware when using these types of tools, always double check the words before submitting.
The commision for the photos is 33-35%, and you can request a payout to your PayPal or Skrill accounts if you’ve reached at least $25.
Adobe Stock is definitely one of the stock sites with the most sales, and it keeps on growing - so it’s a good place for any stock photographer.
Created by Shutterstock in 2013, Offset is one of the high-end players. Getting in is extremely tough, since you must meet their high artistic and technical standards. More often than not, they are the ones inviting people to contribute to their website.
Most of their clients are huge advertising agencies or magazines, in other words - companies that don’t mind spending a lot of money for the images. Lower resolution images sell for $249, while those of high resolution go for $349.
Besides being extremely hard to get into, Offset also requires exclusivity, which isn’t all that bad considering the price for which they’re selling the images.
Getty Images has been operating since 1995, and it’s definitely a leader in the industry. They used to be completely turned to the macrostock, however, as the market changes, they started turning towards microstock so now they mostly sell royalty-free images. However, they fall into the category of macrostock sites. This means that the clients are buying licences, which can be costly, so photographers can definitely make more money on such sites.
If you want to become a contributor, you must apply and send over samples of your work. Upon review, if you pass - you can start selling and earning. The royalty fee depends on the popularity of your images (among other things).
Deciding whether to become exclusive or not with a certain site can be tempting. On the one hand, you could earn more as an exclusive contributor, but on the other your potential buyers might be buying somewhere else.
We definitely advise you to research all of your options before deciding where to sell your stock photos.