How To Become A Stock Photographer

In this article, I will give you tips that I feel are important in how to become a stock photographer. But before I do, a simple truth: Stock photography has positively impacted both my professional and personal life. It has allowed me to travel to other countries and live at my own pace while making a continuous income. Maybe that is the change you are looking for. Or maybe you just want to make a little cash from your favorite hobby. Either way, I hope this article helps you in how to become a stock photographer.

If you are at all curious about becoming a stock photographer, just take a second and create an account today! Honestly, this is the advice that I would give myself if I could go back, to when I was curious but hesitated. This is why you shouldn’t hesitate…


   The real key to gaining revenue in the stock photo business is by earning respect, from stock photo companies.

The acknowledgment process starts the day you create an account. If you wait until tomorrow or next week, how many people are signing up before you? Take a second. Before you read on, click this link and sign up for Shutterstock. It’s easy and fast. Then come back to read the rest on how to become a stock photographer.


It’s not about being the best photographer or the busiest photographer. 

You may notice, the best photo doesn’t always win the first page in search results. You’re going to see a variety, some great and some not-so-great photos, come up first. Why? Because all of those contributors have earned respect to make the front page. And you will too. Your goal is to earn a good reputation. It’s about being a great contributor, over time.


    3 Lessons:

1. Think of online stock photo libraries sort of like book stores. They favor quality content providers. They can’t stock the shelves with every living author. Stephen King’s next novel will go straight to the “featured” section of most bookstores, even if it’s not his best. Why? Because he has earned it. Don’t let this tip deflate you. Don’t expect to see results immediately. It’s the single reason most people will hesitate to start. They are impatient. You’re not. They want the first page immediately. You don’t. Be patient, and know this…

    2.  Stock sites need you. They want new content creators. It’s their life blood. You are as important to them as their older contributors. Because content evolves. Even the grandfather contributors who have been contributing from the beginning need to contribute new material to stay relevant. You are relevant because you are producing fresh new content.

3.  Trust the process. If you can’t, then maybe the freelance mentality is clouding you. As freelancers, we want to get paid upfront or somewhat immediately after a job. Remind yourself, it’s all about earning a reputation rather than instant gain. I was solely a freelance photographer until my stock photo sales climbed. Now, I can happily say that I have reached the point to where I can create my own schedule and my own creative content. I have essentially become more of an investor. This is an important concept and my first tip in how to become a stock photographer…


Tip #1 Become an investor. 

You must ditch the freelance mentality and get into an investor’s mentality to become a stock photographer. Have you ever eaten a $1000 cheeseburger? Well, neither have I. But I’ve photographed one that cost me four dollars to make at home. I had no idea it would net me over a thousand dollars to date. But it has, and it keeps selling every day. This is how I approach each stock photoshoot now, as an investment. I know each photoshoot I create will be worth it, in the long run.


Tip #2. Life is content.

In coming up with ideas of what to shoot, look at how we live. What are the essential things that will always be part of human life? Love, work, holidays, food, technology, lifestyle, etc. These themes will always be in high demand. Your photoshoot should have a theme that fits life. This is my biggest tip for selecting content to create. If you really want to learn how to become a stock photographer, capture life’s essentials.


 Tip #3. Quality over quantity.

In the massive libraries online, the contributors who produce quality will last through time. Once quality secures the front page, it stays there. Some make the mistake of thinking quantity is the way to go. But it can actually hurt your seller reputation. The stock sites you sell on need to build trust in you. If they respect your work, they will boost you higher. If they don’t respect you as a contributor, your work may never get seen.


  Tip #4. Keywording is important. 

There’s a limit to keywords per submission. Don’t waste your keywords. If you have a photo of a businessman who is not smiling, don’t add the word “smile” to your keywording. Don’t add “cheese” to an image of a burger without cheese. It seems like common sense but you’d be surprised. Many try to fool the system by adding irrelevant keywords in hopes it’ll get broader attention. This will hurt your seller credibility and make it difficult for buyers to search through relevant stock images. Keep everyone happy and find appropriate keywords.


  Tip #5 Editing: Improve quality, not style.

When editing, keep it minimal, solely to improve quality. Over-editing is not appreciated in stock catalogs. That’s because many stock photo buyers actually prefer a neutral image, so that they can apply their own style to it. Too much editing can lock an image into a stylized look, and may only look modern or in fashion for a short period of time. I edit to look neutral and clean. I keep my color balancing pure for the most part and try to avoid color grading for style. Again, choose quality enhancement over style.


  Tip #6. Models and actors truly make a difference.

Sure, I’ve had my friends and family model for a concept. I’ve even put myself in front of the camera. But nothing is more successful than working with a pro. It’s worth the investment. And often times there are actors who will collaborate for free in exchange for headshots. One of my most successful photoshoots was with an actor in front of a greenscreen. He was able to produce over a hundred images with many different expressions and outfits, in less than an hour. This would be impossible with an amateur. Some actors will even come ready to go, with makeup applied and outfits pressed. That means less editing time needed for you.


Where to start? 

In my opinion, the two best stock photography sites that are going to help you on how to become a stock photographer are Shutterstock and Adobe Stock. They both are continuously updating their sites to be modern and compatible with every tech device. They both are recognized by all the big search engines. They advertise more frequently than all other stock sites. They even help you with suggestions for content. And most importantly, they both have the easiest formats to enter descriptive data for your content. This saves time. Sign up today!

I hope this article helps you get started! If you have more questions on how to become a stock photographer, please feel free to add a comment and I’ll try to answer as soon as possible.