How To Become A Stock Photographer

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. In this article, I will give you tips that I feel are important in how to become a stock photographer.

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

Consider for a moment, how people get a wage increase at their current job. We do so by earning a good reputation, over time.  It’s no different with stock photo companies. The acknowledgment process starts the very day you get hired for a job. So does the process in creating a stock photo contributor account and continues with each contribution you make.

Take a second and create an account today!  Honestly,  you shouldn’t hesitate… If you wait until tomorrow or next week, how many people are signing up before you? Before you read on, click this link and sign up for Shutterstock, then come back to read my tips 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 make it to the first page in stock photo website search results. You’ll 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. They have proven themselves valuable. And you will too. Your main goal is to earn a good reputation. It’s about being a great contributor, over time.


    3 Lessons about Stock Sites:

1. Think of online stock photo libraries similar to book stores. Book stores favor quality content providers. They can’t stock the shelves with every living author. We know Stephen King’s next novel will go straight to the “featured” section of most bookstores, even if it’s not his best product. 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. Be patient, and trust the process because…

    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 continue contributing new material, to stay relevant. You are immediately relevant because you are producing fresh new content.

3.  The Process. If you are impatient, then it’s possible the freelance mentality is clouding your mindset. As creative freelance photographers and videographers, we typically get paid upfront or somewhat immediately after a job. We don’t like the idea of waiting on investments. Try to remind yourself, that it’s worth it. It’s all about earning a reputation rather than instant gain. I was solely a freelance photographer until my stock photo sales climbed and climbed. Now, I can happily say that I have reached the point to where I can create my own schedule while structuring my own creative concepts. 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 on my free time. I didn’t make $1000 that day, or week or month or year, but over time the work I did on that single day, for a few hours, has earned me over $1000 and it keeps selling every day. Now, I approach each stock photoshoot with this in mind. 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? Work, holidays, food, technology, lifestyle, love, etc. These themes will always be in high demand, and will evolve to fit modern fashions and trends. Your photoshoot should have a theme that fits modern 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 stock libraries online, the contributors who produce quality will last through time. Once quality secures the front page, it can stay there for many years. Some make the mistake of thinking quantity is the way to go. But it can actually hurt your seller reputation. The stock sites you contribute to 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 for each content submission. Don’t waste your keywords. That’s a common mistake. Don’t add “cheese” to an image of a burger without cheese. If you have a photo of a businessman who is not smiling, don’t add the word “smile” or “happy” to your keywording. It seems like common sense but you’d be surprised, some contributors think they can fool the system by adding irrelevant keywords in hopes it’ll get broader attention in searches. But, this will only hurt your seller credibility and make it difficult for buyers to efficiently search through relevant stock images. Keep everyone happy, the site, the buyers, and the stock community by trying to attach appropriate keywords.


  Tip #5 Editing: Improve quality, not style.

When editing, I keep it minimal, solely to improve the quality of the image. Over-editing is not always appreciated by stock catalogs. This is because many stock photo buyers actually prefer a neutral image. With a neutral image, they can apply their own style to it. Too much editing can lock an image into a dated look, 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 and I’ve even put myself in front of the camera. But nothing has proven more successful than working with a professional model or actor. It’s worth the investment! And often times there are actors who will agree to collaborate in exchange for headshots. One of my most successful photoshoots was with an actor who needed headshots. We traded services. I put him in front of a greenscreen and we were 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. This actor even came ready to go, with makeup applied and his outfits pressed. That saved me a lot of editing time!


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 biggest search engines. They advertise more frequently than other stock sites. They even post suggestions for content. And most importantly, they both have the quickest and easiest forms to enter descriptive data for your content. This saves you time. Sign up today!

My stock photos: Shutterstock