- Stock Photography Success Tips: Planning and Research
- Stock Photography Success Tips: Best Stock Photo Sites 2020
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If you’re trying to learn how to sell stock photos, you aren’t alone. As stock photos become more popular again and stock photo websites gain more traffic, learning how to sell stock photography can be a really lucrative way for your business to add a constant flow of income.
But, learning how to sell photos online can also be really difficult. There are as many stock photography websites online as there are niches, which is to say dozens, and each one of them has different rules regarding licensing, what they like to see in photos and, ultimately, how much they are willing to pay you.
So, we are doing a longer series on learning how to sell stock photos. This particular article is going to cover some basic stock photography advice, like learning how to understand different licensing and learning how to understand what your stock photo clients want.
For other stock photography tips, scroll to the bottom of this page to our “Learn More” links where we have more in-depth information on this topic.
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The first thing you need to do to increase stock photography sales is thoroughly understand and read every license you sign.
Unlike other forms of photography, stock photos are only licensed to clients so that they can use them in a particular way for a specific length of time. In essence, you will always own the copyright for all of your stock photos; your clients are just borrowing them for a little while.
When clients want to use your photos for a longer period of time, or if they want to use your photos with less restrictions on how and when they can use them, then you are able to charge more money for that particular photo.
Vice versa, if your client only needs one photo for a small project they are working on debuting in front of a small number of people, then they will expect you to charge them far less for that photo.
But, since the photo is your intellectual property, you can always turn down an offer from a client if they aren’t willing to pay what you believe your photo is worth in that context.
photo by ultramarinfoto via iStock
When you are learning to sell stock photos, you will probably start by selling royalty-free images. Royalty-free images are exactly what they sound like. They are images that your clients do not need to pay royalties for in order to use.
Royalty-free images are especially popular for small businesses for a few reasons. The first is that they are cheaper because royalty-free images allow a client to use your photo however they want for as long of a period as they want. Royalty-free images are also popular with small businesses because they are never exclusive, which also helps to keep them cheap.
This means that when someone purchases a royalty-free image from you, you can continue selling that image to as many other businesses as you want.
If you read your local newspaper’s Facebook page or blogs frequently, you will start to notice that royalty-free images mean the same image will pop up all over the place.
photo by Rawpixel via iStock
Another important license you need to know about if you are learning how to sell stock photos is a rights-managed license.
Rights-managed photos cost more and they likely will prevent you from shopping the image around to other clients.
Rights-managed licensed photos are the opposite of royalty-free images.
Standard License vs. Extended License
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When you sell stock photos, most stock websites will either allow businesses to purchase a standard license or an extended license.
A standard license has a few important restrictions you should know about. For example, a standard license will not allow your client to use your photo if it’s going to be viewed more than 500,000 times on a website or if it is going to be distributed to more than 500,000 people.
Standard licenses also prevent clients from using your images for less than wholesome things, like pornography and ads for drugs like tobacco or alcohol.
photo by michael jarecki via iStock
Political campaigns are also prevented from using standard licenses.
If you run into a client that wants to use your image for one of the above reasons, they will need to purchase an extended license. Of course, each stock website has specific rules for their standard and extended licenses, but typically an extended license allows a client to do whatever they want with your photo.
Editorial Use vs. Commercial Use
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When you want to sell stock photos, one really confusing term you may come across is “editorial vs. commercial use.” It’s confusing because it can be hard to understand what constitutes commercial use.
So, editorial use is typically educational, i.e., newspapers, magazines or blogs. Commercial use typically means your photo will be used to make money. Businesses need to have a commercial use license if they want to use your image during a marketing campaign or if they want to use your image on a product they are selling.
When you sell stock photos for commercial use, you must get a model and property release; when you sell stock photos for editorial use, you don’t have to. That’s why it’s such a big deal that you understand the difference.
Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive
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This is another important term if you want to sell stock photos because each stock website will either have an exclusive or non-exclusive clause in their contract and it’s pretty easy to brush over if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
An exclusive clause means you can only sell stock photos on a specific stock website. A non-exclusive clause means you can sell stock photos on a variety of websites.
Exclusive contracts typically pay more.
Understand Your Client
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Whenever you sell photos, you need to understand your client. This dynamic doesn’t change when you start selling stock photography.
But, understanding your client is much different in this context because you aren’t actually talking directly to a client. Still, you need to be thinking about what your potential client would want out of you.
Use Simple Keywords (as many as possible)
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You need to keyword every one of your photos that you upload into a stock photography website so that clients will have an easier time finding your images.
Typically, a stock website will have a limit on the number of keywords you can use (like 50). You want to use as many keywords as possible within those limits and without doing something known as “keyword stuffing.”
Essentially, if you keyword your image with something that doesn’t have anything to do with your image in an effort to get it in front of more potential clients, the stock photography website will penalize you for doing so.
If you don’t know where to start with learning how to keyword your images, some stock photography websites have staff on hand who can keyword your images for you for a small price. Otherwise there are plenty of helpful resources online, like the above video by Photerloo.
Don’t Over Edit Your Images
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This is another tip that a lot of stock photographers sort of ignore. Quality really matters to stock photography websites, so cheating the system by submitting all of your photos, regardless of their quality, you may be jeopardizing your relationship with the stock photography website.
Make sure all of the images you submit to a stock photo website are your best work. This means that they were taken with a good camera and a high-quality lens, they’ve been properly edited, and that are high-resolution shots (this is especially important since you get more money for higher-resolution photos).
When editing your stock photos you should be editing them for commercial appeal. So don’t overprocess images or crop them.