Four Tips For Success in the Stock Photography Business

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If you’re thinking about adding stock photography to your list of services, it’s a little more complicated than uploading a few photos to a stock site and hoping that people buy your images. Just like any other photography undertaking, a successful stock photo business requires a lot of time, effort, and patience in order to make it pay off.

We’ve narrowed down our list of tips to four of the most essential things you need to keep in mind as you seek to build your little stock photo empire. Let’s get started!

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Don’t Forget Model Releases

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With all the hubbub of getting a photo shoot ready to go, it can be easy to let the model release slip your mind. If that happens, you’ll have to track down every person you photograph and have them fill out the appropriate paperwork, otherwise you can’t put images with those models in them up for sale on stock sites.

The easiest method to get releases is to make it part of your setup procedure. Have the releases printed out and in hand, and ask your models to fill them out accordingly before you ever take a single photo. Doing so means you spend more time actually photographing people for your stock images and less time making phone calls and writing emails, trying to track down people for whom you forgot to get the paperwork.

You are Your Own Worst Critic, and That’s Not All Bad

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One of the golden rules of stock photography is to curate your collection to ensure that only your very best work is submitted to stock agencies. The last thing you want to do is bombard agencies with so-so work; it will diminish your reputation as a photographer and the chances are that your so-so work will be rejected anyway. There’s no sense in wasting your time and theirs - just work on creating a collection of stock images that reflects your best efforts.

Having said that, there will be times when you think an image is terrible and it gets picked up by a stock agency, and your favorite image of the batch gets turned down. That’s just the nature of the game, and you have to be prepared for differing needs, wants, and likes. So although you need to put your best work forward, don’t exclude some good images simply because you don’t like them. After all, the photo of your friend eating pizza may end up being your best seller!

Avoid Logos and Other Copyrighted Materials

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Many stock photographers get into the game only later to realize when their photos are rejected that their images include logos, brand names, trademarks, and the like. To be commercially licensable, your images cannot feature these types of items. If you have images that include the intellectual property of others, you’ll need to do some Photoshopping to eliminate any logos, brands, or other recognizable features, or you’ll need to do the shoot again without those items in the shot. It’s a pain, but without resolving the issue, your images won’t be accepted.

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Promote Your Work

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Yes, even your stock photography needs to be advertised! Many stock photographers upload their photos, tag them, and assume that that’s all they need to do to get people clicking on their images. And while stock sites have done a great job with developing highly effective search tools, that doesn’t mean you can’t drive more traffic to your work by doing some good, old-fashioned promotion.

Blog about your work. Add sample images to your website. Create a photo story in which you highlight a few of your most recent stock images and pair them with a story about how you went about shooting them. Mention your stock photos on Twitter or Facebook. Post a sample on your Instagram or Flickr. The point is that you need to spread the word about your stock photos just as much as you do about the other types of photography you offer.

It all sounds easy enough, right? Get into the habit of following these four simple steps, and you will be much more likely to build a successful stock photography business!

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