Visit a forum on any photography website (like ours!) and the chances are that there is a discussion somewhere about the value (or lack of value) that stock photography holds these days. After all, there are more photographers than ever submitting their images to an ever-growing list of microstock sites that have flooded the market with tens of millions of photos. So, how could it possibly be a worthwhile endeavor?
Despite the drawbacks, stock photography can still be a good source of secondary income. Building a successful business is all about diversity, right? So why not add stock photos to your list of services? Consider the following reasons for why you should give stock photos a try.
You Have the Inventory
There’s a thumb drive, memory card, or external hard drive somewhere in your house with thousands and thousands of images just sitting there. They sure aren’t making you any money trapped on a digital device, so why not start sifting through them and selecting images that might work for a stock agency?
It’s always surprising to see the types of images that are on stock sites - coffee cups, puppies, a freshly mowed lawn - just everyday, normal things that you might not otherwise think, “yeah, someone will buy that photo.”
But you never know until you try, so work a little post-processing magic, upload your castaway photos to your favorite stock site, and see if you can make a little side income. At worst, you don’t sell any images and you’re only out a little bit of time. At best, you get some good sales going and have a nice residual income!
You Might Have Already Done the Work
When you think about it, the only real difference between websites like Flickr and iStockPhoto is that one of them pays you for your photos. Both are burgeoning communities of photographers. Both sites afford you the opportunity to display your best work and inspect the work of others. And while Flickr likely has more of an interactive, community vibe to it, iStock and other sites give you the opportunity to make money.
Granted, money isn’t the end-all, be-all, but then again, money is sure nice to have! If you’re already putting in the legwork to edit and upload your photos to a website, why not direct a few towards a stock photo site while you’re at it? Again, you might sell nothing, but you might sell hundreds of images as well, and it’s tough to say no to extra income.
Comparisons Don’t Matter
In the aforementioned forums, you’ll often see people talk about how stock photography used to pay really well, and that comparatively, photographers make pennies on the dollar today. Unfortunately for those photographers, that’s certainly the case. Stock photo sites did pay more a few years ago, so that’s a valid comparison.
But if you’ve never ventured into stock photography before, you don’t have that comparison to make. Right now, you make $0 per month from stock photos, so anything above that is an improvement, right? Certainly, you don’t want to spend 40 hours a week taking photos, editing them, and uploading them exclusively to stock sites. But if you can find a few hours here and there in your spare time to get some images on a stock photo site (or several, for that matter), that $0 per month income could very well turn into a good cash flow.
Some photographers make hundreds of dollars a month from their stock submissions, and there are surely some photographers out there that make much more than that. It’s great to dream big, but try to temper your expectations when you start out. If you make $25 your first month, awesome! That’s more money that you had before. Keep stashing away a few hours here and there to go through your existing images and move images from sites like Flickr over to a stock photo site and just see what happens. You might be surprised at how worthwhile it is!