How To Make Money As A Stock Photographer

I’m always amazed when I head out to the forums to find photographers complaining about stock photography, and the fact there is no money to be made in that industry?

It’s justphotographers not true.

As a matter of fact, it is an incredible way to make money, and I’m seeing huge potential over the coming years in this field.

Last fall I touched on this in my Trends In Stock Photography and today I read more about it in Microstock Photography Is Getting Big.

By far, iStockPhoto is advancing as the leader in the stock photography industry. In February 2006, Getty Images purchased iStockPhoto for $50 million. In 2006, iStockPhoto had revenues of about $23 million. Fast forward to 2008, revenues jumped to $150 million, with projections for this year being around $200 million. Huge growth! And huge potential for us photographers!

If you’re thinking, “How can I ever make money with just a few cents per image sold?”, think again. iStockPhoto obviously has the desire to make money through sales of images, but it also looks for ways for building deeper relationships with great photographers too. Which is why they’ve just announced their newest division, Vetta Collection, which is comprised of images that meet a higher quality. They cost more for the end user (starting at $20 per image compared to the $1 per image for the standard images) – and provide more income for the photographer as well.

So, can you really make money as a stock photographer? Let’s take a quick look.

Obviously the more images you have on iStockPhoto, the more you build your portfolio, the higher potential you will have.

If you sell one image to a person on a pay as you go plan, you can earn anywhere from $0.30 to $8.40 per image. If you sell just 10 images at every level during the month, you would make $270 that month. And this is the lowest level possible to make money with iStock. They also have subscription options, their new Vetta program, and the opportunity to move up in levels when you have bigger sales potential.

And the best thing is you continually build on your portfolio. If you have a best seller this month, chances are it will continue being a best seller a long time into the future.

Convinced? Ready to get started as a Stock Photographer? Then you’re going to love my program on Creating A Stock Photography Business. Get started today.

3 thoughts on “How To Make Money As A Stock Photographer”

  1. While the “Vetta” collection is at least a move in the right direction as far as microstock it is stunning to me that so many who advocate microstock never discuss the very basic business element…profit = revenue minus expenses. Weekend warriors, or part timers, or crowd sourcers do not think at that level of sophistication, they are probably looking for pocket change or saving up for a new lens. Fact of the matter is they would be better off putting in a couple of hours overtime a week at their regular job.
    Fact of the matter is there are expenses involved with creating images, hardware, software, upgrades, learning curve for such, post production, models, props, etc…
    Images being licensed at those ridiculous low rates just take advantage of creators.
    The microstock agencies can make a profit because their overhead is tied to nothing more than the goal of “distribution” and technology allows them to do so at a very low price and be profitable. The price structure they have created has nothing to do with the cost of “creation”.
    The photographers absorb that cost with the promise of pennies on the dollar. Any manufacturing segment ( in essence we manufacture images) suffers (often to its demise) when it allows “distributors” to set prices in the marketplace.

  2. Thanks for your comments Jon. I know this is probably one of the most heated arguments in the world of photography right now, and I appreciate your comments.

    For me, I’ve always looked at it as longevity over a one time fee. Yes, you would only make $0.30 of one download at the smallest size. But once you have that image online, it can continue to sell without you ever thinking about it again. And if your portfolio continues to grow, you become more popular, and your income grows from it, you can do pretty well with this type of business.

    I always look for ways that I can put something up once, and have it continue to make money months or even years into the future. Microstock is definitely one way to do that, providing you make it something you work at all the time.


  3. Good morning Lori,
    Stock photography will never make any photographer rich but it can become a steady source of extra income which is especially important for someone just starting out. It’s also a good way for the amateur to make some money for doing what they love to do anyway. Stock photography is also a great way for the amateur to build up his or her portfolio which he or she will need to do if he or she hopes to transition to professional status.


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