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Stock Photography: A Guide To Successful Photos That Sell

When it comes about to your photos that sell, stock photography is the best option. Although the stock photography industry started in the 1920s and the 21st century. It is an entirely new way for people and businesses to find the photos they need.

It is a guide to teach you everything you need to know about stock photography, including tips for taking photos that sell. Don’t think of stock photography as a way to get rid of unused images on your hard drive. It will take some effort to be successful.

What Is Stock Photography?

Stock photography is photographs that were created without a project in mind.

You, as a photographer, own the rights to every photo you take. An image you capture can’t be printed, altered, publicly displayed, or distributed without your permission.

Photographers giving another person or company use a copyrighted image is called stock photography. Permission to use an image is granted through different licensing models. A third-party agency sells stock photography licenses.

Stock photography is cheaper than hiring a photographer for a custom photo shoot, and it is also a way for photographers to make more money by selling their work.

What Are The Different Styles Of Stock Photography?

Commercial: Stock photography is especially using in magazines and billboards to promote a business. 

Editorial: Not for commercial purposes. Journalists are using editorial stock photos for educational purposes. Images of current events or celebrity photos are examples. 

As a photographer, you will have a higher potential to make sales. And this style of stock photography has some requirements. You need to know these requirements, like model and property releases.

History Of Stock Photography:

The invention of halftone printing made it possible for newspapers to use photographs. In the next 40 years, publications hired staff photographers and freelancers to take their photos. Sometimes the photos they needed were too difficult to come by, so reenactments were staged and photographed, often costing the publication a lot.

In 1920 H. A group of people stands in front of a plane. Roberts created stock photography when he asked people to sign model releases. With those releases, he was able to sell the rights-managed images to multiple publications, earning a profit for himself and saving publications money.

Roberts created one of the first stock photography libraries after the success of the first stock image.

The Launch Of Photo Archiving:


Hundreds of thousands of photographs were licensed by stock photo agencies by the 1940s. It was clear that a system was needed to organize the images. A historian was commissioned by a British magazine publisher to archive his vast photo library. So, they could easily get that again when needed.

Stock photo agencies began to digitally archive their images in the 1990s due to the development of using keywords to organize images.

A stock photo agency called Photodisc started selling images as small-themed collections. There was a royalty-free license that allowed the sale of the image packs on CDs. The owner of the disk could use and reuse the images without paying any additional fees compared to the rights-managed license which only allows the licensee to use the image one time. After Photodisc began selling images online, it became known as the company.

How Stock Photography Became A Large Industry:

iStock launched the first subscription-based stock photography agency in 2001. One of the largest and most successful stock photo agencies was purchased by the company later.

A lot of companies give photographers a way to expand their audience and sell their images. Each year, there are nearly 4 billion dollars in revenue from 350 billion stock images.

Types Of Stock Photography:


There are three types of stock photography: macro stock, mid stock, and micro stock.

  • Macro Stock photography: Macro stock photography is also known as traditional stock photography. Traditional stock photography is usually used by businesses that want exclusive licensing rights to an image. The usage of licenses for these images sells for hundreds or thousands of dollars each. And these are provided by well-known photographers.  
  • Mid-stock photography: Mid-stock photography is less expensive than macro stock but still offers a certain amount of exclusiveness to the purchaser. Most of the time, these images are used online. 
  • Microstock photographs: Micro stock photographs can be found for a few cents to a few dollars. Stock photography sites sell these licenses online. Most of the stock images are stock photos.

The nature of microstock photography makes it a good starting point for photographers.

Benefits Of Selling Stock Photos:

Photographers looking to expand their audience and build a strong and vast portfolio can sell stock images. Many stock photographers make hundreds of dollars a month with focused effort. So, as the photographer and the copyright holder, you have complete control over what you do.

Stock photographers face some challenges when they first start selling their images.

Challenges Of Selling Stock Photos:

  • There are more than 350 million stock photos available to license, with more added every year. The market is very competitive for the photographer.
  • Your photographs need to stand out against those that depict the same imagery to be successful.
  • It is necessary to play a numbers game. Because people will find your work more quickly if you make more photos available for sale.
  • You need to plan your photoshoots to make a full-time career out of stock photography. Travel to destinations in demand with models or props.
  • The final thing is, don’t expect to simply upload the hundreds of unused photos on your hard drive and expect to make a lot of money.

Tips For Creating Stock Photos That Sell:

Stock images can be of any style. The most successful stock photographers follow a few guidelines to shoot and market their images. The following tips will help you in your photography career.

Tips For Stock Photos That Sell- Keep Up With Trends:

Most demand photo subjects are landscape photography, lifestyle photography, food, business/industry, and holiday-themed photography. So, we have tips for lifestyle photography to help you start. Your images have to reflect the changing trends as well.


Stock photos should consider current events. The stock photographers who captured the changing trends and human values earned more than those who did not. For example, Covid-19. During the pandemic, masked faces and home office, spending time with family, empty roads, schools, offices, markets, etc photos were more trends. 

As a stock photographer, you should consider social issues. Over the last few years, there has been a push for stock images to convey inclusion, self-care, health, and nature. Current events and social issues are what keep your images fresh. Of course, there are so many reasons to take photos. But don’t capture brands or logos. Anyone shopping for an image can think it would work for them.

Know Your Rights And Responsibilities For Stock Photography:

You should be aware of your rights as a photographer and seller when photographing famous places. Anyone can take a photo of anything in a public space. The rules change when you sell your pictures.

You will need a photo release form if the subject of your photograph is recognizable, for example, a person, place, object, landmark, building, or pet on public or private property. If you capture the image in public, it will consider a news story. It is possible to sell the photo for editorial use.

What Is A Model Release For The Photos That Sell?

A model release protects the photographer, buyer, and stock photography agency. By having anyone shown in your photos sign a model release, they give their consent for their likeness to be used commercially.

You will not be able to sell your images as stock photography if you don’t have a signed release. You should always have a model release signed when you take pictures of people. So, you will never have to worry about it later if you do it from the beginning.

Learn The Copyright Laws For The Photos That Sell:

It is important to know the Copyright laws in the area you are shooting. You don’t want to sell images that include logos, famous buildings, works of art, or other subjects that may be protected under copyright laws.

How Will Your Images Be Used?


People buy stock images for use in advertisements to represent a consumer group, illustrate an idea, or add visual interest to a post. Stock photos are usually not purchased as art pieces. So, your images should be easy to view. They shouldn’t include easily identifiable brands. They should have enough space to add text.

Because they will purchase for billboards or large-scale advertising, they should be shot with the lowest ISO possible.

Continually Build Your Collection:

Adding to your collection of images is a must if you want to generate income. Of course, Stock photography websites will often show the newest images first to keep the content fresh.


If you don’t add new images to your stock photography portfolio, your images may not show up on the first page of search results. Also, you are less likely to make a sale if you have to scroll past a thousand images.

Shoot multiple shots of the same scene as you build your collection. Also, change your vantage point, focus on different parts of the composition, and take photos in portrait mode. A potential buyer will often spot an almost perfect image. Also, they look through your collection for more shots that might be just right.

Become An Expert At Keywords:

The quality of your image is important for a sale. If a buyer can’t find the perfect photo, it won’t attract them. When you add your images to a stock photography site, make sure to include the right keywords to help find you. You will want to use terms that specifically describe the image. So, use terms that describe concepts or emotions in the image.


Your listing should include a description of the subject of the image, such as dog, hound, dog park, young girl, teen, grass, dog training, happy dog, curly hair, countryside, etc. It should include conceptual words: friendship, best friends, cute, adorable, casual, loyalty, love, etc.

Use Quality Gear For The Photos That Sell:

If you wanted to become a commercial photographer, you would have to use an expensive DSLR and a wide range of lenses.

Most photographers indeed use top-of-the-line gear, but technology continues to improve. Many of the stock sites now accept photographs taken with mobile devices as well.

Think About The Overall Composition For The Photos That Sell:

  • Finding a stock image for a company’s needs can be difficult. If you can find an area that is lacking, try to fill it.
  • The best stock photos are not posed or staged. They are candid shots that feel authentic. You should always get people to sign a model release if you take photos.
  • When it comes to composition, always leave room for the buyer to add a logo or a line of text. These photos can be used for marketing or advertising. Because it has room for their message, they may choose another picture over yours.
  • When a buyer browses the stock photo sites for an image to purchase, they will see your image thumbnail first. Make sure it makes sense. It’s your first chance to get attention.

Where To Sell Stock Photography:

There are many stock photography agencies like Getty Images, Shutterstock, iStock, and Adobe Stock. You get a percentage of the sales from the sites that sell your images.

Each site has its way of accepting and giving images to sell. Make sure to research and choose the best option.

Edit Your Photos:


To make your photos more catchy and acceptable to your clients, try photo editing. Photo editing will help you to reduce your photo dullness. Also, you can add some beautiful effects. These effects will make your photo different from others. If you don’t know, how to edit photos, you can hire a good photo editor or photo editing company. There are so many companies available online. You can check their service page and then can select the best one. Clipping Amazon is a good professional photo editing company. You can try our services. We have an expert team of photo editors. They are qualified enough to make your photo looks good. So, try our services and enjoy our Free Trial. For that, visit our service page first.


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