Updated: 04/17/2009 11:50
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Do you like taking photos Turn your hobby into cash with stock photography websites The online earning potential for digital photographers is unlimited

Do you like taking photos? Turn your hobby into cash with stock photography websites! The online earning potential for digital photographers is unlimited. It doesn't matter where you live. Thanks to the Internet, there are plenty of great opportunities for photographers working from any country in the world!

Selling digital photos online is a great way to earn some money without spending a lot of time. You can get from some cents to hundreds of dollars per photo, depending on its content and quality, as well as the online traffic you can obtain through stock photography websites.

The digital photography industry is enjoying a rapid growth. Every year, millions of new websites come online. Their web masters, designers and authors constantly need quality photos to illustrate their articles, blog posts, ezines, ebooks, and other online publications.

No matter whether you are a professional photographer with a studio or an amateur photographer working part-time on the weekends, you can earn money by selling royalty-free photos online via stock photography websites. The combination of your passion for taking pictures with a good business plan will lead you to a successful career.

There are many popular genres of stock photography, including animals, food and drink, travel, nature, sports and leisure, items around the house, people and many others. Many stock photographers prefer specializing in a certain type of digital images. For example, you can take photos of beautiful locations.

Stock photography websites also accept illustrations, computer generated images, vectors, and photos that have been altered with Photoshop or other photo editing software.

How do stock photography websites work? There are many stock photography websites where you can sell your images - iStockPhoto.com, BigStockPhoto.com, ShutterStock.com, Fotolia.com, Dreamstime.com, PhotoStockPlus.com, MicroStockPhoto.com and many others.

Stock photography websites sell users the rights to use submitted images for a one-time fee, which is quite moderate. By using stock photography instead of hiring a photographer to perform on-location shooting, customers can save their time and money.

When you upload your image to a stock photography website, you will typically retain ownership of this photo. In other words, you are "renting" the image to clients who can download it online after paying a fee. The very same image can be sold over and over again to different clients.

There is one thing you should know about in advance. Users don't have to pay any royalty for repeated use of the image. So no matter how many times a customer uses an image, you will get paid for one download.

In order to protect their images from thieves, stock photography websites watermark all photos and video on their public servers. Surfers and guests will not be able to get large high quality photos until they pay to download the content.

Don't expect to get rich overnight by selling you digital photos. The stock photography websites pay from $0.20 to $0.50 on average per sale. The more photos you submit to a stock photo agency, the more money you can earn.

The payment structure for stock photography websites varies. Generally, you can get a payment as a flat fee or as a commission.

• Flat fee
This is a common payment scheme on websites that have low stock photography prices. For example, ShutterStock.com pays a flat fee of $0.25 every time one of your photos is downloaded. Once you reach $500 in earnings, your commission goes up to $0.33 cents per download.

• Commission
Other stock digital websites pay freelance photographers a percentage of the photo download price. For example, Microstockphoto.com pays 35% of the sale price for each image that is downloaded. IStockPhoto.com pays a royalty rate of 20% for each file download and 40% if a digital image is sold exclusively through this website.

When your account balance reaches the minimum earning limit set by the stock photography website you can cash your earnings out. The payout limit ranges from $75 to $300. The majority of stock photo agents use electronic payment systems like PayPal or MoneyBookers to send money to their contributors.

When you are choosing a stock photography website, it is also important to research its volume of customer traffic. Even if the payment for each image download is not high, subscription model can encourage buyers to download much more images than they would at other agencies. It will let some stock photographers earn hundreds or thousands of dollars per month.

How to sell your digital photos online?
Step 1:
Collect photos that you want to sell. Are they good enough? Every stock photography website wants to provide only high-quality digital images. So they can reject your files due the following reasons:

  • Snapshots
  • Low resolution
  • Poor lighting and poor contrast
  • Harsh light and shadows
  • Poor focus
  • Digital noise and grain
  • Poor lackluster color and color distortion
  • Compression artifacts
  • Poor isolation and cropping
  • Poor composition

Step 2:
Research different stock photography websites to determine which one is most lucrative for your work. Compare the structure of their pricing and payments, as well as the content and style of the photos that are sold well on the site. Most of the stock photo agencies operate a non-exclusivity arrangement, so you can sell your digital images on several websites. However, some agencies offer higher fees or commission for exclusive images.

Step 3:
Register as a stock photography supplier and submit your images. Typically, you can use 3 methods: FTP upload, ActiveX upload, and HTML upload. Stock photo websites require JPG/JPEG files for digital images and model releases. Photos are usually approved (or denied) within 48 hours. It's important to read the website's requirements or browse their forums before you submit photos to them. Thus you will get a feel for their standards and won't waste their time or yours.

Step 4:
Stock photography suppliers can place their images in one or more categories. It is done to make searching easier. Try to use as many categories as you can – thus your digital images will be seen by more customers.

You will also need to choose keywords for your photos. The more keywords you use, the more often your images will appear in the search results. In turn, it will increase your chances of a sale. However, it is not recommended using a thesaurus and keyword-spamming (unrelated words) in order to be included in more searches. It can lead to account disabling.

Dealing with a stock photography website
Ok, so your photos have been accepted, what's now? It depends on several factors - current trends in the type of photos that are being bought, how often your photo is included in search results and how it meets the needs of prospective buyers.

Keep in mind that if you don't comply with the rules of a stock photography website, your account can be reset to review or probation. Here are some common reasons why it happens:

  1. Submitting more than one of the same image
  2. Using unacceptable keywords
  3. Frequent miscategorization
  4. Large number of out-of-focus photos
  5. Submitting an image that has already been denied
  6. Upsizing of photos more than 5%
  7. Copyright / Trademark infringement

Don't expect to see your digital photos selling like hot cakes! Stock photography websites offer hundreds of thousands of various images. It is difficult to find a person who has enough time and patience to browse even 5% of them. That's why some of your photos can be downloaded just a couple of times a year.


About the author

Nicole Berger has over seven years experience writing and editing for online and print media. She has held various editor and associate editor positions in some of forefront independent media publications. A consistently dependable team player, I thrive in a high-pressure environment, enjoy the challenges of meeting deadlines and managing a team, and am comfortable researching, writing and editing on a wide range of topics.
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