Defining Stock Photography

Defining Stock Photography

Making money from photography is not an easy thing. You need skill, professional gear, and an actual photographer reputation. But you still have to start from something. One way to do that is through what’s usually called a stock photography. So what is it and how its actually work? Let’s start begin defining stock photography.

Defining stock photography

From Wikipedia, stock photography is “the supply of photographs, which are often licensed for specific uses.”

To be more precise, stock photography is photos that can be used by some certain client for their own used. You don’t give your photo, but just gave them the permission to licensing it.

How is it work?

First, you take a photo. Then a potential client will see that photo. Then the client will request that for a photo for certain use (like for magazine, website, or more). If you agree with the term that you and client agree, then you can give the copy of your photo.

Remainder: You still retain the copyright of that photo, or depend on the condition that you and the client agreed of.

What is Exactly Stock Photography

You already understand what stock photography is for. But probably still don’t know what is stock photography looks like.

Everything. Everything can become stock photography. From people, landscape, city, architecture, abstract, nature, travel, street, and so on. As long there someone interest in it, every type photography has the chance to become a stock photo.

But do understand that it depends on market demand. If you photograph the least type of photography, the probable it got to sell is low. It always depends on what currently trending.

Many stock photo agency tells you what kind of photography that currently being trending. For example, here is from Shutterstock trend.

Model of Stock Photography

These models are based on their prices:

  1. Macrostock
  2. Midstock
  3. Microstock

To tell you the truth I have no clue about midstock photography. So I don’t even gonna try to explain it.

Macrostock vs Microstock

Basically the different only on their prices. Macrostock photo have the higher price (can be up to $500) than microstock photo (usually no more than $50). But selling macrostock photo is not as easy as microstock photo. You also only can sell macrostock photo exclusively to a certain client or agency, where you can sell microstock photo to anyone who willing.

How to Sell Stock Photography


From the traditional way, you can sell directly to a certain client that you already agreed on term and condition. What happen is that a client learn about your photography and offer to buy your photo. Or the other way around, you pitch yourself and offer your photography. This direct client-photographer approach what usually happen in macrostock photography. It offer the most exclusive and the highest pay.

But if you still new to stock photography, I personally don’t recommend it. Because it kinda complicates, from selling term to pricing. So what I recommend is stock photography through an agency.


Unlike before, this way is easier. Because you don’t sell your photo directly to a client. But through an agency.

Agency basically is a website where you can upload your stock photos where a potential client can look at and then download it. The agency will act as the middle man and just give you the profit of that sell.

It is a website and it works differently for different agency website. The most famous one probably shutterstock. There’s also dreamstime, Istock, 123rf, and much more.

Read More: Microstock Photography Website

Usually, these kind of website handles microstock photos. But there are also some who handle macrostock photo, like getty image or alamy.

What to Look and Avoid

So here what you have to remember if you want to sell a stock photo.

High quality. Basically sharp, focus, and good lighting. If not, there won’t be any agencies that interested in it.

Also quantity. Just shot more photo with high quality. But don’t always shot the same thing.

Look for popular demand. Like I said before, popular demand has a higher probability of getting sell.

Make it look real. What I mean is photograph real thing and avoid over-editing in photoshop or some kind.

Avoid artistic looking. If you think yourself as an artist, Don’t. Stock photo is not an art but a commercial photo. So don’t try to make it like an art, but try to make it look realistic and also great.

Few More Thing

Model and Property Release

If you photograph people or private property. Don’t forget the model release and property release.

A model release is a consent given by subject (person) in your photo to be used as a stock photo.

Model Release form by Istock

A property release is a consent given by the owner of a property (can be a house, architecture, art, sculpture, statue, building, painting, and more) that you photograph as your stock photo.

It’s really important because you will get profit out of this photo. If you didn’t ask for their consent and make a profit out of it, they have the right to sue you.

If you don’t have their consent, another is to make it into editorial stock photography.

Commercial and Editorial Stock Photography

There also commercial and editorial stock photo. Basically, they are the same thing. You can turn your photo as editorial if you don’t have model or property release. But the chance it gets sold is not big as a commercial stock photo.

Editorial Stock Photo mostly used by photojournalist that documented world event. Photojournalist photograph what happen around the world (anything newsworthy) and then sold them as editorial stock photo. Usually news agency take these kind of photos.

So if you want to actually profitable from editorial stock photography, you should look for photo that newsworthy, like event, politic, celebrity, accident, sport, or any kind of short.

Be careful, don’t just use any agency you can found on google. Because not all of them are real. I previously wrote the list of trusted stock photography agency website where you can sell your photo.

Read More: Microstock Photography Website


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