Defining Stock Photography

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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 stock photography. So what is it and how its actually work? Let’s start 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 clients for their own use. You don’t give your photo, but just give them the permission to license it.

How is it work?

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

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

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 can become stock photography. From people, landscape, city, architecture, abstract, nature, travel, street, and so on. As long there is someone interested in it, every type of 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 probability 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 the Shutterstock trend.

Model of Stock Photography

These models are based on their prices:

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

How to Sell Stock Photography


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

But if you are 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. The agency will act as the middle man and just give you the profit of that sale.

It is a website and it works differently for a different agency website. The most famous one is probably Shutterstock.

Usually, this kind of website handles microstock photos. But there are also some who handle macrostock photos, like Getty Image or Alamy.

You can check a lot more stock photography websites HERE

What to Look and Avoid

Before start selling your photos, your photos have to be able to pass the quality control check. So here is what you have to remember.

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

Also quantity. Just shot more photos with high quality. But don’t always shoot 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 things and avoid over-editing in photoshop or some kind.

Avoid artistic looking. If you think of 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 consent given by the subject (person) in your photo to be used as a stock photo.

Model Release form by Istock

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

Editorial Stock Photo is mostly used by photojournalists that documented world events. Photojournalists photograph what happens around the world (anything newsworthy) and then sell them as editorial stock photos. Usually, news agencies take these kinds of photos.

So if you want to actually profitable from editorial stock photography, you should look for photos that are newsworthy, like events, politics, celebrity, accident, sport, or any kind of short.

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

Read More: Microstock Photography Website


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