How One Photographer Made $35,000 in Stock Photo Sales

Stock photography is not for everyone, but it really can be a financially viable option for some of those photos you have just sitting on a hard drive at home. Realistically, unless you are already making thousands upon thousands of dollars from the images you've been creating, stock photography might just be the thing for you.

I know, we are all protective about our images, because we know how much work and time we put into creating each and every shot. Most of you who have a hard drive full of print-ready images, just itching to crack into the sales market and start making money, can probably relate to many of the points made in this video. The cold, hard truth is that there are so many photographers out there who are all shooting the same or similar subjects. There is some pretty intense competition for those of us who want to sell our images, whether in the form of digital products or printed works.

Stock photography might just be the right choice for some of these images. Personally, my portfolio is fairly split between categories. There are some images that I hold pretty close to the chest, because I simply can't bear the thought of them being used as a stock photo. However, there are plenty others that are great images, but either suffer from an oversaturated market (think images of the Golden Gate Bridge; everybody has a quality picture of that icon) and are more likely to make a profit by being available as a stock photo.

This video, by James Wheeler, goes straight to the point by showing what has worked for him in the past and why he has set up the systems he uses for selling his artwork. He gives some fantastic advice and might just answer some of those questions you have about delving into the world of stock photography.

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15 Comments

Over 7 years?

Alec Kinnear's picture

The man looks mad. Stock photography has been turned into at best factory work and at worst a complete and utterly self-destructive waste of time. There are exceptions (a Canadian agency, their name escapes me now) but all the microstock sites are rotten to their bitter, exclusive contract if you want more than 20% share of the revenue your images generate core.

stevepellegrino's picture

Every time a stock photography article is posted someone has to proclaim that "stock photography is dead". Yeah, we get it. We know. But here's the thing - this video wasn't about how great the stock photography business is. It's about the experience of one guy, who isn't pursuing photography as a living and how he's made money from stock. He isn't asking you to participate. He was simply sharing his experience, which may benefit others in a similar situation.

If you personally don't like the current stock business model, then don't submit your work. These companies don't force photographers into an agreement. It's a mutual agreement.

Dan Lubbers's picture

Key word: "ONE" photographer...

Nick Rains's picture

Make that two... Those numbers are not too dissimilar from my own experiences. Just gotta put in the hard work of submitting properly (it's time consuming) and shooting relevant stuff.

A P's picture

I don't like this headline, but that's a good number for sure if he's just passively collecting on old images.

James Wheeler's picture

Everyone will have a different experience in stock photography, I created this video to share mine.

When I first started out uploading to stock in 2012, I did some internet searches and found lots of comments and blog posts like the ones above saying it was a waste of time and that it was to late to get into it, do a web search they are still everywhere.

However, I ignored the negative comments and have used my stock earnings to buy multiple camera bodies and lenses. I am not promising any results in this video, just letting you know what mine were, however, I would suggest others try for themselves to see if they can be successful.

stevepellegrino's picture

A lot of the negative comments come from the mindset of "stock used to pay well and now it doesn't". Photography, in general, used to pay better than it does now. It's no longer a commodity. There's more supply than there is demand. Digital has made it easier.

I've seen photojournalists complain about stock because stock was extra income. But photojournalism has also changed. In the past, you shot your film and just had to get it to the media outlet you were shooting for. In most cases, you didn't have to develop your film and make your prints. Now you have to shoot, process the images, add keywords, captions, and other IPTC data, then transmit the photos - all under tighter deadlines then you previously had. Add to that an increased expectation to also shoot video and you're doing all of that for less money. But the people complaining about the low pay of stock, willingly participate in low pay photojournalism.

I used to be a website developer. I remember the days of signing contracts for thousands of dollars for developing relatively simple websites. But as the need to know html, perl, php, etc was replaced by wysiwyg editors and now online services like Photoshelter and SquareSpace, the fee for independent developers like me started to diminish - and rapidly!

That's life. Everything changes. The current stock companies aren't doing anything wrong. They've found their business models, the customer base and people willing to supply them with photos. Anyone is free to join or not.

Rex Jones's picture

I saw your video for exactly what you said it is. That's precisely the reason I felt people needed to see it! When I watched it, it just gave me some ideas for what the options are out there. People can take it as they will, but you clearly made it work for you and I think that's pretty cool!

$6k per year is nothing to shake a stick at with regards to extra revenue! Kudos to you James for figuring out the system and learning how to generate $500 per month in passive revenue. I have a feeling this is more than the vast majority of photographers can say for themselves, especially given that it seems that most photographers only seem to understand trading hours for dollars. Successful marketers and entrepreneurs these days understand the value of passive income, and it's a lesson most photographers could (really) stand to learn. Keep on keeping on, and thanks for sharing your story!

steve carrillo's picture

Love stories like this!

Laughing Cow's picture

$35 000?
Yuri Arcurs had made millions dollars with microstock images

Laughing Cow's picture

From Wikipedia: "In 2009 and the company had a royalty income of about 3 million USD per year and in 2012 it was said to be way higher with a goal of 8 figures in sight"

Klaus Wolf's picture

Hi Rex, Thank you for sharing. I would really like to have a look at your images, but I am missing the link. Can please tell me where I can find the link(s).
Thanks
Klaus