Stock Photography


Frosted Poinsettia

One way to earn revenue from your photography is to offer your art for sale through stock photography agencies. Stock photo houses basically take your images and list them for sale on their websites. They take a percentage of the sale price and give you the rest. The percentages vary with the agency, size of your image purchased, and frequency of sales.

Dreamstime, for example, places your accepted images on Level One where your non-exclusive image can earn from $.68 for an extra small file to a maximum-size file at $3.60. As your image gains in popularity and sales, you move up through five levels where your earnings escalate to $2.45 for an extra small file download up to a maximum file size at $9.18. If you offer your art as an Exclusive User, those amounts can rise from $3.26 to $12.24 and even up to $40.80 for print usage.

“Only $.68 per sale?” you ask. If you sell the same image 100 times, your earnings are a mere $68.00, and if your average-size sales are $.86, your earnings are only $86.00 per 100 downloads. But wait! Those sales reflect only one image reselling 100 times. What if your image is in such demand that you sell it 1000 times? Now you’re taking home $860. What if you get lucky and sell two different images 1000 times? Would $1720 make a dent in your monthly mortgage payment?

What super image could possibly earn that kind of money? EnvatoMarket’s PhotoDune lists the top selling image for three months as an out-of-focus office image of three executives against a large window across a large desk. Running the numbers, 35 sales at an average of $.86 equals only $30.10, and a second image very similar to the top seller earned $18.92, all while it’s author  was sleeping. (Assuming there were some sales around the clock.) Total sales for this author was $49.02 for three months or just $16.34 per month. Remember that these are conservative averages not taking into account image usages or sizes or frequencies.

Here’s what makes stock sales so interesting: Using book writing as an analogy, you do the work of writing once and then selling that same work multiple times. Photographically speaking, you create that image once, list it, (do the work) and it sells multiple times. Wash, rinse, repeat with each new image and you could be earning a sizable monthly income.

Before you send off your favorite photos, be prepared for rejection. Just because your spouse or significant other and family thinks your photographic art is the next best thing since proximity-sensitive car fobs doesn’t guarantee you’ll hit the stock photography pot of gold. You’ll need to research the market in depth to get a handle on what’s in demand before you submit your work. It might be old, but it’s true: give them what they want and you’ll increase your chances for success by at least one hundred fold.
Realistically, unless your work is exceptional and in high demand, it is unlikely that your income from stock photography sales will allow you to quit your day job or close your studio. Keep in mind that stock photography is supplemental income and if you’re extremely lucky, could escalate into a full-time business.