Stock Photography Crash Course!

In this article we will discuss stock photography and how to use it to sell your images without expensive gear or training.

Stock photography used to be limited to those with expensive, state-of-the- art equipment, specialized training, and elite connections throughout the world of photography. Now that we’re knees deep in the digital era, it is possible to make decent cash using our favorite DSLRs and some helpful websites.

From knowing what’s worth shooting to marketing your images, this guide will teach you the basics of stock photography and get you selling. After all, why not make some money with your artistic passion?

It’s All About Technique

Although you don’t need a background in mechanical engineering to succeed in stock photography, you should definitely know your way around a DSLR.

Furthermore, you will never find yourself with professional shots if you keep your dial on “Auto.” If you lack confidence using manual camera functions, do some research or ask your friendly neighborhood photographer to help you out.

Know Your Stock Photographs Pixel by Pixel

Sure, the photos you post on Instagram might look flawless to your friends and family, but what if you viewed that shot on a larger screen and blew up the details? You would definitely notice more than what previously met the eye.

Post-processing technique is key in this facet of stock photography. You must be able to perform the basic functions of photo editing software, such as the clone stamp tool in Photoshop to remove larger imperfections.

Inspect each image—no, I was not joking—pixel by pixel. Zoom into the shot and look out for errant blemishes, dust particles, distracting noise, or objects that should be removed altogether. Creative photography can often withstand deliberate imperfections, but stock photography is all about reducing the shot to the bare minimum focus.

Whenever possible, stick to a low ISO and use a tripod to reduce blurs. Your aperture and shutter speed should cast the subject in perfect focus while allowing the background features to appear more subtle.

Effective Descriptions and Keywords are Key

In some cases, your keyword and description choices are equally important as the quality of your photos. Always write detailed, thorough descriptions that correspond with every aspect of the photo. Furthermore, include as many keywords as possible that accurately relate to the content of your images.

Do not go overboard in this regard. Stock photo websites often crack down on users who spam their images with unrelated keywords. Think about it this way: Wouldn’t you be annoyed if you searched for stock photos of puppies but found yourself with search results depicting construction workers? You would be irritated with the irresponsible user and you clearly wouldn’t use their images.

When identifying these terms, concentrate on descriptive words and stay away from conceptuals. Stock websites have admitted that these phrases are rarely searched for.

If you are uploading a photo of your dog, for example, plug in words like “dog” and “pet” instead of “friendship.” Conjunctions such as “and” and “the” are unnecessary and should always be removed (see what I did there?). Most obviously, check your spelling! Don’t expect stock photo enthusiasts to search for “typewriter” instead of “typewriter.”

Consider Offering Free Shots

Many stock photo websites such as pixabay and pexels (my personal favorite!) provide cost-free and royalty-free images. Although it sounds disappointing not to get paid for your hard work, it might be wise to begin your stock photo journey by offering free photos.

Building an audience and a positive reputation will be extremely valuable moving forward. Countless people (including me!) always search for free images before the paid stuff, which means more traffic and a better chance to be noticed.

Find Your Stock Photography Niche

When you start uploading stock photos, begin with pictures of pretty much everything—your dog, your house, your laptop, yourself… As people begin using your work, you can gauge the content that attracts notable attention and weed out the stuff that may not be working.

Through this process, you can begin to triangulate your niche. Whether you stick to a particular type of subject or concentrate on a certain aesthetic, finding your niche will help you maintain an audience and reduce competition.

Eventually you will be “known” for your niche, which will be valuable in growing your user base. Focusing on your niche will also make it easier for you to capture content because you will be able to invest your time toward one particular style. Your productivity will experience a boost, your audience will become more loyal, and you will hold a distinguished identity within the stock photo community.

Now that you’ve finished reading this article, snap some pics and make some delicious cash!