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How to Make Money Selling Stock Photos, for Beginners

As an amateur photographer I was looking for ways to enjoy and practice my photography skills while making some money on the side. One “easy” way is stock photography. All it requires is a DSLR and some photo editing software such as adobe lightroom or adobe photoshop (or there are some lower-end applications that are free online, Photopea is my preferred). After taking and editing your photos it will take some additional steps to submit your photos, tag them correctly, and see if the money flows in.

There are numerous stock photo websites you can use, but my preference is Shutterstock. It’s easy to sign up, has a huge customer base, and offers comparable (if not one of the best) commission rates to other stock websites. Your earnings will depend on the type of plan a customer uses to download your image and how much you have earned in your lifetime (as you earn more, you will get paid more per a download). When you first start (until you hit $500 lifetime earnings) I’ve found one download to average $0.25.

If you would like to sign up with Shutterstock please use my link (note that I will receive a commission, which helps me support this site). Here are some tips that I hope will help you make money from your photos with Shutterstock.

It’s a delicate balance between quality and quantity, but quantity is needed

Stock photography is kind of like dating. It’s a numbers game. Put your best foot forward and only upload photos that you think could be appropriate for commercial uses and do not have any technical issues. If objects are dark or the lighting is incorrect it will be flagged by the review team and won’t pass. Expect a review in about 5 days after submission. In order to make money you need to have a large number of photos available in your catalog, so never stop submitting them.

Think commercially, but you might be surprised

Some of my top photos are ones I might have anticipated (such as a rather unique baby elephant image) but others include fairly common landscape photos (the example above is similar to the one that has sold well for me). Including people can be a good choice in stock photography, but if you do, you must include a model release agreement if the people are identifiable. If you need ideas, Shutterstock also suggests trending themes under your contributor login if you go to Insights>The Shot List so you can understand the most demanded imagery for that month.

Tag your images, and then tag some more

Tags are how customers find your images and Shutterstock has made it extremely easy to think of as many useful tags as you can. You can begin tagging on your own and they will suggest additional ones below. Another great tool is under your contributor login you can go to Portfolio > Keyword suggestions which will allow you to search for similar images to yours and see all the keywords. In my experience, including a range of keywords from very general to very specific to capture all types of searches that might apply to your photo.

Good luck with your stock photography endeavors, and as a reminder if you decide to pursue submitting or purchasing photos with Shutterstock I would appreciate it if you can use my referral link.

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