7 Tips to Help Sell Your Images with Stock Photography Agencies

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7 Tips to Help Sell Your Images with Stock Photography Agencies

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Getting your photographs onto a stock agency can be difficult. Most have very strict technical guideline,s and very tough editing procedures. However, following these 7 tips could increase your chances of getting accepted and help you sell your images with stock photography agencies.

1 – Do Your Research

Stock agencies vary greatly in what they specialize in, and the type of images they are looking for. Some image libraries desire more lifestyle photographs, whereas others would prefer reportage style images. You should look at as many different agencies as you can, and see which ones suit your subject and style of work, but also which ones you would prefer to work with.

2 – Choose Wisely

Indian food seller (for point 2) I try to tailor my photographs for specific agencies I work with. For example I submitted this photo to Alamy rather than the luxury travel image libraries I work with and it appeared in a national newspaper a couple of months ago.

Indian food seller – I try to tailor my photographs for specific agencies I work with. For example, I submit this photo to Alamy, rather than the luxury travel image libraries I work with, and it appeared in a national newspaper a couple of months ago.

There are different types of agencies, so choosing the right one to work with is vital. For example, ones like Shutterstock and Dreamstime are what’s called Micro Stock agencies, and their sale prices tend to be lower. Whereas agencies like Corbis, Getty and Alamy will negotiate the price based on usage, so they can sometimes be higher priced. However, it isn’t unusual for even these agencies to licence images for very small amounts of money – less than one dollar. Some agencies are managed, which means an editor will look at the photos you submit, and only choose the ones that they would like to take on. Some like Alamy, are un-managed which means they will accept your entire submission dependent on meeting technical guidelines.

3 – Study Their Images

Stock agencies generally want a huge variety, and therefore images that are different to what they already hold in their archives. This is especially true for managed stock agencies, so study what they already have and try to take and submit photos that are different in some way. That could be the lighting, the angle, or even the composition.

St. Paul's Cathedral has been photographed many times, but this was one of the photos the agency accepted.

St. Paul’s Cathedral has been photographed many times, but this was one of the photos the agency accepted.

4 – Be Ruthless

Usually, in the first instance, you need to send a small selection of low resolution images to the agency, for them to review. If they are happy with your selection they will ask to see more, so you need to ensure that you are ruthless when you edit your initial submission. Don’t choose images based on sentiment – just because you waited around for two hours to get the shot, doesn’t make it a great photograph. Instead, try to detach yourself from the images and think like a picture editor who is looking at someone else’s photos.

5 – Be a Perfectionist

All stock agencies have very clear guidelines on how they want images supplied such as: minimum file size, format, colour profile, etc. If you are invited to send more after your initial submission, make sure you study the submission guidelines carefully, to ensure your images are technically perfect. This means checking every single image you are sending at 100% view, because stock agencies will spot any errors, will reject the photo, and in some cases such as Alamy, that whole submission. Make sure your images are sharp, and be especially aware of chromatic aberration and excessive noise in your photos.

The inside of Basilica Cistern in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey, Be aware of noise and camera shake in your photos especially when photographing in low light conditions.

The inside of Basilica Cistern in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey, Be aware of noise and camera shake in your photos especially when photographing in low light conditions.

6 – Work Together

The stock agency is there to promote your work. So if you are accepted, try and build a relationship with them. Ask them if they have any current picture needs, or if they would like photos from a specific location. Run ideas past them, ask for their input and what their clients are asking for. For example, if I am away on a shoot, I will send an email to the picture editors of the stock agencies I work with, letting them know where I am, and asking if there are any specific photos they need from that location.

7 – Look for Opportunities

Once you have established yourself with an agency, you should start to plan your photo shoots around themes and topics that have potential for sales. For example, a new flight route to a country could mean it will become the next big tourist destination, or is there a current news, fashion, or environmental issue that you can create a photo shoot on. The key is to be informed whatever your subject is, so read magazines, trade newsletters, and newspapers to get a sense of hot topics. You’ll have a better chance of selling images that way.

Every year Europe's biggest street party comes to the streets of West London, which means all of the shops and homes are boarded up. This photo sold within a few hours of being live.

Every year Europe’s biggest street party comes to the streets of West London, which means all of the shops and homes are boarded up. This photo sold within a few hours of being live.

With so many stock libraries out there, choosing the one that fits your style of work and also offers a good return on your photos can be tricky. Once you have signed up and submitted photos, there are usually clauses in place which state a minimum notice period to remove photos, or exclusivity rights that mean it can be difficult to move those images to another agency. The key is to make sure you do your research beforehand, choose wisely, and take your time.

For more stock photography tips read:

Do you sell your images as stock photography? Which agencies do you work with? Please share your experiences below in the comments.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Kav Dadfar is a professional travel and landscape photographer based in London. He spent his formative years working as an art director in the world of advertising but loved nothing more than photography and travelling. His images are represented by stock agencies such as 4Corners Images, Robert Harding World Imagery, Getty, Axiom Photographic, and Alamy and they have been used by clients such as Condé Nast, National Geographic, Wanderlust travel magazine, American Express and many more. Follow his travels and imagery on Instagram and Facebook.

  • Christos

    Thanks for the article! In the last shot, did you need a release form from the workers and the Pub? If so, how do you approach that? Do you offer them part of the fee you earn?

  • Deepti

    These is really great tips to earn rewards by selling photography, i would like to add some best stock photography agencies such as Dreamstime, Shutterstock, iStockPhoto & BigStockPhoto which offers nice price. We usually prefer all these listed companies to sell our photos and some time we also buy photos from there for our website fazzy.in Thanks digital photography school & team to share such important tips which will help us to marketing our photos..!

  • Kav Dadfar

    No worries. Take care.
    Kav

  • Kav Dadfar

    HI Christos

    For images which are to be used editorially (i.e. an article about the destination, event etc) you do not need a release form. If the image is to be used commercially (i.e. advertising a service or product) then you will need a release form. This particular image was going on the Alamy news wire so no release was needed. I do try and get releases wherever possible. Usually offering to email the person a copy of the photo is a good option. Hope this helps.

    Regards
    Kav

  • me

    I sell on 123rf, but find the average 25 cents per sale makes it not worthwhile. What is considered a reasonable fee per image use?

  • Christos

    Yes it does. Thanks!

  • surya

    you shared photography is really good

  • Kav Dadfar

    Thanks! Glad you like it.

  • Kav Dadfar

    There isn’t really a right answer. It depends on lots of different factors such as where the image is used, size, duration etc. 1 image could be sold for $1 to one client and $50 to another just because of the usage. Generally speaking you will find that micro-stock stock libraries sell for lower prices but I’ve even had Getty sell my images for less than $1.

  • me

    Hmmm sorta confirms my thoughts that it is hardly worth doing. Even the time to submit, putting in keywords etc, let alone actually taking and processing the images… even if it sells 10x….potentially $2.50!!

  • Cath

    I’m so grateful for all your help. I have started to sell on Shutterstock , the family laugh about it . Ok only 3 shots have sold in as many weeks , 2 at 25c and one $1.88. Everything i have read on dps is so true . Im finding everywhere i look ,I’m sizing up …”what would a buyer want here “. Thanks heaps , I’m learning everyday .

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  • Kav Dadfar

    Good. And well done for making the sales. It all adds up in the end. Glad you found the articles on here useful.

  • Robert

    I too have tried to get images on alamy. How did you get by their request
    for model release for those people in the photograph??

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Robert

    You only need a model release for images to be sold commercially (for editorial use you don’t need a model release). When your images are ready to caption on Alamy there is a drop down menu that asks if you have model release (if there are people in the photo). If you choose “no” the image will then only be available for editorial use. Hope that helps.

    Kav

  • Robert

    Thanks for that info Kav. I think it’s funny as I sent in a photo of people skating on a local pond, they were covered up with balaclava and sun glasses. Nothing could be recognizable on them identify them and Alamy would not allow the image GEE

  • Kav Dadfar

    You might have seen this already, but it’s a useful explanation of when you need releases.

    http://www.alamy.com/help/what-is-model-release-property-release.asp

  • samir

    wow it is vary great article. I love to visit this blog daily

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  • Great article about microstock photography! This is great way to learn and make some money with this hobby…

    http://shutterstock.com/g/stockphotographer

  • Kav Dadfar

    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. Kav

  • I joined the school’s photography. I hope I shall be a good photographer. Daily reads this blog, I’m learning something new and fresh.

    CEO at http://www.getresultonline.in/

  • ‘m so grateful for all your help. I have started to sell on Shutter stock , the family laugh about it . OK only 3 shots have sold in
    as many weeks , 2 at 25c and one $1.88. Everything i have read on fps
    is so true. i am looking for good quality pics for my site Avwal.

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Suman, they may laugh about it, but that’s people paying to use your images! Also, believe me all of those small amounts add up. Kav

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