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Quick Tips for Getting Into Stock Photography

Getting accepted as a stock photographer can be a difficult and frustrating process. Especially when your best photos get rejected by photo reviewers. After helping many photographers trying to become accepted as Shutterstock contributors, I have discovered how the process can instead become a fun and educational experience.


Why become a stock photographer?


Earning money on your digital photography work is a great way to earn an extra income. But it is often not the main motivation for why many people try to become contributors. Being accepted, and being able to call yourself a stock photographer, means something. Similar to how many people develop their skills so they one day can become a professional in their field, being able to call yourself a stock photographer will for many mean more than saying you’re a professional photographer.

When someone presents themselves as a professional photographer, people tend to have different views of what that means. Some associate a professional photographer with someone that makes high quality photos. Others may think of the person they hired to photograph their wedding. Or perhaps someone that has their photos sold in a gallery. Some may think a professional photographer is only someone that has a diploma, or someone that works full-time and earns their main income from their photography.

Being able to say you’re a stock photographer says something about the level you have reached. Why? Because the stock photography industry is well known for its high quality requirements.

Furthermore, the best part of being a stock photographer is knowing your work is being purchased, appreciated, and used all around the world. With modern tools like Google image Search, you can back trace and find were and how your most popular photos are being used.


Are you qualified?

If you know how to make a manual exposure, get the focusing correct and have a good eye for correct white balance, you’re most likely qualified to become a stock photographer.

Expect to get rejected

It might take a few attempts. But once you’re accepted, as many existing stock photographers can testify, it made them an even better photographer. A rejection of your initial submission might feel like a disappointment at first. But take advantage of the feedback and suggestions provided. Your initial submission will most likely be more strictly evaluated than the general submissions you’ll make in the future after getting accepted.


Find the motivation to learn

Try to see your first submission as a homework assignment for reading the stock agency’s submission guidelines. Like any course or workshop, your first homework assignment is not expected to be flawless. There will most likely be room for improvement. With this attitude, learning about stock photography can be an educational, fun, and even motivating experience.

The first batch of photos is the hardest

For example, when signing up to one of the most popular stock photography sites like Shutterstock, you are asked to submit 10 samples of your best work. Seven of these must pass the strict inspection of their reviewers. But if rejected, you’re provided with great feedback to help you improve your photography.


It gets easier after getting accepted

As any existing stock photographer can testify, your initial batch of submitted work is much more strictly evaluated than the general submissions you will make in the future after getting accepted.

You’re closer to getting accepted than you might think

A submission that is not approved is often not completely rejected either. Many rejected photos can have only one minor issue that can sometimes even be fixed with a little editing. Even though it may feel like your entire batch of submitted work was rejected, you might only be a few adjustments away from getting accepted.


Try again. Many existing stock photographers did.

Many existing stock photographers did not get accepted on their first attempt. For every initial submission that is not approved, take good use of the feedback that is required. See it as a free portfolio review from experts in the field. Be inquisitive, study the material and try again!

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Kjell Leknes
Kjell Leknes

runs the Amsterdam Photo Club, organizing more than 30 events per year for local photographers. He is also a Shutterstock community leader, helping many photographers become stock photographers. See more on his own website and the camera club site.

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