In’s and Out’s of Creating and Selling Stock Photography
What is Stock Photography? Stock photos are images that are created by an artist or photographer, and made available for sale to commercial and editorial customers. Most stock photos are generic in nature, allowing the end-user to place the high-resolution pieces in booklets, brochures, catalogues, greeting cards, books, on websites, and in advertising.
With a bit of practice and an eye for creativity, anyone can create and sell stock photography. Internet technology has created an abundance of stock photography resources; indeed many have argued that the Internet invented stock photography. Regardless, the most common format for readily-created materials is the stock photo site.
To become a stock photographer, you will need a few basic things. The fundamentals are a computer with internet connection, and a good digital camera or scanner. More realistically, you should have high-speed internet connectivity like cable broadband. Stock photos are submitted in very high resolutions, meaning that their file-size is often larger than 1 megabyte each. If you try uploading images of this size on dial-up, you’re going to give up before you’ve really gotten started. You will also want some type of photo editing software, even if the most you do with it is crop or rotate your photos.ï¿½
Setting Up Shop
So you’ve got your camera and computer, and are ready to go… almost. The first thing you need to decide is what way you’re going to publish your stock photography. Basically, it comes down to two choices: work with an established stock photography company who will accept your submissions, or create a new company yourself and work freelance and/or on a personal website.
Check out a few sites that provide stock photography, like www.sxc.hu and www.workbookstock.com to get a feel for what kinds of photography are most suited to becoming stock. Then, start snapping shots and get ready to submit (I’ve listed several companies in the resources section of this article).
Working freelance and/or on a personal website will be a bit different than if you decide to work with an established company. For instance, when you’re working with an established company, you will be given certain guidelines like what size and format your images need to be submitted in, and your fees will probably be set for you. When you’re doing it on your own, you need to think more in-depth about certain issues, but these are good things to know regardless of how you intend to sell your work.
The most complex area you will encounter is in the way of licenses. For ease on both the photographer and the purchaser, most people opt for the Royalty-Free license. These licenses are relatively simply because there are no limits on most aspects of the photograph’s use. You can learn more about licensing and copyright at http://www.photoconnect.net/license.htm.
Your next “to-do” will be to develop a standard model release. A model release is basically a written agreement between the model and the photographer, stating that the model gives his/her permission for the photographer to use the photographs commercially. Generally, a model’s release grants all rights for use of the images, with the exception of controversial or defamatory uses. A really good, in-depth guide to model releases can be found here: http://www.danheller.com/model-release.html.
It is ultimately your responsibility as the photographer to make sure that all the images you sell have model release forms, and that the images are used appropriately. Always keep a copy of your release forms, many buyers will require proof of models release before they purchase your work.
Where to Submit
If you’re going to start your own company and sell stock photography on your own, make life easier on yourself and go with a shopping cart software like OSCommerce (it’s free); this kind of shopping cart can be used by someone with very little technical know-how, and you can have people create a “look” for your site for very little money. Check out the OSCommerce Club for some ideas: www.oscommerceclub.com.
Even working on your own, you will want to submit some pieces elsewhere for greater exposure and to create a wider earnings net. For pure exposure, sites like www.sxc.hu and www.deviantart.com can’t be overlooked.
On the side of established companies, what follows is a brief list of stock photography providers that actively seek new photographers to work with:
PhotoConnect.net (http://www.photoconnect.net/index.htm): “Photoconnect delivers unique multiple benefits to buyers and sellers willing to embrace the flexibility that the internet offers.”
Shutterpoint.com (http://www.shutterpoint.com/Home-Photographer.cfm?ga=1): “ShutterPoint is an online collection of digital photos submitted by our members and presented for purchase to any interested party.”
SmugMug.com (http://www.smugmug.com): Create impressive online albums.
Set your prices. Pro print quality.
Buypixel.com (http://www.buypixel.com): Do you have high quality photos that can attract publishers of printed or digital media? Become a member, upload images, and begin selling your photographs today.