How to Make Money with Stock Photos Without Reinventing the Wheel

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How to Make Money with Stock Photos

by D'Arcy Benincosa

Diversify, Multiple, and Bring in More Passive Income

I have good news and bad news for you. 

The good news? I firmly believe there has never been a better time to make money as a photographer. 

There have never been easier ways or more ways to make money in the world of photography than there are today. 

The bad news? You need to start diversifying to really see that income increase. 

And while this isn’t actually bad news, it does mean a little bit of ingenuity and work on your end. 

Truthfully, it can actually be pretty exciting to talk about ways to make money.

And while there are a lot of ways to make money in photography, let’s talk today about how to make money with stock photos.

Why Diversifying Is Important

You’ve heard me talk over and over about diversifying your income streams and why this is more important than ever in today’s uncertain economy. 

Gone are the days when you should focus on one stream of income. Instead, diversifying and multiplying is the name of the game. 

Why?  

Because, as a self-employed woman, I know that work ebbs and flows, comes and goes, and can be inconsistent, to say the least. The more I can do to make my income as consistent (and easy) as possible, the better.  

Can you relate?  

You start your business—as a wedding photographer, planner, florist, or whatever your passion—then you wait for the inquiries to come in.  

And maybe for a while they come in. But then they slow down (or even stop). Or maybe you are in the middle of branching out to a new niche and you aren’t getting the momentum you expected.

It can feel helpless when your business isn’t where you want—or need—it to be. How exactly are you going to pay for your mortgage, your food, those really fancy shoes that you need want? 

I changed my relationship with my business when I decided I was going to start diversifying my streams of income. When it was just weddings, it was very stressful. But when it got bigger than weddings, I felt secure because I knew that when weddings slowed down, I could still pay the bills and continue to live the life I wanted.

This is why you need multiple streams of income and why I want to discuss how to make money with stock photos. 

How to Make Money With Stock Photos

It can be confusing figuring out multiple sources of income but the challenge is worth it when you see your bottom line increase.

A large part of how I first reached 6-figures in my photography business was through stock photography.  

What Is Stock Photography

First of all, what exactly is stock photography?

Stock photography is a large compilation of already-created images that are available for different purposes. Usually, stock photography is licensed and sold through platforms, such as Getty Images or Shutterstock. 

These platforms generally have high standards and specific guidelines for images that they accept. 

When larger companies don’t want to pay for and direct their own shoots, stock photo agencies are where they go to get the images they need. Companies pay a fee for using the image (and different companies offer different licensing agreements) and photographers get paid a percentage. 

You’ll find everything from scenic images to abstract ones to family portraits on most stock photography sites. 

Why Stock Photography? 

Stock photography is a great way to bring in extra money every year without necessarily reinventing the wheel. While it is a long-game approach (you most likely won’t see immediate income), it can be lucrative. 

Why should you consider making money with stock photography?

You Are Already Doing the Work

If you are already shooting weddings, portraits, branding sessions, or even just taking photos of your travels, you are in a prime position to start making money from stock photography. 

Every time you have a wedding, a session, or even just go somewhere, ask yourself if you will be able to use those images for any stock purposes. If you shoot professionally, your biggest battle is already won. 

You do have to consider contracts when using work for clients for stock agencies. Check with a lawyer to make sure your contract covers using the stock images.

Shoot Your Dream Images

If you aren’t shooting regularly, you have to be the one to produce your own shoots by hiring the models, creating the themes, and then executing the shoots. It is a lot of work but, with the right approach, can get you working directly with your dream brands. 

For example, say you love a specific (and popular) brand and its vibe. Look at what they are doing and the content they are producing. Then start producing work that appeals to their market, demographic, and company. When you create like this you can be more sure that what you are shooting is pertinent and in demand for the market today. You won’t waste your time shooting images that are outdated or that no one will buy. 

It Can Help Spark Your Creativity

Another reason that stock photography is something to consider is that it can help reignite a creative spark when you are burned out.  

Stock photography used to (basically) be second-rate shots of people shaking hands in the office. Now, it is completely different. Today, stock photography is top-quality, high-end commercial work. 

Use stock photography to push yourself creatively, thinking outside of the box when you take what could be an everyday image. 

How to make money with stock photos

How to Get Started in Stock Photography

Now it is time to put in the work. 

Figure Out What to Shoot

The first step is to decide what kind of stock photography you are able and willing to shoot. 

For as many types of photography as there are, there are as many genres of stock photography. 

Be realistic. You may not want to consider wildlife stock photography if you don’t already have a super zoom lens or if you live in New York City. Instead, focus on the genres that are easily available to you. 

As I mentioned earlier, if you are already shooting family photos on the regular, consider using these for your stock portfolio. Or if you travel a lot, take a little time to shoot more than the standard tourist snap and create some really epic artwork. I usually devote one morning, or afternoon, of my travels to just getting images for stock photography. 

You also need to do some research and find out what is currently in demand. You don’t want to waste your time shooting and submitting work that will not be profitable. Look at what the market needs in combination with what you love to produce.  

Find a Platform to Market Your Work 

There are a ton of platforms out there for stock photography. I am not going to dive into what platforms are the best because there truly are so many options out there and I think that there are different considerations for every person.

My advice? Do your research and be realistic. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket or feel like you are a failure because Getty Images didn’t accept your work. Some stock agencies are very difficult to break into and that doesn’t mean your work isn’t great and that you won’t make money on a different platform.

Start Small

Start small…and then grow larger. Don’t expect to pay all of your bills at once and don’t expect to be bringing in 5 figures a month at first.

Stock photography isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. You have to play the long game but, once you play for long enough, you can start creating residual income easily.

One Step Closer to Financial Freedom

To me stock photography and residual income are freedom and this is why I am so passionate and vocal about finding ways to bring in money without putting in long hours of work every week.

Stock photography can be overwhelming at first but trust me, the hardest thing you are going to have to do is get a model release, keyword your images, and upload them to a stock site. As a photographer, you are already doing the work—now just have to maximize its reach and you’ll see how to make make money with stock photos in no time at all.

Do you want to go deeper into Play it Brave? And BIG? And BOLD? Come listen to the Play it Brave podcast and binge your way to a better business and a better life.

Want to up level your portfolio so that it screams elegance and luxury? And brings in a luxury paycheck? Check out my most popular course, The Profitable Portfolio and be on your way to $10k wedding clients.

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Not booking $10k+ weddings?

Play

It Brave

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A few of my favorite business tools:

CREATIVE LAW SHOP

Contracts, Privacy Policies, and more. Use code DARCYB10 for 10% off!

goodlight Presets

Struggle to match your digital to your film? You've met your match. Use code PLAYITBRAVE to get $50 off!

pic-time

Say au revoir to lazy galleries! Use code DARCY to get your first month free.

tonic site shop

Crappy website? Say no more. Get 20% off a template with code PLAYITBRAVE. You're welcome.

Learn my simple tweaks you can make that will have you attracting your dream clients with the portfolio you have TODAY.

free guide

Have no time to submit
to publications?

Don’t let your images gather dust on a hard drive – GET THEM SEEN (and gain street cred too).

free training

Not booking $10k+ weddings?

binge-listen

Play

It Brave

podcast

A few of my favorite business tools:

CREATIVE LAW SHOP

Contracts, Privacy Policies, and more. Use code DARCYB10 for 10% off!

goodlight presets

Struggle to match your digital to your film? You've met your match. Use code PLAYITBRAVE to get $50 off!

pic-time

Say au revoir to lazy galleries! Use code DARCY to get your first month free.

tonic site shop

Crappy website? Say no more. Get 20% off a template with code PLAYITBRAVE. You're welcome.

Have no time to submit to publications?

Don’t let your images gather dust on a hard drive – GET THEM SEEN (and gain street cred too).

free guide

Learn my simple tweaks you can make that will have you attracting your dream clients with the portfolio you have TODAY.

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