Top 10 Tips for Getting Into Stock Photography

Blue Flower

Stock agencies have millions of flower images to choose from. Make your flower image different. This one is upside down.

If you’ve ever picked up a magazine lately and admired the photos chances are the images you are looking at are stock.  The likelihood goes up when you’re looking at advertising for business, travel or lifestyle magazines.  The industry started because photographers wanted to make income from the extra images that were not used during shoots.  Fast forward to today and now you have whole industries and photographers solely dedicated to shooting for stock.


Food images sell quite a bit. Take a picture of your next fancy dinner. Just say you're a tourist when you get some stares..

Top 10 Tips for Getting Into Stock Photography:

1.  Shoot, shoot, shoot! Ever heard of the old adage, “practice makes perfect?”  Well that certainly applies here.  The more images you take the better you become at learning your craft.

2.  Always have your camera ready to take a snapshot wherever you go. You’ll never know when the next unplanned excursion leads to a spectacular image or the image that catches a stock agency editor’s eye.

3.  Research the requirements of different agencies. Some agencies requirements are very strict while others will take you in on just having a great portfolio.  The better informed you are about what is required from each agency will allow you to pick and choose who to contact.

4.  Build up a worthy portfolio. Most agencies require you to submit images while some will look at your work online.  If you have a strong portfolio you’ll have better confidence when you do go out and say, “here I am.”

5.  Invest in the right equipment. Most of the time photography is not about the gadgets or the big megapixel hype.  In the case with stock photography the clients will want to enlarge the images and so you need to invest in a camera that can meet those expectations.  Get a DSLR camera with at least a 12 megapixel DX sensor.  The bigger the sensor the better the picture quality for larger prints.  Only upgrade your equipment when the time is right.  Don’t go and buy the most expensive camera right away only to find out that you’ll lose interest and drive in a month or two.

6.  Join Flickr or some other image sharing website. On there you can build up a following of friends that will give you honest feedback on your images.  Flickr now allows you to sell your images straight from their site.

7.  Study lots of magazines to know what sells. What better way to see what sells than to go straight to the source.  The images you see in the magazines tell you what’s hot and what sells.  It also tells you how to compose shots so that headlines and copy can be inserted.  It’s probably not how you would usually frame a shot but think about an editor who wants to add text to your image.  Also know what sells.  Business and lifestyle images with people typically sell the most.

8.  Take a workshop or class from a stock photographer. Many camera stores in your area will advertise workshops from photographers that are already in the industry.  If you’re in Canada like me Vistek is a good place to start.  Most of these classes are one or two days and are quite affordable.  Learning is always a good investment.  Don’t reinvent the wheel.

9.  Learn about keywording. An image only contains searchable information in its metadata fields.  What is metadata?  Well it’s information about information.  It allows programs to identify that your image is a picture of a golden retriever running after a Frisbee.  How does it do that?  Well you need to input all the relevant words like: dog, golden retriever, Frisbee, etc. into the proper data fields.  Most image editing software like Adobe Photoshop will allow you to input those fields.

10.  Be patient. Rome wasn’t built overnight and neither is your career as a stock photographer.  Not everyone is suited to be a stock photographer.  Photographers are attached to their images as it’s something that is personal and created from within.  It takes some time to learn how to remove yourself from an image and see it for a commercial opportunity instead of just purely art.  Set yourself small goals and meet them instead of one big goal and fail miserably.

A screenshot of a Stock Photography website (courtesy of DesignPics)

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6 Responses to “Top 10 Tips for Getting Into Stock Photography”

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