How to start in stock photography

© Antrey
If you're passionate about photography, you probably spend a lot on photo equipment and a return of that investment will come in handy. Or you may simply want to earn some extra money out of your hobby and don't really know how to do this. Stock photography may be the answer you're looking for.

There are many photographers out there who earn a decent monthly income from stock photography and many photographers who decided to focus on this domain and make a living from producing and selling their images online.

The easiest way to sell your photos online is through an agency. Why? Because if you want to sell your photos by yourself, it takes time and effort. The market is huge but the supplied volume is also high and it gets harder and harder to reach potential clients nowadays. A photo agency makes it a lot easier for you, handling all the bureaucracy, paperwork, promotion and attracting the clients. Dreamstime has lots of clients which can become your clients too, once you join the agency. Why spend precious time looking for clients when all you need to do is what you love: shoot!

Here's a short guide on how to start selling your images on Dreamstime:

1. Select

The first and very important step is to select the images you want to sell. It is recommended you choose only the best of your best photos. For starters, they should be crisp, well composed, appealing and easy to understand as far as the concept is concerned. Conceptual photography is the best selling stock photography, so if you have photos with a strong concept, those are the most likely to sell. Don't limit yourself to your DSLR photos, though. With the new technology, your mobile phone photos could have selling potential too.

2. Process

Another important step is the post processing of the selected photos. The less you process them, the more attractive they will be for a potential buyer. Designers (buyers) usually prefer to make their own adjustments, post-processing and apply effects to your photos, as per their needs. Of course, minimal processing may still be due as you may have to adjust lighting and contrast, brighten up the colors a little bit, remove the noise and make sure your photos are sharp enough. Save them in jpg, at maximum quality. If you have the RAW files, you will be able to attach them to your uploaded jpegs.

On Dreamstime, we have two sections: Royalty Free and Editorial.

a) Royalty Free files can be used for commercial purposes, so they must not contain any trademarks or copyrighted elements such as logos, brand names or copyrighted designs (more on copyright HERE). If there are visible people in your image, you must provide a Model Release signed by these people as a proof that they agree to your selling of their photos for commercial purposes. You can use a generic model release or our MR, available for download HERE.

b) Editorial images reflect events from social, cultural and political scenes. For this section, you don't need Model Release forms for people appearing in your photos and you shouldn't remove copyrighted elements. In fact, post processing, other than adjusting light and colors, should be kept to a minimum. However, you need to ensure your image fits this category, so you may want to read the specifications before uploading.

3. Upload

That would be the easy part. Once you register, you’ll be able to start the upload immediately. You can also use our FTP upload option for larger batches. A few minutes after the upload process is complete, you will find the images in your Unfinished section of your Management Area.

4. Describe

The next step to describe the images. That’s a very important step in your journey to sell them. Choose the section you want to submit to, Royalty Free or Editorial, and proceed with adding the image info. You must provide your photos with title, description and keywords. Use as many relevant keywords as you can. Don't use irrelevant keywords or descriptions copied from external sources, this may get your photos refused.

You should also be aware that you need to check additional boxes for extended license agreements and also add geotagging in case your image can be geo-tagged.

When all these steps are complete, submit your images.

There’s a catch to first submissions: don’t upload too many photos the first time. Upload 10-20 images, see how it works. Some may get accepted, some may get refused and there will be a refusal reason provided in each case. Don’t get mad about refusals, they are meant to help you. Instead, learn from refusal reasons and try to correct issues reported for future submissions.

Keep an eye on the forums, you will learn interesting tips from fellow contributors there.

Also, make sure you follow Dreamstime on Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter, so you can be the first who gets the news and interesting tips from our editors.

Good luck!

Photo credits: Andrey Pavlov, Hse0193.

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August 09, 2020


Thank you, very useful! ❤️

July 22, 2020


Very Very useful and helpful for newbies.

April 27, 2020


Great advice! Thank you!!

October 08, 2019


Very informative suggestions. Thanks a lot.

September 02, 2019


Thank you very much,muchas gracias.

July 07, 2019



May 10, 2019

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October 03, 2018


thank you :)

August 28, 2018


Thanks for sharing! Greetings from the Netherlands.

July 30, 2018



June 30, 2018


Thank you! Very useful hints!

September 16, 2017


Thanks a lot this is really helpfull, let's start

August 10, 2017


Very useful article for beginners. Thanks for guidelines..

December 16, 2016


Thank you for the information!

November 17, 2016


ABC basic. Yet useful.

October 21, 2016


Thank you for the informations and suggestions.
I will try.


May 05, 2016


Thank you for sharing this information ! Very helpful !!

April 10, 2016


good article, very helpful for new members.

November 25, 2015


Wow, that is great article, very helpful, thanks a lot!!!

July 31, 2015


Thank for your advice....

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