Stock Photography Facts

The concept of stock photography is beautiful, in its essence: taking pictures for passion, without clients' request, and trying to sell them afterwards to those who might be interested in purchasing them for various uses. It sure has variations, depending on each photographer and the market as a whole, but the basic concept is beautiful and, in a way, pure: passion first, business second.I have always dreamed about taking only the photos I want, without ever having to worry about the money. But reality comes with costs, and if you want to cover them, you have to think about the market, trends, demand, existing supply, rules and so on.

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, stock photography was born about a hundred years ago. It all started with H. Armstrong Roberts in 1920, when he photographed a group of people in front of an airplane and made sure they all signed model releases, so he could sell the photo later, without having to worry about legal repercussions.

The stock industry began getting stronger in the 1980s with the advance of technology, and really took off in the 2000s with the help of affordable Internet and digital cameras. So, this may look like a new adventure to you, but it’s been around way before you were even born.

Here are a few more stock photography facts that you may not know yet:

- It takes less than 2 minutes to start selling photos when using a mobile app (like Dreamstime Companion for example)

- It’s approximately 10 times cheaper to use stock photos than to hire a photographer to shoot custom images, but that’s only for when you can. I can’t imagine printing a photo album filled with stock photos so you can remember your own wedding. Unless you’ve made a deal with a stock photographer to shoot it.

- Models can become famous through stock photography. There’s an entire group on Facebook, who’s only mission is to find pictures of this model, online or offline:

- On stock, you can find four presidents in the same image:

- A Dreamstime contributor photographed World Trade Center from its construction:

To its tragic end:

Listen, I have an idea: let’s make a list together. Shoot me in the comments with more interesting facts that you know and think most people don’t, and I’ll update this post with your findings.

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January 08, 2018


Great article, thanks for sharing.

December 04, 2017


@Evnalli, if you have 100 images out there, you're just beginning to be noticeable. Keep at it, and if your work is good you can expect to see a few sales soon--but you do have to keep on adding to your portfolio. Now the down side (for the photographer) is that you'll likely only make a few cents on each one. I've just joined Dreamstime, but I've been on other sites for a while, one of them for eight years, and have nearly 3,000 images available on line. In that time I've gone from one sale every four to six months, up to one every other day and some months as many as two a day, but even so I'm only averaging about 75 cents a sale. That would be life-changing for a third-world-poverty-stricken photographer, but it won't support my American lifestyle dream. Thank goodness I have a pension from another job. I've decided to make the leap to a portrait studio and just do the stock on the side because I do enjoy it tremendously. Brides-to-be, you are likely to be asked to sign a model release so the photographer can use your photos in stock -- it's a common practice -- but don't expect much if any discount. The rewards for stock are low and going lower lately, and though some do make a nice dollar it can't be relied on to bring in enough to cover the photographer's costs of doing business, let alone provide support for him and his family.

December 03, 2017


I agree with the possibilities as stated by Perstock.

November 30, 2017


How does the Dreamstime Companion app work? There's not much information at the link you provided. Does uploading from an app mean Dreamstime is accepting iPhone photos as stock photos? I looked on the iOS app store and couldn't find an app called Dreamstime Companion.

November 27, 2017


Lol about the Emily model. I dont recognize her at all...Ditto on Evnalli's comment though. The stock photographers who seem to be truly benefiting are those who have develop and great taste and style, and probably a system to churn out photos

November 27, 2017


Its a great concept for potential buyers and stock websites but not so great for photographers. After about 100 uploads with zero sale, I am wondering if is it worth to invest time in clearing copyrights and other objectionable things from images to upload and get approval. Question is, would one be better off in investing this time in other wings of their photography business if they have one ?

November 27, 2017


People are crazy about Harold, the internet sensation:

November 27, 2017


Microstock is really fantastic for buyers. A possibility to find allmost any subject at an extremely low cost makes it possible even for a non profit organization or private person to illustrate something or even put an image to the home wall.On the other hand - the photographers compensation are extremely low compared to the analog days...

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