What I learned selling stock images online

I've been selling stock images online for about a year and a half now. I started out as a complete novice and have grown to the point that I consider myself somewhat of a pro. But I'm always learning and improving!

The learning curve in selling stock online is steep and success is directly related to effort. The cycle of uploading, getting images accepted or rejected, and selling images is an important feedback loop that allows one to learn at his own rate and is based on the level of effort made at each step. The more one shoots, edits, uploads, sells - the more one learns the craft of photography and how to produce work that sells.

For me, skill improvement has been one of the best results of my participation in selling images through stock agencies. Microstock has some of the highest technical demands of any image market. To be successful, it's necessary to bring one's photography skills up to par, including capturing the image as well as post-processing with tools such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom.

I also learned about the value of images from selling stock online. For someone who was not experienced in the world of professional photography, I never would have imagined that someone's images could be worth so much to image buyers. I have a photographer friend who likes to enroll in a lot of photography classes, take photography-oriented trips, and go to photo club meetings -- but her photographs just sit inside her hard drive and never get seen. I prefer putting my images out into the world and, better yet, getting real unbiased feedback from professional people willing to spend money to use my images. I retain all rights to my images and basically loan the use of the images via online stock agencies. This is real feedback that the images have value, unlike what you might get from showing your photos to your grandmother.

The other thing I've learned about selling stock images is the incredible demand for imagery. I've learned to create a diverse portfolio of images from basic isolated objects that will be used as part of more complex creations, to full-blown, ready-to-go landscapes and concepts. Even with millions of stock images already in the online stock agencies' catalogs, there are always new subjects, new angles and new concepts needed. It's a fun challenge to try to satisfy this demand. Sometimes a contributor produces images that don't find much demand, but then every once in a while you upload an image that gets purchased within hours and you have to conclude that by golly, you nailed that one!

There is a huge demand for stock imagery. Buyers are willing to pay for it and in addition to compensation, the contributor reaps the great benefit of skill improvement. Not a bad deal.

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December 27, 2012


Good article and a realistic view! Taking a look at your portfolio, makes me realize that you'don't make it with just 40 pics online...I'm fairly "new" myself, but my pics are viewed,not sold yet. Guess I'm still looking for a certain style in photography - something that buyers might recognize, so they will come back to your portfolio - I think that's an important thing as well. Wish you many downloads

November 03, 2012


Nicely written, Peanutroaster! I too have learned "on the job", as it is. I'm still learning, every day. But you gotta get those images out there--I am in perfect agreement with you on that.

And I love the dog with the typewriter! So cute!

November 02, 2012


Thanks for sharing, great blog.

November 02, 2012


Liked your blog. Most people here appreciate the exposure to real world photography that this site enables and are grateful for the professional critique. Even if the pay is not that large, in time it is enough to cover the expenses related to photography hobby and more.
I wrote something along these lines here

November 02, 2012


Summed up very nicely. Enjoyed this one!

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Photo credits: Peanutroaster.