What is stock?
When web designers need a specific type of photo to fit into their design, where do they turn? What about writers of magazine articles on specific subjects? They need images to go with their articles and they may not be photographers. Well, these days everyone is a photographer, but images need to be extremely high quality if you want a magazine to print them. Stock photography is the answer. There are many many stock photography websites available where anyone can purchase the rights to use an image. You are ony purchasing the right to use the image, the copyright is retained by the photographer.
Types of images that sell as stock
While we are out shooting our masterpieces and creating unique works of art, often other opportunities arise. For example, on a recent trip to Arizona I was shooting hoodoo’s during sunrise when I turned around and noticed great plumes of smoke rising from a nearby coal power plant. I snapped a quick shot (albeit it a well composed shot with good clarity). That shot turned out to be a stock image. It could be used by a magazine for an article on the environment or production of power.
High quality shots of well known places can be used for tourist brochures. Or maybe you want to do still life and take photos of fruit or wine and cheese.
The types of photos that sell the most, however, are shots with people in them. You need to have model releases in this case, but a shot of a person doing their job or perhaps jumping out of an airplane would make a popular stock image.
Don’t devalue your work
These days there are many micro-stock agencies that will sell images for as low as $1. Is that really what you are worth? While it is true, some people do make money at micro-stock (and it is usually only the first person to take an extremely clear photo of a pencil) most people do not. One sale at a regular stock agency will net you more money than 100 sales at micro-stock. My feeling is that amateur photographers are happy to see their images sell for any price and that is what keeps the micro-stock going.
Finding a stock agency for you
Research the different stock agencies that are out there. You will find that some specialize in different fields. Some specialize in animals and some in cars. Trying to find a relatively new agency also has its benefits. Once a stock photo agency has a certain number of a particular type of photo, they will not accept any more.
Some of my images are now available through All Canada Photos, a supplier of high quality Canadian photography. They pay their photographers a percentage for each sale and also have reciprocal agreements with both Getty images and Alamy images.