I recently got interested in the subject of the stock photography and explored it a little. So now I decided to summarize what I’ve learned in this article which, I hope, will be interesting not only for photographers, but especially for them.

© RitterRunkel

Stock photography – is buying/selling of the high quality photos in high resolution. There are photographers on the one side and the magazines, ad agencies and just aesthetes who want to have a pretty picture on their wall on the other side. Intermediaries – are so called photo-banks, sites which are connecting links between the photographers and those who are interested in their works.

© RitterRunkel

This makes the whole process of buying/selling photos much easier, optimized and automated. Magazine workers don’t have to search for photographers personally and conclude the treaties with them. Photographers don’t have to search for people who are interested in their pictures and ready to pay for them. Photos are just being uploaded to the web-sites (photo-banks), tagged, categorized and then bought by users. Photographers are being paid royalty.

© coffee-and-pepper

Some photographers (what’s the most amazing thing is that they often even happen to be non-professionals) manage to earn thousands dollars monthly. But you definitely should be realistic and understand that you’ll have to invest a lot of your time and efforts in order to achieve such a level. What is attractive here is the opportunity of the passive income. In other words your photos can be sold without your participation once the system is set up. And of course you’ll be getting a payment for every single purchase. For example вот this pretty picture on IstockPhoto was sold more than 4600 times.

What do you need to know to start selling photos via the internet?

First of all you should have basic knowledge of English. Sure excellent English isn’t required, but you’re supposed to be able to make the descriptions for you pictures and to understand the website structure itself. Hint: you can use online dictionaries in order to make more accurate descriptions, by looking for the synonyms for example.

Secondly, you’re supposed to own (or to have an access to) the high-resolution camera. That’s because there are high standards that your photos should meet. And it’s more about technical quality than artistic value. Usually photo-banks set minimal required megapixels for the cameras/photos. Besides, picture shouldn’t be blurred. There should be no noises and it has to be properly exposed and focused.

Thirdly, you should register on the one or a few web-sites (photo-banks). BTW, it’s a good idea to get registered on many web-sites because you’re allowed to sell your pictures on the other sites and often pictures which unpopular on the one website are really popular on the other and vice versa. I personally got registered on all the main photo-banks. Here is the list: Shutterstock, IstockPhoto, Dreamstime и Fotolia. I’ll tell you about every one in detail bellow.

Fourthly, you’re required to confirm your identity and to pass the test. It’s required by the Shutterstock and Istockphoto. Those are monsters with lots of high quality pictures and control the quality of the photos. You’ll be asked to upload a copy of your ID in order to confirm your identity. You can use passport or any other allowed form of ID in order to do that. I’ll tell you about the test bellow.

© werol

How to pass the test?

Only ShutterStock and Istockphoto require you to pass the test, whileFotolia and DreamsTime don’t ask you to pass the test, neither they require you to upload any IDs.

Test most probably will be divided into the 2 parts. In the 1st one you’ll be told what kind of site is this, what kind of pictures they need and what kind of pictures they are fed up. You’ll also be given the basic information about working with the site. And then you’ll be asked to answer the questions to check if you understood everything correctly. Usually it’s passed without any problem by everyone.

In the second part you will be asked to upload a few examples of your works in order for the web-site moderators to able to assess and evaluate their quality. Usually there is no problem with that too, but make sure that you send best of the best of your photos. ShutterStock asks to upload 10 photos, while Istockphoto only 3.

But choosing “The Best Pictures” don’t forget that best in this context doesn’t mean “the most artistic and deep”, while making your choice think of the practical business appliance and about places where your pictures can be used. BTW the most interesting thing is getting to know where your pictures were actually used.

© werol


The biggest photo-bank and the most profitable at the same time. As it was said above you will need ID to register. Test: you appload 10 photos, 7 of which should be approved in order to pass the test (every picture is considered separately). Minimal requirement: 4 mega pixel.
BTW, ShutterStock works even with videos!



Second profitable photo-bank. Minimal resolution is 1600×1200. You’ll need 3 pictures for test and all of them should be approved. They have the most difficult test, but it’s still possible to pass it. If you fail once you can try again in 3 months.



They don’t ask for ID upload and don’t ask you to pass any tests. You just upload your best pictures and start calculating the profits. Minimal resolution is 2,5 mega pixels.



This photo-bank is a bit younger than others and it doesn’t require ID confirmation as well as the test passing. But profits and purchases are lower.


Which pictures are in high demand and which are not?

The most popular pictures are those that fall into the following categories: business, people, success, health, sports, objects on white background. And those are almost unclaimed: flowers, cats, dogs, views from jets, forests. Except for masterpieces of course, they can be sold thousands of times 😉

Examples. Take a look at the 50 top-sold pictures at shutterstock and read the istockphoto comments about photos they are looking for.

© ssilence

What is the model release?

Photo-banks require you to upload model releases for all the pictures with people. In fact this is just the model permission to sell the picture. The funny thing is that this rule applies even in the case when you upload pictures of yourself.

© girltripped


In the end I want to ask you to use the links I gave you instead of typing the addresses manually. The difference is that my links are referral. In other words they show the web-sites that it was me who invited you to the community. It will allow me to get a couple percents of your earnings. Obviously it doesn’t mean that you’ll be paid less. So in case you earn millions I will earn a few thousands as well. Consider this as “Thank you for the article” thing 😉

© stefa-zozokovich

BTW send this link to all your photographers who also might be interested in the stock photography:

And thank you for attention!

So, one more time, links to the registration pages: Shutterstock, IstockPhoto, DreamsTime, Fotolia.


  1. Hello!

    I developing software for stock photographers Cushy Stock. If you are using Cushy Stock you can prepare, upload, manage and track your images. Also you can generate keywords automatically, work with vector illustrations and much more.

    You can download Cushy Stock here: http://www.cushystock.com

  2. Hello!

    I developing software for stock photographers Cushy Stock. If you are using Cushy Stock you can prepare, upload, manage and track your images. Also you can generate keywords automatically, work with vector illustrations and much more.

    You can download Cushy Stock here: http://www.cushystock.com

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