One of the most common questions I get asked these days is whether or not it’s worth it sell stock photos anymore. Of course it’s worth it! The stock photo agencies are making money hand over fist, and the demand for stock images has never been higher. However, I will also tell you that it’s definitely not as easy as it was 5 or 6 years ago – competition is fierce, markets are becoming over saturated, and many of the major online stock photo agencies are reducing contributor royalties at an alarming rate. Despite that, I think there are still amazing opportunities out there for anyone who’s willing to be creative and think outside the box a little. Uploading pictures of flowers and expecting to make any money just isn’t going to cut it anymore.
I’m still seeing a lot of strength in this business, and here is what I’m currently focused on:
I started selling my own images on my own store over two years ago and I really don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner. This has been, without a doubt, the best decision I have made in this business. Running my own store means that I’m in total control over my illustrations and I am the boss. I set the prices, licensing structure, and site layout. Best of all, I never have to worry about decreasing royalties and rejected images.
Focusing on just one or two other stock photo agencies*:
Up until about two years ago, I was focused on submitting my illustrations to as many stock photo agencies as possible. I thought that the increased exposure would lead to more sales, but I quickly realized that I was wasting my time since all but two were consistently selling a high number of my images month after month: Shutterstock and Dreamstime. These two agencies have been the most consistent for me, that’s where most of the money comes from, so that’s where I focus my attention.
*Supporting smaller agencies who are fair to contributors:
Ok, there are really three agencies that I support – the third one is Stockfresh. No, I’m not making a lot of money with them (yet), but I strongly support them due to their generous contributor royalty structure (which is about 50% at the time of this writing). They also have one of the easiest to navigate websites in the business, so that’s a plus. I highly recommend you support them too.
Staying focused on current trends:
The world is constantly evolving. Styles change, news happens, and demands evolve. Keeping my stock illustration collection in tune with these factors ensures that the sales remain constant. I also like to focus on content that is difficult to reproduce because it keeps my work exclusive and in demand. Of course this is difficult to control, but I do keep it in mind as I’m creating new illustrations.
Anyway, I’ve never been more excited about the world of stock photography and image sales. The game has most certainly changed from 5 or 6 years ago, and I expect it will continue to evolve immensely as time goes on.