Announcement: How can I sell my photos and make some money???

Selling your digital photos for cash eBook

Getting Started in Stock

I asked myself that question over 6 years ago, and decided the answer was to sell my images. Since then I have increased my income to more than $30,000 a year and I share the steps and lessons learned in the newly revised third edition of my eBook – Getting Started in Stock.  You are facing a simple choice – do you want to learn as you go, following the forums and their inconsistent information from people who may or may not know what they are talking about, or do you want to save hours of frustration and learn it all on one easy to follow guidebook?

Buy this new eBook directly from my site through a simple and secure shopping cart and get immediate access to the information you need to make money from your photographs!

Just want to start? Please use the links on the right to register with the stock agencies. Thanks!

Fotolia – some big improvements

As regular readers know, I have not been a big fan of Fotolia on several grounds. I didn’t like the pricing approach and the way Dollar Photo Club was launched, my rejections have been sky high – perhaps getting a 40% acceptance rate (if that), and their upload process was tiresome and annoying. Then, of course, the sales weren’t great either… Talk about a triple whammy.

Fotolia was bought by Adobe and changes are definitely occurring – there is the launch of Adobe Stock photos, directly integrated in Creative Cloud applications like Photoshop, a parking of Dollar Photo Club, and now, I noticed yesterday, an update to their contributor site. At first, I struggled, but when you find the right section, it really is pretty good. The key is to upload as normal with FTP, and then go to the “Contributor Area” in the left hand menu:

Fotolia Contributor Area

Fotolia Contributor Area

Once your files have been uploaded, click the Indexing menu item and you will see the uploaded files in pages of 10, 25 or 50:

Indexing Section Fotolia

Indexing Section Fotolia

The first task is to look at all the options here – I initially found that “Free Section?” was set to Yes – which means that any rejected file goes to their Free Files database. Set that to “No” – the system then appears to remember that choice. The other thing I noticed was that the price of an extended “X” file is always set to the lowest possible price (in my case $30). I change this to 100, but unfortunately this doesn’t save. The process I ended up with was to show 50 images, select them all (selection at the top of the page), change the X price to 100 and that changes it for all the 50 images. If they are taken in another country than the US, then I change the country at the same time, and if they happen to have similar subjects, I start to select the category so that is saved for all images. Then unselect all, and make any final modifications as you step down the page. You don’t need to select a file to edit it – only select if there are several images that need the same category.

When you have stepped through the page, adding appropriate categories (which are quite logically laid out now), select all and click “Submit Selected”. With a confirmation pop-up, that is all you do.

I found that I had 659 unsubmitted images in my own database in Fotolia – shows how much I hated it! Most were travel shots. I decided to work on them all, which admittedly took about 3-4 hours in total, but they were being reviewed almost in real time. I ended up with 593 images being accepted – an acceptance rate of 90% with 27 failing on technical grounds, 15 as similars, 14 for quality and 9 for lack of property releases. Very different to my past experiences with Fotolia.

Since this experience, I have looked through my own files for images that I never even bothered to submit to the site in the first place – I found 413 images, again mainly travel, and so I am uploading those using FTP as I type. Hopefully they will get similar reviews and I will finally be able to grow my portfolio on Fotolia and get some more sales…

* Update * I’ve finished submitting and categorizing those 413 extra images – and had 362 approved. 16 were rejected as similar (and it could be that I uploaded the same file as one that was already there in some cases), 10 for technical, 15 for quality and 10 for IP problems. Overall, an 88% success rate – much better than I have ever achieved in the past.

He found some photos on his hard drive – you’ll never guess what happened next….

I was mulling over the strange click teasers (if that is an acceptable phrase..) that you see on the internet to try to entice you to click through to the article, and came up with one of my own.

The answer, of course, is that I started selling them as stock photos, and creating a lot more as well, and I just noticed that I missed a major event – I passed the $100,000 earnings mark just a couple of months back – in March this year. I’m now just over $106,000.

selling digital photos online - how much can you make

Earnings each year from Stock Photography

What is interesting in the graph is how solid the growth is from year to year. I’m worried in the detail that my earnings per online file is dropping – ie it is harder to make the same amount of money each month, but taking one year with the next, things are still going onwards and upwards. I better get out and take some more photos!

Earnings in April and May from stock photography

I’ve been a bit behind in posting new information – mainly because I’m in the process of moving to a different state and getting a house ready for sale is a very big task – you accumulate so much stuff over the years.

Anyway, photography took a back seat for the past month, although I did finally manage to process and keyword images that I took during a vacation in Cornwall in England and a short trip to Ocean City and uploaded those earlier this week – perhaps 150 images in total, split between RF and RM subjects (most Ocean City ones are RM as they have people and shops in them).

Earnings for the past couple of months have been disappointing in my mind – not because of the absolute dollar value ($2391 and $2279) – but more because the earnings are showing no signs of increasing even though I have more images online. May’s results were saved by almost $300 in net sales on Alamy – almost all the other sites were below their best and Shutterstock failed to reach $1000 for a second month this year. Overall, my earnings look like this:

Sales of stock photograph earnings

Growth in Earnings from Stock Photography

Now look at the number of files I have online on a selection of agencies:

Increase in stock photos for sale on agencies

Growth of online photos for sale

Earnings have been pretty flat for 2 years almost, if I’m honest with myself, while I have added perhaps 1500 – 2000 new images to the stock agencies in that time. It is still a nice source of steady income, but I do wonder what the earnings would have been like if I hadn’t been continually adding new images to my portfolio!

ImageBrief award in use – Splunk

Reading the Washington Post this morning, I came across this half page advert in the business section:

Washington Post 29 April

Washington Post 29 April

Looks familiar, I thought….

It is the headshot (the back of my head after a particularly good haircut) that I sold on Image Brief a few month back for $1050! Splunk obviously wanted a professional looking head and it makes you wonder if they knew I used to be in the technology industry?

The company paid $1500 for the non-exclusive rights – now we know what they planned to use it for!

Sometimes seeing the thumbnail really helps

I took some images of a new golf course in Kauai around sunset and liked the calm and serene feeling of the “18th hole”, and so submitted about four different shots of the green and a sand bunker. I noticed that one of them:

Looks a bit like a heart…


sold reasonably well on Shutterstock and the image in the thumbnail immediately reminded me of a heart shape in front of the flag – it starts off well at the top, but loses it! As a bit of fun, I decided to rework that one image and see if I could illustrate the concept of “I’m in love with Golf” by actually turning that sand trap into a full heart shape. End result is here:

I LOVE Golf

I’ve uploaded it today to the various sites – lets see if this one catches the imagination of the buyers!

What sells in Stock Photography?

I always find it interesting to see what sells – especially on the more expensive sites like Alamy. I check that site from time to time to see if I have any sales. Most times, no, but today I saw that I had a $245 sale (of which I get 50%) for an RF images of this:

Alamy $245 RF Sale

Well, that is a “sort of interesting” shot… I remember taking it on a hike in the Smoky Mountains, and I thought at the time that it was not likely to be a seller, or even accepted at many agencies. After all, what can it be used for? Anyway, I carried on and keyworded and submitted it and it was accepted to Alamy – remember they only look for technical quality, not commercial value. And, here we are – it sells for a cool $122.50 for me.

You never can tell what will sell!

Popular Posts

One downside of posting regularly is that older posts that are still relevant get lost. So I’ve created a page (under the About heading in the menu) where I will list posts that are useful for new readers. I’ll add more as I think of them!

Sony RX10 – perfect for travel stock photography?

As I’ve probably mentioned before, my main camera kit is a Canon 5D Mk3, with the 24-105mm F4, 16-35mm F4 and 70-200mm F4 lenses. I also normally carry a 1.4x converter and 50mm F1.4 lens as well. All in all, quite a load on my back, but I like the flexibility that I can get with the lenses and the high quality of the results, even at higher ISOs and if I need to crop.
SonyRX10The trip to Equatorial Guinea made me think – firstly because the country has a very poor reputation for hassling photographers, and secondly because carrying all this gear makes me a pretty obvious target. I started to look for a camera that was easier to carry, had a wide zoom range, gave good quality results and would not make me look like a professional photographer! I looked at the compact cameras, but most of those had relatively small zoom ranges and the sensors tended to be small. Then I looked at the smaller interchangeable lens cameras but that seemed to be rapidly taking me towards another complete set of lenses and hence a camera bag to carry it all. Some of the lenses on those ILCs are physically quite big as well. Then I came across the Sony RX10 and read a few reviews – it started to look like the answer and so I bought it specifically for the Equatorial Guinea trip.SonyRX10-Canon5D

Firstly a bit of background to the camera. It is a fixed lens relatively small body – looks a lot like a small SLR and so that did seem to clash with one of my objectives – look more like a tourist! But it is small and unobtrusive and so I decided I could live with that. The photo here comparing it with my Canon and 24-105mm lens gives you a good idea of its size – but it is much much lighter than the Canon. The sensor is 1 inch across, which is not bad and provides 20 megapixels to give me room to crop. The zoom is particularly good – going from 24 – 200mm equivalent. It has a pretty good electronic viewfinder as I don’t think that holding a camera out to see the rear screen helps much with camera shake, and a range of manual controls so that you can pretty much control the shot you get. Finally, it has a small flash, which can be useful for a bit of fill when needed. As you can see from the little red tabs in the photo, I bought a Peak design camera strap system in December which I find great for hanging the camera over your shoulder and resting on your hip. I have the same tabs on my Canon as well.

It traveled around Equatorial Guinea for a week and I never got stopped by the police – well actually we got stopped at police checkpoints maybe 6 or 7 times, but our driver was able to explain where we were going and why! The camera worked perfectly, and I came back with several hundred shots. I learned how to use it pretty quickly – most things are intuitive and I had no problems moving from Canon to Sony. The only thing I still find difficult is that the manual zoom (there is an electronic switch as well) turns the opposite way to a Canon and hence I am always wanting to zoom the wrong way. But all the exposure controls are easy to master and the warning marks in the viewfinder if you are over-exposing were very helpful. I took some indoor shots with flash, some evening shots with long exposures, some shots in the rain as well as normally sunny images, and it coped with all.

Is it good enough for stock? I’m asking a lot from my camera here, because I can obviously downsize my images and upload them to microstock sites and hide any issues in the image, but I also submit to Alamy and Corbis and they want images that are around 5000 pixels wide – little chance to downsize at all. I can’t be bothered to maintain two versions and so the microstock sites get images that are generally 4500 pixels wide. I found that the noise was higher than my Canon – and that the auto ISO function didn’t actually use the lowest ISO available – there is a slightly better performance if you set the ISO to 80, but noise reduction got rid of any issues I saw with higher ISOs. I usually set the camera to aperture priority and watched what the shutter speed was set to – the auto ISO was helpful on cloudy days to keep that shutter speed in the hand-holding range. The camera has built in stabilization and so I didn’t have many problems with shake.

Full shot

Full shot


The zoom lens is generally sharp throughout its range, and any distortion or color aberration was removed by Lightroom without any issues. There is definitely a lower level of detail (compared to the full frame Canon) when you blow up to 100% – by no means an issue for submissions to the macro agencies at full size, but it can be seen in a photo of tiny windows on a modern building for instance. The next two images are 100% crops (if you click on the image) of the center and lower right of the Mongomo cathedral in Equatorial Guinea – ISO 125, 1/800th second at f8. I don’t apply sharpening in Lightroom apart from the default.
Center crop

Center crop

Lower Right corner

Lower Right corner

So, what is the bottom line? Yes – I like it! I now carry all my Canon stuff and this new camera when I go on a trip, but I often just stroll around the streets with the Sony and keep my Canon for the more planned excursions (usually in a rental car with tripod etc.) when I am trying to get the really great shots. But, to be honest, I would be quite comfortable taking the Sony as my sole camera on some shorter trips and have had no issues with rejections of the resultant images at either Shutterstock or Alamy.

If you are interested in purchasing it, please use the link below – it all helps!

Serious Eats guide to food photography

I’ve written about food photography before – recommending the series of books that Taylor Mathis has produced, but here is a free, very comprehensive guide from the Serious Eats website. Full of detail and examples of the techniques they are recommending, you can find it here.

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