Taking Stock

Clematis Florida
Clematis Florida

Most photographers and media people would be aware of the role of stock agencies or libraries (although I was once ripped to bits by a Canadian who was livid that I’d used the term ‘library’ whereas I was talking specifically about ‘agencies’. Some people are so touchy!). But if you’re not, here it is in a nutshell. I take pictures of pretty much anything, the agencies put them on their sites, somebody buys the licence to use the picture, the agency get paid, the agency pay me. Simple enough.


I personally like taking nature (plants and flowers) photographs. Apart from times when it’s windy, they are mostly very cooperative subjects. They are colorful, intriguing, and sometimes attention grabbing. There are a handful of specialist garden and plant agencies with specific requirements for me to become a contributor, which is one of my aims this year. The image of the Clematis ‘florida’ has been a best seller in terms of commission. It’s also been licensed several times since September, so that’s encouraging.

And when the weather’s not as good, I can create some sets in the ‘studio’. My best seller in terms of numbers is the New Years Resolution set. It was a single diary page with some Photoshop handwriting added with various resolutions. The 20 different images have sold well over 100 times, and will continue to sell over the coming years, so it starts to create for me a small, but regular revenue stream.

Get a New Job Diary Resolution
New Years Resolution in the diary

There are lots of agencies out there. I submit to 4 on a regular basis, and have a handful of pictures on a couple of others. Its been calculated that I’d need around 10,000 images on a good agency to generate a decent income. Well, I have just about a thousand on my favourite ┬ásite, so it’s probably right. So if I added 50 shots per week, I’ll be at ten thousand by 2020 or so, assuming none get rejected (they will).

Full time stock photographers look to upload about 1000 per month! I just can’t imagine that kind of workflow. With all of the processing, titles and caption, and then keywording, it would be full-time and then some more! I’ll just aim for my 50 per week. I’ve almost managed that since the beginning of the year.

Here are my favourite agencies:

Alamy. I sell less volume, but the commissions are much higher, so overall my income is on par with the micro type agencies.

Shutterstock. With almost half of the images that I have on Alamy, Shutterstock gives me regular daily sales. They are only for small amounts each time but it soon adds up.

Getty/iStock. iStock is one of the Getty agencies. They seem to be a little more selective with the images that they accept, but again I receive a small but regular income, but they no longer report in real-time, so I have to wait until the 20th to see what my commission was for the previous month,

Adobe Stock/Fotolia. A couple of the good things is that I can upload to Adobe Stock from within Lightroom, and that users of Photoshop have easy access to images on the Adobe Stock portfolio, so almost a captive audience.

Stock photography for me is almost like my pension plan. If I make regular, and saleable, uploads it will provide a regular income for years to come.