A while ago, I read about submitting photos to stock photography websites as a way to earn extra money, and I decided to give it a try. I had some pictures on my digital camera from a cruise in Mexico that I thought were pretty good, plus some other artistic photos I took on a whim on my cell phone camera. I submitted them to Bigstockphoto.com. This website works. Starting with you setting up a free account for selling photos, you upload your photos, write a description of the photo plus keywords for people to be able to search for and find your photos. Then you have to submit the photos for approval. Once your photos are accepted, they go into your portfolio and customers can download your photos, paying a fee of which you make a percentage. People download images from stock photography websites for all kinds of projects. Many people use them on websites for various web or print publications, articles, brochures, etc.
I was thinking to myself, “this should be pretty easy. All I have to do is upload my pictures and then I’m done and I can sit back and start collecting money without having to work.” Of course, nothing can ever be that easy. First of all, of my 27 pictures that I sent in for approval, only three photographs actually got accepted. It took about three business days for them to accept or reject my photos. I was a little surprised by some of the ones that got rejected, but I guess I don’t know very much about the art of photography. I also learned that taking pictures on your cell phone is not going to cut it, so if you don’t have a digital camera, you might as well not even worry about trying stock photography. The reason cell phone cameras are not adequate is because when they blow the picture up to a full-size image during the approval viewing process, the picture looks fuzzy and obviously is not marketable. Making up keywords is pretty challenging and a little nerve-racking but is also very important because without making up good creative keywords, no one will ever find your pictures to download in the first place.
Competition on stock photography websites can be quite tough depending on your subject matter and the demand for your type of pictures. Websites that have been around longer may have more experienced photographers on them, which would make them more difficult to do well on. I tried to sign up for a few of them, but I only was able to successfully upload to bigstock.com. I guess the reason is because some of the other websites require the pictures to be of a certain size or quality before you can even upload them at all.
From this experience, I learned quite a lot about online stock photography; namely that it is not easy to do well in, although it has tremendous potential for making a lot of money in the long run, effortlessly. I also learned that the websites are not simply looking for artistic quality photos. They’re looking for marketable photos that display concepts that their clients can use, such as model pictures that can give examples of the type of business that someone conducts. For example, pictures of food dishes, pictures of architecture and real estate, pictures of nice cars, etc. You also have to have model release contracts for any recognizable people in your photos. Also, you probably want to have some type of Photoshop software to be able to edit and be more creative with your photos. For someone who is highly passionate about photography, either as a profession or just a hobby, this is definitely something I would recommend.