Making money with your photos

To most photographers, Photography is – and always will be – a keen hobby. Some of us, however, are burning to take the hobby to the next level, and want to start making some cash from it. Perhaps not enough to buy a Ferrari, or even enough to pay the electricity bill, but at least enough to be able to buy a couple of photography toys along the way.

I worked as a photographer full-time for a couple of years, and ended up deciding that the lifestyle wasn’t for me. Even though I jacked in my career as a photographer, I’m still making money off my photos.

How? Well…

Over the years of working as a photographer, I built up a pretty sizable library of photographs. Some of them are covered by some sort of restriction (model release, contract, or otherwise), meaning that I cannot publish them further, and that means they are of no value to me further.

Where I do still make quite a bit of money, however, is by selling stock photos.

A stock photo is an image that someone could conceivably want to use for something. Imagine if you’ve taken a photo of a pretty girl holding a mobile phone to her shoulder, and typing on her laptop at the same time. If you have a model release for the picture (i.e if the model doesn’t mind her photo being used, and you’ve got a piece of paper confirming that), there are a thousand and one uses for the picture. A newspaper may be doing an article about stress. A magazine may need an image to illustrate the dangers of mobile phone use. An job advert might need to appeal to a female audience. The possibilities are endless, but key to all of this is your photo.

Now, think wider. Fabulous landscapes. Extreme macro photos. Portraits of people doing things. Photos you’ve taken of events, actions taken by police, and stuff like that. Let me give you a piece of advice right now: As someone who works in the automotive trade, I can never find enough photos of police making arrests of motorists, of speed cameras, and of speed humps. You’d think it was obvious, but I guess it’s not. Point being? Take pictures of everything around you – it costs very little to keep the pictures on-line, and you never know what people are going to need.

There are people out there making fortunes off photos they have taken of different types of boats, certain plants, and who have libraries of photos of different types of food. You’d be amazed.

Selling your pictures

So what do you need to do to get in on the action? Well, first of all you need to be a pretty good photographer, but that bit is easy – you’re reading the right blog, at least :) From there on, you need to find a way to sell your photos. At first, I used to sell my photos via my own website, being naive enough to think that there would be people out there who would find my photos. In reality, picture editors in newspapers, magazines, and books are two things: a) extremely busy and b) extremely lazy. If they spend 10 minutes to find a photo on a website, why should they trawl the web to find a different photo?

So essentially you need to find someone who can sell your photos for you. It’s slightly counter-intuitive, but think about it: The bigger a website is, the bigger the chances are that a picture editor can find an image right there and then. And more importantly, the bigger the chance is that they will end up buying from you.

I’ve tried a variety of different sites out there, but ultimately I ended up settling on Photo Stock Plus. For one thing, the website has a lot of functionality that others don’t, but most importantly, they took care of me right from the beginning.

You can sell stock photos, which is a big bonus to begin with, but you can also sell prints and gifts featuring your photos to friends and family via a slick eCommerce interface.

Bulk upload tools make uploading your photos easier, and if you decide to go with a pro account, you’ll get all sorts of fancy-arse possibilities, including your own URL, possibilities to pick from a stack of designs, getting special assignments from commissioning editors, good deals on business cards and flyers, and even a press pass (which, personally, I doubt will be worth jack, but then I’ve got a ‘real’ one, so I’ve never tried it).

No reason to be worried about your photos either – The site will watermark them all for you, and Photo Stock Pro keep full track of all of your photos for you. You can set your own prices too, which is exciting in itself – charge too high, and nobody buys, charge too low, and it won’t be worth your time – but I’ll be writing more about that in a future article.

And the really clever bit? They only take a 15% commission, which is next to nothing, compared to some of the other sites out there, and you can try it all for free before you decide if you like it or not. Give it a shot!