Marketing your stock photos

When we first wrote about Photostockplus, a discussion was sparked as to whether there is any point in spending money to make money. I realise this whole thing is turning into a bit of a saga, but you guys keep asking such great questions that I can’t let it lie.

Long-term reader Andy asked:

After reading the original post I was immediately interested in signing up for photostock plus. It sounds like a great idea. My only question is how effective are their marketers? Does the site get enough traffic that it wouldn’t be difficult to make a profit with a modest sized portfolio?

Of course, they were all excellent questions, and I didn’t have any of the answers. But hey, that’s why I’m a journalist, right? So I decided to call up the company and interview them, to see if I can help find you guys some answers… 


I spoke to a guy named John Vincelli at Photostockplus. He works in their Business Development department, and came up with some of the answers…

What’s your marketing like?

“About a month ago a push began which has become a promotional campaign aimed at creative directors, editors and publishers, as well as other buyers.”, Vincelli told me. “We also have ongoing relationships with web advertisers all over the world. I’ve seen some of the promotional material, by the way, and it’s really innovative and eye catching. So yes, our marketers are very good.”

In addition, keep in mind that these guys are making more money the more photos they sell. Sure they earn money through the membership fees they charge, but in the grand scheme of selling photography, it’s peanuts: Photography stock sales is a multi-billion-dollar industry.

From the stock agency’s point of view, it is in their best interest to sell as many images as they can. While they only take a 15% commission (which is very generous – Alamy, one of their biggest competitors, takes 35% commission, or 55% if the image is sold through their distribution network), it is enough of an incentive for them to make sure they sell lots of photos.

Do the math yourself: If they sell one of your photos at $100, you get $85, and they get $25. To you and me, that $85 is a nice bonus, but for a big company such as Photo Stock Plus, it’s hardly worth celebrating. But what if they manage to sell 100 photos instead? That’s actually quite a realistic figure for a good photographer with an extensive portfolio over the course of a year. Suddenly you earn $8,500, and they pocket $2,500. I don’t know about you, but I’m perfectly happy to pay a company two and a half grand in order to make eight and a half myself…

Selecting photos carefully

Of course, when you try to sell your photos as stock, there’s no point in trying to take photos of things that have been photographed a million times already. In fact, the search functional on Photostockpro is your best friend – Before you go out and take photos for sale, or before you upload them, do a quick search.

Vincelli explains: “What many photogs don’t realise is the fact that with the advent of the web and digital photography came an over-abundance of wannabe photographers, as well as actual photographers. Now they can all market their images to everyone on the planet. So the first thing I tell my stock clients is, whenever shooting for stock, the word that should be at the forefront of their thoughts is “UNIQUE”, because the competition is fierce. I also tell them to stay away from famous landmarks and sunsets.”

Keywording your photos

There is no point in fooling yourself: You may be the best photographer in the world, but unfortunately, searching for images is impossible: Potential clients search for words associated with an image. As such, you need to make damn sure that your keywords are in sync with what the actual photo, and that enough relevant keywords are added to allow a potential buyer to find the perfect photo.

This is true for any photographer-driven stock photography site, of course. “If a photographer takes the time to apply the right key words to their photos, checks out what’s on the first few pages in each of our categories, doesn’t post 8 different angles of the same subject, and follows the rest of our guidelines, buyers will find the client’s images.”, explains Vincelli, “We even have a few editors who contact our photographers and give them an honest appraisal of their work, and advise them on what they need to do to make their shooting profitable.”

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