Top Tips & Places to Make Money From Stock Photography

Photography 14/06/2022 5 min read

Stock photography is everywhere. You might, or you might not have noticed it, but stock photos can pop up anywhere from books to advertising, corporate reports and training materials to websites and on all the news sites. In some instances, you might not even notice an image is stock, but have a look on the BBC website, and you will often see images with credit to Getty Images or similar in the bottom corner. So, with such a huge market, are you selling your images as stock? If you’re not, maybe you should be. Here’s how to make money from stock photos. And if you are already selling photos as stock, look at our tips on making it work better for you.

What is Stock Photography?

Let’s establish what stock photography is first. there are 2 major categories: macrostock and microstock.


Macrostock tends to be high-value images sold on a “right’s managed” basis, which limits how and where they can be used, with the photographer being paid a royalty for each reproduction of them. These images are usually of famous people, places or events that are otherwise hard to photograph. So the chances are that if you’re looking to make money from stock, it won’t be here. Instead, it will be from microstock.


Microstock images are sold on a royalty-free basis. This means that anyone can pay a small fee to download an image from a microstock house or agency, for example, Motion Array, and use it non-exclusively. As a photographer, you will be paid for each download of the image rather than for each use. 

If you think someone might want or need a particular image, you can sell it as stock. And people really do need all sorts of images to illustrate their books, websites and marketing and corporate materials. You can buy photos of kittens and puppies, scientists working in labs, macros of rock formations, landscapes and weddings. Essentially, if it can be photographed, it can be sold as stock. The only thing you need to be aware of is that any images with identifiable humans or famous buildings will require model or property releases for selling them for commercial use. For example, if you want to advertise toothpaste or holidays.

Can You Make Money From Stock Photography?

The answer to ‘Can you make money from stock photos?’ is both yes and no. You can make money from stock photography, but probably not sufficient to give up your day job so that you can take photos and sell them as stock. Of course, depending on how many images you choose to sell as stock and how popular they are, how much you make will depend on how many you sell. But the equation is simple: the more images you sell, the more money you will make.

Which Are the Best Stock Photo Sites to Sell Your Images?

There are plenty of stock houses or agencies where you can buy and sell stock photos, so which should you use if you want to make money from stock images? We think that Motion Array offers you the best deal, as its payment structure is slightly different from other agency models. Where other agencies give you a percentage of the fee for each image you sell, with Motion Array, the rate you receive increases as you sell more photos. There are also bonuses on offer, for example, if you create one of the top 20 most downloaded images in a month. Or if you are one of the contributors with an outstanding response to user requests. You can read about the payment structure in more detail here.

6 Tips for Making the Most Out of Stock Photography

These 6 tips will help you to make money from stock photos.

1. Keep an Eye on Trends

Make sure that you are producing and making available the types of images that people need and want right now. In part, this is about watching the news and following fashion to judge what’s hot and what’s not. But stock agencies also send out notices of what’s trending and what’s required, too.

2. Keyword Your Images

By describing your image as accurately but as widely as possible, it will turn up in people’s searches with frequency, giving it the best chance of being downloaded. For example, if you upload a picture of a kitten, don’t use just “kitten” as the keyword. It’s a kitten, but also a cat, an animal, and a pet. What color is it? Is it fluffy or flat-coated? Is it sleeping or playing? What sort of background is it against? Include as much detail as possible to give it the best chance of meeting someone’s search terms. Remember to list the keywords in order of relevance, too.

stock image of a kitten sleeping
License this photo of a fluffy kitten sleeping on Motion Array

3. Who Is Your Buyer?

The photos you sell as stock aren’t the ones you love, which you’d want hanging on your walls. They are the photos that are useful for other people, which means you need to think about who will be buying them and for what purpose. As well as showing physical items or settings, for example, a loaf of bread or a flowing river or concept expressions, such as freedom, teamwork or hope. Identify your buyer and serve them with the photos that they will need.

stock photo of people stacking hands
License this image expressing teamwork on Motion Array

4. Negative Space

Remember that buyers who need to add text or overlays to images will require negative space. Include a selection of images that can cater to your buyers’ design and typographic requirements.

5. Upload Regularly

Adding fresh content isn’t just about responding to trends and fashion but also ensuring you have plenty of available images. As more photographers add photos for sale, yours become a smaller percentage of the whole. So keep on top of that and maintain your chances of discovery by constantly adding new images.

6. Maintain Good Records

make sure that you have accurate details for all of your photos and that any images containing people or identifiable buildings have the necessary model or property releases. While you might be able to sell images for editorial use without a model or property release, you won’t be able to sell them for commercial use, which limits their appeal.

stock photography of a man on the computer

You might not be able to make a fortune from stock photography, but you will be able to use it to turn a nice passive income if you use it to your advantage. Keep your content fresh, relevant and easy to find, and you’ll have a decent income making its way toward you every month.

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